(Adds colour from gig, McCartney and fan quotes)
By Alex Fraser
LIVERPOOL, July 26 (Reuters) - Paul McCartney surprised and delighted fans on Thursday with a small free gig at The Cavern Club, returning to the cellar venue in Liverpool where The Beatles made their name more than 50 years ago.
In scenes reminiscent of the 1960s, the 76-year-old, was greeted by cheering and some screaming fans as he arrived at the club by car. Many had waited for hours to get a limited number of tickets after the singer and musician had posted a Tweet hours earlier announcing the gig.
McCartney, whose latest album “Egypt Station” comes out in September, played a wide-ranging set list including Beatles hits “Magical Mystery Tour” and “I Saw Her Standing There”, which got the loudest cheers from the audience.
“Hello Liverpool. Cavern,” he told the cheering crowd as he came on stage.
The Beatles first played at the Cavern - a cramped cellar bar in the northern English port city - in 1961. The band went on to become a global phenomenon before splitting up in 1970.
Surrounded by Beatles pictures and murals, McCartney, who usually plays to vast arenas, sang and chatted to the audience during the two-hour gig at the packed club, which has a capacity for 350 standing people. They sang along with him.
“Imagine this for me...All those years ago we came here and played. We didn’t know if we’d ever have any future but we did okay,” he said. “Coming back here with all of our guys, all of our crew it’s pretty pretty amazing for me.”
The original Cavern Club closed in 1973 and was eventually knocked down. But the bricks were saved and used to build the venue that now stands in its place and draws Beatles fans from around the world.
McCartney gave a concert at the venue in 1999 when he played a range of his songs and covers.
He earlier said on Twitter he would perform at 2 p.m. (1300 GMT), with tickets being handed out for free from 10 a.m. “on a first come, first served basis”.
“It’s a dream isn’t it. My dream is to go back in time to the 60s and see them at the Cavern,” fan Lottie Ryan, 27, said as she waiting to get into the venue. “This is the closest I’m ever going to get. I’m so excited.”
On Wednesday, McCartney attended a Q&A session at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, where he was asked which musicians he had worked with he admired the most. His answer began with fellow Beatles John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.
“Having worked with John so one on one, I got to see his brilliance before the world did,” he said. (Reporting by Alex Fraser; Additional reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian Editing by Robin Pomeroy)