The average Paul McCartney concert in 2017 features about 37 songs that cover six decades of music he wrote and performed with the Quarrymen, the Beatles, Wings and his solo work, and it all lasts nearly three hours. But these are not facts that impress the 75-year-old performer, who has the endurance of a man half his age. “I’ve been doing it for a long time, so my body’s used to this,” he says with a laugh.
McCartney is in an affable mood when he phones up Rolling Stone while taking a drive in England this past May. “Hello, this is Paul. … Paul McCartney. You’re expecting a call from me?” he says nonchalantly.
This week, the singer-songwriter launches a new North American leg of his One on One tour, which he kicked off last year. That tour name, One on One, he explains, says everything about what he hopes to accomplish on the tour. “The truth is that when I do the show, I feel like I’m kind of talking to someone like me in the audience,” he says. “So I’m relating to the people. And when I’m playing, I’m imagining it’s me listening to this band, this guy. People have said in reviews that even though we’re playing in a great big arena, there’s a very intimate quality about it with the screens we use and the way we use them. Even though you’re at the back of the hall, we try and bring the intimacy to you. So, like I say, it’s me, one-on-one, with every member of the audience.”
It’s a closeness that he says he doesn’t take for granted, and over the course of a half-hour interview, he explains how that feeling keeps him on the road.
What should fans expect from the upcoming tour?
Hopefully a rollicking evening out. … That’s all I can try and do. We show up and we try and have a good time and give the people a good time. Because I know what it’s like to be in the audience.
Will you be doing anything different on this leg of the One on One tour?
Basically, we’re doing the One on One show, and we’ve just jigged it around a little bit. It’s a refreshed version of it. And most of the places we’re going to, we haven’t actually played [on previous legs], so they haven’t seen One on One.
You’ve always characterized yourself as a competitive person. Are you competitive with touring – putting on the best show, the best staging and whatnot?
I think everyone, when they do a job, tries to be the best they can. So yeah, I guess I’m competitive. Not in a crazy way: If someone does better than us, I don’t go home and cry. But it’s just a natural thing.
In the Beatles, we always tried to be the best band in Liverpool. Then we tried to be the best band in England. Then we tried to be the best in the world. It’s just an instinct. But I think what you have to think of, really, is what if you didn’t think like that? Then you’re going to get sloppy. You’re going to think, “Does it matter? I’ll just do a bunch of shit tonight and no one will mind.” So I just like to put it in and don’t phone it in. I suppose that ends up making me competitive.
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