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Paul McCartney still enjoys the thrill of performing

LAS VEGAS — Playing the Beatles card trumps everything: trendiness, chart position, even senior citizenship. That's why Paul McCartney jumped at invitations to open the new Citi Field stadium next month and headline April's indie-rock mecca at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

He overcame any jitters about facing down cutting-edge bands and jaded audiences after his appearance at England's Glastonbury Festival in 2004.

"What had held me up from doing Glastonbury before was that idea that it was so young and so hip," he says, lounging backstage with his girlfriend, Nancy Shevell, before his sold-out concert in April at another youth-centric venue, the Hard Rock Hotel's newly opened The Joint. "But somebody told me about being at Glastonbury one year, wandering around at night and hearing everyone singing Beatles songs around the campfires.

"I said, well, I can do that. If it isn't everyone sitting around campfires singing massively obscure indie songs, then I get it.

"What had held me up from doing Glastonbury before was that idea that it was so young and so hip," he says, lounging backstage with his girlfriend, Nancy Shevell, before his sold-out concert in April at another youth-centric venue, the Hard Rock Hotel's newly opened The Joint. "But somebody told me about being at Glastonbury one year, wandering around at night and hearing everyone singing Beatles songs around the campfires.

"I said, well, I can do that. If it isn't everyone sitting around campfires singing massively obscure indie songs, then I get it. It's just another show."

For fans, a McCartney performance is never just another show, says Billboard touring editor Ray Waddell.

"Any time Paul McCartney hits the stage, it's an event, and the world takes notice," Waddell says. "Very few artists command the kind of global respect as does McCartney. He continues to push his own creative boundaries. It also helps more than a little that he comes off as a genuine person. This combination of music and charisma translates into serious box office."

McCartney's hit-packed set was hailed as the highlight of Coachella's smorgasbord of brand names and rising stars. "I like festivals. I like the vibe. I like the idea of people coming together as a culture."

Though fans can expect a parade of Fab Four hits at his summer shows, there will be no coming together of McCartney and ex-Beatle Ringo Starr, despite rumors of a reunion sparked by their matchup April 4 at the benefit for the David Lynch Foundation.

"I played and sang on (Ringo's) album, new stuff he's putting together, because he asked me," McCartney says. "It was fun. David Lynch asked me to do (the benefit), then somehow asked Ringo, and immediately: Beatles reunion concert! Ay-yi-yi."

His Beatles status has been both a career boost and burden.

"You get fed up being him," he says. "You're always that guy. If I was Bruce Springsteen, I might get fed up being Bruce Springsteen. I might want to be the kid I was growing up, when I didn't have that image to live up to."

His set list indulges fans with Beatles classic Let It Be, Wings hit Band on the Run and solo standout Flaming Pie, but it also has selections from his Electric Arguments album last year with electronica producer Youth under the pseudonym The Fireman.

"If I buy a ticket to a show, I know what I want to hear the band play," he says. "So I start with that: What would I want to hear me play if I was in the audience? Then we start rehearsing stuff I'd like to play or that we haven't done for a while, or never done. That creeps in. We just learned a couple Fireman songs. That's interesting, because they're improvisational and you've almost got to rewrite them into a shape we can all understand. I fancy playing electric guitar, so I work in a couple of excuses for that."

The Fireman allowed McCartney to abandon conventional songwriting structures and "throw it all open." Anonymity freed him from expectations.

"I would shout about, pretend to be a DJ," he says. "It's different, energizing and freeing."

And yet McCartney takes great pride that, at 66, he sold out The Joint in seven seconds, a world record.

"When my name is on the marquee, I'm very happy about it," he says, adding that a quirky sideline "recharges your battery. If you do this all the time, you'd get bored and jaded. I'm not jaded. I still love what I do."

He's scouting for producers, but not a label, as he prepares to record a solo album. His last solo effort, 2007's Memory Almost Full, was released on Starbucks' Hear Music label.

"People like me are just looking for a distributor, and there are so many options," he says. "I've written a bunch of new songs over the last couple of months. I've got a guitar concerto that's cooking in the background, some classical pieces I'm writing."

And he'll make his debut Sept. 9 as "an android" in The Beatles: Rock Band video game. "It's another way to present The Beatles' music," McCartney says. "People don't want to let it go. For me, it's good fun."

McCartney has had some hard times in recent years, starting with first wife Linda's death in 1998. He was shattered when ex-Beatle George Harrison died in 2001, and he weathered a fractious split from Heather Mills. They divorced in 2008.

Such ups and downs are hardly unusual, he insists.

"I'm in the public eye, so you notice my trials and tribulations," he says. "Most people my age have been through similar things. They've lost loved ones. Lots of people have been divorced. You have to try to understand it and move on. It's never easy.

"How do I do it? I remember the good times."

Last Updated: 06/03/09 09:43
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6 people have commented on this story so far. Tell us what you think below.
by Ira Marlowe : Fort Lee , NJ June 15, 2009 4:32 PM EDT (Guest)  click to register
For any Beatle fan as of today in 2009 it just does not get any better than this. I was at the Beatles Shea concert on August 15, 1965 it’s a day I will never forget. The Beatles as a group were like no other. While John and George are no longer here, they are with us in our souls. When Paul and Ringo took the stage together for the first time in almost 40 years at Lynch fundraiser in NYC you felt the presence of John and George there at Radio City. To say who is the best or better than the rest is foolish. John, Paul, George and Ringo became one. One for all , All for one. Paul has kept it alive, and I thank him for that. Needless to say we all miss John and George and as Paul steps foot on the stage at Citi Field , John and George will be there too. I would hope Ringo shares the stage with Paul once again. Paul has influenced my life and my children life’s as well as millions of other people and their children, his music spans generations.. How many performers can make that statement… Not Many! Paul we love you, New York loves you and I thank you for adding another show at Citi Field. A true gentleman looking out for his fans. Ira Marlowe Fort Lee, NJ
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by Gary Grizzle : Dallas, TX June 7, 2009 12:45 PM EDT (Guest)  click to register
The above USA Today article is from page 4D. There is also a shorter article from page 1D that is the Life section headline story. Way to go USA Today....
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by Daniel Sinclair : Strongsville,Ohio U.S.A. June 4, 2009 12:47 PM EDT (Guest)  click to register
I think you make a valid point about Springsteen but I don`t feel that`s what McCartney was trying to convey. Anyway,I think you get your thoughts across just fine and I hope you never feel uncomfortable offering your opinions.
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by The rich and famous : Norwegian Wood June 4, 2009 12:02 PM EDT (Guest)  click to register
Yes, I know. Everybody wants something from him. But I really thought more about the music. The Fireman for instance. McCartney hiding behind a pseydonym to escape the mainstream. He was afraid that album could ruin his career. And Springsteen running away from his hometown in his early days, escaping being trapped in a factory job. He desperately wanted to become a musician. Rich and famous. And then you`re trapped inside a image. Yeah, well, just some reflections really. I don`t have words in English to really get my thoughts across. So I probably should just shut up. :
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by Daniel Sinclair : Strongsville,Ohio U.S.A. June 4, 2009 9:10 AM EDT (Guest)  click to register
Every time McCartney steps past his door he`s being either gawked at, asked to sign an autograph, pose for a cell phone photo, hounded by the press, or asked when he and Ringo[The Beatles] are going to get back together.I don`t think it has anything to do with money. He just happened to mention another star[Springsteen] to get his point across.
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by The rich and famous : Norwegian Wood June 3, 2009 5:50 PM EDT (Guest)  click to register
Well, that image to live up to, McCartney talks about, I have never understood. I belong to a generation that grew up on Springsteen in the early 80`s. What most of us has never figured out, is why he keeps singing and writing songs about poor people, lost souls who can`t affored to pay their bills, when he is stinking rich himself. I sometimes think that all those expectations and pressure that pop stars think people put on them, really is just inside their head. Most people want to become rich, alright, like pop stars, so they can do watever they want to do. Be economically free and you can be whoever you want to be. So what`s about all this pressure about? Being McCartney, being Springsteen? What I expect from these guys, is that they do whatever they want to do, make the music they want to make - because they can affored it ...
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Paul McCartney still enjoys the thrill of performing


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News Summary

He overcame any jitters about facing down cutting-edge bands and jaded audiences