Reputations matter in the music industry, and when Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones told Paul McCartney about Missoula, it worked to convince the former Beatle to place the city on his worldwide “Out There” tour.
At least that’s the story floating around the Adams Center at the University of Montana, which announced Monday that McCartney had blacked out Aug. 5 to play Washington-Grizzly Stadium – a stop he’ll make between shows in Minneapolis and Salt Lake City.
“This is a huge deal for us – an international show,” said Brad Murphy, executive director of the Adams Center. “Paul McCartney wanted to play Missoula because of the reputation and the good word put in by Mick Jagger. I think that’s a big part of it.”
Photos hanging on the wall of Murphy’s office still remember the night of Oct. 4, 2006, when the Rolling Stones played to 23,000 fans packed into Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
Not too long ago, Murphy had described the show as a once-in-a-lifetime event that wasn’t likely to repeat itself anytime soon. What he didn’t reveal at the time was the back-channel efforts taking place to bring McCartney to Missoula.
As Murphy tells it, Mike McGinley, an alumnus and the UM entertainment manager, has been working on the effort for six years now. It paid off this week and musical history, it seems, will repeat itself.
“(McGinley) has been trying to get this show for six years and he finally was able to come through,” said Murphy. “If you look at the tour, we’re the smallest population demographic on the list. Most of these stadium shows are 70,000-plus. For us to get Paul McCartney to Washington-Grizzly Stadium is a big deal.”
With the announcement made, Murphy’s team has already launched a series of production meetings to gear up for the show, one that includes massive screens, lasers, fireworks and video content.
Murphy expects to hire 600 workers from UM, including students and temps. Employees from other campus departments will also join the push, including facilities and maintenance, dining services, concessions, athletics and the UM Box Office.
“That doesn’t involve concert support and productions from the tour,” said Murphy. “They have their own production they’ll load in.”
The show will take four to five days to set up and two days to tear down. The production team will order 7,000 chairs for ground-floor seating from a company in Seattle, Spokane or Salt Lake City.
Because the show doesn’t require a stage production as large as the Rolling Stones, which limited seating to 23,000 people, the McCartney show will include 25,000 seats.
“I think this will be a regional event,” Murphy said. “I expect us to draw fans from all of our adjoining states and some Canadian provinces. It is during the tourist season, so it’ll be tough to get hotel rooms.”
Reactions around Missoula came fast once word spread of McCartney’s impending campus performance. The announcement prompted UM President Royce Engstrom to reminisce about his days in the fifth grade when he first heard McCartney on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
By 9 a.m., Murphy’s phones were ringing off the hook as fans sought additional details. He described McCartney – like Jagger – as one of the greatest musical artists of the 20th and 21st centuries.
The deal was struck between McCartney’s tour, AEG Live and UM. The details weren’t disclosed.
“We have to give him a good deal to come here,” Murphy said. “They have to be able to make money. We put a financial package together that attracted Paul, and I think the scenic beauty of Montana helped more than anything else.”
McCartney’s visit serves as a feather in the cap of this small metro and its mid-sized university. The musician who was knighted in England and has won five Grammy Awards, is currently touring Quito, Ecuador, and will jet off for shows in Tokyo and Seoul before heading back stateside.
“This is a great promotion relations tool for us, and it showcases our university,” Murphy said. “In our industry, routing, revenue and relationships are huge. You have to have all three in place to secure shows like this.”
August may go down in the books as one of Missoula’s biggest musical weeks ever. Three days after McCartney plays, ZZ Top and Jeff Beck will perform at Ogren-Allegiance Park on Aug. 8.
Future big acts are possible if the support is there, Murphy said. McCartney is being hosted by the Adams Center and Intercollegiate Athletics. Tickets, which go on sale Friday, May 9, range in price from $49.50 to $250.
“We’re hopeful that Missoula and this region will come out and support this 100 percent,” Murphy said. “If we can show we can do this, people will come back. It’s about that reputation and building that relationship.“
Murphy advised concert-goers to purchase tickets through griztix.com or other GrizTix locations. Tickets sold by individual vendors can’t be verified as being legit.