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McCartney 'Back in the USSR'

Former Beatle McCartney performs during his concert in Red Square.
Former Beatle McCartney performs during his concert in Red Square.

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MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- Almost four decades after he wrote "Back in the USSR" Paul McCartney finally made it to Russia.

McCartney rocked Red Square with Beatles classics and many of his own songs for nearly three hours Saturday night, capping his first trip ever to Russia, where his music flourished during the '70s and '80s despite being banned by the communist government.

He became the first Beatle to play in Red Square.

Even tickets costing up to $300 -- three times the average monthly wage -- didn't stop Russians like office manager Slava Astakhov from coming to the concert.

"We could buy a ticket to Stockholm for this price but when you're talking about McCartney, it doesn't seem that expensive," he said.

A crowd of 20,000 filled the former Communist parade ground -- which also holds Vladimir Lenin's Mauseleum -- to hear McCartney perform 38 songs, including the hit "Back in the USSR," "Hey Jude," "The Long and Winding Road" and "Eleanor Rigby."

Several songs, including "She's Leaving Home" and "Two of Us" have never been played in public before McCartney's current tour. The show also included McCartney's tributes to the late Beatles John Lennon and George Harrison.

McCartney spoke Russian several times during the show, although his words in English were translated into Russian on video monitors for the audience, which included former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. McCartney met with Gorbachev just before the concert.

Putin speaks to McCartney and his wife Heather Mills in the Kremlin.
Putin speaks to McCartney and his wife Heather Mills in the Kremlin.

Before the show, McCartney and his wife heather met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and found out the ex-KGB agent is, and was, a big fan.

Putin, who was not expected to attend, arrived about halfway into the show while McCartney was singing "Calico Skies," an anti-war song recently released on a charity album benefiting Iraqi children. Earlier in the day, McCartney sang "Let It Be" for Putin during a private meeting.

Putin told McCartney that he was a big fan of Beatles music which he said brought "a taste of freedom, a window on the world" to Soviet citizens. McCartney later told reporters he and Putin talked about everyday things such as their families. He said that he and Putin shared working class backgrounds.

Beatlemania spread through the Soviet Union even though the music was banned by the government. McCartney told his concert audience he has been told by many Russians that they learned English by listening to Beatles albums bought through the black market.

During the 1980s -- in the days of Glasnost -- McCartney released a rock oldies album solely in the Soviet Union called "Choba V CCCP," which is loosely translated as "Back in the USSR."

The first Beatle to play in Russia was Ringo Starr who toured Moscow and St. Petersburg with his All Star Band in 1998.

McCartney's tour next moves to Dublin for his first concert in Ireland since the early 1960s. The tour wraps up in the Beatles' hometown of Liverpool next weekend.

-- CNN Bureau Chief Jill Dougherty and Producer Todd Baxter contributed to this report

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