Paul McCartney kicks off his latest North American leg tonight (May 23rd) at New Orleans' Smoothie King Center. The 16-date trek stretches through the summer when it wraps on July 13th at L.A.'s Dodger Stadium. Die-hard fans are eagerly awaiting the opening night setlist to see if there have been any changes since the former-Beatle's South American shows earlier this year.

Paul McCartney says that tackling Beatles songs in concert today is a world away from how he felt about performing the group's material upon first hitting the road as a solo act back in 1972: "When the Beatles broke up it was a very tough time for all of us, 'cause, y'know, it wasn't just our job gone, it was this relationship. This tight relationship. It was a bit like a divorce. So, none of us really wanted to do any of the songs that we were famous for in the Beatles. We wanted to strike out into new pastures and do new stuff. And we avoided all the Beatle stuff and when I toured with Wings, we did a couple -- but very subtly. It was mainly new stuff. There's so much time gone by that I now look at the songs and I don't think, 'Oh, y'know, those painful memories,' I think, 'Oh, those are nice songs we did.'"

We asked Brian Ray, who's now in his 17th year playing guitar and bass in McCartney's band, how the musicians decide which arrangement of his Beatles and solo classics gets the nod on the road: "Often, versions are live versions, as with ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ that get an awful lot of airplay. So, you are caught in a funny thing, like, which one do I obey? Is it the recorded version? It’s a little different than the live version, and the arrangement. . . So we all kind of get together on that and Paul tells us which version he kind of tending towards and sometimes it’s a mixture of the live and the recorded version. We all just come in prepared with knowing our parts, and if Paul wants to hear something different, he’s got no problem telling me, ‘Brian, I’m not sure it goes quite like that, uh, listen one more time’ -- y’know? He’s got no problem with that and I’ve got no problem taking his guidance, obviously."

McCartney talked about the importance of the Beatles' 1968 seven-week chart-topper "Hey Jude" within the context of his shows: "Whenever I do a new tour, I think -- 'I'll just switch up all the songs,' but then I go, 'I gotta do 'Hey Jude,' 'cause it's so much fun. And it's great handing that one over to the audience, y'know? And, y'know what the greatest thing is? You feel this sense of community. And in these times, when it's a little dark and it's. . . people are sort of separated by politics and stuff, it's so fantastic to see 'em all come together singing the end of 'Hey Jude' -- so I'm very happy about that. So, I keep it in the show."

Over the course of the current leg, "Macca" and his band will hit arenas and stadiums in North and South Carolina; Kentucky; Indiana; Wisconsin; Illinois; Texas; Arizona; Nevada; Vancouver, BC; and California.

Paul McCartney tour dates (subject to change):

May 23 - New Orleans, LA - Smoothie King Center
May 27 - Raleigh, NC - PNC Arena
May 30 - Greenville, SC - Bon Secours Wellness Arena
June 1 - Lexington, KY - Rupp Arena
June 3 - Fort Wayne, IN - Allen County War Memorial Coliseum
June 6 - Madison, WI - Kohl Center
June 8 - Green Bay, WI - Lambeau Field
June 11 - Moline, IL - TaxSlayer Center
June 14 - Arlington, TX - Globe Life Park
June 22 - San Diego, CA - Petco Park
June 26 - Phoenix, AZ - Talking Stick Resort Arena
June 28, 29 - Las Vegas, NV - T-Mobile Arena
July 6 - Vancouver, BC - BC Place
July 10 - San Jose, CA - SAP Center
July 13 - Los Angeles, CA - Dodger Stadium

AUDIO: PAUL MCCARTNEY ON WHY HE STILL PERFORMS 'HEY JUDE'
AUDIO: BRIAN RAY ON PAUL MCCARTNEY ARRANGEMENTS
AUDIO: PAUL MCCARTNEY ON PLAYING BEATLES SONGS LIVE