Paul McCartney still knows how to pull out some surprises.
There was the Kraftwerk-like new wave of “Temporary Secretary.” There was the rockabilly swing he gave “Can’t Buy Me Love.” And there was his Elvis Presley-ish version of the first song he ever recorded, “In Spite of All the Danger” by The Quarrymen.
But McCartney’s “One on One” tour, which stopped at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, is actually one big surprise. It isn’t supporting a new album, which means Macca gets to pick through the most celebrated catalog in rock and roll history and find the songs that suit his current mood.
“We know which songs you like,” he teased the crowd, noticing how their phones all lit up during Beatles songs and were dark as a “black hole” during the new songs. “We just don’t care.”
That means we get to hear underappreciated songs from his 2013 album “New,” including the joyous “Queenie Eye,” and his more rocking take on “FourFiveSeconds,” his collaboration with Kanye West and Rihanna.
At 74, McCartney also is big on paying tribute, dedicating songs to Nancy Shevell, his wife of nearly five years; his late wife Linda McCartney, with the great “Maybe I’m Amazed”; and the late Beatles John Lennon and George Harrison.
However, it’s the way McCartney keeps his classics so current that maybe amazes most. McCartney’s voice isn’t as pliable as it used to be, but he makes the most of it. His style is often punchier, harder-hitting than it used to be, making songs like “I’ve Got a Feeling” sound rougher and tougher.
His band — guitarist Rusty Anderson, drummer Abe Laboriel Jr., keyboardist Paul “Wix” Wickens, and bassist Brian Ray — is first-rate and used brilliantly, whether they are filling “A Hard Day’s Night” with extra percussion or bringing the house down with a titanic, flame-filled version of “Live and Let Die.”
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And when McCartney delivers the poignant civil rights anthem “Blackbird” by himself on acoustic guitar, raised 20 or so feet in the air on a special videoscreened riser, that is when the night is most magical.
After all, the best parts of the “One on One” tour come when it feels like McCartney is engaging each concertgoer personally, telling stories of how some of his classics were created or personal remembrances of his friends.
McCartney’s warm, easygoing personality has always been his most charming quality. On nights like this, it’s still a surprise how well he still shows it off.
SET LIST: A Hard Day’s Night / Save Us / Can’t Buy Me Love / Letting Go / Temporary Secretary / Let Me Roll It > Foxy Lady / I’ve Got a Feeling / My Valentine / Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five / Here, There and Everywhere / Maybe I’m Amazed / We Can Work It Out / In Spite of All the Danger / You Won’t See Me / Love Me Do / And I Love Her / Blackbird / Here Today / Queenie Eye / New / The Fool on the Hill / Lady Madonna / FourFiveSeconds / Eleanor Rigby / Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! / Something / Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da / Band on the Run / Back in the U.S.S.R. / Let It Be / Live and Let Die / Hey Jude // ENCORES: Yesterday / Hi, Hi, Hi / Birthday / Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight / The End