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Desert Trip 2016: Paul McCartney, Neil Young perform

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Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Paul McCartney needed a moment.

After firing up the audience in Indio, California Saturday with “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Can’t Buy Me Love,” the rock legend stopped the music to take a look around the colossal stadium that is home to Desert Trip. “This is cool to be here, right?” the 74-year-old giant asked. “I’m going to take a moment here to drink this all in for myself.”

Less than 24 hours after Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones served up the weekend’s first and second course on the grounds where Coachella also takes place each spring, McCartney followed with a spectacular entrée — a two-hour-plus rock fest that was part sing-along and part Beatles music history lesson.

“We are going to have a party here tonight, Liverpool-style,” McCartney said before taking it old school with “In Spite of All the Danger,” “Back in the USSR,” “Day Tripper,” “Eleanor Rigby,” and “Hey Jude.” 

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Along the way, McCartney introduced his songs with engaging Beatles lore — like how the Civil Rights era inspired “Blackbird,” how he penned solo song “Here Today” after John Lennon’s death in 1980, and what George Martin contributed to the making of “Love Me Do.”

Even as he rollicked through the standards, McCartney called out the boomers for their (no doubt annoying) predictability. “We know what you like because [the oldies] light up your phones,” he quipped. “And when we play one you don’t know it’s like a black hole. So here’s one.” That’s when he performed his 2013 single “Queenie Eye” — and naturally, the place went dark. But the phones lit up again with classics like “Lady Madonna,” “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” and “Live and Let Die.” It was a terrific show.

Of course, it helps to have a good warm-up guy: Neil Young kicked off the evening with a gorgeous solo performance, purring through “After the Gold Rush,” “Heart of Gold,” and “Mother Earth” before the band joined him onstage. When he wasn’t playing his upright piano or pumping the organ, the 70-year-old free spirit seemed to dig engaging the crowd. “[We] really appreciate the fans,” Young said before getting a little self-effacing about his musical prowess. “Now you all know I can’t tune [a guitar],” he said. “It kind of got in my way for a few years. How does that sound on your young ears?”

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

The banter didn’t stop there. The singer/environmentalist — whose casual concert attire included a T-shirt that said “Water is Life”  — also took a few swipes at the Republican presidential nominee, joking that “Welfare Mothers” was Donald Trump’s new campaign song. Even though he admitted going over his allotted performance time (due in no small part to his explosive and very extended version of “Down by the River”), no one wanted him to leave the stage. That’s why it was a welcome treat when McCartney invited him back to perform “A Day in the Life” and “Give Peace a Chance.”

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Desert Trip wraps up its first weekend Sunday with performances by Roger Waters and The Who. Tickets are still available for Oct. 14-16, when the lineup is repeated.