LATIN AMERICA 2014…
"The legend of endless inspiration…"
I’m piecing this edition of For Whom The Bell Tells together from notes I’ve made over the last couple of weeks on Paul’s Latin American adventure. I am sat on the plane flying home to London and it’s the first time I’ve had the chance to check back through all my notes, press clippings and reviews in one go. I can’t believe how much has happened in the last two weeks!
Since the 'Out There' tour parked up for a little rest in November our boss has kept himself busy by picking up 5 Grammys (a personal best) in January, a bespoke NME Award chosen by his contemporaries in February. He made some new music videos in March, plus rehearsing with Wix, Abe, Brian and Rusty and working on a secret project too, which I’ve been sworn to secrecy about!
Meanwhile the tour team had been getting themselves prepped for getting back 'Out There'. This time we’d be starting out in Uruguay (which we last saw in 2012), before visiting Chile, Peru, a first time visit to Ecuador and to Costa Rica too.
My goodness, my ears are still ringing from Costa Rica last night. As Paul's sound engineer, Pab, said of the fans during the show, "It's like a Justin Bieber concert!" Paul had promised a fiesta and a fiesta it was, they were a loud, loud crowd! A fitting end to another memorable run creating headlines and history wherever the tour went.
There were quite a few dramas this time round too. A show in Chile that needed to be rescheduled due to a plane load of equipment being delayed, torrential rain that nearly damaged the same equipment, altitude adjustment as Paul performed his highest ever show in Quito at nearly 10,000 feet. Not to mention, tour personnel being refused to leave Peru due to a paperwork error, a video chat with Uruguayan footballer Luis Suarez, tour busses getting mobbed and held up by fans, police confiscating alcohol from our catering team and dressing room areas for seemingly no reason; and the list goes on!
The dramas, however, quickly became distant memories as the overwhelmingly positive reactions and responses to the concerts came through. Each night Paul took to the stage we knew we were all part of something very special indeed. Not that I’m ever complacent about the job, but I got a massive reminder in Ecuador of how much Paul means to people when at one point two women in their thirties next to me in the audience spontaneously broke into tears, crying uncontrollably as soon as they saw him live in the flesh.
Although Paul had previously been to Uruguay, Chile and Peru the local media made a lot of the historic value of his repeat visits. In each city we were bombarded with meet and greet requests from presidents, mayors, artists, media personalities, British Ambassadors and various dignitaries all putting forward reasons why they should get to hang out with Paul.
On the day of Paul's arrival in Uruguay, and in honour of his presence, four newborn lion cubs at Salto Zoo are named Paul, John, Ringo and George. This in itself became headline news on TV, online, radio and in the following day’s newspapers.
Paul rocked up to rehearsal on the evening before the first show, complete with helicopters in the sky above tracking his every move, and got straight to it. As he rehearsed in the Estadio Centenario I watched on social media how the track names he was performing were spreading all over the internet. There was particular excitement for the fact he played 'On My Way To Work' and 'Appreciate'.
At the end of rehearsals we grabbed Paul to answer some questions recorded by Uruguayan football legend Luis Suarez. Luis had been eager to ask Paul some questions and the chat worked really well. When we released the video to the media later that evening there was a huge appetite for it. In Uruguay itself the breakfast news on the day of the show was dominated by the two Liverpool legends’ chat together.
Show One - Montevideo, Uruguay - Saturday April 18th
"A lot has been spoken in recent weeks about the return of Paul McCartney to Montevideo, which is of huge importance to Uruguayans. He’s one of the creators of modern music and to come back for a second time caused great excitement. The excitement and emotion of the wait was evident the moment he stepped on to the stage and the crowd exploded in cheers and applause."
Safe to say we were off to a great start. Another loud and emotional night in Uruguay for Paul and the team. One fan at the front was so loud that his constant shouts of "One after 9" paid off and eventually Paul gave in and performed 'One After 909' with the band. This has prompted an online fan movement for people to get down to the front now and shout out a favourite song of their choice in the hope they might get Paul’s attention!
"The unforgettable return of Paul McCartney - better than the first time! The legend of endless inspiration - Nearly three hours of music, timeless classics combined with new songs and in the presence of a legend – it felt as if 50,000 were under his spell."
Travel Day (Uruguay to Chile) - Sunday 19th April
This should have been a fairly straight forward Sunday, but as we have learnt over the years, you shouldn’t take any day on tour for granted. By early evening news had reached us that a jumbo jet taking equipment from Uruguay to Chile was still on the tarmac in Uruguay and there was no way it was going to arrive in Chile with enough time for the crew to get everything ready and in place for the first show, scheduled for the following day.
Once Paul learnt of this news he was insistent that the show must still go ahead but later in the week. He had been due to travel to Peru, the tour’s next destination, on Tuesday night following the last date in Chile, but intervened and changed plans and the tour schedule in order to make sure that the show could be rescheduled. Paul insisted the team should do all they could to make sure concert goers knew about the changes causing as little disruption as possible, especially for those that would be travelling from far away to come to the show and ensuring that those who couldn’t make it would be fully refunded. One thing we know about Paul at PM HQ is how much he hates letting down his fans. This situation was beyond anybody’s control and the reaction from the fans and media the following day showed us they completely understood this.
Chile - Monday 20th April
This should have been the first show day but we spent the day making sure the messaging about the rescheduled show was out there. Just before 2pm Paul called me in my hotel room just to check in that we were doing all we could to spread the word and he wanted to know what more we could be doing. He was very happy to call a local radio station to talk to them about the situation. As it happened, the guy who did the radio interview was an ex-LIPA student who had to miss his own graduation at LIPA a few years back and therefore missed the chance of meeting Paul, so Paul invited him to come back stage to say “Hi” before Wednesday night’s show.
That evening Paul and Nancy kindly invited me to dinner along with the band. Needless to say it was a very fun evening and we got the chance to ask Paul about a new secret thing he’s working on - which I wish I could share right now but I can’t! Sorry for the tease, but all in good time!
Show Two & Three - Santiago, Chile - Tuesday April 22nd / Wednesday April 23rd (rescheduled from Monday April 21st)
"Paul McCartney moved Chile with an overview of his entire career."
"Paul proved he is still a vital artist with a show containing a nod to his friends from Liverpool, as well as playing NEW material."
"At 9:30 last night, Paul opened another historic chapter for Chile. He greeted the crowd with his typical cheekiness. He was met with a standing ovation. The high emotion was felt by all of the audience that was a mix of all ages and Paul’s set had something for everyone. McCartney kept shooting the crowd with a gale force of emotion. With each song he played, he electrified the crowd and what a setlist!"
"His performance is vital, he is an artist at the peak of his powers. It was a privilege to have him here and see him in this venue."
"His music is a celebration of everything and brings to life the famous quote by Baudelaire, 'Be sublime without interruption'.”
“That’s the best show we’ve seen here”, the local PR guy told me after Paul’s second show on the Wednesday night. What about last night I asked? “That was brilliant too,” he replied. “But seeing it for a second time was just a treat!”
"The show was a near 3-hour extravaganza. Each movement and gesture got the crowd going. For such a big show McCartney managed to make it feel like an intimate experience for all the audience. He was cheeky, witty, charming and somehow packed his entire career into 3 hours. The audience was made up of all ages, backgrounds and nationalities, people even flying in from the UK."
Show Four - Lima, Peru - Friday April 25th
"Paul McCartney gave a magical performance at The National – he played for nearly three hours before an audience that fully surrendered to him. Perhaps this scene best describes the effect that Paul McCartney has on people; at one point during the show, his four super musicians leave the stage and it is just Paul and almost 40,000 people on their own; he takes his acoustic guitar and effortlessly starts up 'Blackbird,' and the whole stadium sings along drowning out Paul’s voice. Each and every member of the audience is on his or her own journey, reliving special memories thanks to this amazing song. Men, women, young children, teenagers and young adults are all seduced by the legend of Sir James Paul McCartney, probably the best musician to ever grace Peruvian soil."
Although One Direction were in town the same week arriving at the same time as Paul, I was absolutely delighted as a competitive publicist that Paul was the main cover of the largest daily newspaper El Comercio and was getting all the air time on the TV news, as he rightly should be! Paul was here for his second visit and the excitement from the moment we got to Peru was almost tangible. I couldn’t sleep the night before the show with the noise the fans were making outside the hotel.
The National Stadium was massive and the Friday night audience were up for a big night of rock 'n’ roll, which is exactly what they got!
As in Uruguay and Chile - the following days papers were full of praise for the special evening:
"Paul McCartney’s Peru gig delights a 40,000 strong crowd. The musical legend Paul McCartney performed his long awaited second show in Peru to the delight of tens of thousands of Peruvians. The fans enjoyed McCartney’s huge talent as he gave yet another landmark concert. Some concert goers were so excited for the Beatle’s second appearance in the Andean nation that they had been camping outside the stadium in the days before the show."
Show Five - Quito, Ecuador - Monday April 28th
"All you need is… Paul!"
A first visit by Paul to a new country is always a very special occasion. I felt like I had a front row seat to a very historic moment for Quito. In the last ten years we’ve seen lots of gestures from cities marking the occasion of Paul’s visits. We have seen roads renamed after Paul’s songs, we’ve seen Paul McCartney days declared in honour of his presence, we’ve seen landmark buildings cover themselves in pictures of Paul, in Uruguay (as mentioned) we saw the new born lions named after The Beatles, massive flash mobs of fans…the list goes on. But Quito did something quite incredible.
To mark Paul's visit as a national event, local authorities teamed up with the Ecuadorian Beatles fan club to greet Paul by creating a giant logo for his latest album (NEW) on the Pichincha Mountain, an Ecuadorian landmark. The logo could be seen across the entire city. It was very cool!
Paul arrived in Quito the night before the show so the sign couldn’t be seen, but I showed him some pictures on my iPhone and he was clearly very moved.
On the day of Paul’s arrival, the team had been setting up at the stadium when the clouds opened giving way to torrential rain. For hours the rain pounded down putting the equipment and staging at serious risk. When the rain did eventually subside the crew had to rely on hair dryers to try and bring their gear back to life, thankfully it worked!
The trip to Ecuador also marked another first for Paul - at an elevation of 9,350 ft (2,800 metres above sea level) it was the highest concert Paul has ever performed. This brought potential issues with it. Upon arriving in Quito many of the crew felt the immediate impact of the altitude.
Paul took this in his stride though as he performed his epic set with his usual amount of energy showing no sign of slowing up, whilst many of us watching from the wings were breathless singing along! At the end of the show Paul added a special rendition of ‘All You Need Is Love’ on the piano. The song ‘All You Need Is Love’ is currently being used in a global tourism advert for Ecuador.
The day of the show itself had been quite testing too, another sign that this was the first time someone of Paul’s stature had played here. Special mention must be given to our venue security guy Brian ‘Swalley’ Riddle - he seemed to be in a hundred different places at once and had issue after issue to contend with throughout the day.
The local security presence was unreal and a little unsettling. It seemed that almost every hour another bus load of armed guards turned up and it wasn’t exactly clear what they were all doing.
When Paul arrived at the venue ahead of soundcheck and got out of his car, with a wink, he said to me, “I think we could do with a bit more security here!”
"Paul gave Ecuador a fantastic time, what a night!"
"Loud and bright, but also emotional and historical, Paul McCartney took the crowd on a journey of the best moments of his life, the same moments that were also the soundtracks of our lives."
"In spurts of improvisation and spontaneity, McCartney was the complete embodiment of an English gentleman and a showman too. His words and actions caused intermittent explosions of euphoria."
"He retains a unique energy and strikes the perfect balance between both his classic and new hits."
"There are not enough adjectives to describe the joy Paul McCartney generated in Ecuador."
"Charismatic McCartney hits a new high! I__t was a magical night in which the protagonist was constantly interacting with the public. So what was the crowning moment? So many! The pyrotechnics in the rain during 'Live and Let Die'? The 'Hey Jude' anthem? Or perhaps the tributes to Nancy Shevell, his wife; Linda, his first wife; John Lennon or George Harrison? Could it be the Ecuadorian flag flying next to the English one?
"It is impossible to choose only one standout moment in a concert by Paul McCartney. In fact, it does not even seem possible to know who enjoyed it more, Paul or the 36,000 fans from three generations who came to Quito on Monday night. Paul felt at home and, with evident joy, performed a catalogue of songs so extensive that after nearly three hours one is left with the feeling of still wanting more! The British multi-instrumentalist has so many songs that he would need at least six hours to perform and, even then, that probably wouldn’t be long enough!
"The public paid tribute to the former Beatle chanting, 'Olé , olé , olé ... Sir Paul, Sir Paul'. It was a versatile show too. McCartney is able to rock with songs like 'Helter Skelter' and 'Get Back,' offer some psychedelia with 'All Together Now' and simultaneously tug the heartstrings of his fans with songs like 'Maybe I'm Amazed.'
"The finale included confetti and fireworks and the kindest of gestures as Paul autographed a Höfner bass for a fan. That could be another crowning moment, but with a show like this, it is difficult to pick just one."
Show Six - San Jose, Costa Rica - Thursday May 1st
"Unbeatable! Many agree that Paul McCartney’s concert in the National Stadium is the best concert that has ever been hosted in Costa Rica."
"I think it will take many of us several days to digest the experience. After all, whether you’ve seen him in concert before or not, and regardless of your age and sense of what is cool or hip, this was no ordinary event. This was Paul McCartney in Costa Rica."
Two weeks since arriving in Uruguay the final show of this leg was upon us. Another first visit for Paul and a big deal for Costa Rica.
Costa Rica were loud, really loud. The audience were screamers, they had such an amazing night.
Before the show Paul had a met with a small group of competition winners. In the group were two 17 year old girls who told me they had an important school exam the following morning at 7am but their parents totally understood the significance of Paul’s show and allowed them to go. When Paul asked them about this he joked that they should go home immediately and revise.
What Paul doesn’t get to see on these trips are the moments like when he leaves a room after meeting these winners (or any fan for that matter) and they totally lose it. People hold it together when they meet him but the moment he’s out of the door it is a different story. They call their loved ones, they cry, they smile, they hug each other - the impact is huge. It is a major moment in their life that they’ll always remember and will always talk about.
I saw the same 17 year old girls at the end of the night rocking out to 'Helter Skelter' and it is safe to say they were having the times their lives!
The rest, as they say, is history. Paul flew home straight after the show whilst the crew retired to the hotel for a few drinks to toast our boss. Tired and ready to go home we all agreed that we are privileged to be part of team Macca and get to experience these incredible moments that, like the fans, will stay with us for ever.
Thanks Paul, another amazing adventure chalked up… Japan and South Korea here we come!!!
"Maybe we’re amazed at how you make us feel, Paul."
"Not your ordinary concert at all. Maybe you helped make us the happiest country in the world."
"In Costa Rica, this concert was not just special. It was miraculous."
"Thank you, Sir Paul. Thanks for knowing about us and showing us that as long as you can go out there and rock for over three hours to a full stadium, there is still hope that all will not be forgotten. Thanks for reminding us."