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'Paul McCartney releases his bounciest, catchiest, most consistent collection since, well, Band On The Run.’
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‘Macca keeps adding new gems to his songbook, with nothing to prove except he’s the only genius who can do this... (And, oh yeah — in his spare time, he happens to still be the greatest live performer on Earth.)’
For Whom The Bell Tells: 2015 Touring - Part Three
For Whom The Bell Tells… 2015 touring
And so, for the next collection of shows we come up to date with our visit to mainland Europe. We take in tulips, on-stage proposals, sheep christenings and a rare festival appearance for Paul.
Meanwhile before we get back on the road, back in the UK, Paul graced the cover of men’s lifestyle magazine Esquire for their special music issue.
MARSEILLE, FRANCE (June 5, 2015)
It is a beautiful, hot day in the South of France and as I do my usual routine of leaving the hotel early to find coffee and the local newsagent, I’m delighted to see Paul looking back at me from the cover of local paper La Provence with details about tonight’s show.
The local coffee shop is playing McCartney II, perhaps in hope of getting 'Temporary Secretary' in tonight’s show (they won’t be disappointed, by the way).
The Nouveau Stade Velodrome is colossal and tonight Paul christens the stadium with the first concert since it was revamped and inaugurated just last year. In soundcheck, Paul rocks 'Good Day Sunshine' - entirely fitting for such glorious weather, much to the delight of the soundcheck party (although to be fair they are delighted with all Paul’s choices!)
Post-soundcheck, Paul speaks to France2 TV news about bringing the tour back to France for their big evening news show, completing the interview in the field in front of the stage. The second he safely returns to the backstage area, the security staff open the doors and the crowds come running in, racing to get the best possible spot. I’m almost flattened by a stampede of fans rushing towards me as I try to flee to our space behind the stage!
At 9:30pm Paul takes to the stage - I’ll let the reviews do the rest of the talking:
"40,000 fans fell for his charm. Cultural icon, legend, the myth... he lived up to all these descriptions. On Olympic form he took to the stage at 21:30 and made the dreams of a packed stadium come true.
"Looking elegant and slim he addressed the crowd in French asking the audience if they were here to party with him.
"He carried the show for three hours displaying his skills on various instruments. He made his mythical Hofner bass roar in the rocking moments and caressed his acoustic guitar in the tender moments."
"40,000 fans in ‘Paul’ position" (Nice Matin):
"The left-handed Beatle got straight to the point for his only French concert ahead of playing in Paris next week.
"Arriving on stage at 21:30 with his mythical Hofner bass he put 40,000 people under a magical spell. His variety of songs meant that time had no meaning as the decades dropped away. The melodies were our guide through this special journey.
"At his side throughout the night were his long-term accomplices Paul ‘Wix’ Wickens, Abe Laboriel Junior, Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray.
He punctuated the set with French phrases such as 'Bonsoir Marseille sous le soleil' and 'Allez l’OM'."
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS (June 7/8, 2015)
My first email of the morning on show day comes in from Paul’s digital manager Steve, informing me Paul is already trending on Twitter in the Netherlands. Pretty cool, because Paul hasn’t even touched down in the country at this point! I pop out to grab a coffee on the streets of Amsterdam and am greeted by an array of Macca posters, as well as fans dotted all over the place. The non-virtual world is echoing Steve’s digital stats rather nicely!
To mark Paul’s trip to Amsterdam and to honour his “positive contribution to the Netherlands and the world”, the flower growers association Remarkable Tulips is launching an official Paul McCartney tulip - a completely new form of the flower. It is red - a reference to the colour of Liverpool FC – and white, which is said to symbolise “infinite possibilities” (Paul also points out that it stands for peace). He helps to christen the new breed just minutes before taking to the stage at the Ziggo Dome on the first of two nights in Amsterdam. Pouring champagne over the new flower, he declares: “Well, this doesn’t happen every day.”
As Paul leaves the little ceremony to walk to the stage, he asks that all the crew get a tulip each. What a nice touch.
As for the shows? Well, they are great. Before Paul plays 'Here Today', the audience break into a spontaneous sing-along of 'Give Peace A Chance' and Paul happily joins in. Paul also gets two couples on stage during the encore, creating some memories that will last a lifetime for those fans - even more so for the second couple, as Paul invited the young man to propose to his girlfriend. He did to a huge audience response, and his girlfriend accepted - imagine the story they will tell to their children!
McCartney was great for a hundred reasons (NRC Handelsblad):
"Sir Paul is on better form than ever, performing a concert that spanned his complete solo career, as well as that of The Beatles and Wings. After a brilliant show that lasted almost more than three hours at the Ziggo Dome, it was obvious that not only had McCartney enjoyed himself, but also he had given his audience such a beautiful experience.
"He switched with amazing ease between the hi-tech music of his recent single 'Hope For The Future' and a sober and acoustic 'Blackbird'. In a touching way, he honoured John Lennon with 'Here Today', an imaginary conversation with his old friend and sparring partner.
"There were a hundred reasons to consider this a memorable concert. The barrelhouse piano of 'Lady Madonna', the irresistible country shuffle of 'I’ve Just Seen A Face' and the way McCartney reacted to the audience when they spontaneously started singing 'Give Peace A Chance'. 'Let It Be' and 'Hey Jude' became piano hymns of community singing and shared memories. It never got boring; during 'Live And Let Die', fireworks exploded like never before at an indoor concert.
"During an elaborate encore, Paul McCartney followed the sweet 'Yesterday' with a heavy version of 'Helter Skelter', proving once and for all that he wasn’t the geek of The Beatles, but the biggest rocker. Such a fantastic setlist built over fifty years, other artists can only dream!"
PARIS, FRANCE (June 11, 2015)
“Paul McCartney electrified the Stade de France. He was irresistible as he took us through his treasures” (Le Parisien)
“An amazing show! Legendary songs, high emotions and an over excited audience were proof McCartney was on his best form ever” (L’Express)
We’re back to France and like our recent visit to Marseille, it’s a very hot day. As we enter the stadium in the morning memories come flooding back of Paul’s last concert at the enormous Stade de France in 2004.
There are lots of French VIPs here hoping to say hi to Paul, including one of the electronic duo Daft Punk. He was in disguise tonight –which involved NOT wearing his robot helmet! Hollywood actress Natalie Portman – the star of Paul’s 'My Valentine' and 'Dance Tonight' - is in town too and of course she pops along to the show.
ROSKILDE FESTIVAL, DENMARK (July 4, 2015)
Roskilde is the largest festival in Northern Europe. It launched in 1971 (the year Paul released RAM) and attracts 130,000 people each year, and that figure includes the line-up of thousands of artists. It will be Paul’s third European festival appearance to date (the others were Glastonbury in 2004 and Isle of Wight in 2010). In the days leading up to the show Paul gave an exclusive Danish interview to website SoundVenue, explaining: “Everyone speaks very nicely about Roskilde as a nice place with a great atmosphere, so I’m really looking forward to it.”
Today, Denmark is roasting in a heatwave and the temperature seems to be magnified on the exposed festival site. Paul arrives on site shortly after 7pm, three hours before he is due to take to the stage, and to prepare for the show, he takes a Danish translation session so that he can speak to the crowd in their own language. After being primed with his phrases he has a birthday surprise for tour photographer MJ Kim. MJ is summoned to meet the boss and Paul has gathered the crew together for a “Happy Birthday” sing-song and a cake presentation.
This being a festival, there isn’t the opportunity for the normal pre-show soundcheck, so tonight’s warm up is a couple of acoustic numbers in the backstage area. Festival staff gather to listen excitedly on the other side of the fence from Paul’s backstage compound to catch versions of 'Got To Get You Into My Life' and 'Good Day Sunshine'. At 10pm, Paul hits the Orange Stage and is greeted with a phenomenal reception. You can feel the energy coming from the crowd.
"McCartney gave Roskilde a gift – his music
"The classics were lining up when Paul McCartney gave us a musical history lesson on the Orange Stage on Saturday evening…and it was the best lesson ever.
"The concert, that lasted nearly three hours, was a fantastic musical experience for all.
"McCartney and his four fellow musicians played brilliantly. As he constantly shifted around between his iconic Höfner bass, electric and acoustic guitars and keys, there could be no doubt about his great musical talent and his legendary status."
"McCartney gave a historic end to a great concert – 'The magical mystery tour is waiting to take you away / Waiting to take you away'. That is what one hopes for when Paul McCartney gives a concert and that is what happens. He takes us to a magical place where we drown ourselves in excitement.
"I do not think in the history of Roskilde I’ve seen so many good songs together performed in one set. It was overwhelming to stand in the middle of the audience and be part of such a communal moment.
"Paul McCartney with his insanely tight band gave a historic end to a great concert and festival."
OSLO, NORWAY (July 7, 2015)
Paul is back in Oslo for the first time in 11 years, landing just after 3pm and even during his short drive to the venue he uses the time productively with a call to Norwegian radio station P4 en route, with a quick chat about being back in the city, among other things. I’m guessing quite a few readers here may not have access to P4 so here is a taste:
Paul: “I have a kind of special relationship with Norwegian people, because you send a lot of people to my school in Liverpool (LIPA). So, I meet quite a lot of Norwegian kids in the school, because some of them I do classes with. Right since the beginning of the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, LIPA, there’s always been some really good Norwegian students.”
Presenter: “You’re on tour now for, like, 18 months in a row with a couple of days off - how do you prepare for a show like tonight when you have done the same show for so many months in a row?”
Paul: “Well, the good thing about it is that because of my personal situation, I have my youngest kid, my daughter, for half the time. So when I’m with her, I don’t do concerts; when I’m not with her, like today, I do concerts. It means that you don’t ever get fed up of doing it, because you have a week when you do them, and then you have a week when you don’t. And at first I thought that was going to be, not a good idea, but it’s turned out to be a good idea really because when you are going to do a concert it means you feel hungry to get back on the stage and it keeps you very interested. So me and the band are pleased to be here in Norway and really interested in plugging our guitars in, getting the sound up and singing some songs. So I think that keeps it very fresh actually.”
Presenter: “So you like to go back home and spend some time with your family, then go back out on tour and re-charge your batteries?”
Paul: “Yeah, that’s what happens, yeah! And once you’ve been at home for a while you start to think, 'Oh boy, it would be great to get out and do a gig', so when you come to do the gig you’re kind of hungry. So it works out nicely, and means we are, you know? If you’re on the road for years and years, you don’t even know where you are - you’re just like, 'Where are we tonight, I don’t know, what’s this place called?' But you know, the way we’re doing it now, you’re very aware where you are, you’re very aware how lucky you are to be playing, so we’re really enjoying it and I think that’s reflected in the reviews and the audiences.”
Asked about his collaboration with Kanye West, Paul says:
“Originally I just got a call from my manager and he said Kanye West is interested in collaborating with you’. So I was kind of interested but I thought, I don’t know, maybe I should do this, maybe I shouldn’t, I don’t know, see if I’ve got time, whatever. So I found out I did have time, and I thought what we’ll do is, we’ll try working together - if it doesn’t work out, we just won’t tell anyone, and you won’t have lost anything, neither of us will have lost anything.
“So, we got together in Los Angeles, in a hotel room and we just spent a few afternoons kicking ideas around - I gave him some musical ideas, he gave some lyric ideas and we recorded a lot of stuff. He records it all on his iPhone and his engineer had some proper recording stuff, so we just recorded lots of ideas and then I came back to England and thought well, I wonder if anything is going to happen. I didn’t really wanna ring him up and say, 'Hey Kanye, did anything happen?!' I thought that’s a bit stupid, so I just left it, I’ll just say, 'Hey, Happy Christmas! All the best!' Whatever, I’ll send a little message. And in the end, he sent me, just before the New Year three tracks - he sent me 'Only One', which was something I’d played piano on, then he sent me 'FourFiveSeconds' with Rihanna, which was a real surprise because I didn’t even know he was working with Rihanna, and I love her voice! So yeah, it turned out it was a guitar thing that I had been playing and he liked the groove on it, so he finished it up with Rihanna - so then, you know, will you make the video? Will you go on the Grammys? I was glad I did it in the end, you know, I thought…it was perfect."
Presenter: “After that meeting, Kanye was telling the press he was star-struck after he met you - do you ever get starstruck by meeting anyone?”
PM: "Yeah, I think so, it’s people you admire, there’s always a little bit of that meeting them because you never know quite how they are going to turn out and if you know they’re talented you’ve just got to take it easy, kind of thing. When I met Kanye, I mean, I’d listened to a lot of his records and knew a lot of the work he’d done, like My Dark Twisted Fantasy and Black Skinhead. For the first five minutes it’s a little bit like that and then you remember you’re just human beings and you’re just there to do some work together. So that goes, really. But yeah, there are one or two people I get a little bit starstruck with.”
With media commitments completed, it is time for the soundcheck. This afternoon, his audience of “soundcheckers” are treated to the likes of 'Honey Don't', 'Drive My Car', 'Junior’s Farm' and 'All My Loving'. There is also a ukulele special of 'Leaning On A Lamp-post', a song most associated with George Formby, which The Beatles recorded during their Get Back sessions in 1969 although it was never released. The band also played a version of 'Blue Suede Shoes' with Paul’s guitar tremeolo effect making it sound like The Smiths' song 'How Soon Is Now?'.
Soundcheck over, it is time for Paul to have another language class, this time to brush up his Norwegian, and he sends a special birthday message on Twitter to both Ringo Starr and his own late father, which is received very well by the people of the internet and social media channels.
During the show too Paul wishes Ringo and his dad a happy birthday and plays Birthday for them.
Over to the reviews:
Hats off to Sir Paul (Dagbladet)
"The audience gets a concert that has absolutely everything: songs that are the soundtrack to the lives of several generations spanning an unusually long career, a tight and hard-working band, an artist giving so much of himself to make everyone feel at ease - he even speaks a little Norwegian! There’s an exciting and affectionate atmosphere all night, almost reverential at times.
"McCartney proves he is a true champion by giving us three hours of music history."
The reports were correct - Paul McCartney is on top form (Dagsavisen)
"Paul McCartney actually lived up to the expectation and to his status as a legend. The Beatle gave a compelling near three-hour performance of classic hits from his entire career including the occasional forgotten gem such as 'Temporary Secretary'.
"In one night the audience of all ages relive many magical memories. Rarely do we see an entire audience sing along with everything. 'Hey Jude' simply should be declared as the world’s biggest song."
Stockholm, Sweden (July 9, 2015)
The final European 'Out There' show on Paul’s current run is now upon us (it’s also the 85th 'Out There' show to date and the 21st of 2015, for all the stat lovers). It’s almost four years since Paul last rocked out in Stockholm. He last called in during his 'On The Run' tour when he played 37 songs; tonight he pushing it even further with 40 songs in the setlist. We are at the relatively new Tele2 Arena, which should really be called the Tele2 Stadium. It’s BIG. It’s a football stadium with a retractable roof and for tonight the roof is shut giving the stadium a more intimate feeling, despite the vast size.
Prior to his arrival for this show, Paul spoke about his memories of the country, recalling: “It was very special when we first arrived in Sweden with The Beatles. We hadn’t travelled abroad that much so it was very exciting. When I think of Sweden one particular image always comes to mind; it is seared in my memory. We all have pink shirts on and roses in our hands. It’s a cool image. I love Stockholm, and Sweden is a beautiful country”.
Shortly before 5pm Paul lands at Bromma airport before making his way to meet us at the arena for soundcheck.
The Swedish press has already provided fairly extensive coverage of Paul’s performance at Roskilde and Sweden’s biggest paper Aftonbladet notes after this concert:
“Hats off, again. When Paul McCartney’s show is moving from the drunken festival crowd at Roskilde to a more sober indoor crowd in Stockholm, it was just as brilliant.”
Sweden sees an unusual first for McCartney during the show. As Paul stops to read the many signs in the audience before performing 'And I Love Her', one stands out and particularly captures his attention. There is a massive poster of two sheep with "Paul - can you name my sheep" written on it! Well Paul – a man who, let’s not forget, named one of his albums RAM - was happy to oblige and after ruminating, he declared from the stage that their names would be George and Ringo! And with that we round off the run of European dates – good-baa. Erm, I mean goodbye.