At the end of every year we really enjoy looking back at all the fun things we have worked on with Paul over the previous 12 months.
Regular visitors to PaulMcCartney.com will know that we were lucky enough to join Paul in Tokyo to launch his LINE Sound Stickers during the Japan tour. We have such happy memories of that trip, which you can read all about in our Japan tour diary HERE!
As luck would have it, Paul followed up his Japan dates with concerts in London, Birmingham and Liverpool and we were overjoyed to be invited along once again!
We thought, as an end-of-year treat, we would take you backstage and give you an exclusive look in to what happens on tour!
SATURDAY 23rd MAY – The O2, LONDON:
Paul’s UK tour started at The O2 in Greenwich, London. If you haven’t been there, take our word for it that it’s a big venue. When we arrived there early on the day of the first show, it took us quite a while to work out where we needed to be!
When you’re backstage at venues of this size, you’ll often see signs telling you where to find various offices. Well, The O2 is so big it had directions taped onto the floors as well as the walls! It was a funny experience walking through these vast corridors seeing signs to Paul’s dressing room, to catering (a very important place that you want to find straight away!), and to the stage.
In total the ‘Out There’ tour needs 6 dressing rooms and 10 production offices to accommodate everyone. Our office for the tour had been named the ‘Cyber Unit’, and the crew had affectionately nicknamed us Mulder and Scully!
Our job for the next week would be to make Paul’s tour fun for fans following the action online. We wanted to set the scene for each show day so our first post of the tour was a photo of Big Ben – what could be more London than that!
We also wanted to post interesting facts throughout the tour, reminding fans of Paul’s history in each of the three cities he was visiting. The first of these was:
LONDON TWITTER FACT: Tonight’s gig will mark Paul’s 50th concert in London and third time at The O2
Paul has played 50 shows just in London? Pretty impressive!
One of the nicest things about going out on tour with Paul is that it’s like joining a family. The band and crew spend a lot of time together and go through so many shared experiences that they become very close; it’s such a lovely and friendly environment. Fans may have come across a few of the crew through the years, such as PaulMcCartney.com’s friend Stuart Bell who writes the blog ‘For Whom The Bell Tells’.
However, there is an even greater number of crew who you won’t have come across, but that does not mean they don’t play as vital a role in putting together the show. During our research for the ‘Out There’ infographic we discovered there are over 300 people who make the show happen! We are lucky enough to know a few of them from being in Japan so after we’d set up our headquarters we went to say hello.
LONDON TWITTER FACT: Paul's last concert in London was at the Royal Albert Hall for Teenage Cancer Trust in 2012
As exciting as it is for everyone to be on tour, there is also a lot of work to be done. Around the corner from the ‘Cyber Unit’ office was the stage, and just watching the crew putting it up made us feel exhausted.
The stage is 80 feet in height, takes 7 hours to build and the crew has to set up 627 lights and 130 speakers! When you learn facts such as these, you can see why so many people are needed to put on the concert!
Once the stage was set up we joined a handful of lucky folks to watch Paul soundchecking with his band. Readers of our Japan blog may remember this is always one of our favourite times of the day. You are in a very large and near-empty venue and just a few metres away is Paul and the band playing a mini concert!
The soundcheck is, of course, there to help get the levels right for the show, but it feels like your own personal gig. It’s also a time for Paul to play a few special numbers that aren’t always in the set. Today’s soundcheck included songs such as ‘Flaming Pie’, ‘I’ll Follow The Sun’, and ‘On My Way To Work’ from his recent NEW album. He also included a few covers like Buddy Holly’s ‘It’s So Easy’ and Carl Perkins’ ‘Honey Don’t’. Not a bad way to spend an hour of your afternoon! Following a rousing version of ‘Lady Madonna’ we made our way back to headquarters.
LONDON TWITTER FACT: Paul’s last London performance was an impromptu gig in Covent Garden in 2013
Much of what we do on the road is check to see what Paul's fans are saying online. Throughout the tour Paul has been using the hashtag #OutThere and we have seen literally hundreds of thousands of posts from you including photos, videos, even whole song lyrics have been tweeted!
So as we approach show time, we monitor all of Paul’s social networks to see what you’re saying, as well as give out directions to the venue, stage time info and answer as many questions as possible. This is all done while we try and grab some food from the incredible tour catering too.
Here are a couple of interesting food facts for you: Paul’s on tour catering is vegetarian and each day 480 meals are served using around 500lbs of vegetables! (And between you and us, the catering is one of the best perks of being on tour – the food is so good!!)
As the doors open and you start crowding in, we always look out for nice photos of fans in the venue. It’s funny to be backstage, watching the venue fill up via your phones and we re-post some of our favourites. The crew are so kind to us, they’ve even allowed us to put up a message on the side of the screens reminding everyone of the #OutThere hashtag.
Posting photos from the gig using the hashtag is great for two reasons; firstly, it makes it easier for us to find your posts, and secondly, it also allows fans from around the globe to tune in and be there in spirit! We often see fans posting comments that they’d love to be at the show, but were able to see Paul at another gig - and with over 2,700,000 of you having been to an ‘Out There’ concert, that’s a lot of happy memories!
There are often other fun things going on backstage at the gigs. Tonight, for instance, TV personalities Ant and Dec were presenting Paul with an award to celebrate 50 years since he wrote the song ‘Yesterday’. The song holds the record for the most covered popular tune, which is pretty impressive for something that started life as a dream!
As it gets closer to show time, we leave our office – where we’ve been practicing our yoga moves! - and head to the back of the arena to get a photo of the start of the concert showing the whole venue. We love this view, and often have a chat with a few of the fans sitting up at the top. You often find that they are some of the noisiest fans too, so when Paul comes on stage, the roar from the crowd is something else! Once we have photo that we’re happy with, we run back to the office to post it online.
For the rest of the show, we will spend time at various different points of the venue, getting photos and short videos, re-posting fan updates and watching the show. Quite often we see #OutThere trending too – we’ve seen it trend locally in the city of the concert, nationally and sometimes globally. It’s such a rewarding feeling to see the hashtag doing so well and during tonight’s show we are proud to say that #OutThere was trending across the whole of the UK, so a big thank you for joining in!
One of the best places to watch the show is the sound desk and it was from here that we filmed one of our favourite-ever Vines; the crowd singing along to ‘Hey Jude’.
The sound desk has such a great view, you are right in the middle of the crowd so can see happy faces all around you and you also never know who you might bump into. Tonight, for instance, we watched a couple of songs from there and then all of a sudden we noticed Dave Grohl and a friend quickly run off to get a drink between songs. Now we’re all big fans of his so were very excited to see him... as were the crowd a little later when he joined Paul onstage to play ‘I Saw Her Standing There’!
Once the concert has finished, the fan posts have another huge spike with everyone on their way home sharing their night with friends and fellow fans. We try our best to read as many posts as possible, and again re-post some of our favourites. We often also have a photo of Paul on stage waving the flag of the country the gig is in along with a message of thanks to all the fans for coming along.
It’s usually gone midnight by this time so we’ll find a beer and chill out after such a hectic but fun day!
SUNDAY 24th MAY – THE O2, LONDON:
LONDON TWITTER FACT: Paul’s 50 London gigs (so far!) include dates at Buckingham Palace, Royal Albert Hall, Hyde Park, Olympic Stadium, Wembley Stadium and Arena, Battersea Power Station, 100 Club, Earls Court, Roundhouse and ICA (to name a few!)
So now we’ve given you an insight into what we get up to during a show day, but no two are the same! Today’s show is a special one for us as the MPL office came along to watch the show. Some have seen Paul play several times before, and for others, tonight will be their first.
LONDON TWITTER FACT: Paul’s first gig in London with Wings was at the Hammersmith Odeon on the band’s 1973 UK Tour
After watching soundcheck – our personal highlights being ‘Celebration’ (from ‘Standing Stone’), Coming Up’ and ‘Leaning on a lamp-post’ (which Paul sang with his ukulele) – we went to say hi to our MPL friends.
After saying our hellos, the doors opened to let you all in so we ran off again to see what you were saying on social media and share some our favourite updates.
LONDON TWITTER FACT: Paul’s first gigs in London as a solo artist was a run of 11 sold out dates at Wembley Arena in 1990!
As last night’s opening photo was taken from the back of the arena, this evening we waited in the wings to capture the moment Paul walked on stage. It’s such an incredible view, everyone’s faces lighting up and the noise is incredible. We can certainly see why Paul loves playing live!
Every time an artist plays more than one night at the same venue there is always the debate about which was the loudest crowd. For tonight’s concert we went to visit some friends of ours who were around ten rows from the front. There were many moments when we all threw our arms around each other and sang along, and the noise was pure celebration! It was from here that we took the next photo, again of everyone singing along to what has recently been voted the UK’s favourite Beatles number one single: ‘Hey Jude’.
But was Sunday louder than Saturday? We couldn’t say! Both nights were great fun and as we went back to our headquarters to see what you were all saying online, the comments were just as ecstatic as the previous evening. So we must remain impartial... both were brilliant!
WEDNESDAY 27th MAY – BARCLAYCARD ARENA, BIRMINGHAM:
BIRMINGHAM TWITTER FACT: For Wings’ first tour they got in a van and turned up unannounced at universities offering to play. Birmingham Uni was gig #9
We started early today, getting the train to Birmingham from London. On the way up we planned the next two days ahead of us: Birmingham tonight, then jumping on one of the tour busses to drive us over to Liverpool after the show. It was going to be a long but very exciting day!
Arriving in the New Street train station we made our way to the venue, via the Bullring Shopping Centre whose bubble-like and other-worldly veneer would be our photo to set the scene!
Today would be especially busy for us as we were due to meet with Paul. Regular visitors to PaulMcCartney.com will know we run a monthly fan Q&A with Paul and we have done these in all manner of interesting places; today’s would be in his dressing room after soundcheck. So having set up the new ‘Cyber Unit’ office, we gathered together everything we needed and went into the venue to watch Paul and the band soundchecking – today’s personal highlights being ‘One After 909’, ‘Drive My Car’ and ‘Hope of Deliverance’ (a request from one of the lucky fans also watching the band).
Once more, the sounds of ‘Lady Madonna’ ushered us backstage as the soundcheck came to an end and we waited for our boss to come off stage.
LONDON TWITTER FACT: In 1990 during Paul's first ever solo tour he performed 5 sold out nights at the Birmingham NEC
Here’s a question for you: If you could ask Paul anything... what would it be? We are in the very lucky position of having the opportunity to ask Paul anything we would like, and these questions have ranged from why the world knows him as Paul, and not James (his actual first name!), right through to what Paul would do if he had a time machine. We also asked Paul what he would do if he was a woman for the day... and that’s the only time we’ve ever stumped him!
Because they are so much fun, we really enjoy these Q&As with Paul. Most of our questions today centered around the Archive Collection reissues of Tug of War and Pipes of Peace albums, which were due to be released a few months later in October.
(And if reading this has made you think, “I know exactly what I’d ask Paul if I had the chance,” then please do send in your question by clicking HERE! You never know, maybe the next Q&A we do with Paul might feature yours!)
Just as we’re leaving, Paul gets surprised by his grandchildren jumping into the dressing room and within moments he’s running around after them. In the corridor outside, everyone hears the sound of a lot of laughter!
BIRMINGHAM TWITTER FACT: Paul last played Birmingham in 2003 with two nights at the NIA
Before the show starts we run and grab some more of that wonderful tour catering and then we’re off to the back of the venue once more to get that photo for Twitter.
During tonight’s show, we do a few tests for something exciting we’ll be working on the following night (you’ll have to read on to find out more!). We also got into the debate of whether the Birmingham crowd was noisier than London. One of the PaulMcCartney.com team is from the Midlands so according to them Birmingham was definitely louder!
We witnessed an incredible sight following tonight’s show. As soon as the house lights came up, a huge crew of people appeared from nowhere and within moments they’re taking down the stage. It’s a very impressive thing to witness, and you can see why catering need to cook so much food! The crew is relentless and within a short period of time, everything is being packed away into their flight cases.
Tonight we are travelling up to Liverpool with the team who look after the band’s backline. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, the backline is pretty much everything on the stage from the amplifiers to Wix’s keyboards. They’re super friendly and share their pizza and beers with us as we begin the drive from Birmingham up to Paul’s hometown. The journey takes a few hours and they entertain us for the whole trip with stories from the road.
When we get to Liverpool it’s 3.30 in the morning (we told you it was going to be a long day!) and the buses park outside the Echo Arena, the venue for Thursday’s concert. Everyone goes to sleep in their bunks but we need to walk down the road to check into our hotel. Liverpool welcomes us with lots of wind and rain and because it’s so late we can’t find a cab – who said being on the road was all glamour!
THURSDAY 28th MAY – ECHO ARENA, LIVERPOOL:
LIVERPOOL FUN FACT: Wings first played Liverpool on their 'UK Tour' appearing at the city's Empire Theatre
The next day, after a few hours of sleep, we head straight out. Tonight Paul is playing his hometown and gosh, is the city excited! Everyone we speak with - from the employees and the guests in the hotel to our cab driver – they're all talking about the concert.
Team PaulMcCartney.com has spent a lot of time in Liverpool and it has changed quite a lot over the years, but one thing that has remained the same is their love for Paul and The Beatles and - most importantly - the music: the city is infused with it!
We enjoy listening to the stories from a cab driver who takes us from the hotel to the Echo Arena, via the world-famous Liver Building; our scene-setting photo for the day and the inspiration for Liverpool FC’s liver bird logo (obviously the better of the two football teams from the city... although we’re not sure our boss would agree!).
Crowds are already forming outside the arena by the time we arrive, and it’s only early afternoon! We head inside, set up the ‘Cyber Unit’ and begin working on something very exciting: tonight we will be broadcasting Paul walking onto the stage live using the Meerkat app! Are we nervous? Not at all. (...well, maybe a little, there are a lot of people coming to this show!)
LIVERPOOL TWITTER FACT: Wings began their 1979 UK tour with four nights at Liverpool's Royal Court Theatre
To get the live broadcast to work properly, we are lucky enough to rope in MPL’s tech guy, who just so happened to be at the show today. We speak with the venue’s tech team too and they kindly create our very own Wi-Fi network for the broadcast.
LIVERPOOL TWITTER FACT: Paul’s gigs in Liverpool include dates at The Cavern, Kings Dock & Anfield (as part of 2008's Liverpool Sound)
When the time comes to do our first test broadcast, we film the hundreds of fans queuing up outside and stand with open mouths as we see the viewer numbers shoot up to the high thousands straight away! Happy with how this went, we run on stage to post a photo teaser on Twitter then grab some dinner and get ready for the first real broadcast.
LIVERPOOL TWITTER FACT: Paul last played in Liverpool in 2011 at the Echo Arena
You would think that playing in front of tens of thousands of fans would make most people nervous, but Paul and the band are hanging out in the wings laughing and joking. With a few minutes until the start of the concert, they go into a huddle and we turn on the broadcast. Straight away we’re joined by hordes of excited fans, not quite believing they’re watching Paul backstage!
Out of the huddle Paul starts joking, “Cancel the show!” He addresses the camera directly, “Hey people! We’re about to go on – get nervous for us!” A spot of dancing to the remixed version of ‘Mrs. Vandebilt’ playing to the crowd out of the PA... and then comes the call: “One minute, standing by”. Paul pretends to do a few breathing exercises and the music changes in the auditorium to the iconic line: “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make”. The crowd knows what’s coming next and the noise gets dialed up several notches. We begin getting nervous: we’re about to walk on stage with Paul in Liverpool! (We get goosebumps still thinking about this several months later!) Then the curtain at the side of the stage goes up, Paul high fives the crew and off we go! As we follow Paul onto the stage the arena lights up and the noise is incredible. Everywhere we look there are smiling faces, people waving their hands and flags and signs, couples hugging, cameras flashing, even a few tears. Wow! Like we said before, we understand why Paul loves playing live. What a way to start an evening!
Abe does the count-in then Paul and the band break into ‘Eight Days A Week’ as we run off stage. We speak with our tech team backstage and everyone’s really happy with how the broadcast went. Phew!
We then do some more running to the back of the venue to get our first photo of the night.
We first discussed the idea of broadcasting Paul walking on stage in Liverpool ...the day before in Birmingham! He was excited about doing it, then said to us: “Why don’t you do a few songs too?” We love it when Paul takes an idea and builds on it like this and he suggests we stream ‘Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!’ and ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’, two songs with great visuals on stage.
So once again we found ourselves standing by the sound desk, next to the spotlight crew, broadcasting these classic songs to the world. What made it extra special was that this was the first tour where Paul had performed ‘Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!’ (He also told us that the bass part was pretty hard to play and sing at the same time!).
‘...Mr. Kite!’ was one of thirteen songs that Paul included in the set for the first time during his ‘Out There’ tour. Others included four tracks from his NEW album, the epic ‘Hope for the Future’, plus a few older numbers like ‘Your Mother Should Know’, ‘All Together Now’ and ‘Temporary Secretary’ (which sent Twitter into meltdown on its first airing at The O2 on Saturday!).
Another highlight from the show was Paul inviting up a young couple to the stage and when Fabrice – wearing a Sgt. Pepper jacket – asked Diane, “Will you marry me?” the crowd roared with approval. Not a bad story to be able to tell when people ask how he proposed!
After the show Paul tweeted “What a night Liverpool! It's brilliant to be back!” along with the below photo:
Posting that brought our UK tour to a close. We had a brilliant time, but again, once the house lights came up in the Echo Arena we watched the crew dismantle the stage with incredible speed and skill. They would be joining Paul in Marseille in just a few days time as the ‘Out There’ tour continued to make its way around Europe.
As for the ‘Cyber Unit’, we stole the production crew's sign and it now hangs proudly on the wall in our office!