Golden 1 Center opens with three hours of Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney steps on stage. // Paul Piazza

On opening night at the Golden 1 Center, Paul McCartney asked the more than 15,000 people in the audience where they were from.


Yeah, there was a decent applause for Sacramento.

Not from Sacramento, “but nearby”?


Not from anywhere near Sacramento at all?

Sizeable. Arguably greater than Sacramento proper.

“Well, on behalf of the tourists board, I welcome you,” he said.

It was one moment in a nearly three-hour set that showed McCartney still rocks the charm at age 74. In between songs, he shimmied, wiggled and shook his hips to the glee of fans holding such clever signs as, “I’ll still love you in 40 years when I’m 64.”

And sure, his age showed a bit in creaky high notes and typically powerful vocal displays, but McCartney steadfastly remains a must-see legend. His set spanned his career, starting with 1958’s “In Spite of All the Danger,” from his pre-Beatles days, to 2015’s “FourFiveSeconds,” his collaboration with Rihanna and Kanye West. In between, he kept the Beatles hits coming: “A Hard Day’s Night” felt like a particularly joyous way to kick off the arena; “Blackbird” saw him rise toward those in the nosebleeds; “Let it Be” brought at least one nearby man to tears, and certainly he wasn’t alone; and “Something” was sung in painful, stark beauty as a tribute to George Harrison.

The only oddity was McCartney’s electro-pop song “Temporary Secretary” from 1980, which felt terribly outdated. The blue blazer looks great on McCartney, but not any attempts to be edgy. Ditto the slinky woman dancing sexily on the screen behind him for one song.

Much better—and more touching—were the old photos of McCartney and the Beatles during particularly heartfelt songs. Golden 1 Center certainly has the capacity to deliver some spectacles in the future: McCartney brought a light show at times worthy of a rave as well as stunningly loud pyrotechnics.

“A Hard Day’s Night” // Paul Piazza

The first fans inside the arena. // Paul Piazza

Fans started gathering outside 90 minutes before the 8 p.m. starting time, buzzing with anticipation. They posed for photos outside before glancing at Piglet, the Jeff Koons sculpture in the plaza’s center. One by one, they said “8 million dollars?!” either with a tinge of shock, anger, confusion or disgust.

Still, by the end of the night, no one was talking about Piglet. Street performers provided the beat as the enormous mass of people flooded out onto K street, still high from the show and filing into neighboring bars. The air felt a little different. Sacramento has indeed entered a new era—of major downtown concerts, at least.

McCartney returns to Golden 1 Center tonight, and tickets are still available. Maroon 5 plays the arena next on Saturday, October 15.

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