‘Rock in Rio’ opened last Friday with one of the oldest rockers around, as the sun shone down on the ‘Parque da Bela Vista’ and crowds came in their thousands. Michael Reeve from the Algarve, an age-old fan of the legend, joined the crowds in the trek to Lisbon and writes here about the brilliance still exuding from the ever-electric Sir Paul McCartney.
We arrived at the ‘Cidade do Rock’ in the late afternoon and looked around the stands and tents at the myriad attractions on offer, from rock climbing to hair braiding and jesters on stilts to wandering minstrels. To accompany the crowds, as they ambled through the various attractions on offer, there was a steady flow of music, from Indian sitars and Brazilian flutes to rock and dance music in the ‘DJ’ tent. All in all, it made for a busy and vibrant atmosphere, which really did help to get you in the party mood.
The main event started at 9.30, when the ‘warm-up’ to McCartney began. According to the programme notes, Sir Paul had decided not to have a warm-up band because he feels that the period of the change-over leaves audiences feeling flat and allows the atmosphere time to die. He chose, instead, to have a DJ ‘mix’ the sounds of carnival and dance music in a montage of ‘dance through the ages’. It was a colourful mix, with medieval banners coupled with acrobats and modern dance, in the form of a ‘Pan’s People’ dance troupe.
Just when we were wondering what this was all about, the main curtains opened and the band struck up the opening chords of ‘Jet’. The crowd had obviously been waiting to cheer, sing, shout and dance, because, as soon as the first note was struck, it went wild. The place erupted with enthusiasm which hardly stopped for the next two-and-a-half hours. We were treated to a catalogue of the songs for which Paul McCartney is best known. He gave a moving tribute to his friends John and George and, not to leave Ringo out, sang Yellow Submarine with the audience as well. There were two quite special moments in the evening. The first came when he sang Yesterday. The words for this song were written on a car journey from Lisbon to the Algarve, 40 years and a day prior to the concert and had never been sung live by Paul McCartney in Portugal. He officially dedicated the song to Portugal last Friday and sang it on his own, in a moment which the Portuguese would call ‘simpático’.
The second special moment was when he sang Live and Let Die. The drummer asked if the audience was ready for fire and we soon found out why. The opening lines were sung quietly and then the fireworks started, literally. In a breathtaking display, the sky lit up with rockets and explosions, and the stage appeared to be engulfed in flames. The audience went crazy and the band played like demons. It was worth the entry fee just to see this number alone.
Throughout the evening, Sir Paul and the other band members spoke to the crowd in Portuguese. Not being happy to just say ‘olá’ and ‘obrigado’, he tried hard to pronounce some quite difficult words and even had two girls translating his English into Portuguese, on the massive screens by the stage. This endeared him even more to his audience and showed that he was determined to do whatever he could to help everyone there enjoy the evening as much as possible.
Our happy band made their way to the exit around twenty past midnight and, as we got there, the former Beatle yelled to the crowd “OK Lisboa – we’re really gonna rock you now”. The long drive to the Algarve beckoned so we had to leave, but it didn’t matter because we listened to the music all the way to the metro station.
Well done Sir Paul, well done Lisbon and well done to the audience! All three combined to make a wonderful event.