By DAVID BRINN - Jerusalem Post
In the end, it comes down to the music. After all the hoopla surrounding Paul McCartney's visit to Israel - the calls for boycotts, the death threat, the private chef and grand piano in his hotel suite, and the visit to Bethlehem - it all boiled down to a little over two hours onstage Thursday night at Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv before 40,000 plus fans.
"Shalom Tel Aviv, Shana Tova, Ahalan": Sir Paul McCartney on stage in Tel Aviv, Thursday.
And it was a dynamite two hours, with the 66-year-old former Beatle proving time and time again that he's a consummate performer, musician and songwriter. Evidently in fine spirits, despite reports of him receiving threatening emails up to two hours before show time cautioning him not to go onstage, Sir Paul and his energetic and versatile four-piece band surprised the crowd of all ages by opening with a rousing version of "Hello Goodbye."
It faithfully recreated The Beatles' original, thanks in equal measures to McCartney's voice barely having aged a day, the band's uncanny ability to recapture the vibe The Beatles created in the studio, and the magnificent sound system which highlighted each instrument. If you closed your eyes, it might as easily have been the Fab Four on stage.
Recapturing the past was what the more-than 30 song set was all about, as McCartney hauled out crowd pleasing versions of "Back in the USSR," "Eleanor Rigby" and, of course, the set closing "Let it Be" and "Hey Jude" while the adoring audience waved their cell phones in the air and sang along to every word.
But, of course, all eyes were on McCartney, who generously addressed the crowd between songs with a mixture of Pidgin Hebrew and corny show biz platitudes.
"Shalom Tel Aviv, Shana Tova, Ahlan," he shouted in his first address to the crowd. Before introducing his Wings-era ballad "My Love," he said in Hebrew, "This song is dedicated to Linda," referring to his late wife. And before a spot on "All My Loving" from The Beatles' first album, he said coyly, "Zeh Mi Pa'am" (This is an oldie).
Among the most emotional moments was a tribute to former Beatle George Harrison, which started out with McCartney performing Harrison's "Something" solo on the ukulele before morphing halfway through into the full band traditional version. Images of Harrison flashed on the huge, incredibly vivid video screens, causing at least one young female fan captured on screen to burst into tears.
McCartney also dedicated a song to John Lennon - a dramatic "A Day in the Life", which evolved into an audience sing along of "Give Peace A Chance."
A version of "Live and Let Die" was explosive, literally, with the band playing the song's orchestral crescendos as fire flash pots were ignited on stage, and fireworks shot up into the sky.
For the two-encore finale, McCartney pulled out some more nuggets like "Lady Madonna," "I Saw Her Standing There" and "Get Back", before ending the show with a solo acoustic "Yesterday" and a full band medley of the rocking reprise to "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and the classic "The End" from Abbey Road.
Watching McCartney trade blistering lead guitar lines with Anderson and Ray on the song's long jam - elongated even further in concert - was a magical moment, one of many which dominated an entirely exceptional show.
He may have received the short end of the stick from some revisionist Beatles historians, but anyone attending the show had to be convinced that McCartney was as integral to the phenomenal success and influence of The Beatles as any of his band mates.
Seeing the legends of days gone by is usually wrought with disappointment and inflated expectations. But on Thursday night, before the packed crowd at Yarkon Park, Paul McCartney only succeeded in adding to his legendary status.
(c) Jerusalem Post