Sunday, July 01, 2007

The Long and Winding Post

On Tuesday night, I got a call from my friend Kara. She books the instore performances at Amoeba, so you can guess correctly that she is one very busy lady. We'd been trying to get together for a while, but the timing never worked out. I was very surprised to hear from her, especially considering that she was instrumental to one of the most talked about shows in town: the Paul McCartney free performance the next evening.

She got down to business: "Can you get out of work tomorrow? I'd love to have your help!" Um, yea... no problem. No brainer!

I showed up at Amoeba at noon on the day of the event (Wednesday 6/27, for those keeping track). I set about to work - following Kara around. Actually, I was meeting people in Paul McCartney's camp who I'd need to follow up with during the course of the day. He had quite a team, as you can imagine. He had this very tall, amusing Scottish guy as the head of his security, and a couple other guys setting up the other aspects: the VIP room (formerly known as the Jazz Room), the green room (they brought their own furniture and drapery) the stage setup, the store setup, the guest/VIP list & laminates... It was crazy. And all of this was being done while the store was open.

At 12:30, the people who had been camped alongside the building since MONDAY (some had gone there simply because they heard a rumor Paul might be playing) were at long last given their wristbands for admittance that night. There were lots of happy whoops and yells, as people had come from places all over the US (and the Globe - Japan represents!) and their wait was finally rewarded with something concrete. Kara said to me later, "They have a real community going out there. On Monday night, they got all Deadwood and started numbering each other's hands and stuff so they could keep track of who got there and when."

Then one of the cashiers poked his head into the back office and said, "Um, Cybill Shepherd is here and wants to talk to a manager." Kara said, "Are you kidding?" Nope. Kara and Karen (one of the owners) went to break the news to her that they couldn't get her in. But she got pissy and is actually quite Amazonian, so Karen gave in. I was instructed to go change the guestlist a little. Luckily for Cybill, a couple people had dropped out.

At 4pm, the store closed. Security made a sweep to clear out any customers trying to stash themselves under racks or in freight elevators (rumors I heard) so that sound check could start. Adrienne, who was also assisting Kara, and I went into the VIP area to find out who was handling who. We were told we would most likely have to help with the VIPs. "Let's go to the loading dock and check out what's going on, " she suggested.

That block of Cahuenga Blvd was a worse than a nightmare that day. Directly across the street from Amoeba is the CNN building, where Paris Hilton was arriving to do her post jail interview with Larry King. The entire sidewalk was packed with photographers. On the Amoeba side of the street were mainly rabid Paul McCartney fans and some photographers, waiting for his limo to arrive. Just as Adrienne and I came out, exactly that happened. The limo pulled into the entrance of the loading dock, and Paul McCartney stepped out and threw his arms wide. "Hello!" he shouted to the crowd, and everybody started screaming. (People in the store could hear it too.) He hugged a couple of fans, and then was escorted up the loading dock ramp into the Jazz Room. He walked in, wearing brown board shorts, a loose white shirt over a white t-shirt and flip flops, and said, "Alright - now let's shoplift!"

Adrienne and I were setting up the lines outside for the press and guestlist (contest winners, Amoeba staff, label people) and running around taking care of little things when the sound check started. Amoeba staff had been told to go about their business as the band didn't want to be too disruptive and needed to practice, but that isn't exactly what happened. Many of the VIPs had been brought in about midway through the sound check, and were standing in front of the stage clapping and cheering. One of Paul's managers said to me, "The sound check is often the best part - they have a lot of fun." There was some goofing around, but it was insane to suddenly hear Paul riff with "The Long and Winding Road" on the piano, a song I'd heard so many times, and to have him stop and say, "That good?"

People outside were climbing up onto the windows, trying to take pictures through the glass. It was about 80 degrees out there, and they were standing on the sidewalk off Sunset Blvd, so the heat was intense. Finally the sound check ended, and we had to clear the floor so we could get ready to let people in. I got on the intercom and started making the announcement: "Anyone with a gold, silver, or pink laminate... please move to the left side of the store. Any press or label people, please move to the right side. The center of the store has been designated for the fans, specifically to the encampment that has been waiting for this moment for 3 days." Yet no one would move. My announcements continued getting snottier and snottier: "If you don't move to the right side of the store, we cannot let in the audience and start the show. If you are having difficulty moving the the right side of the store, we have big security guards who can help you get there. It is on your right, the right side of the store." We still had to physically move about a third of these people, who threw lots of attitude, but finally moved.

It was during this time that I had another celebrity sighting - Jennifer Love Hewitt. I can't stand Jennifer Love Hewitt. I was moving people to their proper places and this girl was making goo-goo eyes at me while snuggling into her boyfriend's arm, clinging to him. That was Jennifer Love Hewitt. I asked them what kind of passes they had and she weakly held up a little wrist to show me her wristband, so I walked them to the VIP area, and I swear to God, she was making cutesy eyes at me the whole time. I seriously think she might have been on ecstasy, it was that weird.

Finally, time to let the crowd in... It was done in groups, as we were being very heavily monitored by the fire marshal, who was there with about 5 officers. When the first group of fans made it in, the entire store burst out into cheers and applause, as these sweaty, sunburned fans had more than earned their place in the front row. There was some chaos during load in, but after an hour and a half (a half hour late due to the assholes who wouldn't move after the sound check), we had everybody in.

There were definitely people trying to sneak in. I was told of outrageous monetary offers the people waiting in line were hearing ($10,000 for a wristband?), as well as all the begging and crying. Of the many notes that got passed through the doors, one insisted that a woman dying of cancer was attending, and could her boyfriend come with her as they will never have this opportunity again? The note was passed up by the supposed boyfriend, and we didn't know who the sick woman was. All these notes were addressed to Paul. An older couple appeared from the garage area, which had been closed off at 4pm. Perhaps they were hiding in their car, but they came up claiming that they had been running an errand for one of Paul's guys, a name the man muttered while pretending to be on his phone. He was wearing a laminate, so I pulled it out of his jacket and it was an embarrassing fake. I made them wait by security so I could find somebody to take them out and the Scot came up. "Do you know these guys?" I said to him. "No, but 'd like to find out." Within seconds, they were on the sidewalk.

A few moments later, there was another unexpected voice behind me. "So, where's the show at?" How were these people coming up from the garage? I turned around right into the face of Woody Harrelson, who was there with Alanis Morrisette and 2 other people. There was the scent of marijuana wafting through the air... I'm not sayin', but Woody and Alanis were a little goofy. I said, "Oh! You should have come through the VIP area. We'll have to go outside." He looked at all the people and said, "Uh, I can't go outside..." I was able to have Annie, our third helper, walk them through the store to the right place.

Finally, at 8pm, the show could begin. Celebs in the audience that I knew about included Rick Rubin, Jeff Lynne standing with Joe Walsh, Twiggy, Rosanna Arquette, Barbara Orbison, Michael Eisner, John Laroquette, and - of course - Cybill Shepherd, who dared to bring even more people than allowed and then threw a hissy fit when she was restricted from letting all her people in.

The Very Very Important People of the evening were Olivia Harrison (widow of George), Barbara Bach and her husband, Ringo Starr. "I can say that I remember Amoeba, because I was there," Paul quipped from the stage. "And you were there too, right?" With that, he pointed at Ringo and the crowd went wild... The two surviving Beatles under the same roof. I'm certain there were tears in the audience at that moment - that was one of the most highly charged crowds I'd ever been in.

There were plenty of tears outside of the store, and lots of begging too. The crowd just kept coming after the store had long been closed off, and about 20 minutes into the show, the cops came. They cleared the sidewalk in front of Amoeba, and hundreds of fans lined up across the street and on either side of the building. The front doors of the store were opened to let in air and let out the music. Those people outside clapped and cheered just as much as the ones on the inside.

Okay, so back to the show.

Paul was the "cute" one, and I guess they were all kinda silly, right? Well, Paul was pretty silly during the whole set. He revisited the past by telling the audience that he could do just about anything up there and they wouldn't care, and then proceeded to lead them all in a gibberish call and response. And you know what? The crowd did it. He also told them all that they looked like the kids in the movie "Village of the Damned" and proceeded to do a zombie walk and stare across the stage. He glanced down at the crowd and said, "No, that won't work - you're all still smiling!"

During "I'll Follow the Sun," he faked the crowd out by ending the song and then repeating the last refrain not once, not twice, not three times, but FOUR times! He sang a quick "happy birthday" (the regular version, not his own) to someone in the front, he made fun of the person crazily shouting out requests, and he got choked up when introducing the song "Here Today." He said it was a song he had written with John in mind, but he supposed that now it could also be dedicated to George and Linda. I can guarantee that moment brought more tears.

Highlights for me included "Blackbird," which was the first song I ever learned on guitar. (I couldn't play it today to save my life, though.) "Hey Jude," "The Long & Winding Road," and "Let It Be" also made me pretty happy. All my hippie friends got nuts over "I've Got A Feeling," and I have to say that track got me to pull out the album and blast it a couple times the next day... But by the end of the show, I was standing on the buy counter (where people trade stuff in) near the front of the store with my Amoeba friends Cliff, Henry and Rick, we all couldn't stop dancing when the band busted out "I Saw Her Standing There."

Afterwards, he retired to the VIP area as we ushered people out. A few Amoeba employees went into the back and met the icon, but the guys noticed he was much chummier with the ladies then he was with them. Well, Amoeba girls are cute, what with all their tattoos and piercings and whatnot. Come on!

Sure, music geeks will argue the qualities of John and George and always delegate Paul as the pop guy. But you know what? Those guys are no longer with us. And yes, they are brilliant. But Paul McCartney ain't chopped liver; remember - he co-wrote most of that stuff. And to hear those songs coming from that voice - just a hundred feet away from me - well, it's an experience I won't ever forget. It was amazing.

So, when all is said and done, here's the setlist:

Drive My Car
Only Mama Knows
Dance Tonight
C Moon
The Long and Winding Road
I'll Follow the Sun
Calico Skies
That Was Me
Here Today
Back in the USSR
Nod Your Head
House of Wax
I've Got A Feeling
Get Back
Hey Jude
Let It Be
Lady Madonna
I Saw Her Standing There

And somewhere in the middle of that, he busted out into "Baby Face" (as in, "you've got the cutest little...") which was a corny piano romp. Ever the vaudevillian, eh?

Check out some killer pics on Amoeba's website here.