If you see Paul McCartney in concert, he plays songs from his Beatles, Wings, and solo catalog. However, this was not always the case.

The release of One Hand Clapping, Wings' studio live album, packed some surprises. While most of the track list was Wings songs or covers, there was a medley of three Beatles songs. Notably, McCartney did not play more than about a minute of each — “Let It Be,” “The Long and Winding Road,” and “Lady Madonna.”

A couple of years later, during the “Wings Over the World” tour, the band began implementing more of Paul McCartney's Beatles work into the set. This was a conscious decision from McCartney, who told his website in an interview that he wanted his new band to find success before going back to the Beatles well.

Finding success with Wings

“I think once we had the success with Wings, I felt that I could do any songs I wanted and obviously that included Beatles songs,” McCartney recalled. “Promoters had been asking me to do that for years! I'd been saying, ‘No, this is Wings, we don't do Beatles songs.'

“So yeah, once we had our own individual success with Wings, then I felt we could do a bit of the Beatles stuff, and it was nice. I enjoy going back into that stuff now. I feel like I can pretty much do anything that I like the feel of,” he continued.

What songs does Paul McCartney play live?

Paul McCartney performing a 'Got Back' tour show in New Jersey in 2022.
Alexander Lewis / MyCentralJersey / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Nowadays, McCartney plays a wide variety of Beatles and Wings songs during his live sets. Sometimes, that includes songs he did not sing lead vocals on from the former. These include “Eight Days a Week” and “A Hard Day's Night.”

This was not something McCartney was originally comfortable with. While he does not exclusively perform John Lennon's songs, he did briefly touch on this in the interview as well as tease a cover of one of Lennon's iconic songs.

“In the past, I would always shy away from ‘John songs,' and I still do [to] some extent, and do the ones that I took [the] lead vocal on in the band instead,” McCartney said. “But sometimes now I'll do ‘the John song' where he took the lead vocal, and people seem to enjoy it. I'll have to start doing ‘Imagine'!”

Looking back at McCartney's most recent setlist from Brazil on December 16, 2023, it was filled with a balance of his body of work. The first 10 songs are predominantly Wings, with them making up five of the songs, the Beatles four, and his solo discography one.

In total, six solo songs were played, 21 from the Beatles, eight from Wings, and one from the Quarrymen. With this balance, he appeases all sectors of his fanbase.

This is about par for the course when seeing McCartney live. For fans who hope to, McCartney recently announced two new legs of the “Got Back” tour. The first will visit South America before he goes to Europe to close out the year in December 2024.