Prior to heading to the Philippines in July of 1966, The Beatles played three nights in Budokan, Tokyo, marking the start of Paul McCartney’s love affair with Tokyo and Japan for.
Despite getting thrown in jail there in 1980, McCartney has returned for shows in 1990, 1993, 2002, 2013, 2015 and 2017, doing a good number of nights per visit. He was supposed to perform in 2014 for his Out There tour but he caught a viral infection and instead, made up for it as soon as he could.
His recently concluded One on One Japan tour reminds us of this well reciprocated fondness. He did one show in Budokan and three at the Tokyo Dome—filling this large venue up to its 55,000 capacity.
Watching the soon to be 75- year-old musician and former Beatle play for two-and-a-half hours is pure bliss. His contribution to the field of music and pop culture is immeasurable and he has a special place in history. As such, countless people across the world, of different ages, races and beliefs find delight and comfort in the music he has helped make.
Because of all this and because the venue, sound, lights, set up, musicians and acoustics were all practically flawless—this concert belongs in a class of its own. OK, maybe you can put the Rolling Stones in that category as well.
Paul McCartney and his band played a total of 39 songs—favorites from the Beatles, Wings and his solo efforts. Every fan, music writer or pop culture columnist would have his or her own personal highlights. Here are but some:
“Blackbird” because it is a beautiful, timeless song; the musicians left the stage and we had Paul singing on an elevated platform under video moonlight;
“Maybe I’m Amazed,” one of the best love songs of the last 50 years;
“Live and Let Die” because it was total rock and roll—and because Paul may have out-rocked Axl on this one (Guns ‘N Roses has this on their “Not in This Lifetime” set list). Paul was in great shape, the camera crew did quick cuts of the band in time with the music and there were explosions punctuating the song. I guess they figured, they can’t have Guns n Roses outdo them on a Wings track;
“Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” because it’s just exuberant, whether you are having a good day or not;
“Eleanor Rigby,” which is a pure poetry; and
“My Valentine” because Team McCartney projected the stark and simple black and white footage from the music video featuring Natalie Portman and Johnny Depp.
To be honest, each song in the set list deserves its own mini-review.
Mr. McCartney addressed the audience in both English and Japanese. When he spoke in English, a Japanese translation would appear on the screen. I can only hope he can return to Japan—to give music fans in Asia another time to bask in the sheer joy of witnessing a living legend play.
For more information on their Philippine show mishap, look for historian Ambeth Ocampo’s account in his great little book Dirty Dancing: Looking Back 2.
Paul McCartney will appear in Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge out on May 24.