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Byline: Jade Wright

AS THE song goes "Once there was a way to get back home."

And what better way to get back to Liverpool for Sir Paul McCartney than his first ever gig at the ECHO arena.

Dressed in a black suit and pink shirt he kicked off with Hello Goodbye, Junior's Farm and All My Loving on his trademark Hofner violin bass.

Well hello Liverpool," he grinned. "This is the last night of our tour and what a place to end it."

To mark his homecoming he delighted the capacity crowd with a three-hour set of familiar hits and fan favourites.

Belting out the upbeat Jet and Drive My Car he got the crowd singing and dancing before newer track Sing In The Changes and a Liverpool premiere of Help track The Night Before.

Picking up a lead guitar he launched into Let Me Roll It. For Paperback Writer he swapped it for the guitar he played on Revolver - a right-hander strung upside-down.

Praise must go to his excellent four-piece band for superb harmonies and musicianship. Sitting down at the piano he led a sing-along version of The Long And Winding Road, Come and Get It (another first for Liverpool) and Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five.

His voice has matured over the years but he can still certainly hit the high notes and his lyrical tones echoed beautifully across the arena.

For a man of his years he put most younger bands to shame, taking no interval and barely pausing for breath between songs.

The former Beatle has played to millions around the world, yet he seemed genuinely touched by the adulation from his home crowd.

Fans had camped out overnight to get tickets and they gave their homecoming hero a rapturous response, clapping and cheering as soon as they recognised each song.

Hit followed hit, with the sublime Maybe I''m Amazed, Blackbird (with a false start and a chuckle when he got the words wrong) and Eleanor Rigby.

His mentions of John Lennon and George Harrison met with huge cheers while Cilla Black and the Royal family were booed (prompting cheeky grins from Sir Paul).

We don''t normally play this one, he said. But we''ve stuck it in tonight, I think you''ll see why before launching into Penny Lane.

He''s probably the most famous musician in the world, and he''s written enough songs to last 10 lifetimes, so he could justifiably shy away from the big hits in favour of the more obscure tracks. But he knows what the fans love and he gives them what they want gig after gig.

Thus, he chucked in Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da and watched enthralled as the crowd sang along.

The cool tracks were still there in abundance - Band On The Run, I''ve Got a Feeling, Back In The USSR and A Day in the Life sounded like they could have been released yesterday.

There were plenty of poignant moments too - particularly his tributes to fallen band mates John (Here Today and Give Peace A Chance) and George (Something, complete with backing vocals from 11,000 people). It''s easy to forget that while the world mourned the loss of their musicianship, he lost his childhood friends.

He climbed back behind the piano for the beautiful Let It Be, the thrilling Live And Let Die (with spectacular pyrotechnics) and the iconic Hey Jude, each gratefully filmed by thousands of camera phones, fans eager to capture each moment for posterity. Of course there were times when you could see Paul McCartney play for next to nothing down Mathew Street most lunchtimes.

But 50 years on, it''s an experience of a lifetime. Sir Paul seems to be aware of that, and packs each set with songs that his fans want to hear.

As the clock reached 11pm, ever the performer, he came back on for encores The Word, All You Need Is Love, a snow covered Wonderful Christmas Time, complete with a choir of children, Day Tripper and Get Back.

Add in a second encore of Yesterday, Mull of Kintyre (complete with a full pipe band) Golden Slumbers brought the action to a close. And as the final notes of The End rang out, it was clear that, even at 69, there is no end in sight where Sir Paul's love of music - and Liverpool - are concerned.

And long let it be.

10/10 Wonderful Christmas Time ONLINE See more pictures at /multimedia


GET BACK: Macca thrilled the audience at the ECHO arena Pictures: JASON ROBERTS
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Dec 21, 2011
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