As the world’s go-to Beatles ambassador (sorry, Ringo), Paul McCartney has been busy lately.
In 2012, the still-cute ex-Beatle was a reliable fixture at Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee Concert, the Summer Olympics in London and the “12-12-12” concert for Hurricane Sandy relief. There was a Saturday Night Live appearance and a cameo in Dave Grohl’s music documentary, “Sound City.”
That’s a lot of McCartney. So, at some point, it’s reasonable to think the appeal might fade, right?
Not a chance, judging from a generous and stylishly presented 2 hours and 45 minutes on Saturday at Amway Center, the first of two Orlando concerts that launch the U.S. leg of the 2013 “Out There” tour.
At its heart, every McCartney performance is a reminder of the unmatched inspiration and influence of timeless Beatles music, the soundtrack of a band that legitimately changed the world.
On Saturday, McCartney again framed the songs in arrangements faithful to the originals.
In an opening salvo of “Eight Days a Week,” “Junior’s Farm,” “All My Loving,” “Listen to What the Man Said” and “Let Me Roll It,” McCartney nicely reproduced familiar studio versions, his voice situated clearly atop a pleasing sound mix.
The band closed “Let Me Roll It” with a whiff of Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady,” which McCartney followed with an endearing tale that tied Hendrix to the Beatles.
Behind the band, songs were embellished by a sea of spotlights, swirling geometric designs and video clips of long-ago McCartney scenes. Not that you need special effects when the material includes “The Long and Winding Road,” “Maybe I’m Amazed,” “Hey Jude,” “Let It Be” and “Yesterday.”
Along with the obvious favorites, McCartney also showcased a few lesser known gems, such as an exuberant take on Wings’ “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five,” a lilting “Hope of Deliverance” (off 1993’s “Off the Ground” album) and “Here Today,” a moving acoustic tribute to John Lennon. He strummed ukulele as a tribute to George Harrison in “Something.”
Amid the nostalgia, the show was a testament to McCartney’s own longevity. At age 70, he has lost surprisingly little of the charm, energy, instrumental skills and vocal flexibility that make him a legend, one of the rare pop musicians to really deserve that over-used title.
McCartney’s stature has remained consistent from the Cold War to Sept. 11, from Elvis Presley to his recent collaboration with the guys in Nirvana. “Back in the U.S.S.R.” was a reminder that he outlasted the Soviet Union, too.
That one was a showcase for drummer Abe Laboriel, Jr. , guitarists Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray, and multi-instrumentalist Paul “Wix” Wickens, who shifted effortlessly from the raucous “Lady Madonna” to a stately “Eleanor Rigby” and a psychedelic surprise, “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite.”
“It’s been a long time since that one came out of the box,” McCartney said.
It might be accurate to call these songs oldies, but it’s hard to imagine them ever getting old.