For Whom The Bell Tells...Issue 9
From The White House To The Queen's Back Yard
A Month In The Life
Firstly, apologies to regular readers of this column for the
delay in delivering the latest installment. As you may have noticed,
June has been a manically busy month for the Paul McCartney news team.
Our boss has certainly been keeping us busy in the best possible way
with all his extraordinary headline grabbing antics. If hes not been
hanging with the US supreme leader, hes been packing out massive parks
or stadiums, performing to hundreds of thousands of fans across
Ireland and the United Kingdom (250,000 people in five shows). Even on
a smaller scale, hes had equal impact, rocking out in the iconic
setting of Battersea Power Station, raising funds for the Old Vic and
for his very own Meat Free Monday campaign with celebrity groupies in tow.
Its truly been a mind-boggling month. Now the whirlwind that
was June has passed, I finally have a chance to let it all sink in and
realize how privileged I am to have been a part of it all. Reading
through my diaries and notes from the last month brings it all back.
The thrill of seeing the greatest show on earth never wanes and each
concert has now become a stand-alone event in its own right with each
and every crowd giving Paul a staggering reception. To see Macca
smashing it back home in the UK has topped it all and every review of
the shows seems to use the only word that can sum it all up: Maccamania!
Certainly, theres no doubt that the Up and Coming Tour has
found its rhythm and is now up and running at full pace. In fact, you
could say its up and sprinting. Its turned into the Usain Bolt of
tours, breaking records, turning heads and making headlines along the
way.I still cant quite believe Im allowed along for the ride!
Of course, June kicked off with a visit to a place that doesnt
ordinarily feature on the average tour schedule. Unless youve been
living on the moon with your fingers in your ears for the last four
weeks, you may have heard that Paul found time at the start of the
month to drop into the White House. Yes, thats THE White House, where
he was honoured by the President of the United States. Yes, thats THE
President, Barack Obama. Turns out hes quite a fan of Pauls too! While
there, Paul became the first Englishman ever to be awarded the
Gershwin Prize For Popular Music, Americas most prestigious music
prize. Turns out that President Obama throws the best parties too,
with some of the biggest names in music turning out to pay tribute to
Paul while performances came from Dave Grohl, Elvis Costello, Herbie
Hancock. Jack White, Faith Hill and the Jonas Brothers. President
Obama addressed the assembled VIP guests and dignitaries in the
Eastroom, telling them that Pauls gifts have touched billions of lives
and thanking the Englishman who shared his dreams with us.
How did Paul celebrate this amazing award? He did what he does
best and rocked the White House in true Macca style, naturally. As one
US paper reported, If the first British invasion of the White House
ended with the house afire, the latest had Barack and Michelle Obama
and their kids rocking out. Highlights included Paul teaming up with
Stevie Wonder for a rendition of their hit single, Ebony and Ivory, a
stirring performance of Hey Jude that had the President singing along
on stage and serenading Americas First Lady with his classic Michelle.
Paul even admitted hed been itching to perform the track at the White
House, though he wisely asked Obamas forgiveness in advance and
admitted he might just become the first guy ever to be punched out by
a president! Luckily, no punches were thrown and the UKs Daily Express
later wrote, There are few men who can steal a loving glance from
Michelle Obama but the First Lady looked enamored when Sir Paul
serenaded her at the White House.
Even Paul a man who has surely seen and done it all - seemed
blown away by the occasion, telling the audience, I dont think there
could be anything more special than to play here. He even cheekily
offered to make it a residency, promisingWere cheap. Lunch times we
could come round. He later told us it had been a career high, which is
seriously saying something when you consider Pauls spectacular career
and all his achievements.
After all the excitement of the White House, it was straight
back to business afterwards as Paul headed straight to Dublin to kick
off the UK and Ireland leg of the Up and Coming Tour. Still buzzing
from their Presidential encounter, Paul and the guys spent Friday
night rehearsing before joining the team for a quick night cap and an
early night. After all these years, he still takes nothing for granted
and ensures hes at his best for every show. It certainly does the
trick as Paul woke up raring to go on Saturday and headed straight to
the gym before a cycle ride. Oh, all topped off with a marathon show
lasting three hours! None of the team knows how he does it or where he
gets his tireless energy from. The amazing on the road catering
department certainly helps, but his seemingly endless get-up-and-go
helps to inspire everyone else on the tour and we do our best to try
Its a good job we do try, as the pace never stops, so the very
next day we moved on to Maccas second ever UK festival appearance at
the Isle of Wight Festival. Paul did the business once more, uniting
both young and old in the cross-generational audience within minutes
of taking the stage and ending the festival in serious style. Even as
the tour bus pulled away afterwards, we could hear strains of Hey Jude
being sung around the site, which really took our breath away.
Festival director John Giddings summed it up by describing it as a
stunning performance of one of the greatest song catalogues of all
time, a breathtaking display of showmanship, accompanied by incredible
visuals and pristine sound. Sir Paul McCartney created a lifetime
memory for the Isle of Wight Festival. Job done then.
Glasgows Hampden Park was up next, remarkably Pauls first ever
UK stand-alone stadium show and his first in Scotland for almost
twenty years. And what a show it was with the Scottish News of the
World saying that Nothing really prepares you for the incredible
impact of watching Paul seated at a psychedelic piano, belting out
'Hey Jude' accompanied by a capacity Hampden crowd. The effect is
sometimes overwhelming. Even the most hardened cynic has a lump in the
throat. We certainly all did as Paul was joined by the Loretto Pipe
Band for an unforgettable version of Mull Of Kintyre, the only time he
played the song during his UK tour. The boys from Keane who were
watching it with us were blown away too even plucking up the courage
to ask Macca for his autograph afterwards!
From there, we moved on to Cardiffs Millennium Stadium. After
the soundcheck the night before, we relaxed over dinner at the hotel
and Paul proudly showed us some handkerchiefs hed received for his
birthday the week before, saying he had to get round to writing thank
you notes for the presents hed been sent. There was no time the next
day though as Paul played his first gig in Wales for 35 years to an
unbelievable reception. City centre bars celebrated by playing his
greatest hits as fans gathered before the stunning show, which The
Western Mail later said felt like an intimate gig during Pauls unique,
down to earth chats between songs. Fans watching included Super Furry
Animals, former Spice Girl Mel C and support act Manic Street
Preachers, whose bassist Nicky Wire was so overawed by meeting Macca,
he forgot to ask for his autograph and had to ask for one to be sent
The following night Macca did it all over again in Londons
Hyde Park, his first ever stand-alone show at the world-famous park.
The guest list alone read like a whos who of Britains A-list, with the
likes of Chris Martin and Led Zeppelins John Paul Jones watching from
the side of the stage, with David Walliams, Stephen Merchant and
Kaiser Chiefs singer Ricky Wilson in the audience. Ricky even emailed
us afterwards to say it was the best performance hed ever seen from
Paul, while GQs editor Dylan Jones and The Suns editor Dominc Mohan
both also emailing to sing Pauls praises. In fact, the Hyde Park
audience must have been the only people smiling in Britain that night,
as the England football team dismally crashed out of the World Cup the
same evening. We were all too busy singing along to care. As the
Evening Standard put it, who better than Paul McCartney, the national
songsmith, to remind us the English do some things well?
It wasnt just those in the crowd that got the chance to enjoy
Maccas classic set on the night either. Sixteen tracks from the show
were broadcast on the Born HIV Free YouTube channel after Paul was
asked to appear by Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. Over 1.2 million people
watched the show online and Bruni-Sarkozy later told the news room, I
am thrilled with the great success of the concert broadcast on the
Born HIV Free channel. Paul McCartney was enthusiastic about
participating in the campaign, and he showed his support by giving 16
of his best tracks to be visible on the channel.
Phew! What a month! Most people would probably need a few
weeks off after that sort of schedule but Paul had other plans and we
just about managed to keep up. Macca then played a party at Battersea
Power Station to raise money for the Old Vic Theatre and his own Meat
Free Monday campaign. This wasnt exactly your average party though! In
front of an audience that included the likes of Dame Judi Dench, Joely
Richardson, James Corden, Boris Becker (clutching a candle during Let
It Be) and even Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Paul was joined
on-stage by one of his biggest fans none other than Old Vic boss and
actor Kevin Spacey.
From the most powerful politician in the world to Hollywood
royalty in just a few short weeks, it really could only happen to
Paul, although I reckon even he thought last month was pretty special.
It will certainly take some beating for me and the rest of the team.
But then, who knows what might be round the corner in the coming months?
More from the road in the coming weeks.