A&E // 2005 // 160 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dennis Prince (Retired) // September 19th, 2005
Well the Ukraine girls really knock me out,
they leave the West behind,
and Moscow girls make me sing and shout,
that Georgia's always on my my-my-my-my-my-my-my-my mind...
Long gone are the days where young girls screeched and cried and young men even found themselves emotionally overcome by the four lads from Liverpool who unwittingly transformed popular music forever. Still, the music of The Beatles is still as captivating, as creative, and perhaps as controversial as ever it was (in some places on this Earth, anyway). After the band broke up in 1970 and John, Paul, George, and Ringo went their separate ways, their adoring public never wandered and their enduring popularity never waned. John and Yoko continued to record their own brand of "enlightened" rock while marching for the stop of war and furtherance of civil rights. Struggles with substance abuse and the strain of his connection to Yoko eventually subsided and gave rise to 1980's "Starting Over," just when John was shot and killed outside his New York apartment building. George delved deeper into Eastern mysticism while crafting some incredibly inspired recordings of his own, while also raising awareness of starving third-world civilizations, most notably Bangladesh. The very private Beatle ultimately moved back into Top 40 stardom with his album, "Cloud Nine," as well as with the multi-starred combo, The Traveling Wilburys. He succumbed to a battle with cancer in 2001. Ringo recorded as well and enjoyed numerous hits spawned from his 1974 self-titled LP, "Ringo." He pursued acting and married voluptuous Barbara Bach after the two met on the set of 1981's Caveman. And then there's Paul.
Forever considered the "cute Beatle," Paul has maintained a position at the top of the charts, both from his solo work immediately following the break up as well as well into the 1980s with his work with his new band, Wings. In 1995, likely very much as a result of Paul's chiding, the three then-surviving Beatles reunited to chronicle The Beatles Anthology, a mega-media event that spawned three double-CDs, three two-hour TV specials, and over ten hours of extended home video material (oh, and a very, very large book, too). The highlight of it all, besides gaining a peek into the private past of the Beatles through rare archive materials, was the actual reuniting of the four Beatles through some demo tapes from John and which would ultimately be released as two new Beatle songs, "Free as a Bird" and "Real Love." Fifth Beatle George Martin was along again to oversee production matters, and the Beatles were again back on top.
Seeing the sustained popularity in the Beatles music as well as to keep interest alive in his newest work, Sir Paul McCartney continued to record and tour, adding a host of classic Beatle tunes to his set lists. His "Back in the U.S.A" tour of 2002 was a nationwide sellout, and his subsequent "Driving Rain" tour of 2003 was a likewise smash across America and elsewhere. Most notable of that tour, though, was the inclusion of shows in the hitherto banned region of Russia. Considered dangerous and despised during the 1960s, the Beatles and their music were forbidden commodities within the Communist stronghold, relegating any material pertaining to the Feared Four as underground contraband. Here, though, "Mac" has ventured inside Russia with his new band; his new life companion, Heather (Linda sadly passed away in 1998); and played two rousing shows the like that the Russian people have never seen and have likely never forgotten. This new DVD, Paul McCartney in Red Square, captures the performances from the historic Moscow show as well as the added St. Petersburg gig in all their energy and enthusiasm like only McCartney can deliver. Although he's now 63 (and soon to reach that lyrical "when I'm sixty-four" milestone), the ex-Beatle seems to have energy to spare. He carted along his impressive sound system and sometimes oppressive multimedia stage set and rocked Russia until the cows came home.
Back in the U.S...back in the U.S...back in the U.S.S.R.!
This new DVD captures the first concert, that of Red Square, Moscow, as televised by A&E television in 2003. The over 100,000 people in attendance, including Russia President Vladimir Putin, were on their feet and dancing in the streets, literally. The multi-camera event delivers 20 songs culled from the Beatles' raucous emergence through the Wings era and into current McCartney material. Mac's voice is impressively strong and stable, seeming barely to have slipped over 40 years of performing. Sure, he's looking older (and the constantly quick-cutting camera seems to betray a self-consciousness of this perfectly acceptable reality), but he's moving like he always has. It's a rousing performance and one that will appeal to all ages -- especially since we are all quite familiar with practically every tune. The only distracting feature to this show is how the selected performances are presented out of order, some performed in the daylight and some after dark, occasionally switching back and forth between the overall time span. Moreover, in between each song is an interview segment featuring long-time Russian fans, journalists, and a bit of Paul's tour of the country, all of which is interesting but needlessly interrupts the natural flow and energy of a show presented from start to end. In this show, you'll be treated to the following performances:
* It's Getting Better (excerpt)
* Band on the Run
* Can't Buy Me Love
* Two of Us
* I Saw Her Standing There
* We Can Work It Out
* I've Just Seen a Face
* Live and Let Die
* Let 'Em In (incorrectly noted on the insert as "Someone's Knocking on the Door")
* Fool On the Hill
* Thing We Said Today (incorrectly noted on the insert as "Every Little Thing She Does")
* Maybe I'm Amazed
* Back in the U.S.S.R.
* Calico Skies
* Hey Jude
* She's Leaving Home
* Let It Be
* Back in the U.S.S.R. (reprise)
The second (and bonus) performance found on this disc is the St. Petersburg show where we're shown an additional 12 songs, each different than those from the Red Square show, save for the welcome repeat of "Back in the U.S.S.R." Both times, the Russian crowds erupt in applause and appreciation to the extent that it simply must be seen to be appreciated. Presented from this show are the following performances:
* Got to Get You Into My Life
* Flaming Pie
* Let Me Roll It
* Drive My Car
* Penny Lane
* Get Back
* Back in the U.S.S.R
* I've Got a Feeling
* Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band/The End
* Helter Skelter
Both shows, captured on one single-sided DVD, are presented in a 1.33:1 full frame format. The image quality is quite impressive, displaying sharp detail and rich color (especially the red of Mac's long-sleeved shirt and the constantly changing imagery on the many, many video screens). Compression artifacts don't seem to be prevalent at any time of the presentation, a much appreciated authoring achievement considering many concert DVDs will be afflicted with occasional moiré effect and even macro-blocking. The audio is yours to choose, the preferable track being the DTS 5.1 mix that absolutely bounds out of your audio system. The performance is appropriately centered largely in the front channels with ambient crowd effect (thankfully not overbearing) seeping from the rear channels. There's also a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix as well as a 2.0 Stereo option.
Beyond the extra concert found here, you'll also find a Mac-centric documentary, "Behind the Curtain: Memories from Red Square," a featurette from the History Channel, "Russia and the Beatles: A Brief Journey," wrapped up with a set of links that lead the viewer to more information about Russian history.
In all, Paul McCartney In Red Square packs a lot of Paul and a lot of fun for hardened as well as casual enthusiasts (if there is such a thing). While the only drawback to this presentation is the clearly edited content that prevents us from enjoying an entire concert experience, the result in nonetheless captivating and to be enjoyed to the fullest.
Not guilty. Case dismissed. Enjoy!
Review content copyright © 2005 Dennis Prince; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* DTS 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 160 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* 20 Additional Minutes of Non-Broadcast Performance
* Bonus Concert -- Paul Mccartney: Live In St. Petersburg
* Behind The Curtain: Memories from Red Square
* Russia and The Beatles: A Brief Journey
* Russia Resource Guide
* Paul McCartney's Official Site