Chantez a bit if you know les mots
By Chris Charlesworth
John did it in Toronto and on the streets of New York. George and Ringo chose Madison Square Gardens but Paul picked on a sleepy French village to get back to the people with his first publicized live debut since 1966.
“Chantez a bit if you know les mots,” said Paul, but very few of the lucky French kids seemed to know the words to “Maybe I’m Amazed.”
Maybe the 200 French fans who witnessed Mccartney’s return to the public platform were too amazed to sing for it was quite amazing to see the man who did so much for British pop music on stage once more.
Four sleeping hippies, two overworked roadies and an old man sweeping up with a broom were all that remained after the concert at Chateauvallon near Touton on Sunday evening.
It was the first time since 1966 that any Beatle had set out on the road in an open setting flanked by rocks and towered over by a small castle on a hillside, the man who wrote some of the most perennial songs of the sixties got up and played some funky rock n roll, aided and abetted by Wings.
Wings, are Paul’s substitute for Rikki and the Redstreaks, the fictitious group Paul wanted the Beatles to play as when Beatlemania reached the proportions and touring had to stop.
It seems as though now he never really wanted the fame that came with being a Beatle; but all he really wanted to do was to come on stage and play something to somebody, no matter what or where. The intricate recording techniques and musical innovations that the Beatles employed in their latter-day phase are a million light years away from Wings.
The crowd who flocked to airports, concerts and everywhere their majesties the Beatles trod won’t trouble Wings. Only a fraction of them will probably buy their records and curiosity is doubtless their main draw. A new rock generation has arrived since the Liverpool-beat and they just may not remember how the four mop-heads from the town changed everything in 1963.
But it is despite what happened then, and not because of it, that McCartney is on the road again.
Wings is a little different from most bands on the road today --- pretty funky, pa problems and generating a feeling they’re enjoying what they’re doing. Their biggest problem, perhaps, is that one of their members just happens to be one of the biggest superstars of the past decade.
On stage, Paul has changed little from the Beatles days. His hair is cropped shot, but he still stands slightly kneed, his backside shaking and his face forced against the mike as if he was licking an ice-cream cone.
He shakes his hips but the kids don’t scream anymore. His voice, whether screaming or singing, is everything it always has been, and his very presence commands a respect – even in France – few others could hope to receive.
And at the same time there’s no doubt that he’s thoroughly enjoying himself. It was difficult to realize that the man on this platform wrote songs which are whistled across the world. One poster – there may have been more but I never saw them – advertised his presence and most of the tickets were sold on the door. A few outlaws climbed over a hill to get a free show from a distance.
The 2,000 who payed were enthusiastic but undiscriminating. McCartney was on stage and he warranted applause, no matter what he did. His main failing seemed to be a complete inability to speak French and only the English present knew what he was talking about for most of the time. He attempted to rectify this during the second half of the show and his attempts were greeted warmly.
Wings’ material is a mixture of the “Ram” and “Wildlife” album, songs from their next album and few gems like “Maybe I’m Amazed” and Denny Laine’s “Say you don’t mind.”
The latter two songs were the highlights of the act. Despite problems with the amplification, McCartney sat at the piano and gave us a lesson on how to sing the single Faces’ have made world-famous. It’s probably the best song he’s written since his partnership with Lennon officially ended and he knows it, too.
Henry McCullough takes the lead solo which all the punch of Ronnie Lane’s version and McCartney’s keyboard tricks were tremendous.
“Say you Don’t mind” gave Denny Laine a chance to use the falsetto voice we haven’t heard since the early days of the Moody Blues. You can’t beat a man at his own song.
Paul swops his bass for six strings for certain numbers but it’s McCullough who supplies most of the lead guitar.
Denny Laine is what used to be known as rhythm guitarist, helping out on the vocal on just about every song. Linda vamps at the keyboard like Graham Nash and chirps in with vocals here and there. Unfortunately, her voice lacks both depth and power, a fact which McCartney must know all too well.
It was brought home demonstratively during Linda’s main number, a new reggae song called “Seaside Lady” which bore a marked resemblance to “Ob La Di Ob La Da.” When Paul announced his mike wasn’t working properly, an American in the audience yelled back “Give it to your missus then.” Right on.
On drums, Denny Seiwell is a tower of strength and with McCartney as bass player, the rhythm section of Wings could become one of the best around. McCartney has received little credit for his bass work but some of his runs and ability to thump along to either rock rhythm or the more complex reggae numbers put him in the Jack Bruce class.
Other numbers in their repertoire included a country version of “Blue Moon of Kentucky” the amazingly banal “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and the title track from their last album which McCartney sang with all the emotion of someone who really cares about what is happening to our wild life.
McCullough had an opportunity to throw out some Clapton-style blues in a new number “Henry’s Blues” which developed into a jam session with Paul playing a bit of lead guitar.
The whole show is backed by a movie screen and films of countryside birds flying, astronauts landing on the moon and waves crashing against rocks are shown throughout the second part of the act. They also have their own lighting system to pick out the individual soloists and a whole lotta brand new gear.
On stage they wear identical black suits with glitter on the lapels – a hark back to the days when Paul and Lennon disagreed over Beatle-stage attire.
In charge of the tour is now bearded John Morris, former manager of the Rainbow, who has put the itinerary together remarkably quickly but who has a million problems a night as a result. “We lost one plane and three cars today but the show started on time,” he proudly told me.
When the concert ended, the usual volatile Continental audience filtered away remarkably quietly when it became apparent Paul had left.