Rusty Anderson Afternoon sheds light on life as a rock star, playing with Paul McCartney

Tahoe Onstage
Rusty Anderson ant Todd O’Keefe write the songs for Rusty Anderson Afternoon.

When Chris Farley interviewed Paul McCartney on “Saturday Night Live,” he set the bar exceedingly low for journalists, who when speaking with famous celebrities nonetheless regularly offer up mindless questions.

On assignment for Tahoe Onstage I interviewed Rusty Anderson, who before he joined McCartney’s band was one of the busiest studio guitarists in L.A. He recently released his signature Gibson ES-335 guitar.

Would I channel Farley in that infamous sketch? Let’s see:

Me: “Is that your guitar solo on the Bangles’ “Walk Like an Egyptian?”

Anderson: “I’m not sure if I can remember.”

“Stupid question,” I thought to myself.

Rusty Anderson onstage with Paul McCartney.
Rusty Anderson onstage with Paul McCartney.

But Anderson proved to be as congenial as was Sir Paul on the SNL sketch.

He confided that he had just heard one of his songs, Ricky Martin’s “La Vida Loca,” at the grocery store.

“That was awesome,” I said to myself.

“I’ve recorded with Elton John, Sinead O’Conner, the Wallflowers, Willie Nelson, Santana, Joe Cocker, I can’t think of them all,” Anderson said.

With peers like those, it must have been easy to get some help when Anderson put together his own band. His first album features a rhythm section of drummer Stewart Copeland and McCartney on bass and backup vocals.

Anderson’s band, the Rusty Anderson Afternoon, allows the guitarist the chance to play his own songs and those he’s written with band mate Todd O’Keefe. The band, which plays Saturday at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe, also includes bassist Matt McKenna and drummer Eric Gardner.

“I am always writing tunes and melodies and lyrics and riffs,” said Anderson, who last summer released the album “Rusty Anderson Afternoon EP II,” recorded in his home studio. “Working with Paul has inspired me because he wears a lot of hats and he’s been doing it for so many years,” he said.  “It’s sort of seamless from going from rock star to family guy to business person and all of that stuff.”

The Hard Rock’s music venue “Vinyl” contrasts to the stadiums all across the globe where Anderson has played with McCartney.

“With Paul we’ve done gigantic places like the Super Bowl and Olympics and stuff like that and we’ve also done little clubs and we’ve done some club sizes with my group and we’ve done bigger venues opening for other groups,” he said. “I’ve always said the hardest audience is one person. The more people you get, there is a certain energy that happens. But it’s all exciting because playing music is fun and that’s what us musician people live to do.”

The Beatles’ final live concert was at Candlestick Park, which last fall had its last music show before the San Francisco stadium was torn down. It was the Paul McCartney Band.

McCartney told Anderson it was a challenge being a Beatle on tour.

“They were told, ‘Guys, for your safety were going to put you in an armored car,’ and in an armored car there’s no seats, no windows or handles so they were just flying around like ping pong balls in the ocean,” Anderson said. “In those archaic days of touring, they didn’t even have (audio) monitors. For them it was probably nice to be done with that, as much I am sure they enjoyed the buzz of having people screaming but with that you can’t hear the kick drum or the instruments and your voice is coming back at you over the screaming. It would be really hard to do what you do.”

In April, Anderson will join up with McCartney for a tour with shows in Asia and Europe before returning to the United States for more shows.

South America has the most enthusiastic music fans, Scandinavia the most cerebral. Japan, Anderson said, is unlike any other country in which to perform. McCartney famously once was held nine days in a Japanese jail for allegations of marijuana possession.

The comment spurred my inner Chris Farley once again.

“Paul doesn’t mind going back to Japan?”

“I think he’s got that route sort of figured out these days,” Anderson said.

… That was awesome.

  • Rusty Anderson Afternoon
    When: 9 p.m. Saturday, March 21
    Where: Hard Rock Hotel & Casino’s Vinyl
    Tickets: $25

ABOUT Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons
Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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