Rockshow: Paul McCartney's First Marathon, But Not His Last

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Rockshow Paul McCartney and Wings Eagle Vision, 139 mins., $29.98 DVD/$34.98 Blu-ray

According to rollingstone.com, the act that owned last weekend's Bonnaroo Festival was not some hirsute jam band, plaintive female singer-songwriter, or preppy indie-rockers, but a guy that much of the world has loved all of his career and even when he turned 64...seven years ago on June 18.

Yes, it was Paul McCartney's Herculean two-and-a-half-hour set of nearly 40 songs, made up mostly of Beatles material, that electrified festivalgoer, according to the review. But this was hardly Macca's first shot at a lengthy concert, as this DVD proves.

Shot over four night in three cities on the 1975/76 "Wings Over the World" tour -- which also spawned the recently reissued triple-LP Wings Over America set -- Rockshow did not see the light of day until 1980, and then only in movie theatres. Except for a short Betamax release in 1981, this is the first time it's been available since then.

Rockshow finds Wings (McCartney and wife Linda, Denny Laine, Jimmy McCollough and Joe English) at the height of their powers as a unit. The 30 songs here run the gamut from the band's hits ("Maybe I'm Amazed," "Band on the Run," "Let 'Em In," "Silly Love Songs") to deep cuts ("Picasso's Last Words," a rocking "Beware My Love," "Soily") and for the first time extensively since the breakup, Beatles material such as "Lady Madonna," "Yesterday," "I've Just Seen a Face."

But McCartney is a also generous bandleader, giving over lead-vocal spots occasionally to Laine, who does three including his hit with the Moody Blues, "Go Now," and finds a buoyant Paul and Linda on backing vocals. McCollough gets a turn on the anti-drug "Medicine Jar," an ironic choice, since he would die of a heroin overdose at age 26. A four-man horn section adds panache to certain tunes.

And while the Paul McCartney of 2013 is a bit of a rote showman, the 1976 version seems to have a lot of genuine fun and takes chances. Not surprising, as he had a lot to prove on this tour, finally stepping out of the Beatles shadow. In fact, the majority of the audience seen onscreen are not his original fans of aging hippies, but a younger demographic (at the time).

As a film, Rockshow is wonderfully old-school in that the camera lingers on bandmembers while they are playing and singing, giving more of a "you are there" feeling then the constant insane multi-million cuts that seem to be the norm in today's concert films.

The DVD includes a bonus feature, "A Very Lovely Party," showing candid (and often clowning) backstage and offstage footage of the group, including wordless cameos from Ringo Starr, Harry Nilsson, Elton, John, Cher, and - in what must have been a show for the amusement of the band and road crew - comedy bits from Dan Akyroyd and John Belushi and a martial arts demo from Chuck Norris!

The best part here are post-concert inteviews with the audience. The denim! The facial hair! The big glasses! Most memorable though, is the woman who says the show was so exciting that she "came twice." As a performer, that's got to be better than any amount of applause...

McCartney's performance would have benefited from a bit more punch in places and the sound mix varies, so Rockshow is not without its faults. Still, it's great for fans to finally have this out on DVD.

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