From Summer 2004 in Europe

Beatlefan contributor Doug Brown saw three shows on Paul McCartney's '04 tour of Europe. Some notes from his travels, exclusive to . . .

ZURICH (front row center):
The show opens with the DJ in a funky hat and a video of clouds passing by with a recording of Paul speaking . . . then a guy on stilts comes out and gets the crowd clapping in rhythm. The pre-show is very acrobatic, all done to remixes of Paul's tunes. The uncut version of "Temporary Secretary" is one of the pre-show tunes. It's more like a circus than the last pre-show. The costumes are very vibrant neon colors with neon flags and banners. There are go-go dancers and break dancers. At a later point during the pre-show, the actors drag a curtain across the stage and continue performing in front. This allows the crew to take down the tall black wooden barriers which hid the band set-up. Once the familiar Em chord is hit, the curtain flies open from one side and there they are! The curtain is yellow gold, with the Ram and tall flower from Paul's "Egypt Station" painting. It's on Page 51 of the "Paul McCartney Paintings" book from the Siegen exhibit.

It rained a lot! Started raining at the beginning of pre-show. Rained so hard that I had to keep the hood of my coat over my head, otherwise the water was dripping in my eyes. Paul's acoustic guitar got splattered. The improv keyboard tune before "Lady Madonna" is identical to the "massage" music Paul played on the previous tours . . . he just added spontaneous vocal parts in which he sang about the city he was in, like "It's raining in Zurich." At the end of the show, a confetti cannon is located below each front corner of the stage and three cannons are located back by the sound platform. We were soaked and then covered with confetti (read: tarred and feathered!). We looked like red, white and blue chickens.

A small group of people up front knew all the backing and harmony vocals to "In Spite of All the Danger" . . . impressive! Paul tried to speak German to the crowd, but explained that in school he learned some German but not Swiss German. He tried to pronounce things correctly. It was a good performance by the band . . . except at the end during the guitar round of the "Sgt. Pepper" reprise. Abe thought he heard Paul play the eighth-note licks to end the song, so Abe played his eighth notes and stopped. He heard wrong. The next night, in Leipzig, Paul turned and said something to Abe before they began and had Abe laughing hard! The security was on high alert in the front looking for cameras and went into the crowd several times to confiscate them.

Brian plays the lead guitar on "Get Back", and the bass part on "You Won't See Me". During the break at the end of "Get Back", Paul stops the band and says to the crowd, "Do you want to get back? Do you want to get back? Do you want to get back? I want to get back!" and then turns and cues Abe to drum-fill the band back in and start the riff to finish the song. "Helter Skelter" starts with Rusty and Brian facing each other in front of Abe's bass drum, where they start the screaming guitar chords while Paul starts the opening lines of the song. They break to their respective mikes when Paul hits the last note of the opening line. the video screens show great roller coaster scenes during this song. Rusty and Abe handle the John Lennon vocals (together) during the song.

LEIPZIG (front row center):
It began to rain hard at 4:45 p.m. We got early entry at 5 p.m. in the pouring rain. The rain let up at the beginning of the pre-show and stopped a third of the way through the show. After "All Things Must Pass", a small group sang "We all live in a yellow submarine" and Paul turned and cued the band in and sang the entire opening verse and chorus of "Yellow Submarine". This was the best crowd of the three shows we saw. After "Back in the USSR", the crowd kept singing the backing vocal part of "oooowheeeeeeeeoooo" after the song was over. They also kept singing the "nanana's" of "Hey Jude" after the band had left the stage before the encore. The security was very tight in Leipzig. You saw every kind of military uniform possible, giving you a taste of what it must have been like when the Iron Curtain was still intact . . . scary. Security was still tight on cameras and they caught several people. Cris and I thought this was the best of the three shows we saw. Another stellar performance by the band. Paul's voice was warmed up for this show (Show #5 of the tour).

PRAGUE (VIP band seats):
No rain. Stuff was cheaper in Prague. Tickets were cheaper, too. The place where the concert was held was an old industrial area among dilapidated old dirt-brown buildings with broken windows. The ground was muddy from previous rains and filled with big rocks and chunks of concrete. Unlike the other two shows we saw, they did not cover the ground for this show. The stands were temporary metal stands that you would find at a high school football game. The benches did have individual seats, though. A train track ran on the hillside just 50 years from stage left. Several times during the show, a train passed by. People were sitting on the hillside and we wondered if they crashed the show. The standing area was packed all the way around the stands, and when the show started, cameras went up taking pics. No way security could get to these people. There weren't a lot of cameras, though. A lot less security than the previous two shows. The crowd was mostly tame, not such a rousing response to "Back in the USSR". The flames onstage during "Live and Let Die" reminded me of the flames in front of the wizard in the "Wizard of Oz". They shot up at different times from front, back and the side of the stage. At the end, 14 or 15 cannon shots of fireworks filled the sky above the stage. they went off in a cadence: bang . . . bang . . . bang . . . bang . . . bang. The band performance was great. Paul's voice cracked a few times. There were massive crowds trying to get into and out of this show. The subway was very backed up. We grabbed a tram back into the city. I made friends with a 7-foot-tall basketball player going into the show . . . just in case.

It was interesting how the concert went from "In Spite of All the Danger" (tame) to "I've Got a Feeling" and "Helter Skelter" at the end (NOT tame!). At the refrain during "Here Today", Paul repeated "I love you, I love you, I love you" . . . very nice, and better than the ooohs on the recording.

At all three shows, credit cards were not accepted for the merchandise. Cash only. Veteran tour security man Brian Riddle stopped by to visit before the shows when we were up front. I've got to go drinking with this guy one day!

Got to visit with Paul's personal assistant John Hammel and Brian Ray of the band at the Prague hotel. Brian said that "You Won't See Me" is a "handful" on bass. Hard to sing and play that part. At rehearsal, Paul told Brian "that's why you're playing it!" Brian enjoys playing the lead on "Get Back". His normal position in a band is lead guitar but he enjoys the opportunity to play bass, and especially these bass lines! He said they only practiced 11 days for this tour . . . 10 for the 2002 tour. The 1989-90 band practiced seven months before they hit the road! Brian gave us guitar picks and we talked about how scenic Prague is.

For a complete, picture-packed wrap-up of the 2004 tour of Europe, see Beatlefan #149. To find out how to get it, click here.