Still active on tour, McCartney takes stage for activism, too


Paul McCartney, the activist?

The former Beatle pauses, as if trying the once unlikely image on for size during an interview moments before the start of his first U.S. concert tour since 1990.

For years, the late John Lennon was the former Beatle most associated with social activism.

Paul was always the cute Beatle, the romantic Beatle, the conciliatory Beatle -- and the image stuck as he evolved in the '70s from rock-and-roller to family man.

Rather quietly and dramatically, however, Mr. McCartney and his wife, Linda, have become outspoken advocates in recent years for environmental issues.

Those concerns are an integral part of the new tour, which began with an emotionally charged 2 1/2 -hour performance Wednesday in Las Vegas at the Sam Boyd Silver Bowl stadium.

The tour includes a stop at the Hollywood Bowl, where Mr. McCartney will headline the National Earth Day Concert.

"The strange thing about activism is it's not easy," Mr. McCartney, 50, said backstage at the stadium following the band's sound check.

"It's so much easier for me to go off and hibernate with my money, but I'm now an older guy, one of the planet's elders almost . . . and I figure there is a sort of responsibility to either just tell everyone to 'tune in, drop out, turn on, man,' if that's what you think, or to give them some ideas."

In his case, the information to concertgoers includes a free, 100-page program that outlines the work of three social action groups endorsed by the McCartneys: Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and People for Ethical Treatment of Animals.

The concert also begins with a 10-minute film that combines footage of Mr. McCartney's career with scenes of animals being killed or tortured for commercial or research purposes.

Parts of the footage about animal mistreatment are so strong they cause some members of the audience to gasp or turn their heads.

In one of the most disheartening sequences, an elephant is electrocuted during a demonstration by Thomas Edison to illustrate the power of electricity.

About the scene, Mr. McCartney said: "You go, 'Well, I know where Edison's head was at: "Let's show them how powerful this thing is. Let's even bring down an elephant." '

"And . . . the footage (treated it) like a great accomplishment. But now, it looks sick . . . horrific."

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