For Whom The Bell Tells… Issue 19
‘Magical’, ‘unforgettable’, ‘historical’, ‘sensational’, ‘Mc-nificent’, ‘the concert of a lifetime’… These are just some of the headlines that appeared in Mexico following Paul’s free show to over 250,000 people at the Zócalo in Mexico City earlier this month. It’s not that unusual to see these kinds of headlines in Macca world but really this night was something else. This show truly was magical. I never witnessed Beatlemania but after Mexico City I can now easily imagine it.
As we sped away in Paul’s convoy with a police escort after the show, there was an unusual silence amongst the crew on the bus. It was clear we’d all just been part of something very special. This wasn’t just a gig for the people of Mexico and it certainly wasn’t ‘just a gig’ for us either. As we started chatting and remembering moments of the evening, someone mentioned it was like a ‘religious experience’. The communal feeling was incredible. It’s hard to do it justice in words. Seeing all these people come together to share such a memorable experience was a sight to behold. Everywhere we looked, we saw people. In the square, on the streets, on roof-tops, hanging out of windows, just everywhere! None of us on the crew are ever blasé about working for Paul but the feeling of admiration, awe, respect and gratitude to our boss was overwhelmingly apparent after the show and in the conversations we have had since.
For Paul himself it had clearly been just as amazing too. One thing that Paul was really happy about in the run up to this show was the idea of playing to people who might not be able to normally afford to see his show. Crowds had been queuing for this a week in advance; these guys really wanted to be there. So did Paul, Wix, Brian, Rusty and Abe. Their performance matched the staggering enthusiasm that met them when they took to the stage.
Hours before the show started, Paul arrived onsite and unlike his normal show days, the band were unable to do their usual soundcheck. Normally the guys would be performing in arenas and stadiums and there’d be no audience until the doors open so soundcheck is a regular part of the routine. Here though, there were already hundreds and thousands of people in position waiting for the show. So Paul and the guys managed to get into a local hotel room for a low-key stripped back soundcheck to warm up (you might have seen the pics already here on PM.com). At the time, Paul likened the experience to early Beatles days. I wonder if the other guests in the hotel who had booked rooms there to get a view of the square where Paul was performing had any idea that he was actually in the hotel itself giving a really intimate performance to various touring personnel!
After the impromptu low-key soundcheck, I grabbed some time with Paul to chat about the last month and his experiences on the South American leg of ‘On The Run’. It struck me just how calm Paul was. He was literally hours away from a colossal performance. Adrenaline was at fever pitch for all of us. We were all buzzing. Paul’s calmness actually helped us to calm down too… after all, there was still work to be done.
As he spoke about his experiences, Paul spoke with immense passion for the South American audiences and revealed huge excitement about this particular run of shows.
To recap on the adventures…
On this part of the tour, we’d been to Uruguay, Paraguay, Colombia, Brazil and Mexico. Paul and the guys played a total of nine shows, each one with its own significance. Mood in the camp was excellent throughout. With lots of travel and the added pressure of playing in places in the world that had never quite experienced anything like this before, each department excelled. The boss set a high standard and the rest of the team followed his example. We will all share some incredible memories of moments from this trip, from Paul inviting a two year-old mini Sgt. Pepper on stage to the spectacle of the free show in Mexico.
The amount of attention and coverage garnered from Paul's South American adventure was staggering. In each city there was extensive coverage in the build up to the show, the day of Paul's arrival, the day of the show and then the reviews and post-show news. The media and public appetite for anything Macca- related was huge. It’s hard to communicate the sense of excitement in each country the tour went to. From the thousands of fans camped outside the hotels, the mobbed airports, the streets lined with posters, the giant Paul dolls (yes, you read that right!), the helicopters in the sky trailing our man's every move, the ridiculously enormous stadiums, the endless newspaper front-pages, a host of mayors and presidents asking for meet and greets, the homemade Macca masks, the list really does goes on - it was proper mania. The press office was an incredibly exciting place to be on this trip. The enthusiasm of the local media was unique and infectious. I met a lot of really cool writers and journalists that I look forward to staying in touch with. They simply were delighted that they had a role to play in what was going on and wanted to report on all the excitement. They were also delighted that Paul's visit would shine a light on their country and encourage other artists to visit too. In Uruguay, Paraguay, Colombia and Recife (in Brazil), the press all commented on the cultural significance of 'On The Run' being there and the fact it will now attract other artists.
The reviews were sensational too, utterly brilliant. With lines like, ‘Every smile, move, nod of the head captivated the audience, from children to adults, everyone showed their devotion to this idol’ and ‘He might be 69 but you’d think he’s a teenager. He is the most powerful musician in the world but retains the humanity to visit new countries and to actually stop and greet fans, not to mention jumping on stage for a show that lasted almost three hours with an unbeatable repertoire and stories of the past and present, always delivered with great emotion’. When I told Paul about some of them, he was clearly moved and joked, 'If I’m not careful I could get a big head here'. I would if it was me! I've never seen reviews like the ones I’ve read recently. Even by Paul's exceptional standards, these were something else.
Sorry I’ve rambled but you get the picture. This is a trip that had a huge effect on us all.
Now back to my chat in Mexico City with Paul. I asked Paul what he made of the frenzied reception he’d received on the tour? ‘It’s like Beatlemania all over again. The great thing is that when you visit places that you don’t go to normally. Like South America, they’ve been saving up their excitement and it’s infectious. When you finally get there they let it all go. The feedback is fantastic. When you are in a band you hope that people will like what you are doing and when they like it this much it’s such a buzz.’
Just nights before Paul played a show at the Azteca Stadium (home of the 1986 ‘Hand of God’ incident’.) During the set the crowd did something truly unique. They pulled out their lighters and started clicking them in time. The result was breathtaking. ‘It’s amazing. We first saw it a few years ago when we toured here and did the song ‘Every Night’. You could actually hear the flints because there were so many of them. Everyone was doing it in perfect time. It’s unique to Mexican audiences and it’s very special’.
Backstage in Mexico City we were almost drowned out by the waiting crowd. They were already going wild. ‘This is going to be off the hook’, Paul said excitedly, ‘they are going crazy and we’re not even on yet… no pressure!’
With that I had to leave Paul to his preparations, including a language lesson so he could speak to the audience in Spanish. This is something Paul does in every country he goes to and unsurprisingly, it goes down very well with the audience!
Just hours later, he was finally on stage in front of over quarter of a million people doing what he does best. There was laughter, tears, joy, memories and the air was full of peace and love. The show had moments of raucous rock n’ roll, stripped back emotional acoustic performances, sing-a-long anthems, lighters in the air and even a Mariachi band. After the final encore, Paul and the guys left the stage and ran to the tour bus. The touring crew assembled by the bus to cheer and congratulate the boss as football chants filled the air of ‘Oh-lay, oh-lay oh-lay oh-lay, Sir Paul Sir Paul!’
Which brings me all the way back to where I started this blog. Sat on the bus taking it all in and taking stock of what we had been part of. Wow.
Now we’re back home and in the real world again. Well, sort of. Just this week, Paul went to the O2 to see Kanye West and Jay Z. When I was chatting with Paul, he was really enthusing about the show and how cool he thought it was. He was saying how amazing the crowd reaction to the song 'New York' was, saying the place just exploded and it struck me that I wish he could have seen what we all saw in Zócalo! Talk about explosions... I wasn't at the O2 to see Kanye and Jay Z and mean absolutely no disrespect to them because I think they’re awesome, but I know for a fact that it could never have been as powerful as 250,000 plus people singing 'Hey Jude'. Obviously Paul sees it from the stage and feels the incredible buzz of the crowd but being part of the audience itself and experiencing what we all did that night is something else. 'Yeah it's interesting, people have mentioned that before', Paul said, 'I wish I'd seen The Beatles too'. A wish shared with millions of us!
Tune in next month for Royal adventures!