From Stella McCartney’s perspective, spending a weekend in her famous father’s hometown of Liverpool seems as unremarkable as Northern England’s weather—and as normal as any what’s-on-the-telly family gathering. “It’s just catching up, really,” is the way she nonchalantly describes the typical goings-on at Sir Paul McCartney’s house on the Wirral Peninsula, where assorted relatives gather. “You take the fame element out, it’s where my family grew up,” she says. But the fabulousness of what might seem routine to her was amplified to a spine-tingling degree recently when Liverpool, dubbed the European Capital of Culture 2008, hosted a McCartney doubleheader: a Stella fashion show at her father’s old high school, now the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, followed by a Sir Paul concert at the Anfield soccer stadium—his first performance in five years in a city with as many reminders of him and the Beatles as there are traffic signs. (Penny Lane, hello!) “I wouldn’t say I’m double-billing. I think I’m the supporting act,” demurs the designing daughter.
Considering the context, she’s got a point. Stella utters these remarks on the stage at Anfield as Dad does a sound check, only hours before some 36,000 fans will flood in for the Liverpool Sound concert. But even this is a family affair. Stella and her husband, furniture manufacturer and dealer Alasdhair Willis, came in a van loaded with their three kids, a nanny and three sets of fluorescent yellow child-size ear protectors still in their packages.
Swaying on a speaker in a cream blazer, black jeans and leopard-print flats (synthetic, of course, in accordance with her staunch animal-rights beliefs), Stella has her older son, three-year-old Miller, perched on her knee, as Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl helps pound out “Back in the U.S.S.R.” while scenes of Communist-era parades play out behind him on a giant screen. “You should definitely work two drummers into the next tour,” Stella suggests to her dad during a break. While Paul’s young daughter Beatrice (with ex-wife Heather Mills) chases a pink balloon around the stage, Miller, dressed in a navy peacoat, calls out, “Granddad, ‘Yellow Submarine’!” And, of course, Granddad obliges. “We’ve got a request here,” he says into the mic, looking at his grandson. Stella pulls out a small video camera and records the moment as Paul and company start singing, “In the town where I was born…”
Not wanting to leave her younger ones out of the action, Stella returns to the van, where she straps on a forward-facing baby carrier for five-month-old Beckett and clamps a pair of earphones on his head, saying, “Rock on, baby.” Backstage, with his wide-eyed stare and protective gear, Beckett looks like a Cabbage Patch roadie. While few people can imagine casually minding the kiddies only steps away from a bona fide living music legend, it’s old hat to Stella. “When you’re a kid, that’s just what Dad does,” she says, toying with Beckett’s tiny fingers while the nanny comforts his 16-month-old sister, Bailey. “But now, when you get older, you realize how cool he is. I’m very proud of him, obviously.”