Paul McCartney Returns to Liverpool's Cavern Club for Intimate Surprise Concert: One Fan's Front-Row View

Sir Paul McCartney
Peter Byrne/PA Images via Getty Images

People outside the Cavern Club in Liverpool before an exclusive Sir Paul McCartney gig.

Paul McCartney announced on his website early Thursday (July 26) that he would return to the Cavern Club in Liverpool that afternoon to play a show back at the historic venue known for The Beatles' many appearances there, and just over 100 lucky fans were in the room to see it all go down.

One of those fans was Mary Anne Laffin of New York City, who tells Billboard she got a call on Tuesday about a possible show and decided to gamble on a flight to Liverpool. “Someone told me he may be doing something in Liverpool on Thursday. Nothing was confirmed. But I said, 'I at least have to try,'” she said. “Multiple planes, multiple delays. I finally got to Liverpool last night.”

Laffin continues: “It was becoming more definite that it was the Cavern, but we didn't know yet how people were getting tickets. I stayed out by the Cavern till 2 o'clock this morning, but there was no one in line. I came back to the hotel, slept for a few hours, then went back out to the line at 6 a.m. By this time there were probably 30 people in line.” But then she heard the tickets would be distributed at Echo Arena, so she headed there by Uber.     

McCartney still hadn't officially announced the show at that point, and she says he was supposed to post at 8 a.m., but nothing. 8:30 a.m. came and went. “I figured I'm just running around like a chicken without a head and I might need to go back to the Cavern," Laffin says. "So I decided to wait until 9 o'clock, and sure enough, he posted then. The Echo Arena gave us all numbered tickets. They were probably done, like, two or three minutes after 10 am. giving out all 110 tickets.” Fans had to show photo ID, and then tickets were printed with their name on it. But some got the news too late.

“All of a sudden, there was like a herd of buffalo running around the corner, and it was all the people who were at the Cavern," she recalls. “They let us in [to the Cavern] at maybe 1:20, and Paul started a little bit after 2 p.m. It was very, very hot and very, very crowded. And it was epic.“ She saw McCartney's daughters Stella and Mary in the crowd.

According to the official set list, McCartney and his band began with a jam then launched into “20 Flight Rock,” the Eddie Cochran song he played when he auditioned for John Lennon to join his then-group The Quarrymen at St. Peter's Church Hall in Liverpool on July 6, 1957. The Cavern set also included “In Spite of All the Danger,” a song originally sung by Lennon that The Quarrymen recorded in 1958. McCartney played four tunes from his yet-unreleased Egypt Station album: “Come On to Me,” “Confidante,” “Who Cares” and “Fuh You.” Laffin says he told little stories about each new song.

Signs on the way into the show forbid taking cell phone pictures or video, but that didn't stop a few fans who got an earful from McCartney. “You were told no pictures, no videos. There were signs all over the place," she says. "And from where I was standing up at the stage, I could see at least three people with their phones out. Paul stopped in the middle of the second song. He scolded people and said, 'You were all told no pictures, no videos,' and then he pointed to four people. He said, 'You and you and you and you.'” For the rest of the show, she says no one dared take out their cameras.

Signs also told fans the show was being professionally recorded and filmed. But while the show he did Monday at Abbey Road Studios was for Spotify, Laffin says the crowd wasn't told for whom this show was being taped.

The two-hour show ended with a string of rockers, culminating with “Helter Skelter.” Laffin says it seemed like the band kept playing one rocker after another at the end. “He just kept going and going and going. When you thought it was over, he would look and turn to the band and say, 'Let's do one more.' And they just kept going. I don't know where he gets his energy.”

Jean Catharell -- a longtime fan who also happened to be at the Cavern in 1999 when McCartney did a one-off show to plug his Run Devil Run album, marking his first time back at the venue since 1963 -- tells Billboard, “Today was more than special. Different band [and] an eclectic mixture of songs go hand in hand with his demeanor and enjoyment of being back at The Cavern. He told stories for all the older songs and he laughed a lot. I love that despite being one of the most famous men on the planet he has never forgotten where he comes from, his roots and the city and people who made him what he is today. His loyalty is humbling.”

Laffin, who was standing right in front of McCartney's mic on the Cavern Club stage, gave the singer a bouquet of flowers as the show ended. “He took them, and as he was holding them, he turned to me and said, 'Thank you, babe,'" as he looked her in the eye, she says.

In the end, it was all worth it. “I spent a fortune on this plane ticket. It took me over 20 hours to get here. And I didn't know if this was really on and if I would even get a ticket. But I just felt like I only live once and if he's playing the Cavern, I want to try. And I was very blessed.”

The full set list, as provided by Paul McCartney's press office:

Twenty Flight Rock
Magical Mystery Tour
All My Loving
Letting Go
Come On to Me
Let Me Roll It
I Got a Feeling
My Valentine
Queenie Eye
Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five
Lady Madonna
In Spite of All the Danger
Things We Said Today
Love Me Do
Who Cares
I Wanna Be Your Man
Fuh You
Get Back
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
Band on the Run
Hi Hi Hi
I Saw Her Standing There
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Helter Skelter