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Reliving our favorite Paul McCartney Las Vegas performances

Updated June 25, 2019 - 4:10 pm

Occasionally I try to impress my friends by noting that Paul McCartney’s encores in his current live shows are longer than were entire Beatles concerts. Sometimes I’m met with, “You saw the Beatles??”

No! Hey-ho!

The originals were before me time, but I have seen McCartney many times over the years, including on each of his Las Vegas Strip tour stops and his show at Hard Rock Hotel. I’ll be rocking it Friday night, too, at T-Mobile Arena with Momma Sanna, who has not seen McCartney (or the Beatles) live.

As we tune up for the next rock show, a quick list of my Top 3 McCartney shows in Vegas:

April 5, 2002, MGM Grand Garden Arena: The “Driving Rain” tour was to back a not-great album during McCartney’s not-great relationship with Heather Mills. But the show was McCartney’s first Las Vegas concert since he played Sam Boyd Stadium — yes, there were major concerts booked there — in April 1993. He was playing his first Vegas dates without his wife, Linda, who had died in 1998, on keyboards. Showing his legendary versatility, McCartney ran through many Beatles’ hits (“Back in the U.S.S.R.,” “She’s Leaving Home” and “Can’t By Me Love” in the same stretch).

This was the tour, too, where, by happy coincidence, I actually ran into McCartney guitarist Brian Ray at a coffee bar on West Sahara Avenue the day after the concert. He took note of the McCartney tour T-shirt I’d just bought. “I hope you enjoyed the show!” was his intro.

April 20, 2009, The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel: The smallest and loudest of the McCartney shows. It was the opening weekend for the newly minted rock hall (which had just marked its 10th anniversary). McCartney eschewed stagecraft to play amid a stack of amps with some video backing in a musically wonderful performance. He called out to “Love” at The Mirage, saying, “A lot of this music is featured in a show up the street,” then shouted the famous count-in to “I Saw Her Standing There.”

Afterward, AEG Live/Concerts West exec John Nelson memorably said, “Our only concern is, ‘How are we going to top this?’ ”

June 10, 2011, MGM Grand Garden Arena: Back at Grand Garden, McCartney was in town to tour and also to take part in “Love’s” fifth-anniversary celebration. Much of the Beatles/Apple Corp. family was also in town, and at the show — including Yoko Ono and her son, Sean. Also in line, in the same row, George Harrison’s widow, Olivia, and studio trailblazers George Martin and his son, Giles. Only Ringo Starr was absent.

The group stood and cheered throughout a performance that brought chills throughout. McCartney delivered “A Day in The Life,” then shifted to John Lennon and Ono’s “Give Peace a Chance.” The video screen showed Yoko and Sean smiling, swaying and flashing that peace sign. Their relationship often combative, McCartney and Ono took the song’s refrain to heart.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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