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Last Updated: Sunday, 11 May, 2003, 11:52 GMT 12:52 UK
Sir Paul plays historic Colosseum show
A fan with a Paul McCartney T-shirt inside the Colosseum
A fan with a Paul McCartney T-shirt inside the Colosseum

Sir Paul McCartney has played a rare show inside Rome's historic Colosseum, one of the first concerts ever to be held at the venue.

A crowd of just 400 people paid up to 1,295 euros ($1,485, 925) in an internet auction to witness the charity show on Saturday.

It was a warm-up for a free concert for 300,000 fans on Sunday outside the Colosseum, which was once the scene of gladiatorial battles.

"I think we're the first band to play here since the Christians," the former Beatle joked.

Ticket proceeds of more than 250,000 euros ($285,000, 180,000) from Saturday's show will go to landmine charity Adopt-a-Minefield and the upkeep of Rome's historic sites.

Several hundred more fans stood outside the venue, hoping to hear what was going on inside.

Stage outside Rome's Colosseum
A giant stage was erected for Sunday's free outdoor concert

The Colosseum was illuminated by multicoloured lights and filled with dry ice for the largely acoustic 100-minute performance.

"Gonna rock the Colosseum, yeah," Sir Paul shouted during one song.

"As you can imagine, this is a magnificent occasion for us," he said.

The star sang more than 20 Beatles songs, including a ukulele performance of George Harrison's Something.

One fan, Renato Jacopetti, travelled from the northern city of Padua after paying 1,100 euros ($1,260, 785) for two tickets.

"I've loved these songs for more than 30 years, and to see him perform them in the Colosseum is almost too good to be true," he said.

The Colosseum, which once seated 80,000 spectators, will form the backdrop for Sunday's free concert.

Pope concerns

Fans are expected to fill the Via dei Fori Imperiali, a road lined with Roman relics that leads to the ancient arena.

Promoters said Sir Paul might drop his loudest songs so he did not disturb Pope John Paul II at the Vatican.

The sale of television rights for the two shows will go to an Italian archaeological mission helping the ransacked Iraqi national museum in Baghdad.

A charity show by blues singer Ray Charles was billed as the first ever concert to be held in the Colosseum in 2002.

The BBC's Richard Forrest
"The lucky few heard Paul McCartney sing more than 20 Beatles songs"

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