For Whom The Bell Tells: Australia / New Zealand 2017

For Whom The Bell Tells: Australia / New Zealand 2017

'ONE ON ONE' 
AUSTRALIA/NEW ZEALAND
DECEMBER 2017

Hello Australia! – Thursday 30th November

The 80-year-old, 1,055-capacity seated theatre in the Subiaco district of Perth, Western Australia, is a beautifully-preserved art deco building looking almost unchanged since the days it hosted performances by the likes of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. These days it is a hub for entertainment shows featuring touring musicals, visiting comedians and burlesque shows but it is being used for something entirely different this week. It has become the rehearsal base for Paul ahead of his first Australia tour in almost 25 years.

Life goes on around the theatre in this pretty leafy suburb area as normal. The streets are made up of cool little bars, coffee shops and boutiques. The sun is shining, on the face of it, it seems to be just another day. Well, it certainly is not …

This day will be rather remarkable. In the months since announcing Paul’s return, the press office has been busy fielding hundreds of requests from the land down under. It has been almost a quarter of a century and more than a dozen albums since Paul last toured here, during his New World dates in 1993. So we thought it might be a cool idea to invite some of the media into Paul’s rehearsals to say hi. When I discussed this with Paul, he was happy to do it, but thought it would be even cooler to include some of the fans who have been waiting patiently outside the rehearsals all this time – including fans that weren’t even alive the last time he came to town. It was, of course, a great idea.

So I set about working on a schedule and plan for the event. Paul is buzzing with further ideas as he adds his input, and is happy to add a question and answer session for fans and media alike. So when the event itself rolls around he invites his guests to stay on for a glimpse into his preparations for the shows by attending the rehearsal itself. The fans are treated to a mega special seven-song extra intimate set ('Drive My Car', 'Junior’s Farm', 'I’ve Got A Feeling', 'Save Us', 'I Wanna Be Your Man' and 'Lady Madonna'). In recent years Paul has played some pretty intimate venues – Pappy & Harriet’s last year, London’s 100 Club seven years ago – but this is to a special audience of just 20. Emotional scenes ensue.

Prior to this the mini-concert, Paul gets down from the stage to personally greet his audience who can scarcely believe what is happening as they get hugs and handshakes before the question session. A treat for all present, including the PM crew who you would imagine may be used to such things but something like this really is a rare occurrence. To my mind, this is the first time Paul has done anything on this scale since he played at the Olympia Theatre in Paris around the release of Memory Almost Full a decade ago – and that was a press-only event, so for fans this is a first.

Then it is back to work for Paul and the band. He thanks his guests for coming and tells them he’s looking forward to seeing them at the show properly in a few days. People spill out excitedly to be met by TV cameras to talk about their unique experience – in between calling loved ones to share the moment!

Back inside the theatre, Paul and the guys take 20 for a little lunch break. Paul snacks on a bagel and cup of tea, sharing tips to beat jet lag with those of us who have just arrived (he has been here for a few days already to prepare) before the conversation turns to the difficulties of parking in major cities these days! Paul recounts a story of having his car towed away in London for parking in the wrong place. He had to head down to the car compound to collect the vehicle – it must have been some surprise for the staff on duty that day.

As I return to the hotel, I channel hop on the TV to see if the day’s events have made the evening news. I’m pleased to see they have – and in a big way. Hello Australia, Paul has arrived!

Stadium rehearsals, Perth, and interview with ABC 7:30 – Friday 1st December

 “Inside an audience with a Beatle – Paul McCartney’s hour with 20 Perth fans”, reads the front page of The West Australian this morning. And the breakfast TV news is playing footage from the previous day’s happening. This is the sort of thing that brings a smile to my face over my morning coffee.

Today Paul is moving from the rehearsal stage at the Regal Theatre to the massive stage at the NIB Stadium (it stands for Newcastle Industrial Benefits, in case you are wondering). It’s hot today but it’s windy (the breeze is referred to locally as the Freemantle Doctor) and we are joined at rehearsals by highly-respected Australian broadcaster Leigh Sales and her crew from leading flagship weekly cultural show ABC 7:30. Leigh’s here to get a backstage tour and chat to Paul during rehearsals about being back here after 24 years.

Leigh has interviewed many cultural icons, world leaders and celebrities but today is her dream interview and after their chat she wrote a lovely piece entitled "Interviewing your heroes can have its pitfalls, but Paul McCartney avoids them all” – and here is an excerpt...

“We then went around backstage and Sir Paul arrived to start rehearsals. I stood in the wings watching as he and the band played 'Another Girl' and then 'Day Tripper'. When the opening riff for 'Day Tripper' started, I looked at my producer, Callum, and said, "Oh my god," with tears in my eyes. It was absolutely thrilling to stand in the wings and watch Paul McCartney practice that. The band finished rehearsing and as I chatted to the crew, I turned around and Sir Paul was about a metre away, walking towards us. He came and introduced himself and shook everybody's hand. For almost 60 years, he's had starstruck people standing in front of him, so he's very adept at putting everyone at ease and being warm and charming. We went on stage and did our interview together. He was delightful and interesting. He has lovely kind eyes and a gentle way of speaking. I was so happy to see that I was going to walk away with my admiration of him enhanced. "Sir Paul," I said at the end of the interview. "I've been very fortunate in my career that I've had the chance to interview world leaders, like Aung San Syu Kii and the Dalai Lama, every celebrity you can think of, Elton John, Patti Smith, but I've never interviewed somebody of whom I'm a bigger fan than you. "Oh, luv, give us a kiss, come on" he replied and he kissed me on the cheek and gave me a hug. Every time I listen to a Beatles song now, I'll remember the incredible experience of getting to meet Sir Paul in person and what a beautiful soul he was. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life.”

With the interview complete, Paul then begins work on what will be one of the big surprises on this tour. The Western Pipe band join him to perform 'Mull Of Kintyre', which as I write is celebrating the 40th anniversary of hitting number one in the UK and many other countries.

Perth (show day) – Saturday 2nd December 

Five weeks since Paul’s last 'One On One' concert in Mexico City and 24 years since his last show on Australian soil, the day has finally arrived. It’s a beautiful, hot sunny day with clear skies – and blissfully, there is no sign of the Freemantle Doctor. It’s funny to think about how much has happened since that last visit. Paul has released eight solo studio albums – and won the same number of Grammys; he has performed over 500 shows since his 1993 visit, which equates to almost 22,000 live songs. Back then, we didn’t even have DVD and our world – and concert-going – has changed immeasurably with the advent of Google (1998), camera phones (2000), Facebook (2004), YouTube (2005), and the iPhone (2007)!

Regular readers of the tour diary will know that Paul loves to make the effort to learn a little of the local language wherever he tours. Even in Australia that proves to be true when, straight after 'Junior’s Farm', he hollers to the crowd: “G’day Perth.”

It is a show full of hits with tracks like 'Can’t Buy Me Love', 'Love Me Do', 'Let Me Roll It' plus much, much more. And, of course, 'Mull Of Kintyre' goes down wonderfully. Paul always loves to have a little audience participation and tonight’s show features an onstage proposal.

Just before midnight the first review drops online. I will leave it to The Sunday Times to tell you what you need to know: "MACCAMANIA gripped Perth as Paul McCartney kicked off the Australian leg of his One On One world tour at a sold-out NIB Stadium.” Another headline reads: “Paul McCartney Surpasses Expectations As Aus Tour Kicks Off”.

And with, that we are up and running in Australia.

Melbourne (show day) and interview with Triple J radio – Tuesday 5th December

Today we are hosting Zan Rowe, a presenter from Australia’s alternative radio station Triple J. She’s here to record a special edition of a show called Take 5 where the interviewee chooses five songs from their catalogue to discuss in-depth. This is due to be broadcast the following morning. Zan had announced her visitor to her audience a few days earlier with a cute tweet that read: “In life changing news, I am beyond stoked to announce that Paul McCartney will be Taking 5 next week. On Wednesday at 10am. A special Take 5. Sir Paul will play five of his own songs, and talk in depth about their making. His Songbook. DED.”

After sound-checking within Melbourne’s huge AAMI Park stadium, where tonight he will play to a sell-out audience of 30,000-plus, it’s interview time. Paul invites Zan into his dressing room where the two chat way longer than the time I have allocated, but Paul is enjoying himself and it’s a great conversation. If he didn’t have the pressing matter of a show to do tonight it could go on forever. To listen to Paul talk about his songwriting process is incredible. All of us in the room – Charlie (Paul’s videographer), Ryan (the show’s producer) Zan and I – are captivated by the stories but sadly it must come to an end!

(The following morning, when the programme plays out, notable local musicians are tweeting their joy with one asking for it to never end. And when the station released the interview as a podcast, it immediately topped the iTunes podcast chart. I suggest you check it out HERE!

And with the interview wrapped up we leave Paul to ready himself for his show.

Needless to say, it is another unbridled success. The Herald Sun gushes: “Where else can you sing 'A Day in the Life' along with an actual Beatle?

'At one point early on McCartney paused between songs to take in the audience, noting: ‘I’m gonna take a second for myself to drink it all in.

'He would have seen what he no doubt witnesses each night — three generations all united by his music. Watching that pure communal joy nightly would surely explain his lack of retirement plans.”

Melbourne (show day) and interview with New Zealand’s The Project TV show - Wednesday 6th December 

The second Test Match in the Ashes series has not gone well for England today and it doesn’t bode well for the series. But one Brit is doing the business. “Melbourne’s best ever concert” is just about as good as a headline can get, right? Other headlines and front pages scream similar sentiments: “We love you… yeah, yeah, yeah!”, “We Love Macca”.

Rocking-out on stage is not the only thing on Paul’s agenda today; he has another high profile media engagement. We’re working him hard on this trip, but it has been a while since he has been here – and unlike some artists I’ve worked with over the years, Paul is happy to get on with it. Just like his performances, he gives these commitments his absolute best. Today’s chat with New Zealand’s TV show The Project and presenter Jaquie Brown is both thrilled and aware of the gravity of a big-name interview as she takes it all in.

Tonight’s show also includes guests David Walliams (in town promoting his book) and indie lords Alt-J, also touring down under, as well as Australian broadcasting legend Molly Meldrum (who incidentally once worked as a publicist at the Beatles’ company Apple).

During the show my wife’s Australian cousin Holly, 28, who was only four on Paul’s last visit texts me: “Holy moly Stu. This set list. His voice. The band! Everything is perfect.”

Brisbane (show day) – Saturday 9th December  

This is the first time Paul has performed in Brisbane as a solo artist. And I’m going to hand you over to the review in the Gold Coast Daily Bulletin newspaper to explain what a momentous event this is. In a novel and eye-catching twist, it is written in the form of a letter to Paul:

“DEAREST Paul, Kind Sir Please accept our warmest and most sincere thanks for the generous invitation to join you in Brisbane on Saturday for what was surely one of the most pleasing evenings we’ve had the honour of attending in, well, decades.

We must confess, we weren’t feeling very Christmas-y at all until your performance swept us up in its loving embrace and reminded us how fortunate we are to be able to look forward to spending the festive season in the bosom of our nearest and dearest.

We can never overstate what a treasured friend you have been to so many of us for so long.

You have always been, and thankfully remain, a charismatic melange of quintessential English gentleman and contemporary rock hero.

It had been way too long since your last visit, so we couldn’t let you leave town without making sure you realise how delighted we were to see you in such fine form and thank you for your masterful long live show and generous inclusion of so many Beatles and Wings favourites.

Age hasn’t wearied you or your cherubic good looks (sadly, it appears some of the 40,000 fans at Saturday’s show haven’t fared as well). Could the infectious, eternal optimism and sunny disposition you have so masterfully infused even your most melancholy songs with ('Let It Be', 'Hey Jude') be the secret to your enduring vim and vigour?

As your marvellous musical group hug/singalong demonstrated ('Yesterday', 'Ob-La-Di', 'Ob-La-Da', 'Mull of Kintyre'), the witty, wise and wonderful words you’ve gifted us in so many beautiful songs have proven a great source of comfort and courage to so many of us during some of the darkest and most challenging times of our lives ('Maybe I’m Amazed').

We were moved to see so many people wiping tears from their eyes at various moments throughout your performance. Your music’s ability to simultaneously touch so many people in such personally unique and meaningful ways remains one of contemporary art’s most perfect mysteries. Genius.

Lyrics, riffs and melodies aside, we had almost forgotten what a great storyteller you are. We enjoyed hearing the tales behind some of our favourite songs, particularly the one about Jimi Hendrix trying to get Eric Clapton to tune his guitar. Hadn’t heard that one before.

Of course, trips down memory lane are always fascinating when the ‘old mates’ you generously gave a hit song to ('I Wanna Be Your Man') were the Mick Jagger and Keith Richards kind.

We weren’t as close to George (we didn’t realise he was a card-carrying, uke-playing member of the George Formby fan club) and John (you are so right — we replayed 'Love Me Do' and can hear your nerves) as you and Ringo were, but we too miss them both dearly and were moved by your thoughtful tributes to them ('Something', 'Here Today').

While summer thunderstorms certainly made Saturday 'A Hard Day’s Night', we couldn’t help but wonder whether you, like us, felt Linda, George and John smiled over us and kept the rain at bay while you played.

As delicious as yours and guitarists Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray, drummer Abe Laboriel Jr and keyboard player “Wix” Wickens’ bandstand was, 'Let Me Roll It', 'Blackbird', 'Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five', 'Back in the U.S.S.R.' and 'Carry That Weight' were among our personal favourites.

Including The Beatles’ first (The Quarrymen’s 'In Spite of All The Danger') and last ('The End') songs in the set was also a lovely touch.

It’s hard to believe it’s been so long since our first dance ('Love Me Do'). You truly have become one of what we like to call our “births, deaths and marriages” friends. The ones forever by our side, whatever life’s thick or thin.

Let’s face it, you really are the man who has had a hand in writing pretty much EVERYTHING!

It was wonderful to see so many people make so much effort with their costumes ('Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band'), although we were worried the ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Sisters’ pink suits would melt to their skin when those thumping pyrotechnics raised the temperature (and heart rates) in the premium seats ('Live and Let Die').

While Mum and Dad, regrettably, were unable to join us on Saturday, please accept their apologies — they promise to make up for it next time you come over.

Please don’t leave it too long until we meet again dear friend ('Get Back'). You never know what unexpected twists and turns life will reveal.

In the meantime, rest assured — your music will continue to hold our lives in the palm of its hands.

All Our Loving"

I’ve read hundreds of Paul’s reviews over the years and this was a really cool and refreshing way to approach it.

Attending the show in Brisbane are UK TV stars Ant & Dec who were filming their hugely popular I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here! Show, just two hours out of Brisbane. The boys had only one night off during the entire series, but they used it wisely by heading down to catch the gig. Their regular routine meant they should be in bed at 6pm every night to be up for their 2am start, but they were determined to see Paul’s show, with or without the producers’ blessings! They even manage to say hi to Paul prior to the show, then tweeting their joy: “It is an honour, a privilege, not to mention a huge thrill to spend time in the presence of Paul McCartney. A lifelong hero of both of ours and a gentleman and still rocking!”

Sydney (show day) – Monday 11th December

Today our rock royalty is joined by Australian musical royalty, in the form of the princess of pop. “I’m here as a big fan and admirer tonight,” Kylie Minogue tells me backstage, minutes before she greets Paul ahead of his first of two shows in Sydney. “Having Paul, Sir Paul, in Australia is incredible. All of Australia wants to see him; half of them can’t get a ticket! My parents came to see the show last week and they loved it and I get to see it tonight. The chance for Australians to see Paul on stage singing songs that they know and love and mean so much to them is a beautiful thing and I hope he feels all the love.”

When asked if there is anything in particular she is looking forward to hearing, she says without hesitation: “'Blackbird' … and 'Blackbird'. I absolutely love it. It’s so emotional and if I’m feeling teary that would actually help me release a tear…but gosh where to start? So many amazing songs and so much history and to know he is still performing and loving performing, that’s inspiring to me as an artist as a performer; that if you’ve got great songs and if you’ve got that connection with your audience you can potentially keep going as long as you want. He’s a living legend and so it’s great to be in his presence and to be able to see him perform.”

It’s clear that this view is shared by the sold-out audience in Sydney’s Qudos Bank Arena as well as all of those who have seen the show in the last ten days. I keep wondering to myself if any of the people in the audience have memories of Paul’s first trip and his only visit with The Beatles when they toured Australia back in June 1964. They had struck a deal almost a year earlier when the band were still very much on the rise. Australian promoter Kenn Brodziak had visited London in 1963 and was handed a list of bands by an agent, eventually booking the Fab Four merely on the strength of a vague recognition of their name. By the time they actually arrived, Beatlemania had swept swathes of the planet and they were met by tens of thousands of people during their travels. The huge rise in popularity also enabled Brian Epstein - the band’s manager - to push up their original £1,500 a week fee to £2,500 each week. It was a breakneck schedule for the band (minus Ringo who was suffering from tonsillitis and had to be replaced on drums by Jimmy Nicol) with gigs in Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney – at the rate of two shows a night!

They also squeezed in a visit to New Zealand back then, and anticipation is growing there once again. “Paul McCartney wows Australia before heading here,” declares the New Zealand Herald today, with a significant roundup of the magical 'One On One' reviews that have been running this week. A few days ago Paul had joked that his shows this week’s are a trial run for the New Zealand leg by declaring: “We’re practising on the Aussies, getting up to speed.” The newspaper declares that it certainly sounds like the practice is paying off!

Sydney (show day) – Tuesday 12th December 

Switching on the TV in my room this morning, one of the lead news stories on The Today Show is: “Finally!!! Sir Paul McCartney rocks Sydney in epic three-hour set”. In fact, all the programme’s main hosts have been at the show and are raving about it.

The Australian Mail Online leads with: “It was overwhelming: Paul McCartney performs epic three-hour set in Sydney complete with Beatles classics, as stars including Kylie Minogue praise singer's first show in 24 years.”

Sydney’s leading daily paper The Telegraph reports: “Paul McCartney rocks Sydney with three-hour set packed with Beatles classics and more. LOVE, three chords and the truth are all you need when in the presence of the rock greatness of Paul McCartney.”

Sydney – Wednesday 13th December 

You’d think after giving back-to-back epic performances in Sydney, Paul might just want to chill in the sunshine and hang by the pool – well, you’d be wrong! Before setting off for New Zealand in the evening Paul finds an interesting way to spend his day.

In what you might call a new career ‘high’, Paul climbs Sydney Harbour Bridge, with a two-hour trek to the summit despite the physical ordeal of giving it all in a three-hour show just hours earlier. And as he takes in the view to Manly, Bondi and the South Pacific beyond, he poses for a photo with a peace sign.

Speaking about the experience, he says: “Yeah, well people say to you, do you ever get a chance to see the countries you’re playing in, and so often the answer is not really because it’s airport, car, hotel, gig, hotel, airport, goodbye. So you don’t always get a chance, but if you have a day off … I’d been looking at the bridge, I could see the bridge from my hotel, and I’d been seeing people climbing up it and I thought ‘I’d love to do that.’ At first I thought, it’s gonna be really strenuous because it’s a high bridge. But then I noticed that they stop every so often and look at the view, and so me and a couple of mates did it. It was fantastic.”

Thursday 14th December:

New Zealand is awash with rumours this morning about Paul’s arrival last night and the media are trying to guess where he might be. In the afternoon Paul posts a message to his social media channels announcing his excitement at being back. "Hey there, so I finally got to New Zealand, wow, it's been a little while. It's beautiful, look at that!" He said whilst gesturing towards the ocean.

During a radio interview with Newstalk ZB’s breakfast host Mike Hosking, Paul eventually puts all the guesswork to bed and explains that he has been enjoying a little quiet time in Hawkes Bay to prepare for his Auckland show at the Mount Smart Stadium. During his chat with Mike, he also discusses the way he chooses what songs he should put into the set – something which is a constant source of intrigue for fans and journalists wherever he plays.

“What I do is, I actually sit down before the tour and just think, if I was going to the show what would I want to see? What would I want to have happen? And there’s certain songs that I would think, oh yeah. I’d want to see that, I’d want him to do that, I’d want the band to play that. So those kind of start the list and then you go down from there – and you think, well what would I personally like to play for people and what else would I like to fill it out with and what new numbers would I like to play and what unusual numbers would I like to play? In the end, of course, a lot of it is for the audience, the songs they know the best, really. Unless they’re young. The young crowd know the more contemporary things like 'Four Five Seconds'; some of the older people don’t know those, they like the Beatles stuff, so we do a mix. And you know, I’m trying to make the crowd happy, because I don’t want them going away thinking well, that wasn’t worth it!”

Paul also points out there is a strange familiarity to the landscape he has seen so far during his trip to NZ: “For me it’s got echoes of the British Isles really, the countryside where I’m looking out the window at this fantastic view. For me, it almost could be Scotland.”

Paul also took time to chat with alternative radio station Harauki – for their breakfast show with cheeky hosts Matt and Jerry. The guys had been joking in the weeks leading up to Paul’s visit that they’d get an interview with the main man but never thought it would actually happen.

Auckland (show day) – Saturday 16th December:

At last the show day rolls around. It’s the last show of 2017 – another remarkable year for all of us with memories we’ll share for life. The crew are indelibly bonded by the incredible experiences we are all part of. Tokyo, although only 7 months ago, feels like a lifetime ago. So much has happened this year and we all have our individual high points of the year. Today though, we are all focused on doing our best work to end the year on a massive high. The last few weeks have just been awesome.

At sound check today our PM is joined by New Zealand’s PM. Newly elected Jacinda Ardern, 37, rocks out in the afternoon sunshine.

As befits such a special occasion there are some other notables in the audience later in the day – Oscar-winning Lord Of The Rings/Hobbit director Peter Jackson and Crowded House’s Neil Finn, a long-time fan. And those carefully crafted greetings to suit the local crowd are in evidence once again tonight as Paul declares: “Good evening Auckland. Kia ora tena koutou katoa.”

The reviews are wonderful - The Herald On Sunday says: “Paul McCartney led a thoroughly captivated audience though a magical mystery tour of his greatest hits.” And Stuff says: “Striding on stage at Mt Smart Stadium without a word, but instead a salute, McCartney launched into a note perfect 'A Hard Day's Night' that set the scene for the marathon gig to come. It was an apt choice: it's hard to recall an artist who worked so hard to give his audience value.”

Sunday 17th December – Time to go home…

As a parting message to New Zealand Paul posted a private moment from his time there – resulting in the following coverage in local media:

Superstar and activist Sir Paul McCartney has won our hearts again with his latest post on social media. The short video shows the musician in New Zealand’s Hawkes Bay, rescuing a brown kiwi.

McCartney is shown admiring the bird, native to New Zealand, saying: “Lovely little kiwi… we’re saving you”

He appears to be accompanied by wildlife restoration project Cape Sanctuary, who work to rescue and rehabilitate wildlife. Currently, kiwi are seeing a population decline of 1,400 each year due to predators. Additionally, four out of every five native birds in New Zealand are at risk of extinction.

And so, with that Paul wraps up the latest leg of his globetrotting and seemingly never-ending series of shows. I – and millions of fans – can only look forward to the next batch!

play music

Please note: if you are not on a wifi connection, your provider may charge for data use.