Paul McCartney: In Red Square DVD

By Tony Copple

McCartney plays Red Square! How unthinkable such an event would have been in the sixties. Cold war and McCarthyism combined to paint the USSR as a people to be feared, and after Sputnik, envied for their superior technology. Enter rock'n'roll, Coca Cola, Levis, miniskirts and Mcdonald's. Young Russians wanted them, and most of all they wanted the Beatles, who became a legend in absentia by order of comrad Breshnev. The Beatles' records were leaked across the borders to USSR and struck a chord - in fact many chords, often played on home made instruments with parts ripped off from public telephones and grand pianos. Read "Strings for a Beatle Bass" by Yury Pelyushonok, which provides comprehensive background structure to place in context the tid-bits of history on the DVD.

Fast forward to 2003. Post Gorbachev, post Berlin Wall. Russian leaders now are those very kids who loved the Beatles then and still do now. Paul is invited to play Red Square and in the audience is Vladimir Putin.

In 1996 Yury Pelyushonok, Ottawa resident, but one time one of the Beatle kids in USSR, had written of his experiences in a great book "Strings For a Beatle Bass". It had very limited publication, but we at the Ottawa Beatles Site had known Yury since the Ottawa Beatles Conventions 1995 and 1996. So we knew the story. Imagine how thrilled we were to hear the announcement of the Red Square concert.

The concerts on the DVD are - fabulous. From the first shots of the 100,000 in Red Square, the magic is back, and goose bumps and tears appear. As I write this I haven't yet watched the whole DVD, but I feel compelled to communicate about it.

I love to watch bands play. I love watching fans enjoying watching bands play. I love the story of music intertwined with modern history. This DVD has all three ingredients. I had been less than enchanted with the sound quality on TV on the original concert - but the DVD sound and visuals are excellent; every bit as good as the Back in the US DVD, and this was a one-shot open air challenge for the sound engineers. Sound balance is uniformly excellent. The songs are interspersed by historical comments from several Russian commentators who lived through it all, and Paul's classical compositions are played as background to these interludes, reminding us of his significant musical output in recent years; to my mind, of exceptional quality.

The songs? These timeless anthems. Don't tangle with perfection - they don't. The performances are as good as those we all have inprinted on our memories, and played as well as ... well instrumentally as well as Rain (that's a compliment), and with Paul's voice as strong as ever. Remember, playing the Beatles repertoire well takes rare talent, in view of the harmonic sophistication of many of these songs. Paul's band members deserve more credit than they receive.

Did the Russian audience love it? You bet. Do I love it? Absolutely. Do I think it is important? In these days of rock music's expanding roles in famine relief, in debt relief, and our modern society generally, its achievement in uniting previously divided populations in their common passion with a peaceful revolution deserves full recognition.

Ottawa Beatles Site
Review of the Red Square concert

June 23, 2005