A YEAR to the day that Paul McCartney played an impromptu gig at Liverpool's O2 Academy he was back in the city for a very different concert.
In 2011 it was a fairly intimate performance that ended with the ex-Beatle buying chips for the audience – last night it was a three-hour performance to an audience of 10,000 at the Echo Arena featuring fake snow, a children's choir, pyrotechnics and a pipe band.
The closing show of his On the Run tour, that took in just 11 dates across three continents, was a greatest hits set spanning his career from early Beatles numbers to more recent singles including 2007's Dance Tonight.
McCartney's second ever appearance at the Echo Arena – the first was to accept a lifetime achievement award at the MTV European Music awards in 2008 – opened gently with a video scrapbook including memorabilia of Liverpool among the posters, badges, round glasses, fanzines, comic books, postcards and photo booth portraits.
"This brilliant!” he yelled in between songs. “This is the last night of our tour and what better place to end it than my own home town.
“I'm gonna take a moment just to drink it all in for myself.”
Cue massive cheer from a crowd that included John Lennon's half-sister, Julia Baird, and Sir Paul’s brother, Mike McCartney.
For nearly two and a half hours solid, the 69-year-old performed without a break, pausing only to swap musical instruments, remove his bright pink-lined jacket (“this is the only costume change of the night”) and share anecdotes with the audience.
Backed by his fantastic band, he blasted through Beatles songs Hello Goodbye and Drive my Car, Wings's Jet and The Fireman number Sing the Changes before swapping on to the guitar he played on the recording of Paperback Writer for a rendition of the 1966 hit.
He swapped on to the piano for The Long and Winding Road and, later, Let It Be and Hey Jude, played Wings's Ram On and Something on ukulele in memory of George Harrison, recalling the bus rides they shared long before The Beatles.
Then he was back on electric for Penny Lane – added specifically for the Liverpool date – and an explosive Live and Let Die with firework and fire cannons.
Two encores finally satiated the crowd, with the musician welcoming the LIPA 4-19 Choir on stage for Wonderful Christmas Time under a festive snowfall.
Intimate venues or massive arenas – a McCartney homecoming gig certainly takes some beating.