Blu-ray Review: Paul McCartney And Wings - Rockshow

Rockshow, the legendary Wings concert from 1976, finally gets the Blu-ray treatment
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In 1976, Paul McCartney and Wings mounted their only U.S. tour, the aptly nicknamed Wings Over America. The tour was a massive success and spawned a live album of the same name. It had been 10 years since McCartney had toured the U.S. on the Beatles' final outing and, with Wings at the height of their popularity, the time was right to return to the States. Sensing the enormity of the tour, McCartney had shows in New York, Los Angeles and Seattle filmed with the hopes of putting together a concert film.

The film was titled Rockshow, after the song of the same name, but didn't receive its theatrical premiere until 1980. By then, Wings had a different lineup and were at the end of their run due in part to McCartney's pot bust in Japan on the eve of the band's tour. Sadly, Jimmy McCulloch, the talented, but troubled lead guitarist in the Rockshow performance didn't live to see its theatrical premiere, having died of a drug overdose the year before. While Rockshow had been previously released on video, laser disc and DVD as part of The McCartney Years, none of those releases were the complete show. This has been rectified on the new Blu-ray, which is fully restored from the film and audio masters.

The show draws heavily from Band On The Run, Venus And Mars and Wings At The Speed Of Sound. While McCartney first began playing Beatles songs again during this tour, they comprise only five of the show's 30 tracks. McCartney was still in his prime vocally as well as on the charts, having amassed enough hits as a solo artist to carry an entire concert, making the Beatles songs more of a treat than a necessity. From the opening vocals of "Venus And Mars," McCartney has the crowd entranced. An enthusiastic "Rock Show" segues seamlessly into a blistering version of "Jet" that barely gives the audience a chance to catch their breath. McCartney's enthusiasm is contagious and the horn section (sorely missing from McCartney's current touring band) really enriches the songs.

McCartney always attempted to give the impression that Wings were a real band and not just his backing musicians. As such, he turns the microphone over to McCulloch for a fantastic version of the ironic anti-drug cautionary tale, "Medicine Jar," (which features a killer McCartney bass line) and to his partner, Ex-Moody Blues member Denny Laine, for a number of songs. Laine travels back to the 1960s for a strong version of "Go Now," while the more recent "Time To Hide" is a funk-oriented track with another great bass line from McCartney and some fine harmonica playing from Laine.

Of course, McCartney is the star of the show and he delivers. From a spirited take on "Lady Madonna," (which had never been played live before this tour) to a heartfelt "My Love" to a surprisingly hard rocking "Soily," McCartney is in peak form -- both vocally and musically -- offering a veritable bass clinic during the performance. McCartney wanted to cement the idea with fans that he could be huge without the Beatles and this was the tour he accomplished that.

The Blu-ray comes in the Digibook format, with liner notes by Paul Gambaccini and several photos from the era. The video has been restored and remastered from the original film masters and is presented in 1080p High Definition Widescreen 16x9 (1.78:1). The original source material is a bit soft to begin with, so some shots are slightly grainy, but by and large the show looks great. The High Definition picture makes the various sources used slightly less seamless, but not so much that it takes away from the presentation. As this show was shot in 1976, it does not feature the rapid fire editing seen in today's concert videos, which is a huge bonus. A live release today would never have the long straight on shot of McCartney at the piano for "The Long And Winding Road" for instance. Audio options include DTS HD Master Audio and LPCM Stereo. The sound is generally great. All of the lead vocals, as well as McCartney's bass, are clear and upfront in the mix. The background vocals are slightly distant, but still audible. The Blu-ray also includes the bonus feature, "A Very Lovely Party."

Thirty-three years is a long time to wait to get the full version of Rockshow in HD quality, but it was definitely worth it. This is prime-era McCartney, with his most successful version of Wings in great picture and sound. An absolute no-brainer for McCartney fans to own this.