It has always been a touch ironic that John Lennon, the famously fearless risk-taking Beatle, was so crippled by stage fright that even performing two numbers with Elton John saw him throwing up with nerves. As for George Harrison, he never recovered from the critics’ mauling of his disastrous 1974 tour.

That Paul McCartney was always the Fabs’ most natural performer, with an enduring passion for live music, can be easily overlooked. Appearing naked on the cover of Two Virgins is one thing, but a different kind of courage is needed to live up to being a former Beatle on stage, given the weight of expectation.

That weight should have been unusually heavy for Macca when he performed in London on Tuesday last week, on what was his first O2 appearance and his only British date since 2004. But seconds into the joyous opener, Magical Mystery Tour, it was clear a good time was guaranteed for all, while the opening chords of the Drive My Car indicated he was heading for a triumphant homecoming, 46 years to the day since The Beatles played their first Christmas show.

Anyone who found Live in New York CD/DVD in their stocking will know that Macca has long ago come to terms with his past as the guardian of the Beatles’ musical legacy. But the strange thing is that now, in his sixties, he performs for almost three hours – taking in Wings’ hits, songs from his Fireman albums and even his Golden Globe-nominated song for a new De Niro movie – whereas at the height of his Fabness, Beatles shows lasted 35 minutes.

At the O2 he rocked the audience with Day Tripper, Helter Skelter and Back in the USSR; brought a lump to the throat with And I Love Her, Here Today (for John) and My Love (dedicated to Linda and his watching family); and risked mass heart attacks as flames and explosions fired off during Live and Let Die.

Hey Jude inevitably produced scenes of wild happiness that presumably energise him. But there were surprises too, as he took on Harrison’s Something, and A Day in the Life, which ran into Lennon’s Give Peace A Chance.

Having joined in with Wonderful Christmas Time, even the arrival of the bagpipers for Mull of Kintyre brought a roar of approval before the excellent five-strong band ripped into Sgt Pepper, with The End from Abbey Road, bringing an unforgettable night to a close.