On November 29th, 2001, George Harrison was taken to the next place. Before he left us Paul had very intimate moments with him. They spoke, laughed, cried and Paul held his hand and told him of his love. He had gotten a chance with this childhood friend, former band member who shared the most intense moments that any human could on the planet.
He hadn’t had the same chance with John, and for this I’m sure he was quite happy to have had the chance to straighten any rough spots out with George before his death.
George also, with Yoko and Ringo, allowed for the progress of the remastering and remixing all of the “Let it Be” tapes beginning in 2002. The final result would be a two disc set called “Let It Be Naked.” The first disc was the album Paul had envisioned back in 1970, stripped of all of the Phil Spector gloss and excess.
The second disc was a single track called “Fly On The Wall.” This 30 minute track was short musical bits, conversation etc…. The 2021 Peter Jackson movie I think will be in this spirit, showing the fun and unity that the original film and album couldn’t.
For Super Bowl XXXVI (36), Paul agreed to participate in the pre-game gala of the Rams/Patriots clash.
He had a slight change in his band, as multi-talented Brian Ray (worked with Etta James/Smokey Robinson) was suggested by drummer Abe to replace Gabe Dixon.
Gabe had begun to record a solo album (which Paul helped out on) and decided to leave the working arrangement with Paul. He did this under good circumstances, but one wonders why? Brian Ray continues to play with Paul on every tour and nearly every album to this day.
McCartney and his band were the last of the pre-game ceremony artists to perform and he delivered an inspired “Freedom” to the New Orleans Superdome crowd.
With Ray now in the touring band, rehearsals were in order for the first leg of 2002 tours, “Driving USA Tour.”
Paul “Wix” Wickens returned on keyboards and is credited as Musical Director.
New to the fold were Rusty Anderson, Brian Ray, and Abe Laboriel Jr.
Paul McCartney’s then-fiancée Heather Mills accompanied him on the tour and was in the audience for every American performance.
The tour began on April 1, 2002 when the American leg was kicked off in Oakland, California.
The official release chronicling the first U.S. leg of the tour was the CD and DVD Back in the U.S., which itself would be promoted by another leg in the States.
The second American leg was followed by visits to Mexico and Japan. A remix of The Fireman tracks and a performance by Cirque du Soleil opened each show.
I saw the next to last show (May 17th) in Ft. Lauderdale National Car Rental Center. I went with my sister, Mary Pontek, and while it was supposed to be the last show, he added another on the 18th due to sold out ticket sales.
We went and had a blast. He and the new band were great, but the crowd really only got fired up for the older songs, with the DRIVING RAIN tracks seemingly an invitation to the concession stands of rest rooms.
On June 3rd Paul performed with many other superstars at the “Party At The Palace.” He performed “Blackbird” and then went into a spontaneous version of “Her Majesty.”
On June 11th, Paul married Heather Mills at Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland.
Paul assisted a track with Lulu, called “Inside Thing (Let ‘Em in)” which was a mass of the two songs with Paul scating vocally in the background.
STANDING STONE was performed again twice in 2002. First, June 29th in Switzerland and then again, November 1st in Tel Aviv, Israel.
On September 18th he appeared again at the 2nd Adopt-A-Minefield Gala in Los Angeles. This is a charity which Heather was heavily invested in. Brian Wilson also performed solo and with Paul.
His paintings were exhibited in Liverpool from May 24th- August 4th called “The Art Of Paul McCartney.”
Paul went back on the road again, starting on September 21st, calling this leg “Back In USA.” It was sponsored by Lexus and visited cities and venues he hadn’t earlier that year. They perfumed 23 shows, before heading to do three shows in Mexico and five shows in Japan.
On November 29th, he assembled with a variety of superstars for “A Concert Of George.” Performing at Royal Albert Hall in London, the concert was a tribute to George, from those that loved and worked with George through the years.
On the 29th November 2002, one year to the day that George left us, his closest friends gathered to celebrate his life in the only way they knew how – by playing his music.
The first half of the show provided an insight into George’s spiritual self as Anoushka Shankar and a 16-piece orchestra of Indian musicians performed a special composition by her father and George’s mentor, Ravi Shankar. The piece was entitled “Arpan”, which means offering. Within the piece Ravi expresses aspects of George’s moods and spiritual aspirations. “Arpan” includes Eric Clapton playing a haunting acoustic solo.
The second half gave the audience a rare sighting of members of the Monty Python team performing some of George’s favorite skits, including participation from a surprise guest. This was a tribute to George’s well-known sense of humor.
The night then moved to Eric and friends giving the performance of their lives singing George’s songs. All the musicians that George worked with over the years, from The Beatles to the Traveling Wilburys, dedicating their time to learn the songs and perform them as a tribute to their dear friend.
Eric Clapton led the band with Jeff Lynne singing “I Want To Tell You”, “Inner Light” and “Give Me Love”. Jools Holland and Sam Brown gave “Horse To The Water” its first live outing. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers gave a particularly resounding performance of “Taxman” as well as “I Need You” and the Wilbury’s number, “Handle With Care”.
Ringo Starr caught everyone with a tear in their eye with a rendition of “Photograph”, a composition he wrote with George, which seemed to sum up how everyone felt.
Paul treated everyone to a little bit of Ukulele – one of George’s favorite instruments and joined Eric and band for “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “For You Blue”.
Billy Preston had everyone out of their seats and singing along with “My Sweet Lord”. The band then came together to give a rousing version of “Wah-Wah”
Joe Brown closed the evening with the old standard; “I’ll See You In My Dreams”, a loving and appropriate sentiment.
Finally, on November 11th, Paul released another live album, BACK IN THE U.S.A.
Next, other songs recorded during this period that weren’t on DRIVING RAIN and on to 2003…..