Paul McCartney and Wings – Rockshow (1980; 2013 reissue)

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Paul McCartney, in his green metal suit, prepares once again to shoot up the city. And the ring at the end of his nose (oh, yes it does) makes him look rather pretty. And just like that, Rockshow — this once lost artifact — is underway.

What you’re struck by, as McCartney launches into those memorable lines from the title track to this belatedly released DVD/Blu-ray, is how loose and engaged he seems — how utterly thrilled by it all. To be on stage playing his own songs, separate from the Beatles; to be part of a band again.

And Rockshow (due with a sparkling new finish on June 11, 2013, from Eagle Vision and MPL) underscores that sense of musical camaraderie early and often.

After a titanic opening medley of “Venus and Mars,” “Rock Show” and “Jet,” followed by the tart, Lennon-esque “Let Me Roll It,” McCartney quickly (and, it seems, quite happily) hands over the spotlight — first to Denny Laine (on the layered, proggy “Spirits of Ancient Egypt”) and then to Jimmy McCulloch (with the foreboding, sadly ironic “Medicine Jar”). Throughout, I swear, a smile is always working at the corner of McCartney’s mouth.

It goes on this way, with McCartney — and, thus, Rockshow — making a few implicit points: That this was his new thing, and that it was a pretty good thing, and that he was having a complete ball.

Modern audiences might blanch at the idea of so many deep cuts, of such a low-fi stage set up — a banner featuring some cartoon characters falls behind Wings for their performance of “Magneto and Titanium Man,” rather than a digital display with, you know, actual moving pictures — and of so many people not named McCartney singing. But it’s worth noting that songs from both of his self-titled solo albums would ultimately only become hits after being performed live by Wings, first with this set’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” (originally from 1970’s McCartney) and then later with Coming Up (remade from 1980’s McCartney II). There’s a reason McCartney looks so present and in the moment throughout this concert. Wings, for all of their silly love songs, could be a damned good group.

With longer shots, fewer stage gimmicks (even the fireworks on “Live and Let Die” seem positively subdued), and an atmosphere of such musical generosity, it’s easier to overlook this tour’s — and this band’s — occasional missteps. For instance, the loping bass line on the aforementioned “Silly Love Songs” gives the song a new vibrancy, as do the sparky horns on “Listen What The Man Said.”

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Nick DeRiso tries to peel away the initial hype surrounding ‘Wings Over America’ to find the still-resonant gems from Paul McCartney’s 1970s-era solo work.]

Instead of comparing their takes on Beatles classics like “Blackbird,” “Lady Madonna” and “The Long and Winding Road” (included in this expanded version of the film for the very first time) with the storied originals, we can more fully appreciate McCartney’s new confidence in returning to this older music, having built something he was just as proud of in the years that followed. Whereas Paul’s acoustic segment on the audio release of Wings Over America seems to skip along at a too-fast tempo, here it boasts a homey warmth. There are new insights to be found on their faces.

Meanwhile, McCulloch and drummer Joe English make their case as the greatest collaborators ever to work with the core trio of Laine and Paul and Linda McCartney over the course of tough, propulsive takes on “Time to Hide” (a powerful reminder of Laine’s R&B prowess) “Beware My Love” (framed by McCulloch’s scorching wah-wah), “Letting Go” (simmering, so darkly romantic) and a spirited run through “Band on the Run.”

It’s not all fun and games, at least not from the vantage point of 2013. McCulloch, the child prodigy, would never grow old — becoming the victim of drugs. Linda, a photographer who gamely allowed herself to be inserted into her husband’s new musical amalgam, passed more than 15 years ago after a bout with cancer. Even English has left behind rock music. Seeing them move around on stage again like this, in orbit so near a completely revitalized McCartney, only adds to the sense of fizzy excitement surrounding this long-waited film release.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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  • Something Else!

    Subscribe to Something Else! through Wednesday, June 12, 2013, for your chance to win one of three DVD copies of Paul McCartney and Wings’ ‘Rockshow,’ courtesy of MPL Communications and Eagle Rock. Here’s how:

  • Zhivago

    [Whereas Paul’s acoustic segment on the audio release of Wings Over America seems to skip along at a too-fast tempo, here it boasts a homey warmth]

    well, no… not really… the songs sound exactly the same on DVD and on CD… they might as well BE the same, for all we know…

    This was indeed a great, tight band… personally I think there were at least three true virtuosi, guitarist Jimmy McCulloch (an incredible talent), drummer Joe English and McCartney, of course, on rickenbacker bass and vocals… but everyone here is up to the task.

    Just an oddity about Laine’s double neck guitar (a true relic from a different age… and a dreadful sight in itself)… through the whole concert he plays the 12-string-neck only ONCE, and very briefly, on the last section of Band on the Run…

    • Nick DeRiso

      Yes, they sound the same. My point was that, with a visual — seeing the band’s interaction, McCartney’s happiness, etc. — the songs have a different emotional impact.

  • Zhivago

    Well that’s quite a different kettle of fish…. But I still don’t see how the lack of a visual might ‘make the song skip along at a too-fast tempo’, or subtract any ‘warmth’… I’m used to trust my ears when it comes to music, and these songs sound equally great both on dvd and on cd… Enjoy!… 🙂

    • Nick DeRiso

      I’m speaking to the visual image of their shared community, and of joy, within the acoustic segment on the DVD. As such, that can’t be “heard,” right? For me, when listening, there is necessarily more of a comparison going on between the original audio tracks and these then-new live versions, which I’ve always felt were presented at a too-fast tempo. When watching, the human dimension of the performance itself — the playing of these songs, together — became a more prominent element of the experience.

      • DennyLainesDoubleNeckedGuitar

        Not sure why anyone would have a hard time with this concept. It’s why people buy concert tickets. Nobody goes thinking Paul (or the Stones or anybody else for that matter) is going to play the songs any better than they were on the actual albums — despite what some are saying here. You go for just what you’re describing, the opportunity to see the band interact and to share in the experience. OF COURSE watching it is different than just listening. If it wasn’t, then nobody would be paying these astronomical sums of money in order to sit in a football stadium crammed next to a hundred thousand other people. I guess some people will argue about anything.

  • Zhivago

    …so now you’ve seen the film, also the songs on the cd don’t seem at too fast a tempo? Or they still do?… Personally I’ve perceived the warmth of the acoustic set in WOA the first time I heard it decades ago… And decades before seeing the film (which is now)… Rockshow is a great addition visually… but musically, I can’t say it adds anything to my listening experience of WOA, because it doesn’t…

    • Nick DeRiso

      I prefer the film, for the reasons stated here. As much as I loved the idea of ‘Wings Over America’ when it came out — Beatles songs! Done live! — none of the music there replaces the original studio versions in my modern listening rotation. The movie, though, still provides new insights, because of the interplay that’s so evident on stage. McCartney looks like he’s having a ball, and that’s contagious.

      • MaccaMeh

        I’ve always felt the same way about “Wings Over America”. It’s only okay. But I caught this film with a Macca-obssessed friend, a diehard like some of the others here, and I found it to have a surprising amount of charm. I guess to put it another way, watching them perform garbage like “Let ‘Em In” and “Listen What the Man Said” (which the same friend says Macca has reinstalled on the new tour’s set list for some insane reason) is a hell of a lot more enjoyable than listening to it. Denny Laine is really funny in person. You don’t get that from the album.

  • Zhivago

    Personally I think that, in this live set, Beatles’ songs are beautifully played, and most of Wing’s songs are quite improved from the original studio version. This is the general consensus and also the reason why McCartney was so eager to go on tour and release a live recording with this band… which is undisputedly Wing’s best lineup ever. McCartney is obviously having a ball, but I didn’t need the film to tell me… what matters is the music, which is indeed infectious and exhilarating.

    • Nick DeRiso

      We’ll have to disagree on whether most of the songs are quite improved. I’m not trading my studio copy of ‘Band on the Run’ — or even ‘Venus and Mars,’ and certainly not any of the Beatles songs — for this or any other live version, ever.

    • PolytheneSam

      What is this *general consensus* that you, and only you, seem to be privy to? Paul has given countless interviews where he expressed tons of worry about how this tour would be received. The only other beatle to try an America tour to that point was George, and it was a disaster. To say that the success of Wings tour in 1976 was a foregone conclusion is to rewrite history with benefit of the outcome already in mind.

      Besides, neither the Beatles songs, nor the Wings songs, from this DVD are improved from the original studio versions. It’s a live album … fine for what it is … but nothing more.

      Also, this is most certainly not the best edition of Wings. It’s just the most famous. The best edition was the last one, from Back To The Egg. The Glasgow concert makes Wings Over America sound like a joke.

  • Anna

    There’s no way these song are played too fast, either on cd or on film . With the one excepion of i’ve just seen a face, which is, but deliberately, taken at a brisk tempo to enhance its skiffle side .

  • Jimmy Nelson

    There’s also no way you read this review and possibly found something to gripe about. Oh, wait, I forgot. It’s the Whiny Wings Brigade. Ready to swoop in and drown us all in their how-could-you-not-love-every-single-moment-of-every-single-McCartney-record-ever tears. One of you is suggesting that the live versions of these songs would somehow supplant the originals, which is just silly. The other has somehow ferreted out the most infinitesimal of slightly-not-completely-in-love side comments and decided to start another argument about it … childish, and annoying. THIS IS A POSITIVE REVIEW. Why don’t you go find somebody who hates McCartney, and hated this project (there are many, many, many of them) and go cry on their shoulders? Every one here is tired of the same old sob story from you guys.

  • Nick DeRiso

    Congratulations, once again, to our three winners in the latest Something Else! new-subscriber contest. Jason Coffield, Todd Nemphos and Lizzy Smith each are receiving a copy of Paul McCartney and Wings’ newly remastered concert recording Rockshow, courtesy of MPL Communications and Eagle Rock.

    Oh, and play nice in here, OK, kids?

  • WingsOverTheWorld

    Thanks for mentioning both ‘Beware My Love,’ and ‘Letting Go,’ a couple of great deep cuts that often get missed when people become so obsessed with the pop hits from those albums. Wings could really rock. People forget that.