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what this evening is all about, giving young musicians like this an opportunity."
Without a hint of being nervous, the young Russian plays. The leaf wafts. Cheers punctuate the applause. A tsar is born.
And after that somebody keeps turning the volume up and up in the plaudits department as peals and shouts greet every performance: hand-chafmg clapping for Sally Burgess; well-hard reaction for Willard White and whooping, no less, for Elvis's songs from The Juliet Letters.
By the time that Paul made his debut, with Elvis on 'The One After 909', the landed and ladied were proving that, head-for-head, they could rival the Maracana Stadium for reaction (except that they kept their clothes on), and if they'd held up lighters during 'For No One', 'Eleanor Rigby' and 'Yesterday' I wouldn't have been the least surprised.
And why not? There was 30 years exactly of classical music here: from A Leaf back to Paul's first flirtation with the form in 'Yesterday'. It was, as The Sunday Times wrote a few days later, "wonderful... McCartney's compositions and songs are tender, lyrical and thoroughly musical. Pop music, without heavy electric guitars but with violins and cello, works beautifully."
"Well," said Bill Flanagan, after I read him that a few more days later, "the guy who wrote that just had ears. You'd have to be deaf not to have had the same reaction; it was wonderful music and a tremendous evening."
Another man with ears plainly agreed, and - as the music ended - he, HRH, took to the stage and put the royal seal of approval on the night by awarding Paul the Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Music, the highest award of Britain's premier musical establishment.
With it came a citation from Prince Charles: "[This is] in recognition of the remarkable talents of Paul McCartney and for all he's done for music this century. The music he wrote with John Lennon never fails to be as good as it always was."
I've been thinking about this and, loathe as I am to want to correct the Prince of Wales, the occasion of Paul performing - and having his work performed - at a royal palace is not just recognition of what's he done for music this century, it's also for what he's doing for it.
The real joy of this evening was not to hear 'Yesterday' but to hear 'Yesterday' alongside A Leaf - because we are looking here at a man's span, and this evening and these times are seminal times within that span as it widens far beyond what anyone expected when they first heard 'Yesterday'. Musically, Paul is evolving at an extraordinary rate and not to a pattern that has been recognised before.
Because this evolution - through themeing The Family Way to Daumier's Law, 'Save The Child' and A Leaf and all the while alongside his rock and roll - does not have an established tradition to it, we're not yet versed in understanding it, and there's a tendency for people to clutch at that with which they are the most familiar. That's why musicians who have ever dared to be different have forever been plagued by critics saying 'this period or that time was better.
Of course, what we are really saying when we say that we preferred The Beatles Years or The Wings Period is "I preferred being young". In my mind, that is the whole basis of musical criticism - a constant Dorian Gray obsession, that those then were the best days of our life.
And yet these are the best days of our life, in that now is the only time we can make change for the better. This night in St James's Palace, with the premiere of A Leaf, Paul started changes that will, I suspect, see that those looking for the best days should look ahead.