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McCartney 45 years live - Part 2: The Eighties and Nineties

It’s raining cats and dogs when I’m heading to Rotterdam in my old '78 Ford Escort. Although it’s late afternoon it’s already dark outside because of the bad weather. But my goal compensates everything: I'm going to see Paul McCartney performing live for the very first time in my life. Going to a concert is always a great experience, but this time it's really special because a dream comes true: Since listening to Wings Over America as a 9-year-old, it's my biggest wish to see him live.

I really thought it would never happen again. His arrest in Japan in 1980, Wings break-up a year later, John Lennon’s death; it all adds that McCartney won’t be touring for almost ten years. Only a few times he has performed in the eighties, like during Live Aid, or as a closing act at the Prince's Trust Concert in 1986.

Video: Long Tall Sally (Prince's Trust, 1986)

I'm not the only one who is excited about McCartney's return to stage. At that time I can’t remember a pop concert receiving so much media attention as this one. McCartney is the talk of the town. Not only because it's his first performance in the Netherlands since 1976, but mainly because it's about an ex-Beatle, whose setlist is dominated by songs from his Beatles repertoire for the first time in his solo career. It’s not a coincidence that it’s called the Get Back Tour. And the fact that he does go on tour again, is a surprise as well:
Friends say ‘What! You’re going out on tour again?’ A look of dismay comes over their faces. They know you’ve got a nice house, a nice life, they can’t see why you want to do it. But you write in isolation, you record in isolation, you release a record in isolation, watch it go up and down in the charts in isolation, listen to it on the radio in isolation. A gig is the other way of doing it, the other pay-off.

Paul McCartney
The approach to this tour is totally different from that of the Wings era. The idea of starting small and building up from scratch, is set aside; Rehearsals go on for weeks, the set list is discussed in detail, nothing will be left by chance. Band members Robbie McIntosh, Hamish Stuart, Paul ‘Wix’, Wickens and Chris Whitten are experienced musicians who, except for Wix, have also contributed to McCartney's last album, Flowers In The Dirt.

Beforehand, I had a kind of Wings concert in mind. But without the acoustic set and the horns section, this gig is totally different: this time Beatles songs like Sgt. Pepper, The Fool On The Hill, Back In The USSR are the highlights of the show; And also for the first time there is this amazing final:
The Abbey Road medley we used to close the show with was a big thing for me. It was kind of my idea to do it because that was the first Beatles album I really listened to. It was great to finish off with the very last thing The Beatles actually put on record.
Paul ‘Wix’ Wickens
Video: Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End

The Get Back tour will be McCartney's biggest and most successful tour, including a record breaking event for over 184,000 people in Rio de Janeiro. As big as this one was, so small will be the next tour. After the success of the acoustic performance for MTV Unplugged, McCartney decided to give six surprise concerts in small venues in Europe, a little tour also to get to know the new drummer Blaire Cunningham. The setlist was based on the one on the MTV-show, so mainly acoustic. The smallest performance was in the tiny Mean Fiddler in London:
People just didn’t expect to be at the Mean Fiddler and looking up McCartney’s nose. It was a nice atmosphere. People were moving aside to let the others get a look, as if it was someone’s front room. It was a special night out. The smallest and the toughest.
Paul ‘Wix’ Wickens
The 1993 New World Tour is the real sequel to the Get Back Tour; The concept is basically the same as its predecessor: many Beatles classics, songs from the latest album Off The Ground and Wings’ biggest successes. A small but valuable change is the return of the acoustic set, like the one during the Wings Over The World tour.

Video: Michelle (live 1993)

After that it's done with touring in the 1990s. In addition to some beneficial concerts, McCartney returns in 1999 with an all starr band consisting of no-one less than Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, Deep Purple drummer Ian Paice, Mick Green and Pete Wingfield. There are two one-off performances to promote the new album Run Devil Run, one in Los Angeles and the other brings him back to an old familiar spot: McCartney ends the millenium in The Cavern in Liverpool:

Video: No Other Baby (live, Cavern 1999)

This is part two of three of a blog series about 45 years McCartney live.
Part 1: Wings
Part 3: The 21st Century

Related Posts:
Macca live: The soundcheck
Macca live: The setlist
Quiz: McCartney in the Nineties

André Homan

André Homan is a Dutch writer and journalist.

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