For Whom The Bell Tells… Issue 23
South America May 2013
First stop Belo Horizonte…
“Watching Paul McCartney is one thing, watching him live in our hometown is another. An air of wonder was mixed with disbelief on Saturday that this was actually happening. He was here and not only did he do what was expected of him, he surpassed it. The lights, the giant screens, the special effects, a collection of classics – all part of the package of the greatest ever living artist.”
Estado De Minas – 5th May, 2013
Each time we come to Brazil I’m still staggered by the reaction. It’s so exciting, such a buzz to be around. From the moment the plane touches down, the Macca fever is tangible. First stop of the all new "Out There" tour is the city of Belo Horizonte (Beautiful Horizon) and these guys are ready to greet their hero in style and give him a huge reception as warm as the weather over here.
Huge billboards welcoming Paul are spread across the city. Paul’s face adorns the covers of newspapers and magazines. His songs can be heard in the shops and bars. Fans line the streets in and around Paul’s hotel, in many cases holding up their own specially created banners. Flicking through the local radio channels on my laptop, the shows are full of chat about Paul too. I don’t actually speak Portuguese but I do recognise my boss’s name and his music!
I know I’ve written countless times on this blog about the South American mania but it’s always more thrilling than I remember. The city of BH actually feels like some kind of Macca theme park and as a music fan I can tell you that it’s a pretty cool thing.
The hotel lobby is full of fans. Fans who have travelled hundreds of miles from all around the country as well as neighbouring South American countries. The night before Paul’s arrival they had their guitars out playing songs with everyone singing along including people from what seemed to be some kind of huge scientific convention the hotel was hosting. It was fun to watch – the cool young hipsters playing the songs, with the professional grey suits joining in – the words ‘chalk and cheese’ spring to mind but it all worked and everyone had a great night.
Meanwhile across town at the Stadium itself fans had been camped out for a week waiting for the gates to open so they can get the best possible spot to watch the show from. Spirits are high as their friends bring them food and wait in their place as they take much needed toilet breaks. Our very own news team Charlie (video) and MJ (pictures) visited the guys at 6am (yes 6am!) on the morning of the gig itself to capture the excitement and pandemonium. There Charlie met the girls who had started a petition in 2011 to get Paul to visit BH. The four girls, all in their twenties, were naturally over excited but at this stage they couldn’t know what was going to happen to them some 17 hours later when Paul brought them up on stage out of the audience to publicly acknowledge what they had done.
On the day of the show there was a real buzz in the air. Local radio station Radio Guarani got a surprise when Paul called in on his drive from the hotel to the stadium. In this interview you can hear the excitement of the fans as Paul’s car pulled up at the stadium.
When Paul arrived it was straight to work for him and the guys. They headed to the stage to soundcheck much to the huge delight of the 50,000 plus fans gathered outside the stadium waiting to get in. At this stage excitement regarding the setlist was peaking. In the newsroom the phone was ringing and emails were coming in from journalists and fans asking for the new setlist ahead of the show for many different and inventive reasons but we weren’t going to give it up! There was lots of speculation on social media too as fans were starting to piece bits together from what they thought they’d heard at rehearsals the night before.
Just minutes before showtime itself we managed to capture a dapper looking Paul in the corridor, on his way to find the band, for a quick Twitpic (which we also posted on Facebook) – which clocked up over 20,000 likes within hours! Then it was time for the months of speculation to be over. At around 9:20pm Paul walked out on stage to a deafening roar! It was mega! The TV crews I was with at the time were taken aback. “That doesn’t normally happen,” one of them told me. “I don’t think they can actually believe he’s here”.
For the fact lovers out there; The show opened with Eight Days A Week, which Paul had previously only played live once with The Beatles in 1965. The setlist included many more treats with the first live performances of Beatles classics Your Mother Should Know, Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!, Lovely Rita and All Together Now. Paul also performed his solo classic Another Day for the first time since 1993. Wings favourites Listen To What The Man Said and Hi, Hi, Hi were also added to the setlist having never been performed at a Paul McCartney solo show before. We Can Work It Out was also added back into the setlist - Paul last performed it at the Glastonbury Festival in 2004.
The brand new production, filling over 31 trucks worth of equipment, also saw spectacular lasers and lighting, huge pyrotechnics, state of the art video displays and a special riser that saw Paul raised up 20ft above the stage to perform Blackbird and Here Today acoustically on his own. During Hey Jude the audience held up homemade ‘Thank You’ signs, a surprise for Paul organised by fans on social network sites.
As mentioned earlier, in 2011 local fans had started their own petition on Facebook to get Paul to play in Belo Horizonte. After securing the endorsement of thousands of residents the petition was delivered to Paul’s London office. One of the fans, Adriana Mundo (28), who had supported the petition, said: “When we heard Paul was coming here we couldn’t actually believe it. It’s a dream come true for us. We’ve never had anything like this here before. It’s such an honour for our city.”
At the end of his show Paul got the girls up on stage from the audience who started the petition – Priscila Brito (27), Luisa Mattos (25), Camila Flores (25) and Cecilia Cury (21) – who were shocked by the recognition they received from their idol. Paul publicly thanked the girls and also signed Cecilia’s Beatles tattoo.
As fireworks towered over the stadium bringing the night’s celebrations to an end, a triumphant Paul jumped onto his tour bus to make his way back to the hotel for some well-earned rest.
Within minutes of the end of show the setlist news was spreading fast. The changes made global news. Many more Facebook petitions have now been set up!
I woke up bleary eyed the next morning (tired not hungover) and excitedly made my way to the hotel lobby to grab the morning’s papers. The reviews were as mega as the show:
Paul gave all his loving to Brazil. Once again The Beatle left an indelible footprint here with the opening night of his new world tour. For many this evening was a dream come true. His fourth trip to Brazil in as many years came with even more surprises as he showcased some rare ‘gems’.
Since the announcement of Paul’s visit expectation had been unbelievably high and once again Paul exceeded the expectations. Throughout the epic show the audience made up of all ages screamed, cried, laughed and cheered their idol. Be it on the piano, guitar, bass guitar or just talking to the audience this man knows how to keep people entertained. The songs have a renewed strength about them – this show was the performance of the ultimate rockstar.
The myth along with the charisma and the spiritual dimension of his music all joined together live on stage. The strength we’ve heard about in recent years here in Brazil became clear once again.
BH was entranced by the presence of an idol. He did not disappoint as he performed for almost three hours.
Now it was time to catch the plane to Goiania… as you do.
Second stop Goiânia… ‘The movement you need is on your shoulder’
“Unless you live on the planet Mars, you will not have missed the fact that Paul McCartney brought his show to the Serra Dourada Stadium. Although it is possible that the media noise and local excitement around this show did reach Mars! Never before in the history of this city had a musical visit been so important.”
O Hoje – 7th May
On my journey from the hotel in Goiânia to the venue early in the morning on show day, the driver told me that he’d been listening to a radio show earlier in the day where they had been discussing who is the most important person to ever visit the city, Paul McCartney or Pope John Paul II! It was safe to say that the city was bracing itself for one big party. As one local paper reported, “McCartney still explores stages and places that many others avoid, too afraid of the local infrastructure or simply because they don’t want to go to the effort. Our city is honoured by his presence.”
No one who works on "Out There" will ever forget Goiânia and the show’s special guest Harold the grasshopper! In fact, probably no one in the world will forget. It seems to be the thing I’ve been asked about most by media since this show. People calling to ask if Paul is ok. Just to check he didn’t get bitten by anything! I’m happy to report each time that Paul is very well and was unharmed.
If you’ve not seen it check out this amazing clip here:
As the sun went down it was clear there were a few more bugs than normal in the stadium but no real concerns. What could a few bugs do? As it grew darker it was obvious that the giant screens were starting to attract a fair bit of attention. When Paul hit the stage and the lights shifted up a gear we could see now that there was a lot of insect action going on at the back of the stage but still no real concerns. It was only when Paul moved to the piano for the first time in the show to perform My Valentine it became clear that something was going on here that didn’t normally happen at a Macca show. The odd grasshopper started to appear on the piano and then on Paul. Along with the audience I double took as a second, then third and even a fourth settled on Paul. Looking at Paul it seemed to take a lot of concentration for him not to laugh uncontrollably!
Meanwhile backstage a low level of panic set in. What could be done about this? This can’t happen. What if… what if more come? Will the show have to be stopped? Well, more did turn up and with this more hurried activity backstage and more panic set in. This was a new situation for sure.
The Esperanca Grilo, literally translated as ‘hope grasshopper’, at times covered Paul from head to toe.
Whilst the panic was going on, what was being missed was that on stage Paul had befriended a grasshopper, named him Harold and introduced him as his friend to the audience – looking totally at home with the situation. Paul wasn’t going anywhere. Neither was Harold incidentally, remaining proudly on Paul’s arm or shoulder for the majority of the show. Including a truly unforgettable moment in Hey Jude when Paul turned to Harold whilst singing the line, “The movement you need is on your shoulder,” and then saying to the crowd, “It certainly is now”.
The next day Brazilian paper O Estado De S Paulo reported, “McCartney performed a three hour show that surprised Goiânia with a new setlist and a ballet of grasshoppers. Harold (the grasshopper) did a high jump on to the legend’s shoulder. Smart grasshopper. We’d all like to have been in his position! Paul and Harold made history inside what is already a history that will never end.”
I’m not sure how many people would have just rolled with this situation. The words Kings of Leon and pigeons spring to mind!
After the show, when Paul was having a little post-show party and well deserved margarita with the band and crew, I asked him if there was a moment when he felt any kind of panic?
Paul told me, “It was hysterical, that’s the truth of it. Out of nowhere suddenly this plague of locusts! I got to the piano to start ‘My Valentine’ and I see one little grasshopper and he’s landed right in front of me and then I look down and there was one on the keyboard. I need to find the chords so I need to move our friend without hurting him. Then there was one on my shoulder, then another, then one on my back. At this stage I’m thinking I really don’t want one in my mouth so I just try and keep as tight to the microphone as possible and not give them room. So I was thinking, either you walk off or you keep going. Well we kept going and it just became more hysterical. When we did ‘Live and Let Die’ it was incredible. During the show more and more moths gathered on our giant screens as they were attracted to the lights. When the explosions went off they were scared off the screens and then all the grasshoppers made a dive for them. It was unbelievable. It looked like a scene out of Dante’s Inferno! It was astonishing.”
Hours later and the news started spreading. China, India, Australia, UK, US, Russia and the entire world were reporting about Paul’s adventures and his new friend Harold.
Harold aside though, the show was another resounding success leaving Goiânia very happy and now firmly on the map!
Paul enchanted Goiânia. This date will forever be known as Paul McCartney day. There were big expectations and he delivered. The main man entered the stage at 9:34PM and addressed the crowd in Portuguese. From that moment on the crowd responded to his every move and gesture. ‘Tonight we’re going to have a party’, he yelled… and he wasn’t wrong.
Final stop… Fortaleza
“It’s a lesson in showmanship to see how he constructs his show. Paul is the ultimate hero in rock 'n’ roll. His visit has done wonders for the pride of the region.”
MSN – 10th May
The final show of any leg always feels emotional. What a week we’d had. What a week Paul had had. Brazil had, as ever, welcomed their hero with open arms and in return Paul had delivered with his performances.
The new production was going down a storm. The new additions to the set had also got themselves as much global publicity as Harold.
Paul was on the cover of the prestigious Brazilian magazine Alfa (their GQ), which all week I’d been trying to buy a copy of, only to be told in each shop they had just sold out. At one point someone managed to get a copy for me but I had put it down for two seconds and in that time someone else had helped themselves to it. Finally on the day of the final show I got a copy and I think it looks very cool indeed.
The venue, the Castelao Stadium, is brand new. A new stadium for the 2014 World Cup. And with newness there are often a few teething problems. The first being that the roads leading up to the stadium haven’t been finished yet! So you get to about 500 meters away from the stadium and the road stops! Whilst this was quite a sight it didn’t actually have any real impact on the show – just took slightly longer to get the 50,000 plus crowd into the venue, which meant they were even more up for it when they finally got their place in the stadium.
Just before 10pm Paul and the band were up and rocking. Another unforgettable evening. The fans really made it. During Hey Jude as a surprise for Paul the audience released yellow and green balloons into the air. It was a sight to behold. The surprises didn’t stop there. During the encore Paul spotted a sign in the audience that read, “Paul I want to propose to my love onstage. Would you bless us?” In another first, Paul was happy to oblige!
You can check out the unforgettable proposal here:
And with that an amazing week came to an end.
“A musician of excellence, he holds a nearly three-hour show without water or rest, with a repertoire of 38 songs, oozing charm and friendliness.”
Speaking after the show, Paul said:
“Brazilian audiences are incredible so that’s why we keep coming back. All of the shows this week were fantastic. We started the tour in Belo Horizonte because they asked us to come. They’d made a petition, so it wasn’t like an ordinary gig because we’d been asked there by the people. That’s the kind of thing I listen to. If that many people want us and we’ve never been there and my promoter knows how to get us there then we’ll show up and of course in Goiânia we had the grasshoppers join us, which was unbelievable. No one could see that coming!
“I’d like to thank everyone who came out to see us this week. We had a ball. Me, the band and the crew have had a great time and it’s largely down to the audience reaction we got. So thanks to everyone for being so cool, being so ready to party and for loving our music.”
Asked for a message to those coming to see him on tour, Paul concluded, “Please don’t bring any grasshoppers with you”.
The following day Fortaleza was still full of Macca fever. More front page reviews reporting on the historic visit.
“On an historic evening, Paul McCartney performed to thousands of delirious fans. Friendly and full of energy, McCartney greeted the city with local expressions. His visit was well worth the wait. All the sacrifices made by some of the fans to get to the show were worth it as they were rewarded with a once in a lifetime experience. This show made it possible for the younger generations in the audience to understand the euphoria of The Beatles all those years ago. McCartney has the gift to thrill and mesmerise huge audiences all over the world. Last night it was our turn. We’ll never forget.”
So that’s the first leg done. The tour picks up again this weekend in Orlando. Twenty-two more shows to go in the coming months and one thing you can be certain about is to expect the unexpected!
Stay tuned for more reports from the field.