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Paul McCartney & Wings: Rockshow(1980)
Rockshow is a 1980 concert film by Paul McCartney and Wings, filmed during their 1976 North American tour.
For more about Paul McCartney & Wings: Rockshow and the Paul McCartney & Wings: Rockshow Blu-ray release, see Paul McCartney & Wings: Rockshow Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on June 5, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Paul McCartney, Linda McCartney, Denny Laine
» See full cast & crew
Paul McCartney & Wings: Rockshow Blu-ray Review
Or at the very least, Popshow.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, June 5, 2013
When the annals of 20th century popular music are properly notated (no pun intended), there's little doubt that the storied collaboration between John Lennon and Paul McCartney will be at or at least near the top of most lists of the greatest songwriting teams of that era. When the Beatles fell apart in acrimony and mutual epithets, most eyes were on Paul to continue The Beatles' legacy of smart, brilliantly crafted pop tunes, while fans tended to look toward John for more meaningful and perhaps hard edged content. Lennon famously derided Paul's post-Beatles work as something akin to sonic pabulum, and when one listens to perhaps lamentable efforts like "Silly Love Songs" (as self-reflexively ironic as the title may be) or "Let 'Em In" or "Listen to What the Man Said", it's hard to disagree with that assessment. But there's also an equal but opposite reaction to many of these patently banal McCartney tunes: they're often unforgettable (for better or worse), with catchy hooks and (usually) lilting melodies. When McCartney was at the top of his "solo" game (we'll put aside thoughts of Wings as a band for at least a moment), in songs like "Maybe I'm Amazed" or even "My Love", there's little doubt he equaled much of what he had done during The Beatles' heyday. One thing that no one should be able to deny is what an indefatigable live performer McCartney was during this era. Watching Rockshow is an object lesson in a superstar feeding off the energy of huge, arena sized crowds and giving it right back to the masses. McCartney shouts, hoots and delivers a number of quasi-sung "Oh, yeah"'s in a raspy voice as he delights in the nonstop cheers of adoring hordes. Moving through a well modulated set of pre-Wings, Wings and even a few Beatles tunes, McCartney, ever the vision of youth and charm, is an almost hypnotic force through many standout performances caught during Wings' 1976 North American tour.
Eagle Rock Entertainment has gone the deluxe packaging route with Rockshow, offering a handsome DigiBook that comes with a lot of archival photographs as well as a really interesting essay by Paul Gambaccini, the so-called "Professor of Pop". Despite John Lennon's criticisms to the contrary, there's a rather interesting quote of Paul's that starts out this essay:
"We're supposed to making art here. We're not running a store".Gambaccini goes on to state that the proof of that statement is in the "pudding" of the fact that Rockshow took three years to be assembled into its first theatrical cut, not debuting until 1980, some four years after the actual concerts captured on film took place. Gambaccini goes on to recount the project's rather checkered history on home video, including a Betamax (yes, Betamax) release in 1981 and ultimately this uncut version appearing as late as 2013. Gambaccini's thesis is obviously that if Paul were only interested in money, he would have capitalized on the tour by releasing video at the time, instead of waiting so long. If some of Paul's musical offerings frankly seem geared toward selling units rather than crafting timeless art, one has to take Gambaccini at his word, at least with regard to Rockshow.
Gambaccini also makes the salient point that Rockshow captures Paul at a seminal moment in his career. For years after the breakup of The Beatles, Paul refused to perform his Lennon and McCartney classics live, hoping to step out of the immense shadow that oeuvre had created. By 1976, Wings had established itself as its own megaselling force (even if, truth be told, many fans thought of the band as simply Paul's new solo project, with a few hangers on attending the party), and so Paul had a huge inventory of Wings hits he could offer to fans. That, along with perhaps the simple passage of time, also allowed Paul to revisit some Beatles material, and so Rockshow is an important historical document offering live performances of classics that hadn't been heard in concert for well over a decade.
Part of the issue some people had with Wings as a "real" band was the inclusion of Linda McCartney, an addition that seemed to rankle those in pursuit of supposedly pure music and authentic musicianship. There's the oft circulated putative soundboard recording of Linda's isolated voice warbling incoherently (and disastrously out of tune) on several live performances, but there is disputed information as to whether or not it was an actual recording or a hoax perpetrated by someone with an anti-Wings agenda (my personal hunch is that it is in indeed a very real soundboard recording). Aside from Linda, however, there's simply no denying the rest of Wings is A-list material, including former Moody Blues guitarist Denny Laine, young guitar virtuoso Jimmy McCulloch (who died tragically young from a heroin overdose), and drummer and percussionist Joe English. This unusually deep bench is evident throughout Rockshow, especially when Paul steps momentarily away from the spotlight to let the other band members take center stage.
Rockshow's impressive set list includes:
Paul McCartney & Wings: Rockshow Blu-ray, Video Quality
Rockshow is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Eagle Vision (an imprint of Eagle Rock Entertainment) and MPL (Paul's publishing entity) with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.85:1. There are some slightly varying press reports about the source elements utilized for this transfer, with some claiming the original negative, and others being a bit more circumspect. As fans of Rockshow may know, the original theatrical version and subsequent home video releases were edited. This restored, unedited version seems to my eyes to have been sourced from at least two different elements. If that's the case, my hunch is the less stellar looking material must have been sourced from a dupe negative or some intermediate element, for there is indeed some rather marked variation in image quality as even a cursory review of the screenshots accompanying this review will reveal. Generally, given reasonable expectations that this was shot on the fly at live performances (this is not solely the Seattle Kingdome performance, as some have stated—Gambaccini makes that quite clear in his essay) without the high tech wizardry that regularly accompanies today's live concert video fare, things look at least decent, if not overwhelmingly fantastic. The entire video is rather soft, and grain swarms over some of the darker elements. Some unfortunate lighting choices, including lots of red, rob the image of significant fine detail. Some of that red footage is among the most problematic, where mosquito noise also intrudes on top of the already florid grain. But the concert is very well covered by 1970s' standards, and best of all, this was filmed in the pre-MTV era, when, as Gambaccini again quite insightfully states, you actually got to look at the artists in concert videos for more than a nanosecond before yet another hyperactive jump cut intruded.
Paul McCartney & Wings: Rockshow Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Rockshow features both a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix as well as an uncompressed LPCM 2.0 stereo fold down. There's been reportage that the backups for this concert were in fact prerecorded in a relatively early usage of playback technology. Whether or not that's actually the case, the bottom line is that (perhaps for the better), you can barely hear many of the backups (yes, that's a swipe at Linda—my apologies) during many tunes. On the other hand, lead vocals are crystal clear and brilliantly reproduced. There's quite a bit of ambient hall reverb on the 5.1 mix, as well as a more than healthy dose of audience noise. For that reason, some may actually prefer the LPCM track, as it tends to focus the voices quite a bit more (the downside to this is that those dreaded backups are a bit more audible). The 5.1 track offers exceptional separation of the instruments and a really fulsome low end.
Paul McCartney & Wings: Rockshow Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Paul McCartney & Wings: Rockshow Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Rockshow may frankly strike some younger viewers as a bit of a snooze. There's relatively little stagecraft, the lighting array is rather reserved by today's standards, and virtually none of the glitz, glamour and/or manic dance moves and editing that define so much modern concert fare. What there is, however, more than makes up for any perceived deficit in the above categories: Sir Paul McCartney, tearing through 30 fantastic tunes from his Beatles, solo and Wings songbooks. Highly recommended.
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