Sir Paul McCartney opens his Australian/New Zealand One On One tour tonight at NIB Stadium in Perth, but on Thursday at the Regal Theatre 10 lucky competition winners plus their fortunate guests (and equally fortunate select media) were treated to a Fan Q+A and intimate performance.
McCartney was lightly quizzed by the competition winners, many of whom had clearly waited a lifetime to ask a question of the Beatles’ legend. The make-up of the group spanned the generations, from a father-and-(9-year-old)-son decked out in blue Sgt Pepper’s uniforms, to those of grandparent age and everything in between. The common denominator being they were all absolutely chuffed.
(This correspondent and fellow Around The Sound writer, Polly Coufos, both attended McCartney’s media gathering at Subiaco Oval back in 1993. For each, it was our first press conference and to be in this scenario again, almost 25 years later, was a grateful experience not lost on either of us).
McCartney was surprisingly open about what keeps him energised to perform and write songs at the age of 75.
“Sex and drugs,” he quipped, with a wry smile.
“You know what? It’s just that I love it. From the age of 14, when I wrote my first song, it’s just that magical thing where you write a song and you’ve got nothing and you suddenly produce a rabbit from a hat. It feels really good; then you get addicted to that feeling and then you perform it in front of an audience, and you get addicted to that, too.
“I think that I love it so much that’s why I keep doing it and that’s what gives me the energy.”
With 50 years of hit (and historic) songwriting behind him it’s a rich catalogue to mine when it comes to creating setlists to take out on tour. McCartney says they are very much curated with his audience in mind.
“We decide on a setlist pretty much before we go out on tour and that stays more or less the same throughout the tour,” he noted, “but if we do two nights at a place, some of the fans come to both shows, so we’ll switch it up a little bit the second night.
“Mainly though, with the setlist, I’ll sit down and think, ‘if I was going to our show, what would I wanna see him do?’ That’s the start of the list then we go through it and we put in some songs that we would like to do for people. It’s basically to please the audience and I’m not ashamed to say that, because they pay good money to come see a show. And I remember, when I was a kid, I’d go to shows and some of them would be a bit disappointing and I’d think ‘oh, there’s goes my pocket money’. So we don’t vary it from place to place, really.
“One thing I do that is a variation is I try to, in a foreign country, learn a few bits of the language. So that’s crazy, I’m sitting for an hour in the dressing room before we go on and I’m learning Brazilian or Italian phrases. But that’s the only variation pretty much the set is, er, set. That’s why it’s called a set!”
When prompted by Q+A moderator Simon Collins (The West Australian) if that particular Q+A winner had any requests, the response was shy, yet immediate. ‘Hey Jude?’…
“You know what, I think we might do that one,” McCartney replied to much good-natured laughter. “I’ll think about it!”
Taking time out from rehearsals, McCartney was incredibly generous with his audience at this Q+A event, conducted by Frontier Touring in what was a rare fan experience that won’t be repeated on this tour. He shook hands with all in attendance, and the quiz session was followed by an intimate set that ferried through favourites such as Drive My Car, Junior’s Farm, I’ve Got A Feeling, I’ve Just Seen A Face and Lady Madonna (run-throughs of With A Little Luck and San Francisco Bay Blues could be heard behind the walls prior to us entering) all to an audience which consisted of the first three rows of an otherwise empty Regal Theatre.
McCartney last toured Australia in 1993. His storied career, has, in recent years, included collaborations with Dave Grohl and Kanye West, but as ever he proves it all on the road. When his One On One tour wraps up in New Zealand later this month, he will have visited 16 countries.
“I don’t need to go touring,” McCartney replied when asked why he still hits the road. “The answer is, and I’ve heard Ringo say it, ‘it’s what we do’.”
Paul McCartney’s Australian tour opens at NIB Stadium, Perth, tonight, Saturday, December 2, before going on to Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney and Auckland. Bookings via Ticketmaster.com.au.