A Beatle fanatic at a Paul McCartney soundcheck for the first time
By Sara Schmidt
For Meet the Beatle for Real
When you pay half of a month’s paycheck for something, you expect amazing things. I have to admit that I was not disappointed with the Paul McCartney “Hot Sounds” VIP package but I still feel like it was way too expensive and I most likely will never get to do such a thing again.
I decided to write up what happened as a VIP Paul McCartney concert goer because there seems to be some unwritten rule that you aren’t supposed to talk about it with those who don’t go. Actually there seems to be a lot of secrets that go on among the Beatle community. As far as I am concerned, this isn’t a secret! I wanted to know what to expect and couldn’t find any information anywhere. So this is written with the fans who are considering shelling out the big bucks for the once in a lifetime opportunity to see Paul McCartney on a more personal level.
The biggest myth with this whole thing is that only the extremely wealthy can do the VIP package. And yes, you do have to have some money to afford this luxury. However, I found that the majority of people that I met there had never done this before and acknowledge that they will never be able to do it again. Most of them were like me, and middle-class working Americans who decided to treat themselves. Some of them gave up vacations, are making payments on their credit cards, cut back on eating out, etc etc to pay for the VIP package. As for me, I just don’t buy a whole lot of extra things. I don’t spend my money on clothes, make-up, shoes, or things like that. Plus I am single and have no children, so I really do not have extra expenses. So I had enough money tucked away in my savings account to pay for this. It isn’t anything I could afford to do again, but one time was alright. I know there are people who do the VIP thing for Paul’s concerts 5+ times a year. They must be the rich people.
So here is what happens with the VIP package:
A little under a week before the concert, I got a special email that told me where I was to enter and what I needed to bring with me. I needed an ID and my ticket. I was told that I was allowed to bring a “point and shoot camera,” but no memorabilia because Paul would not be signing anything. Right before they let us in, they told us that we couldn’t bring in any food or drink, and that we weren’t allowed to leave once we allowed inside the auditorium. They also informed us that if you had flowers or a gift for Paul, you had to hand it over to the security guards right then and they will get it to Paul (yeah right).
We all lined up and waited to have our bags checked and our tickets scanned. Then we were ushered over to a table where they checked our IDs and we had to sign in. Then we were told that we had to stay inside of the lobby area until told otherwise. In the lobby was a merchandise table that we could buy from, which was nice because you could actually look at the shirts and items without a huge crowd. There were also jugs of water with cucumbers in it to drink. I thought it tasted a little strange. We waited there for well over an hour because “the artist was running late.” It made me laugh that they never once said, “Paul McCartney,” but kept referring to him as “the artist.” It was like they thought a riot would break out if they said his name. I was fortunate to make a friend with a fellow Beatle fan named Pam, and chatting with her made the time go by a lot faster than if I was all alone.
|I took this photo to show how far back from the stage we had to sit. Look at all the empty seats near the stage!|
Finally after a long wait they told us to make two lines (which no one really did) and follow the guards down to the arena. Here is a little known fact (at least I didn’t know it): if you get to go to a sound check, you are not allowed to sit in the front section. You have to sit a whole section back. Yeah, that was disappointing to me. I thought we would be right up front, but instead we were back a little ways. We were still on the floor, but still it wasn’t as close as I had thought. You do not have assigned seats for the soundcheck. It is just first come first seated. Some people stood up, and other sat while we waited some more. Wix (the keyboard player) was the only person out there and he plunked around on the keyboards for about 10 minutes while we sat and waited some more. Finally the rest of the band came out and then the big moment: Paul!!! He started by hugging each of the band members and then they all stood around in a circle and talked and goofed around with some Elvis sunglasses.
Finally Paul got to the microphone and welcomed us to the soundcheck. To look at us, he had to put his hand up above his eyes. Why were we sitting so far from him….I kept wondering. He called us the “soundcheckers.” He explained how he was going to run through a few songs with the band. He talked a bit about Memphis and Carl Perkins and started by singing “Matchbox.” Of course I associate that song with Ringo and it was pretty neat hearing Paul perform it. The he moved onto “Blue Suede Shoes” and everyone started dancing. The soundcheck was sort of a blur in a way. I was trying my best to take it all in, but it was hard to really do. At one point he noticed a girl who had a sign about how it was her birthday and then they played “Birthday.” I held up the “soundcheck” sign I made that said “1K PPL WANT ME 2 MEET U 4 REAL.” I think he saw it, but I don’t think he understood what it meant. He did thank everyone for making signs.
|Paul McCartney at the Memphis Soundcheck Photo copyright: Sara Schmidt|
He played some on the piano and it was really nice. Then he got out his ukulele and played “Ram on,” which was fun to hear. And next he played, “Big Barn Bed.” The Wings album, Red Rose Speedway has always been one of my favorites and I had actually been listening to it in the car the past week, so hearing this song was awesome! It was sounded amazing on the uke! It wasn’t until long after the soundcheck that I learned that Paul has NEVER performed that song live before. I hadn’t looked at the soundcheck set list on purpose, so I didn’t know that he hadn’t been playing that one all along. After playing “Things we Said today,” he then played one of my top favorite McCartney solo songs: Bluebird. Oh I was in heaven!!! The “magic” piano was rolled out and Paul played my mom’s favorite Beatles song, “Lady Madonna.” And that was it! The soundcheck was over. Paul thanked us for coming and told us to enjoy the show. He played many songs, but I just can’t remember them all. Paul looked really good. He was wearing a blue suit jacket that looked similar to the one from the Abbey Road cover. To me he looked a bit younger in person than he has looked in recent photographs. All during the soundcheck he was drinking something that sort of looked like Gatorade. I am not sure what it was, but he was chugging that stuff. It is interesting because he never takes a drink at all during the concerts I have been to.
|Paul playing "Big Barn Bed" on the uke during the Memphis soundcheck||Photo: Sara Schmidt|
They ushered us out of the stage area, but I didn’t want to go. Paul was still up on the stage! There were people just filing out and there I was still mesmerized by the fact that I was in the same room as Paul McCartney! How could I walk out with Paul still right there? A small group of us decided to yell out to Paul before we left, so we screamed out, “We love you Paul!!!” And he turned around and waved at us. I was still craning my neck to see him as I was forced to leave.
We were next moved upstairs for our meal. It was held in a room that was located above the stage. There were glass windows that faced the auditorium and you could see everyone taking their seats while you were eating. We were given our souvenir gift while we were in line for the food. We received a Paul McCartney “Out there” backpack. It is a hiking backpack made out of very heavy material and it has reflective parts as well. We also got a Paul McCartney “Out There” bag that is just like the ones I typically use for my grocery shopping.
|This was the backpack that the VIP package people received. It is really nice!|
I was told that the food was going to just be hors d'oeuvres, but that simply was not true. We had a full meal and one drink. It was vegetarian and mainly was pasta. There was cheesy alfrado, a macaroni dish, mashed potatoes and a variety of cheeses and veggies. For dessert there was ice cream with all sorts of toppings and a chocolate cake. We were given a ticket for one drink from the bar, and there was a variety of beverages to choose from (just don’t ask for a blush wine because the people sure didn’t know what that meant).
After the meal we had to find our way to our floor seats. By this time the pre-show photo were beginning to be shown. The usher who was to help me find my seat could not tell me how to get to it and I was running back and forth trying to find it. But I finally located where I was supposed to be and was able to get ready to see Paul!
Was going to the soundcheck worth it? That is a hard question to ask, because it sure was a lot of money. I had an amazing time and it is something that was worth experiencing. I am glad that I decided to go ahead and do it, because I would regret it if I didn’t. Most likely I wouldn’t do it again unless they add that you actually get to meet Paul and get his autograph or something to the package deal.