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PAUL McCARTNEY:  BACK IN THE U. S.

Review by Mark Wiechman

Stars: Paul McCartney
Director: Mark Haefeli
Audio:  Dolby Surround 2.0 and 5.1, DTS
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Features: See Review
Studio: EMI Distribution
Length: 180 minutes
Release date: November 26, 2002

“Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away

Now it looks as though they're here to stay

Oh, I believe in yesterday…”

Film **1/2

I, for one, am very disappointed in our new millennium so far. No hover cars, computers still crash, many diseases elude cure, and war has returned instead of retreated.  But fortunately, some things have not changed. Paul McCartney can strum a guitar and sing Yesterday, and the song is still as moving now as it was almost thirty years ago. There is not a dry eye in the house when he intones this anthem of unrequited longing. Rock stars often forget how much these songs mean to us. They not only capture a moment in time, but also express things we long to express, and bring forth emotions we may have long since forgotten we had. Every time I hear a Beatles song, I remember playing it for hours and never wanting.  You can take away everything a person has to call their own, but leave him his music, and he will go on.

It is hard to believe that George and John are gone, and Sir Paul McCartney will be 64 soon. We will still need him, and hopefully someone will still feed him. Who else is there, really? Every once in a while the best composer is also the most commercially successful, and no one else is close to the gracefully aging composer of Yesterday, Here There and Everywhere, Let it Be, Hey Jude, Silly Love Songs---do I really have to go on?

This concert sounds fantastic and will satisfy most fans, however, it has some technical shortcomings (see below) and cannot make up its mind whether the show should be the focus or the backstage.

Something that caught my eye right away, and which Paul comments on at the very beginning of the program, is how many young fans are coming to see him. Their screams and signs pledging their undying devotion to the man look like Beatlemania all over again. These young girls do not even remember the John Lennon assassination because they were not born yet! But here is Paul performing his best solo tunes and his best Beatles compositions, many of which neither he nor the Beatles ever performed. As he said in a recent interview, everyone was waiting to see what the next big thing after Beatles would be, and it turned out to be---the Beatles #1 collection.  While his voice is darker and the high notes a little tough, it is still a great performance.

One of the most touching moments is toward the end of the concert, all the tears welling up in the eyes of the audience---and me---to hear the finest composer of modern times sing the best-selling and most-recorded song ever, Yesterday. The song he heard in a dream in 1965 is still just as moving to millions as it was then. It could also be said that the song's success meant McCartney's true ascent in the Beatles and ended their perception of themselves as a white R & B combo.

SONGLIST:  Hello/Goodbye, Jet, All My Loving, Live & Let Die, Coming Up, Blackbird, We Can Work it Out, Here, There, & Everywhere, Eleanor Rigby, Matchbox, Loving Flame, Fool on the Hill, Getting Better, Here Today/Something, Band on the Run, Let Me Roll it, Back in the USSR, My Love, Maybe I'm Amazed, Freedom, Let it Be, Hey Jude, Can't Buy Me Love, Lady Madonna, Long & Winding Road, Yesterday, Sgt. Pepper's (reprise)/The End, I Saw Her Standing There.

Video *

It is hard to believe how poor the video quality is, especially in shots of the audience where the light is poor. It does not ruin the whole show of course, it is just hard to imagine why McCartney---the executive producer-would allow such poor production. When watched after such gorgeously filmed concerts such as the Yes Symphonic or the House of Yes DVDs, you will notice the huge difference. Even the Woodstock DVD looks better!  I can only hope this was done on purpose to give it a "vintage" look.

Audio ***1/2

The Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS presentations are loud and the mix of the instruments and vocals are excellent.  The musicians all sing backup wonderfully.   Not four stars because some of the tunes sound like they are only in stereo, and this may have been caused by the constant interruption of the show with more backstage footage, some of which is shown simultaneously with the concert, to the detriment of both.

Features **

Most of the back stage stuff will only be interesting to die hard fans.  Haven't we seen all this before in a dozen other music DVDs?  The "secret website" which you can access through DVD-ROM is interesting because it has more songs, but why didn't they just put them on the DVD?  And you have to choose "special features" to pick which songs you want.  Why make this difficult?  And of course we have Paul introducing each section of the DVD, an annoying feature of many concerts.

Summary:

If I could have one selfish wish come true, I would want to rediscover the music of Paul McCartney again.  While it has flaws, maybe this DVD will serve as a document of this great performer and introduce his music to many more future fans.  "In the end, the love you take is equal to the love...you make...".