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A&E Home Video presents
Paul McCartney in Red Square (2005)

"All roads lead to Moscow." 
- Paul McCartney

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: June 14, 2005

Stars: Paul McCartney
Director: Mark Haefeli

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:39m:58s
Release Date: June 14, 2005
UPC: 733961711042
Genre: rock


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B B+BB+ B+

DVD Review

When, a year after Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction shocked America while being sandwiched between scores of ads for erectile dysfunction medications, Paul McCartney was tapped by the NFL as the safe choice for the Super Bowl halftime show, you knew that the Beatles' music had been completely subsumed by the culture against which it rebelled forty years earlier. You say you want a revolution? Well, you know, we all want to change the world. McCartney is now one of the grand old men of popular culture; not to malign his great work with and after the Beatles from the 1960s and 1970s, but quick, can you name a Paul McCartney song from the past twenty-five years? Whatever fondness you may have for him or his music is starting to move into the nostalgia file.

And while no one will wax poetic about the days of the Cold War, there's a way in which McCartney is almost a more relevant figure behind the old Iron Curtain than he is here in the West—on the east side of the Berlin Wall, McCartney remains a figure in the vanguard, one of the crucial pop music icons of the darkest days after World War II, when, if you were a youth in the Soviet Union, playing a Beatles record was considered a disloyal and revolutionary act. It's no surprise, then, that McCartney gets a hero's welcome in Moscow for this concert, which took place in May 2003—he understandably seems to be relishing the adoration, and the teeming Russian crowd clearly worships him, even if the mop top is gone and graying, the songs the stuff of oldies radio and not the top of the charts.

McCartney and his band played for 100,000 in the center of Moscow, and the visuals are striking: there he is, in a red, Pepperesque jacket, the bulbous architecture of the Kremlin as a backdrop, running through a set list that's greeted with screams and cheers and singalongs. (I must say that I was impressed and surprised that so many in the Russian crowd knew all the words to all of McCartney's songs, in English.) And given the waves of love coming to him off of the crowd, it's no great surprise that McCartney seems to be having a terrific time, both on Beatles songs (Yesterday, Hey, Jude) and ones from the Wings years (Band on the Run, Live and Let Die). Unsurprisingly, the most scorching and most appropriate song in the set is Back in the U.S.S.R., which is reprised for the finale; you can't help but wonder what the experience is like for McCartney to put through its paces pieces of relative juvenilia that he's been singing for forty years—it's just plain weird to have a man in his sixties singing lead on I Saw Her Standing There.

Cut between the songs are brief bits of McCartney travelogues (meeting Gorbachev, for instance), with much more time devoted to interviews with Russian historians and intellectuals discussing what a bright beacon the Beatles were through the years of the Cold War. There's no doubting their genuineness, but the same points get drummed into us again and again; without being too callous, yes, they've been through awful decades, but if you're popping this into your DVD player it's probably because you want to hear the music, not snippets of oral Russian history. 

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Contrast is too high most of the time, but it's a pretty reasonable transfer. Also, most of this is brutally overcut—it feels like somebody had the hiccups while working on an Avid, or something.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes
DTSEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Your home theater setup will probably dictate your choice of audio track—the 5.1 offers nice concert atmospherics, though the stereo track is the closest you'll come to the early days of the Beatles' glorious mono.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Music/Song Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Documentaries
2 Featurette(s)
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: If you're more interested in the music than the politics here, in some ways, more rewarding than the feature is a bonus concert (53m:40s) of McCartney and his band in St. Petersburg—the crowd is just as appreciative, and there are a couple of great Beatles songs not included in the Moscow set, among them Penny Lane, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Helter Skelter. Behind the Curtain: Memories of Red Square (05m:57s) is a short video scrapbook; Russia and The Beatles: A Brief Guide (05m:44s) was produced for The History Channel, where this concert was first broadcast. You'll also find a Resource Guide, with URLs for more information on McCartney and his host country.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

You don't know how lucky you are, boy—McCartney gets a rousing reception in a concert that would have been unthinkable decades before. His spirited set is intercut with a little too much gushing from his most ardent Russian fans, but you can't go wrong with a set list like this one.

 


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