Thursday 18th March - Reporting live from London’s O2 Arena…
Today finds Paul, the band and the team in North Greenwich at a little, under-the-radar location for rehearsals, also known as the O2 Arena. Just months after an electrifying Christmas show that brought 2009 and the 'Good Evening Europe' tour to a close, Paul has returned to the scene. It’s a slightly different sight that will greet Bat Man today though; the seats are empty, the arena is cold, no beer is being served (shame!) and there's not a sellout crowd of 20,000 people screaming their hearts out to some of the world’s most loved tunes.
There is however an arena full of 31 trucks worth of touring equipment, massive video screens, fancy computers, but most importantly, a stage setup with instruments on display, just waiting to be brought to life. Where does the world's biggest rock star rehearse ahead of a monster tour? At a place that's fitting for him - the world's most famous music arena, The O2.
This isn't a normal rehearsal, as this is not a normal tour. Today is the production rehearsal, which means the entire crew get to rehearse their jobs ahead of the opening. The riggers practice putting up the lights and getting the stage up and taking it all down again. The lighting team practice fancy new displays and the sound guys get to play about with some new ideas. Each part of the show needs to be nailed before hitting the road. The final but integral piece of the puzzle goes without saying: Paul. Production rehearsals give Paul the chance to get a feel for how the entire thing will look. Although, this got me thinking… there is one experience Paul will never actually get to enjoy and that's watching the experience that is the Paul McCartney live show.
So, it’s all go down here at the Dome! Paul is weeks out now from the opening night of his new 'Up and Coming Tour'. Final arrangements are being prepared and the entire band and all the crew are assembled together for the first time since the 22nd December, 2009. Spirits are high.
At almost exactly 13:00 the Batmobile arrives and Paul steps out. With little time to spare he heads straight to the stage stopping for quick hellos, hugs and handshakes on the way. When Paul takes to the stage with the band the empty arena comes to life and you can begin to imagine what the new show is going to look like. Paul and the band jam and road test a few new ideas, having to relearn some of his classic tracks at the same time. We won’t give anything away but amongst the team there is a feeling of a genuine excitement and total desire to get going with the tour and let the world share in our excitement.
Right now Paul should be focusing in on the shows but as ever there are a million (slight exaggeration) other questions being asked of him. Paul is very patient with us all and deals with our endless questions distracting him from the job in-hand. In the PR department we are always trying to schedule in interviews and promo shoots for the various projects Paul is working on. Today we interrupt Paul again, this time for a special cover feature that UK leading music magazine, Q Magazine, are putting together on Paul which will hit the shelves in the coming months. More news to follow on that soon. This is no ordinary assignment for the magazine and as such they have sent down their top man, editor-in chief, Paul Rees. Our Paul graciously takes time from today’s rehearsals to have a chat with Q. Earlier in the day Paul visited David Bailey’s studio for the cover shoot, which Paul tells us went very well whilst giving us a spot on impression of one the world’s most famous photographers. At the end of the interview we talk about the fact that every time Paul announces a tour someone in the world writes, ‘This is Paul McCartney’s Final Ever Tour’. He tells us that he always receives a flurry of texts from his friends saying they will have to come and see his show as they don’t want to miss the last one! Paul jokes that it is ‘probably a promoter trying to sell tickets’. For the record, we can confirm this is not Paul’s final tour. I made a note to myself that next time Paul announces a tour he should call it ‘This Is Not The Final Paul McCartney Tour’, although I expect some hack looking for a story somewhere would still manage to interpret that as Paul announcing his last ever tour! After the interview Paul returns to the band to get on with his proper job.
As we leave Paul rocking out on stage something caught my eye above Paul’s head. Hanging over him were two massive fancy looking balls. They looked very cool but I wasn’t quite sure what they were. So I headed to the lighting director’s setup. He explained that they are called ‘Puffer Spheres’. The spheres have images (custom designed by Paul) projected onto them and the results looks surreally awesome. They are hard to describe properly but the audience is in for a treat. With delight I can confirm that the ‘Up and Coming Tour’ boasts the coolest balls in rock n’ roll!
Meanwhile, the backstage offices are a hive of activity. The Paul-related requests from around the world are coming in thick and fast. On a weekly basis we are literally receiving hundreds of requests, but when touring comes around the requests almost double! All around the world dignitaries are asking for meet and greets, celebrities want tickets, fellow rock stars want to say hi, media want passes and the list goes on.
Towards the end of the rehearsal session I return to the main arena to watch what Paul and co are up to. The lights are down and the guys are all looking very serious, reviewing some of the screens. At one moment there is a long pause whilst they are waiting for a new image to appear on the screen and in complete stillness and darkness a famous voice can be heard over the PA system. “Police are looking for a man who has stabbed six people in the eye using a knitting needle… They think he’s following a pattern.” The crew erupts – silence broken. It’s going to be a fun tour!
The next few months are going to be mega. Another manic whirlwind of activity. The team are all set and can’t wait for it.
Keep tuned to PaulMcCartney.com in the coming days to see some exclusive rehearsal images and videos.