Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Taking Flight: "Rockshow" (1980)

No director is credited in this film of Wings' last 1976 tour date at the Kingdome in Seattle, Washington. Paul McCartney is the main attraction in this otherwise routine concert.

Wings also consisted of Linda McCartney, Denny Laine, Joe English, and Jimmy McCulloch (who died in 1979, the year of this film's release, of a drug overdose). Paul is in top form here, and gracious to fellow bandmates who must live in the gigantic shadow cast by the Beatles.

Opening with the title tune, the band deftly mixes all their hits with other lesser known songs, keeping a brisk pace. After an explosion filled, strobe light cursed version of "Live and Let Die," the group sits down for actual acoustic versions of a few songs.

"Bluebird" is the best performed song here, a generation before some cable TV exec got the idea for "MTV Unplugged." They also get some great cheers out of "Band on the Run," "Jet," "Let Me Roll It," "Maybe I'm Amazed," and another subdued version of "Yesterday."

McCartney is strongest when performing. He is obviously enjoying the show, smiling and goofing off. When the music stops however, the filler in between songs is full of hesitant introductions of the other band members and clunky lead-ins to the next song.

McCartney gives equal time to the other members, who even get a chance to sing. These songs are okay ("Spirits of Ancient Egypt," "Medicine Jar") but not the huge hits people came to see. The ancient video copy of this from Thorn/EMI Video does not feature a song list, and some fans may be unfamiliar with a lot of the music here. The camera definitely loves Paul, all the adoring audience shots are saved for when he is the main vocalist in the set. Poor Linda McCarthy, often unduly criticized, is in a bad light here, literally. The harsh red spotlight shining on her from above makes her resemble either Ziggy Stardust or the reanimated corpse of Mae West. When the stage is bathed in blue light, the performers disappear into the black background. The left half of Paul's face is shown constantly, I have not seen this much "best side" favoritism since Mariah Carey's last video.

If it has not happened already, this film is in desperate need of a DVD tune up. The songs are there, the dated laser visuals are there, but the enjoyment factor could be cranked up a few notches if this was cleaned up a little bit.

I recommend "Rockshow," despite the flaws. It makes for an entertaining hour and three quarters. (* * * *) out of five stars.