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Now surely you didn't think that Paul and Band just turned up in Perth on 5 March without a little rehearsal first, did you? Weeks, nay months, of graft (let alone Pledge) went into polishing that New World Tour set.
Mark Lewisohn was among the lucky few attending one of the many prior rehearsals.
PHOTOS: RICHARD HAUGHTOH, DAVID HISCOCK AND KEVIN WESTENBERG
A BURLY, BEARDED MAN in a boiler-suit shuffled slowly across the wide open space of the London Arena, quite unmoved by the sounds reverberating around him. Not a single twitch in time with the beat, not a solitary nod to show that he was moved by the music. It was a miraculous sight.
For the first time I'd come across someone unaffected by 'Drive My Car'.
The day was full of surprises, actually. Paul McCartney and band were rehearsing their socks off for four hours before an audience of about three (one of whom, having just flown the "red eye" across the Atlantic, slept most of the way through the whole thing), the Docklands Light Railway was actually operating, and, to cap it all, I thought I saw someone working in the nearby Canary Wharf tower building.
The London Arena - a newish indoor concert venue which has never before figured in any Sandwich filling - was a great place to be this crisp winter's day in January. Paul & Co had been in private rehearsal there since the Monday, so were approaching the end of the first of three weeks hard at it, and much had already been accomplished. Brian Clarke's fabulous stage paintings (they're almost 34 feet long) were draped at the back, computer-controlled lights were swivelling round and round, the stage was going up and down hydraulically, and Paul had honed the set list to 33 absolute crackers.
When your reporter arrived, The Man On Whom Everything Turns was deep in conversation with a carpenter - an example of just how thorough Mr McCartney is. "No problem too small" seems to be his attitude about going out on tour. It's a gargantuan operation and everything must be right.
Blair Cunningham ambled over for a quick chat. The week had been going very well, he reported, "but Paul will save his voice today". He didn't want to rehearse so much that he'd strain his vocal tubes...he'd probably do only a handful of songs today...there was a long time to go until Australia...he had to take things easy.
Well, if this is what Paul sings like when he's saving his voice, if this is how a man of 50 performs when he's taking it easy, the New World Tour audiences are in for an even greater treat than they're expecting. For four hours he belted out rock and roll, deftly handled the mid-tempos, caroused the ballads and happily jammed away with his band soul-mates. He didn't have time to perform all 33 crackers, but 24 - plus several others not on the list - was bloody good going. As for "preservation" I neither saw nor heard a hint of it. The man is a born Performer...even for an audience of about three.
One could see from the set list -handwritten, photocopied and discreetly distributed - that some painful decisions had already been made. I mean, have you ever considered how difficult it must be for Paul McCartney to cherry-pick 33 songs when he's written, recorded and released something like 500? Out of sheer necessity, worldwide number ones fall alarmingly by the wayside. Whole albums, fine albums, end up overlooked. There's no space to include songs that almost any other artist would commit a right arm for, or that the world hums on its way to work.
On this particular day, curiously, the rehearsal began part way through the set, with 'Let Me Roll It'. That was an instant buzz - not heard in concert since 1976. Then 'Peace In The Neighbourhood'. Revealing a pair of braces, Paul shed his jacket - he was warming to the task. 'Off The Ground'. A Diddleyesque 'I Wanna Be Yo Man' (so written on the set list) gave the band a chance to rock out, and appropriate a cross between the Fabs' original and the Rolling Stones' authorised cover version.
After a short break it was back for 'Drive My Car', with that Hofner bass making an appearance (the 1966 set list is still taped to the back...12 songs indeed!) and that nice chap, incredibly, ambling across the floor without recognising the import of the moment. Then 'Coming Up'. Then 'Get Out Of My Way'.
One thing We Do Not Need To Be Reminded Of is that Paul, Linda, Hamish, Robbie, Wix and Blair know how to make music together. They know how to make it individually too, of course, but together there is an obvious, common understanding. So when they drift into and out of jams together, as is their habit, the result is never less than entertaining. About to perform 'Another Day' - historic: a US #1 that Paul has never even sung live before - the band suddenly zapped into an hilarious cockney version of the song, the like of which Chas and Dave would have been proud. Why did they do it? Who knows. But there's a strong current of humour running through these musicians.
After this, and the real 'Another Day' (featuring some decidedly tasty guitar from Robbie), it was 'Looking For Changes'. And then, straight for the jugular with 'All My Loving'. Guaranteed to bring the house down, the arena down, the stadium down [delete as applicable] on the NWT just as 'Can't Buy Me Love' did on the WT. Sensational. So too will Paperback Writer'. I mean, for goodness sake, here's another worldwide smash from the pen of Paul that he's never done on stage post-Beatles. I thought the performance was hot but the band obviously didn't. Time was spent perfecting the closing bars, and Robbie confided afterwards that it still needs more work. Not so I'd noticed.
Another break followed. Kevin Godley had arrived in the Docklands desertscape clutching a master video-tape