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Paul McCartney: Apollo Theater Debut Brings Two Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, and Howard Stern

“A long time ago in Liverpool I dreamt about this,” Paul McCartney, now 68, told the audience of A listers and Sirius XM Radio fans at the Apollo Theater last night. As a Beatle and a Wing, he’d never played the Apollo. For the occasion, he pulled off a magical show of Beatles and Wings songs, as well as a tribute to Marvin Gaye–a nod to the theater’s history.

Looking into the audience, Paul remarked that he was having trouble remembering lyrics and chords, he joked, when so many people were holding up signs. It wasn’t like the stadiums and arenas he’s used to playing: the Apollo is small, and the audience is right up close. They were so close, in fact, that Paul did a couple of shout outs to pal Tony Bennett, who was sitting up front, and Jimmy Fallon, with whom he’d performed last Thursday in a hilarious bit on Fallon’s talk show.

He probably could see the rest of the people up front, too, including Rolling Stones Keith Richards (with Patti Hansen) and Ronnie Woods, Jerry Seinfeld and comedian pal George Wallace, Lorne Michaels, Ben Stiller (with his real estate agent). Howard Stern, Chris Rock, Brian Williams, Steve Buscemi (with wife Jo), Aidan Quinn and wife Elizabeth Bracco, Steve and Maureen van Zandt, matchbox twenty’s Rob Thomas. Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick, Alec Baldwin, newly engaged David Lauren and Lauren Bush, incoming school chancellor Cathleen Black, and famed record producer Tommy LiPuma.

Some other notables: Linda Moran, head of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, record exec John Titta, “SNL” players Fred Armisen and Jason Sudeikis, also Alan and Susan Patricof, NBC’s Vic Garvey, and Citigroup chief/Apollo chairman of the board Richard Parsons.

The piece de resistance? Paul Simon and Edie Brickell. To have Simon and McCartney in the same room, the two greatest songwriters of the rock generation, was kinda mind blowing.

McCartney lived up to the challenge: He mixed Beatles songs with solo efforts, and threw in Gaye’s “Hitch Hike.” On latter, the band blew out the mics, and had to start over a couple of times. McCartney was of good cheer, though, and effortlessly spry. His voice has never sounded better, either. And the band, as Max Weinberg of the E Street Band observed, is maybe the best he’s ever had.

The list of songs: “Magical Mystery Tour,” “Jet,” “Drive My Car,” “All My Loving,” “One After 909,” “Let Me Roll It,” “Long and Winding Road,” “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five,” “Maybe I’m Amazed,” “Blackbird,” “I’m Looking Through You,” “And I Love Her,” “Dance Tonight,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “Hitch Hike,” “Band on the Run,” “Obla-di Obla-da,” “Back in the USSR,” “A Day in the Life/Give Peace a Chance,” “Let it Be,” “Hey Jude,” “Wonderful Christmas time,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Get Back,” “Yesterday,” “Sgt. Pepper (Reprise),” and “The End” (not “Carry That Weight” listed elsewhere) from “Abbey Road.”

(Note: Paul did not play “Eight Days a Week” unless I fell into a coma at that point. Was the New York Times’s Ben Ratliff even there?)

He came, he saw, he conquered. He led the audience in a singalong Russian folk song called “Petruska.” told jokes, and led his band with the energy of a 30 year old. “A Day in the Life” was chilling. “Let it Be” and “Long and Winding Road” just seemed more outstanding than ever. It was cool hearing “One After 909” resurrected.

Kudos to Scott Greenstein of Sirius XM: he pulled off a coup. Later, at Marcus Samuelsson‘s new Harlem restaurant, the Red Rooster, guests dined on veggie dishes. Paul and his lovely girlfriend Nancy Shevell made the rounds, and settled down to eat with Keith, Patti, Ronnie and Keith’s longtime manager Jane Rose. It’s about 46 years since most of them met, and they’re still going strong. Amen.

PS Yes, it was ironic: McCartney’s show occurred simultaneous to the Roseland launch party of Michael Jackson’s first posthumous album. It was weird how the two events dovetailed since Jackson’s estate infamously owns McCartney’s Beatles songs. And one of the last times Jackson ever performed live was at the Apollo in 2002.