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McCartney rocks Apollo at Sirius celebration

"Welcome to the Apollo . . . the Holy Grail!" announced Paul McCartney Monday night as he mounted the stage at the Apollo Theater for his first-ever concert at Harlem's landmark music hall.

"I've dreamed of playing here for many a year," he told the packed crowd at the invitation-only event for Sirius XM satellite-radio subscribers who had won tickets through call-in promotions. Commencing 17 minutes past its scheduled 8 p.m. start time, the show was simulcast on six Sirius channels, including a monthlong pop-up channel, Paul McCartney's Band on the Run Radio, which airs through Dec. 26.

Clearly having a rollicking good time, music legend McCartney, 68, opened with "Magical Mystery Tour" and mixed other Beatles classics such as "All My Loving," "Eleanor Rigby" and "Drive My Car" with '70s hits including "Jet" and "Maybe I'm Amazed" by his subsequent band, Wings. He played The Beatles' "Blackbird" solo on an acoustic guitar, introducing it by saying it was a response to the 1960s civil rights struggles.

Accompanied by his regular four-piece band on a utilitarian, unadorned stage, McCartney played guitar and piano in addition to singing lead vocals. Looking trim and dressed nattily in a black blazer and slacks and a white shirt with black suspenders, he joked and chatted with the crowd, which regularly erupted in deafening applause.

He remained incredibly good-natured when, during a rousing cover of Marvin Gaye's "Hitch Hike," complete with a half-dozen go-go girls dancing on an elevated platform, piercing feedback stopped the band in its tracks. On a second attempt, McCartney's mic was dead. Third time was the charm. "You know we're really live!" he quipped.

Other hits included The Beatles' "A Day in the Life," and a cover of John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance." McCartney invited an audience sing-along for "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" before breaking into "Back in the USSR" and ended the main show at 9:50 at the piano, singing "Let It Be" and "Hey Jude."

For the first of two encores, he played the apropos "Wonderful Christmastime" with a children's chorus from the Choir Academy of Harlem, plus The Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There" and "Get Back." His second encore brought an acoustic "Yesterday" and an abbreviated "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" that segued into - again apropos - "The End." The show finished about 10:20, with McCartney hoarse and missing some notes but trouping through energetically and delightedly.

The concert was held to celebrate Sirius XM reaching its 20 millionth subscriber, the company said. The event coincides with the recent reissue of Paul McCartney & Wings' 1973 number-one album, "Band on the Run." Broadcast coverage had begun at 2 p.m. with Sirius hosts Chris Carter, Mark Goodman, Meg Griffin and Jenny Eliscu reporting live from inside the Apollo. A preshow report 15 minutes before the scheduled 8 p.m. concert featured commentary from the iconic New York DJ "Cousin Brucie" Morrow, 73, and the actor, radio producer and E Street Band member "Little Steven" Van Zandt, 60.

Following this show at the 1,300-seat Apollo, McCartney is scheduled to play two more concerts this month in similarly intimate settings: the 5,000-seat Hammersmith Apollo in London and the 1,200-seat O2 Academy in his hometown of Liverpool.

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