The GOT BACK tour blog from Paul's US publicist Steve Martin continues, as Steve reports from Fort Worth, Winston-Salem, Hollywood, Orlando and Knoxville.
Hard to believe that we’re already more than a month into GOT BACK. As Paul has been known to ask at the close of ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’, “Where does the time go?"
In terms of hard facts and figures, the time has gone by in the form of GOT BACK’s first six shows in Spokane, Seattle, Oakland and Los Angeles — all attended by capacity crowds singing along to every word, the media singing unanimous praise, and new memories to last a lifetime for those witnessing Paul live for the first time to the Paul veterans ecstatically pushing their show counts into the dozens and hundreds.
When you’ve lived, loved and rocked a life like Paul’s, you inevitably form relationships of special significance with multiple locales spanning the globe. Some of these places might seem obvious (see previous entry’s notes on Los Angeles, Oakland and Seattle), and some less so.
Fort Worth, Texas is one of those places. As the archive-ologists specializing in Paul’s Wings era will attest, the city affectionately known as Funkytown (among other sobriquets) hosted Paul’s first-ever post-Beatles concert in the United States. It was in fact on May 3, 1976, at the Tarrant County Convention Center in Forth Worth, that Paul led Wings through the first night of the Wings Over America tour — a 21-city, 31-show extravaganza that marked Paul’s return to the road in North America, and utilized cutting edge audiovisual wizardry to create the template for the ‘70s arena rock experience.
Now for the first time since that historic 1976 Wings Over America tour opener, Paul finally GOT BACK to Fort Worth. With a setlist featuring such songs in common with that 1976 outing as ‘Let Me Roll It’, ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’, ‘Lady Madonna’, ‘Live And Let Die’, ‘Blackbird’, ‘Letting Go’ and ‘Band On The Run’, Paul added another illustrious chapter to his history with Fort Worth.
Following a customarily thorough soundcheck — and the videotaping of a personal Platinum Jubilee message to her majesty Queen Elizabeth II, as well as a note to The British Book Awards, aka The Nibbies, graciously accepting Book of the Year: Non-Fiction Lifestyle honors for THE LYRICS… both shot from the stage — it was arena rock time for Fort Worth. The confines of the Dickies Arena were relatively intimate venue in comparison to L.A.’s sprawling SoFi Stadium, but the crowd that packed Dickies put forth a convincing impression of a throng two to three times its size. From those first careening notes of ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ through the bittersweet coda of ‘The End’, Fort Worth raised its collective voice "like a de facto backing choir,” observed the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, adding "The sing-along nature of the evening was strong and powerful and provided more proof of how deep the man’s songs have resonated with the world."
46 years between shows evaporated in the blink of an eye, as the capacity crowd was swept up in a sea of new memories being formed in real time: a supercharged ‘Got To Get You Into My Life’, a downright raucous ‘Get Back’, the eternally uplifting optimism of ‘We Can Work It Out’ and ‘Let It Be’, and a stripped down ‘Love Me Do’ were just a few of the classics receiving their first Fort Worth airings this night — not to mention the wealth of highlights written in the decades between Paul’s shows in the Queen City of the Prairie: The sublime minor chords of ‘My Valentine’, an Egypt Station double shot of ‘Fuh You’ and ‘Come On To Me’, McCartney III standout ‘Women and Wives’, the title track from 2013’s New, the choreography-enhanced ‘Dance Tonight’ from 2007’s Memory Almost Full, and the perennially tearjerking note to John Lennon that is ‘Here Today’ from 1982’s Tug Of War.
At the close of a performance the Dallas Observer described as "a joyous revelry, a dazzling demonstration of craft as foundational to pop music as piano keys, guitar strings or drumsticks,” Paul promised “We’ll see you next time” and by the time that rain of confetti had cleared, GOT BACK was en route to…
"Well, the rain exploded with a mighty crash…”
No lyric could have painted a more vivid picture of the local weather mere hours before Paul was expected onstage at Winston-Salem NC’s Truist Field at Wake Forest University. The picturesque home of the Demon Deacon football team was being hammered by near-horizontal torrential rains as forecasts predicted thunderstorms to pass directly over the stadium.
Paul however was undaunted in his optimism that the clouds would break and the skies would remain clear for his first ever show in Winston-Salem. A few songs in, with the weather holding and his prediction proven correct, Paul said confidently, “I think we’re going to get lucky with the weather,” before launching into a stomping ‘Come On To Me’.
And get lucky Winston-Salem did for the next few hours. While the weather remained calm, the tens of thousands in the sold-out stadium did anything but—case in point being Paul’s request to the crowd following ‘Love Me Do’ — “Come on, girls, let’s have a Beatles scream” — being answered in eardrum-shattering fashion, as the Charlotte Observer noted: "Right on command, for 10 long, deafeningly loud seconds, thousands of women tested the limits of their vocal cords with shrieks and hoots and hollers that filled the air near the university’s campus with euphoria. There was a lot more where that came from inside the stadium over the course of the evening…”
Understatements are understandably an occupational hazard of reviewing a Paul McCartney show — especially a debut concert taking place in such an esteemed local landmark — so suffice to say, there was certainly “a lot more where that came from” and then some: the roar of pleasure as ‘Something’ kicked in from Paul’s ukulele/vocal intro to the full band accompaniment, an ‘Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da’ singalong that would have raised the roof had this venue had one, the howls of instant recognition that greeted the very first opening notes of ‘Get Back’ that mounted in volume with the addition of Peter Jackson’s bespoke montage of imagery from the series… and so many more—not least of which greeting ‘Band On The Run’, possibly enhanced by the fact that the rain did not explode at any point throughout the show.
Speaking of Mr. Jackson’s gifts to Paul and the GOT BACK audiences, the encore treated Winston-Salem to the second ever stadium scale rendition of the Paul/John virtual duet on ‘I’ve Got a Feeling’. Words inevitably fall short when attempting to convey the emotional impact of witnessing this reunion, especially on this scale, but kudos to our friends at the Charlotte Observer for a valiant try: "at once a simple, beautiful, reverential and ever-so-slightly sorrowful sight to behold.”
A volley of ‘Birthday’, ‘Helter Skelter’, ‘Golden Slumbers’, ‘Carry That Weight’ and ‘The End’ later — with the crowd’s volume still pinned in the red as the Hot City Horns played Paul onto the waiting bus with ‘Nothing Could Be Finer’ — it was time to say good night at the close of an experience that moved Yes! Weekly to sum up, “McCartney got back, all right. And it felt like we all belonged”.
Next stop would be the most intimate venue by far to host a GOT BACK show, the 7000-capacity Hard Rock Live in the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood, Florida.
Those lucky enough to score tickets to see Paul in this room a fraction of the size he’d usually play in the region — Miami’s Sun Life Stadium in 2010 and American Airlines Arena in 2017 come to mind as recent examples — would soon be making a racket to rival the crowds that filled those venues (especially the general admission floor crowd). But first, it was time for a reunion of a rather unique sort. As Paul’s motorcade rolled up to the back entrance of the Hard Rock, they were greeted by a vision from 50+ years ago: the Magical Mystery Tour bus. Accessorized with a “Remember Me?” sign and featuring its original blue and gold paint job, rainbow logo and shooting star details, the actual bus from The Beatles’ 1967 movie had been transported from the Hard Rock memorabilia archive (and through the very mists of time) to be reunited with Paul, kicking off a momentous evening with a bonus bit of history.
Speaking of history, there’s always an additional jolt of electrification that comes with hearing Beatles numbers like ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ or ‘Love Me Do’ played in a room the size they might have been played in during the ‘60s. But the evening Paul spent with 7000 of his most vocal fans in the Hollywood FL area (and quite a few from out of town, to whom Paul welcomed on behalf of the local tourism board) was one with highlights as varied as they were unforgettable. There was a rendition of ‘Blackbird’ that "dazzled in the song's utter simplicity” per the Miami New Times, emphasizing the intimacy of the small arena /large theater environs—and on the absolute other end of the spectrum there were the pyrotechnic salvos of ‘Live And Let Die’ that, while undoubtedly adjusted for scale, nevertheless seemed to threaten to turn the Hard Rock Live into an open air venue.
Going off the uniformly ecstatic reaction of the entire crowd, from the GA floor to the not-so-distant-as-usual upper balconies, you’d think Paul was personally serenading each and every audience member. And in a way, he was—the physical proximity couldn’t help but to have that effect. Whether dashing off a deceptively breezy ‘I’ve Just Seen A Face’, working the pulsating piano rhythms of ‘Let ‘Em In’ in sync with those marching on the video backdrop, howling with an elemental fury through a rambunctious ‘Helter Skelter’, the kaleidoscopic range of emotions stirred by Paul’s stagecraft was amplified a thousandfold… or make that 7000-fold.
Nowhere in the evening was this more apparent, according to Boca Raton Magazine, than ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’. Of this most up close and personal performance of the Paul and John virtual reunion, the magazine’s reviewer remarked, "If you closed your eyes, you’d think Lennon was in the room with his former partner of the greatest songbook in pop history... it certainly worked its magic on me, as did the entire transportive evening.”
Nearly 10 years had passed since Paul last took to the stage in O-Town — since the May 2013 kick-off of the North American leg of the Out There tour, to be more precise. If the hero’s welcome offered up by the crowd filling the massive Camping World Stadium (home to the likes of the NFL Pro Bowl, Citrus Bowl, and more), Orlando had been clamoring for Paul to Get Back since those final notes of ‘The End’ echoed throughout the Amway Center in 2013.
While it’s always a challenge to single out peaks of Paul’s highlight-packed shows (more on that later — I’m looking at you, Knoxville…), it is consistently fascinating to take note of which songs receive particularly effusive reactions across various nights, locales, venues and sundry other X-factors. On this beautiful late May evening in the open air environs of this Orlando football stadium, there was a roar that punctuated the opening strains of ‘My Valentine’—and that only seemed to escalate throughout ‘Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five’ and continued to surge repeatedly throughout the evening, especially noticeable when following the reverent pin-drop rapt attention devoted to ‘Blackbird’ and ‘Here Today’.
GOT BACK’s audience seems to have expanded at both ends of the generational spectrum — an example of the younger range being one fan’s sign that caught Paul’s eye, as he read aloud, “I missed senior prom to see you,” and asked the teenage fan, “Well, are you having fun?” — Presumably the answer was a resounding yes, but it was instantly drowned out by the entire stadium’s very vocal, very affirmative response.
"Pure joy and bliss emanated from the stage and throughout the seats,” observed the Orlando Sentinel. "As if 30 songs weren’t enough, McCartney and his cohort of musicians came back to rock out with six more songs, waving Ukrainian, American, United Kingdom, Florida and rainbow flags as they returned to the stage for their encore.”
And what an encore it was… Another stadium scale ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’ duet with Paul and John’s harmonizing voices soaring into the central Florida skies — the same skies whose clouds became illuminated with crackles of heat lightning enhancing an already frenetic ‘Helter Skelter’ (I swear it was a natural occurrence and not part of the GOT BACK production — at least as far as I know!). Finally, as with all good things, Paul’s triumphant return to Orlando came to an end, or if we’re being literal, to ‘The End’. And with a promise of seeing Orlando next time amid a hail of confetti and fireworks, Paul concluded GOT BACK’s swing through the Sunshine State and was onto the tour's next stop in Knoxville, Tennessee.
One final note: Doubling back to that encore interval... Our own DJ Chris Holmes — a touring veteran of hundreds of Paul shows for 10+ years, and whose own return as support has been welcomed warmly every night of GOT BACK — was literally moved to tears by the overwhelming intensity of the waves of applause that bridged main set closer ‘Hey Jude’ and encore opener ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’. And let’s just say he wasn’t alone… this man and these songs' ability to unite tens of thousands of hearts and voices in unconditional, sheer joy and love — transporting them to a place where differences, conflicts, troubles disappear for close to three indelible hours — it really is the closest thing to a miracle one — or in the case of Orlando, tens of thousands — can witness.
"How do I pick a notable moment from a show that was nothing but?”
That question from the writer from Auburn University’s WEGL FM perfectly sums up the quandary posed to us all — fans, media, GOT BACK crew members alike — by Paul’s Knoxville debut. At turns joyous, bombastic, tender, reflective and more, Paul's unforgettable first visit to the Thompson-Boling Arena was everything anyone could want from his usual masterclass and so much more. It would, in fact, be impossible to pick a better closer to this chapter of the GOT BACK tour blog than this perfect complement to Fort Worth's return to the site of the Wings Over America tour opener… Yes, Knoxville was that good.
“You are a great crowd, Knoxville!” Paul exclaimed early on to the adoring masses voicing their gratitude for his first visit to the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains. And it was immediately and abundantly clear that this was indeed an exceptional crowd filling this arena’s
particularly cavernous interior, one that was not shy in the least in showing their appreciation that Paul had at long last made it to their hometown. For the next nearly three hours, there would be non-stop singing, dancing, and full throated jubilation — all the manifestations of the unique magic that only a first-time Paul show can conjure.
The constantly heightening exchange of electricity was mutual, Paul and the band and the people of Knoxville amplifying one another all night long — As ‘Let Me Roll It’ steamrolled into ‘Getting Better’, the latter’s refrain became the theme of the evening, as the momentum built with each of these songs, by this performance and this audience continued to gain exponentially. The irresistible positivity of ‘We Can Work It Out’ made a perfectly occasioned return to tonight’s setlist, while ‘Dance Tonight’ spurred an impromptu exhibition dance-off amongst thousands of participants. Elsewhere, the supercharged crowd took in the tributes of ‘Something’ and ‘Here Today’ with an intensified reverence that equalled the ebullience of their response to the opening notes of ‘Lady Madonna’, the pyro-kinetic thrill ride of ‘Live And Let Die’… and it almost goes without saying: their absolutely deafening A+ effort to claim the title of loudest ‘Hey Jude’ singalong of the tour.
But don’t take my word for it—to sum up, here’s a snippet from the Knoxville News Sentinel’s review, one comprised largely of some very familiar lyric excerpts and (para)phrases: "After more than 30 songs, unexpected pyro hot as sun and John Lennon coming together with the band in virtual fashion, it’s safe to say people won't forget the time or place they saw McCartney – that lucky day he came to Knoxville. While everyone has had a hard couple of years, everyone let their hair down, had a good time and surely will be listening to the music playing in their head over and over for days to come."
And in an inspired final moment of off-stage performance, The Hot City Horns played Paul onto the waiting bus with an homage to Dolly Parton (a nod to Dollywood’s location about an hour away in Pigeon Forge TN), and with that it was time for GOT BACK to head northeast… Please tune in again when we resume reporting from Syracuse.