Paul McCartney, back in the U.S. with gusto
ANAHEIM, Calif. ó Anyone who missed Paul McCartney’s 2002 tour will find the performer here, there and everywhere this week.
Today brings a live double album and a 30-song DVD, both titled Back in the U.S. On Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET/PT, CBC and ABC airs a “rock and road” special of the same name spotlighting performances of Yesterday, Hey Jude, Let It Be, Live and Let Die, Getting Better and other tunes that wowed crowds on McCartney’s two-tiered trek. On Friday, he’ll pop up at an all-star George Harrison tribute concert at Royal Albert Hall in London.
Producer/director Mark Haefeli and his crew gained unprecedented access to McCartney on and off stage for 14 weeks during the tour’s 34-city Driving USA spring leg. The sold-out first leg generated the 22-city Back in the U.S. fall swing, which broke house records at several venues.
The shows have drawn fawning praise from critics and Beatlemania levels of approval from audiences.
“I can’t explain it,” McCartney says, relaxing backstage before one of the tour’s final shows. Incense wafts through the darkened and lavishly appointed dressing room that is re-created nightly at each stop. “I’m just happy it happens.”
He’s also at a loss to explain why oldies marathons by fellow British vets such as the Rolling Stones and The Who have packed houses this year.
“I haven’t seen the Stones show, but I hear it’s great,” he says, adding cheekily: “I think ours is, uh, better, just because we’re cooler. No, no, no, just kidding. Well, I do really think ours is better. It’s uplifting at a time when people are looking for that.”
Exciting rehearsals and early crowd feedback convinced McCartney that the show should be preserved. “I said, ‘Let’s record a show or two because this is going to be over soon.’ If you’re feeling really good on a holiday, you want to get a camera and make a home movie.”
For the DVD, he insisted on a small crew that could blend into the scenery, the same low-key approach that yielded Albert and David Maysles’ 1964 documentary, The Beatles: The First U.S. Visit.
“I didn’t want a cumbersome thing with a huge film crew and makeup and lights,” McCartney says. “I wanted to imitate the Maysleses. So we got a couple of guys. They’re still hanging around. We can’t get rid of them. I wasn’t keen to have them invade my privacy, but they’ve become friends, so we started letting them into intimate situations.”
McCartney debated cutting one scene. On the final night of Driving USA, friends and colleagues clustered near the front of the stage. Just as McCartney launched into The Long and Winding Road, they all hoisted placards with large red hearts.
“Well, I lost it completely,” McCartney says. “I was overcome with emotion, and I couldn’t get the notes out. I didn’t sing it well. But (director) Cameron Crowe saw it and told me, ‘God, we wait thousands of hours to get a moment like that. You can’t pay an actor to do that.’ I said, ‘I couldn’t have acted it.’ It was a very lovely moment. So the solution was I added a bit of commentary: “If you’re wondering why I sang that so lousy, it’s because I love these people.’ ”
The two-hour show, which features poignant nods to fallen comrades George Harrison and John Lennon, is packed with Beatles classics as well as Wings hits and solo tunes as recent as the title track for 2001’s Driving Rain.
The tour milks multigenerational Beatles nostalgia, and even McCartney says he succumbs.
“I didn’t have Beatles nostalgia when I was in Wings because we had to establish new ground,” he says. “I put The Beatles to one side. Having proved I could have a group that didn’t do Beatles songs, I’m able now to look at all my songs and see them as equals. It’s opened up a real interesting door.
“Some of these songs are more emotional now. Until this leg of this tour, I had never sung She’s Leaving Home live. When I sing ‘She breaks down and cries to her husband, Daddy, our baby’s gone,’ I know the depth of feeling, having had babies. When I wrote it, I was just imagining it as a novelist would. I’m awakening to new possibilities.”
The successful spring and fall tours are bookends to an even happier chapter in McCartney’s enchanted year.
“I had some important things to do during the summer,” he says. “A wedding, a honeymoon and a birthday. Sweet little 60.”
He and activist/model Heather Mills, 34, were married in June in Ireland and spent “a very private beautiful honeymoon” in the Seychelles, where they eluded paparazzi and reporters.
The honeymoon isn’t over. When Mills darts through the dressing room, McCartney leaps to his feet and plants a kiss on her cheek. She’s the reason he’s jumping barefoot in promotional photos for Back in the U.S.
“Heather likes my feet,” he says, acting embarrassed. “She says, ‘You’ve got very cute feet.’ I say, ‘Oh stop it!’ But when your girlfriend, now wife, says you’ve got great feet, you know what? Your shoes never go back on again.”
Paul McCartney, back in the U.S. with gusto