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December 22, 2014

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Review:

Short takes from the new Joint

Killers homecoming, epic McCartney show make Hard Rock venue’s first weekend special

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Tiffany Brown

Setting the bar high for The Joint, Paul McCartney, 66, treated fans to an emotional and generously long performance Sunday.

Coming Up at The Joint

  • Bon Jovi (Friday; $191-$746)
  • Kenny Chesney (Saturday; $95.50-$396)
  • The Cult (May 2; $41-$121)
  • Flight of the Conchords (May 23; $51-$71)
  • Santana (residency begins May 27; $75-$295)
  • Wilco (June 19; $35, on sale Saturday)
  • Info: 693-5000, www.hardrockhotel.com

McCartney plays The Joint

Rusty Anderson and Paul McCartney, shown early in the show. Launch slideshow »

Sun Blogs

The Hard Rock was the hot, glowing center of the Vegas apopcalypse this weekend, opening its refurbed concert venue The Joint with the one-two-three combination of the Killers on Friday, Avenged Sevenfold on Saturday and Paul McCartney on Sunday. Sunday was also the first day of the “daylife” pool party season, with Snoop Dogg headlining for the hundreds of overheated, overserved hotties packed into the all-day Rehab party.

A few random observations, interpretations and Joint statements:

•••

The Killers were the Friday headliners, but the first band to play an official note at The Joint was Wild Light, a promising young quartet from New Hampshire, led by Jordan Alexander, who sounded like a young David Byrne.

•••

Returning as hometown heroes, the Killers got a loud and loving welcome from the full house. Backed by a row of silhouetted palm trees (a nod to his Henderson hometown?), lead singer Brandon Flowers was back in dandy mode, sporting epaulets, dropping to his knees on the zebra-striped floor and yelping through such high-strung hits as “Somebody Told Me,” that “are we human or are we dancer?” song, and a danceable, left-field cover of Joy Division’s “Shadowplay.”

•••

“Is it too early to say how awesome it is to be here?” Flowers said, adding, “we were inspired by many bands that we saw at the other Joint.”

The Killers were lucky — or wise — to play a few days before McCartney, a living international treasure, whose Sunday set, basically a 2 1/2 hour standing ovation, effectively pre-eclipsed the rest of the Joint’s season, setting the bar unapproachably high.

•••

“They would have to call it that, right?,” McCartney quipped, referring to the venue’s name and his famed fondness for herbal refreshment. Fresh from rocking the Coachella Festival (the Killers played it, too), McCartney was preternaturally bouncy and boyish looking at 66, sporting a buttoned-up Beatlesque collarless black suit, which later revealed a white shirt and black suspenders.

•••

“It’s good in here, isn’t it?” McCartney remarked, referring to the venue’s sterling sound system, video screens and all-around comfort, which add up to make The Joint the best music venue in town. I saw the Killers from the top-floor seats at the very back, and watched McCartney from the very back of ground-floor general admission, leaning against a wooden rail, and the sound was remarkable. If you stepped away for a drink — or a pit stop — you wouldn’t miss a note, Crystalline sound was thoughtfully piped in — in stereo — at the bars and in the restrooms.

•••

About those video screens — there are 38 around the venue, plus two high-definition screens flanking the stage, which rewarded the faithful with a close-up focus on McCartney’s fingers plucking the delicate acoustic guitar accompaniment to “Blackbird” and “Yesterday.”

•••

Designed by the Montreal-based architectural design firm Sceno Plus, the New Joint has doubled in size, accommodating 4,000 with the farthest seat in the house only 155 feet from the stage. There’s also Wi-Fi access throughout the venue, a full blogging station for press covering events. My only complaints: crowding and confusion at the too-small box office, and the over-hyping of the upcoming bare-knuckle “Fighting” flick looped incessantly on the video screens.

•••

Few artists have this kind of almost limitless back catalog. McCartney cherry-picked the most enduring of his warehouse of underrated Wings hits (“Let Me Roll It” snarled and crackled with electricity), and he was generous with Beatles treasures. A rollicking, raucous relic, “I Saw Her Standing There” was greeted with an eruption of joy. This wasn’t Beatlemania, it was Beatlephilia, an endless love.

•••

“Yeah, you like the up-to-date stuff, don’t you,” McCartney cracked, after pounding out “Lady Madonna” at the piano, with 4,000 voices supplying the high harmonies. This crowd — many of whom paid up to $700 for tickets — knew every note and every word by heart, but no one there had ever heard these songs played with such intensity. McCartney acknowledged the love, repeatedly saluting the audience by grabbing his famous Hoefner bass or guitar by the neck and raising it over his head.

•••

With dual guitarists Brian Ray and Rusty Anderson (both with Wings-era long hair), keyboard player Paul “Wix” Wickens and MVP drummer Abe Laboriel Jr., McCartney has his best band since, well, the Beatles, and they harmonized angelically and rocked ferociously. But the evening had a wistfully elegiac undercurrent, as if McCartney was saying farewell. Who knows when or if we’ll ever get a chance to see him again, especially in such ideal circumstances?

•••

McCartney reminisced about Jimi Hendrix opening a London gig with a cover version of “Sgt. Pepper” just two days after that album was released. He quietly dedicated “My Love” to his late wife Linda, pounding his fist to his heart at the end. And the set included eulogies to John Lennon. “Let’s hear it for John,” McCartney said, introducing “Here Today” as “stuff I might have said to him but didn’t get a chance.” And he picked up a ukulele in tribute to George Harrison, gently strumming “Something,” subtly joined by the full band, climaxing with that melting electric guitar solo.

•••

“I’m not half the man I used to be,” he sang during “Yesterday,” on solo acoustic, backed subtly by a synthesized string quartet. But McCartney was singing at the top of his register, now crooning, now wailing, now screaming as he shifted gears through “I Got a Feeling,” “Band on the Run,” “Back in the U.S.S.R,” and something many of us thought we’d never hear, a squalling, seizure-inducing “Helter Skelter,” backed by vertiginous roller coaster footage on a giant screen.

•••

As the show passed the standard Vegas 90-minute end-of-show mark, McCartney seemed to become even more energized. And where any other artist would have considered certain songs unfollowable — who would dare follow “Hey Jude,” with the entire crowd singing along for the extended coda at the top of their lungs? — McCartney kept coming up with more.

•••

At one point it seemed as if McCartney was headed for a big Vegas finish: His comically melodramatic Bond theme “Live and Let Die” was literally the bomb, punctuated by seriously startling eruptions of flame and fireworks, leaving the air dense and hazy with smoke — like the concerts most of us remember.

•••

“We have had a brilliant time at the opening night of the new Joint in Las Vegas,” McCartney said near the end. “We were there, and we rocked. But, OK, this is about the time where we have to go,” he said, to a friendly chorus of boos. “No, we have to go home,” he laughed. “You don’t have to!”

•••

And then, unbelievably, there was even more, and what was next managed to top everything. McCartney and band plunged into the “Sgt. Pepper” reprise, “we’re sorry but it’s time to go...” Which morphed into that drum solo and three-way guitar duel from side two of “Abbey Road.”

And the entire audience singing — and meaning it — “and in the end...”

Hair-raising. Spine-tingling. Maybe I’m amazed.

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