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Paul at the Cavern


Paul formally announced The Cavern Concert on The Michael Parkinson BBC TV Show on Friday December 3rd 1999. In fact, the concert had been hot gossip amongst Beatles fans for some time.


Much forward-planning had been undertaken with Cavern City Tours for several weeks, but it was not until Bill Heckle - a director of The Cavern said: "We knew weeks ago that Paul was going to come here to play, but we were not allowed to say anything about it. It has been the longest few weeks of my life!" Bill went on: "I think it is fantastic news for the city of Liverpool. In a way, Paul playing The Cavern now is bigger than when The Beatles played there; remember that when The Beatles played here, they were famous only locally".


By Sunday December 13th Paul’s advance party had moved into Mathew Street, to take over The Cavern for the next three days. By Monday the street was cut off from the outside world - with the exception of Paul’s entourage coming and going. Even Cavern City Tours personnel were restricted to a handful! MPL were in total control until the end of the gig on Tuesday at midnight - (was this President McCarthy or President Clinton playing The Cavern?!)




One of the more unusual stories of the week prior to the gig was that of an eighteen-year-old Beatles fan who had changed his name by deed poll, just three weeks before. John Lennon - better known to his friends as Ben Lomas - started a twenty-two hour wait on Sunday morning outside the HMV shop in Liverpool, to be first-in-line to receive a form allowing him to join a raffle for 250 tickets for the gig. He was among the 150 people waiting as the shop opened it’s doors. Four other HMV stores - in Birmingham, Glasgow, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Oxford Street, London were also besieged as they each issued 250 forms entitling fans to enter the national draw.




On Tuesday December 14th Paul left London for the fifty-minute flight to Liverpool by private jet, arriving at Speke Airport at 1.30pm. He was taken straight to The Cavern, and later in the day a press conference took place inside The Cavern, in front of the wall which features the names of many of the groups who had played there in the club’s heyday. There were so many people around that members of the press had difficulty getting in to the conference area - Beatles fans had been out and about in Mathew Street from an early hour, hoping to get a glimpse of Paul.


When it came to The Show Of The Century millions of fans - more than 3.5 million internet users - watched the live broadcast on-line. A spokesman for MPL said it was set to be the biggest web cast in internet history. A report on BBC’s Nine o'clock News showed a brief clip of Paul singing: ‘Honey Hush’, and also of the crowds watching the show in Chevase Park, Liverpool. It was estimated that 15,000 people showed up in sub-zero temperatures at the park.


The concert was also broadcast on BBC Radio two from 10.00pm to 12.00 midnight. D.J. Richard Allinson kept the world waiting as he played approximately thirty minutes of Paul’s music before the gig began. The show started with the announcement: "Welcome - with his band - Paul McCartney!" Paul launched into ‘Honey Hush’ before speaking to the crowd: "Welcome to The Cavern; it’s been a long time coming. It’s great to be back".


The show lasted approximately forty minutes and consisted mainly of songs from ‘Run Devil Run’ or, as Richard Allinson called it, ‘Run Don’t Run’!! Paul also played ‘Twenty Flight Rock’ - the song which he taught to John the first time that they met - and ‘Fabulous’; which appears on the single ‘No Other Baby - but not on the album/CD. He brought the house down when he played ‘I Saw Her Standing There’.


During the middle of the gig Paul gave the world some startling information: "You know, this isn’t exactly where The Cavern was. It’s over there somewhere, buried under a heap of rubble. Another brilliant City Council decision!!!" (Boo’s from the audience.) "You know, - ‘let’s fill in The Cavern - that’s a good idea’!!!"


By now the audience was shouting out requests to Paul, and most of the time he took no notice. However, before playing ‘Try Not To Cry’ Paul announced: "This one’s from the nineties; and a drunk in the crowd shouted back ‘Satisfaction!’ Paul responded: "We’ve got a wag in the audience tonight. Read my lips". He silently mouthed "F**K OFF" - to a huge cheer from the entire audience - apart from the drunk, that is!!! (In the TV broadcast this part of the gig was cut!!!)


The show was not without it’s problems - a few seconds into ‘Fabulous’ Paul stopped the band: "Hang on, hang on. You know, with this band if you don’t get it right we start again! - and they got it right the second time. Then, after completing ‘Try Not To Cry’ Paul decided they should play the solo again, (this was also cut for TV.)


After ‘All Shook Up’ Paul said: "I would like to give a special thanks to Bob Wooler; let’s have a big hand for Bob. This next one isn’t from the fifties or from the nineties - it’s from somewhere in between"; and he launched into a blistering version of ‘I Saw Her Standing There’.


The show ended with ‘Party’ and in a second Paul was gone off stage. My feeling about the night is that perhaps the show was directed more at the world media than at the fans.


By Damian Smyth


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