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PAUL McCARTNEY IN RED SQUARE

Review by Mark Wiechman

Stars:  Paul McCartney
Director: Mark Haefeli
Audio:  DTS, Dolby 2.0 and 5.1
Features:  See Review
Studio:  A&E Home Video
Length:  180 minutes
Release date:  June 14, 2005

“Well the Ukraine girls really knock me out

They leave the west behind

And Moscow girls really sing and shout

But Georgia's always on my mi-mi-mi-mi-mi-mi-mi-mind…”

Show ***

There are indeed many pretty girls in the former USSR and 100,000 of them and their friends came to this historic concert on May 24, 2003. There are actually two concerts here, the main one in Red Square and a shorter one in St. Petersburg. 

It has been said that if you expect nothing, you will always be surprised, and if you expect nothing good, you will never be disappointed.  Fans of Sir Paul like me will enjoy this DVD, but will be left unsatisfied.

Other reviewers have warned viewers that this is a McCartney DVD so don’t expect too much.  They are right.   Consistency is not necessarily a virtue.  So fans and non-fans alike, I warned you…  

There are many Paul McCartney DVDs out there of varying quality.  Some don’t have his best songs, some are only average performances, but the main complaint is poor video quality, which is inexcusable in this day and age for a wealthy legend that could afford the best.  This is probably the best one I have seen overall, but there are problems.  Will someone please explain why every band in the world that’s any good (and some that are not) have produced wonderfully loud and colorful DVDs with great mixes and extra features, but Sir Paul just can’t buy a good DVD production? 

For example, Paul simply can’t sing the way he used to.  I have always loved "Maybe I’m Amazed" because the piano part is incredibly chromatic and hard to play, and the melody is so lyrical and the words so vulnerable.  Yet he starts it:  "Baby I’m amazed…" Okay, maybe just a flub, but really now...  It is obvious that he can’t reach the high part in the middle and he also lowers parts of other tunes.  Most stars do this merely because their voices get tired and that’s okay.  He plays "Fool on the Hill" much too fast, but then he nails "Yesterday".   The concert opens with an incredibly short version of "Getting Better".  Why the short version? 

There is a ridiculous blurb on the wrapper that also pops up at the beginning of the concert that says that the Beatles did more to bring down communism than any other western institution.  This is stated by a sociologist from Russia who has listened to the Beatles all his life.  I don’t doubt for one minute that the Beatles were the best ambassadors that the English-speaking world could have for the young people of Eastern Europe, and that rock music was a power that nothing on earth could stop.  Thank God for the Beatles, but they did not bring down the Berlin wall or prevent the communists from running amok in Europe.  They did inspire the young people, but then they did that everywhere. 

What an ego, for Sir Paul to put that in his own concert.  Worse, nowhere in the DVD booklet or on the disc itself are the band members listed at all.  This is typical of McCartney, such as his Wingspan DVD in which his daughter interviews him and he even interviews himself in The Real Buddy Holly Story which he narrates!  Can’t he understand that video is not his strong suit?  Didn’t he learn anything from Magical Mystery Tour, which was not magical, had no mystery (except why they made it), and was not much of a tour?

On the other hand, we have someone like Sting, who is also very talented, but always seems to have good people around him, and his Bring on the Night (see review) was a wonderful video release which has aged gracefully. 

Video ***

Better than his other DVDs, and this was definitely a challenge since night was falling during the show, but occasionally there are still splotchy scenes in darkness.  Interestingly though there is more sun for some tunes than others, so obviously they re-arranged the song order after shooting the concert.  Uh, an editor, please?  It’s called “continuity”…

Audio ***

DTS is here, loud and proud, but the mix is mediocre.  The band sounds very tight, and you can hear everything, but the rear channels are rarely used for more than crowd noise and the airplane sounds in “Back in the USSR”. Where is the great audio that is possible with 5.1 and DTS?

Features  **

No meat here at all, just more self-glorification.  Behind the Curtain: Memories of Red Square, which compares the changes in the USSR with the changes in music.  Russia and the Beatles, a Brief Journey.  If you really have nothing better to do there is a Resources page which has websites about changes in Eastern Europe in general.

Summary:

A good buy for fans of Paul, but still lacking compared with concerts put out by other groups.  But then, maybe I should not be amazed, since Paul’s other releases have been so mediocre.  What a shame for the greatest composer of modern times to just not “get” video nor hire experts to help him.

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