Friday , April 12 2024

Music DVD Review: Paul McCartney & Wings – Rockshow

Rockshow, the long-awaited concert film documenting Paul McCartney & Wings historic 1976 Wings Over America tour, is better than it really has any right to be. This isn’t so much because of the surprisingly high quality of the video and audio restoration (particularly considering its near forty year vintage), nor of the performance itself (which is excellent start to stop).


Rather, what makes Rockshow a particularly stunning achievement is when you take into account the venue where the bulk of this concert was actually recorded. Seattle’s enormous Kingdome was a gigantic, indoor structure made entirely of cement. A domed stadium built primarily for Seattle’s then NFL expansion team the Seahawks, the Kingdome was the sort of acoustical nightmare that was never meant to play host to rock shows, even of the stadium-sized variety.

Over time, the NFL eventually figured out the Kingdome wasn’t that great for football either, and in March 2000, it finally fell victim to the wrecking ball.

Even so – and despite the fact that loud amplified music really has nowhere else to go inside a gigantic cement cavern, but to bounce off the walls – many superstar rock acts braved the challenges of the venue, and made the attempt anyway.

My own Kingdome concert memories include being worried enough about the noisy din Led Zeppelin created there – and noticing a few cracks in the cement walls – to park myself near an exit ramp, just in case. Opening for Aerosmith at the Kingdome, Jeff Beck was so pissed off at the horrendous sound, at one point he even made a crack welcoming the crowd to “the Kingdome echo chamber.”

But in 1976, Paul McCartney & Wings were the first to break the Kingdome in for rock shows. Most of us old-school veterans of Seattle’s rock scene agree to this day, that from the Stones and the Eagles, to U2 and The Who, Macca still remains the only guy who was able to really pull it off. At the time, Wings Kingdome performance also set an indoor concert attendance record for North America – drawing in an astounding 67,000 fans.

I believe that record also still stands for Seattle shows, although Kenny Chesney’s annual country-fest at Century Link Field has probably long since eclipsed the gross profit margin record in the modern age of higher-priced tickets.

Interestingly, McCartney will be repeating history in just a few weeks in Seattle, when he becomes the first rock act to play the Mariners ballpark at Safeco Field.

One of the coolest pictures in the booklet that accompanies the Rockshow DVD, is of Paul and the rest of Wings leaning out over the outer-railing of the Kingdome’s 300 level, and waving to the thousands of fans gathered outside in the parking lot. As one of those fans who was actually there, I totally remember that.

Which is just one of the reasons why Rockshow represents such a perfectly executed snapshot of that historic show.

What makes it all the more amazing though, is the way this DVD not only overcomes the obvious limitations of its source, but also the video technology of its day, to quite remarkably freeze a moment in time. The show was pretty amazing to begin with, but this DVD creates a timewarp that comes as close to transporting you back to 1976 as it gets.

Paul McCartney still puts on great shows today, of course.

But unlike the way his current concerts take you on a nostalgic trip down memory lane, the 1976 Wings Over America tour was a period where McCartney was in the midst of a second artistic and commercial peak as a solo artist, and with his then still new band Wings. It was also Macca’s first major North American tour since the Beatles, and not surprisingly, a genuine media event.

I can still remember bumping into a young Geraldo Rivera at the Kingdome that night, covering the show for a piece on ABC’s 20/20. A handful of Beatles songs – including “Lady Madonna,” “The Long And Winding Road,” and of course, “Yesterday” – were still played.

But the post-Beatles material which made up the bulk of the setlist that night, was received every bit as enthusiastically by this crowd. From the opening medley of “Venus And Mars/Rock Show/Jet,” through the main set closer “Band On The Run,” the post-Beatles catalog McCartney was still building at the time, plays just as strongly on this DVD, as his more celebrated work with the former Fabs.

In fact, the stunning version of “Maybe I’m Amazed” from this show was so good, it was released as the lead-off single from the live Wings Over America album, and went on to become a Top Ten hit.

But the other thing which becomes apparent in revisiting this concert on DVD, is that at least in concert, Wings was very much a fully realized band, rather than merely Macca’s backup crew. As seen here, the band members switch off on instruments during a number of points as the songs dictate. But there are also a number of turns where the individual members are allowed their own moments in the spotlight to shine.

The late guitarist Jimmy McCulloch’s axe-work is stellar throughout, but is particularly impressive when he leads the rest of Wings early in the set through a raucous version of “Medicine Jar.” Denny Laine is equally great when he assumes his own lead duties during “Spirits Of Ancient Egypt,” “Time To Hide,” and his own former Moody Blues hit “Go Now.”

But more than that, Wings prove themselves more than up to the task of functioning as a quite formidable, muscular sounding rock band. On Rockshow, Wings rock much harder than McCartney’s reputation for “Silly Love Songs” might suggest. Truth be told, they even rock the crap out of that one.

Paul McCartney & Wings Rockshow has been released in bits and pieces over the years, beginning with limited theatrical, Betamax, and Laserdisc versions in the early eighties, and most recently in a shortened version on the 2007 DVD release The McCartney Years.

But this represents the first time that the complete concert – fully restored and remastered from the original 35mm film, and remixed in glorious 5.1 sound – has been made commercially available.

Talk about your days of future past! Taken alongside Macca’s current Out There tour, as well as the recently expanded Wings Over America box, we can’t think of a better re-entry portal through the rock and roll time tunnel.

Paul McCartney & Wings Rockshow arrives this Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray.

About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, Ultimate Classic Rock, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.

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  1. You really make me want to go get this DVD!! Great review!!

  2. Thanx K. We’re you there?

    • I purchased my DVD copy of Rockshow up here in Canada and found NO audio problems on any of the sound platforms offered: DD Stereo, DD 5’1 Surround or DTS Surround. I live in Thunder Bay ON which is located by a 30min drive north from the Ontario/Minnesota International Canada/USA border crossing. A friend of mine purchased his copy in Duluth Minnesota and found audio problems related to the DD 5’1 Surround mix. As has been reported by some U.S. music customers, the audio levels are prone to fading in and out on that mix. Friends living in other parts of Canada have declared no audio problems whatsoever. Is this audio issue to be found on copies of Rockshow distributed in the USA only? By the way, the review was written great, giving readers plenty of food for thought when they consider buying PAUL McCARTNEY & WINGS – Rockshow – DVD! I think the DVD is fantastic as its been on heavy rotation in my home. It’s requested by friends when we gather for some of our fave cocktail beverages!

  3. That’s a great review! Thanks, and I am not surprised at all. You were
    very fortunate to attend that show, what a peak performance. I have only
    seen You Tube clips, and like so many others, wondered why it took so
    long to turn this stellar concert and tour into DVD.

    Since Jan.
    alone, I have watched parts of this dozens of times, especially love the
    intro from Venus and Mars into the kicking anthem of Rock Show. To me,
    this is McCartney’s, and Wings’ finest hour as performers and as a
    group. Leading up to Wings over America, they toured Australia. There
    are a few clips on the Tube and the band at least in those clips seem
    more loose, sort of still in practice mode at times. But they sure did
    prepare well for the Seattle show, and it showed oh so well. I will be
    getting a copy for sure. Hope you got to see him again in Seattle, if
    so, please post a write-up.


  4. There are audio problems. Check amazon.

    • Not everyone is experiencing the audio problems that some are reporting. Those who are reporting them have unfortunately not been very specific about exactly where they are occurring. Blurting out “there are audio problems” isn’t exactly helpful.

      • As someone who is experiencing said audio problems, they occur throughout the entire concert, and are fairly constant. The audio fades in and out during the whole show. This is why no one has mentioned a specific song or moment when they occur.

  5. To Glen Boyd. Thanks for your great Rockshow article. I have one observation. The Maybe I’m Amazed version on Rockshow is not the same one released as a single from the Wings Over America triple LP. So, where was the “best” version of this song recorded?
    All the best
    Walter LeConte

  6. are you sure the bulk of this concert was actually recorded in Seattle? I’ve seen reports that differ

  7. Some of it is from L.A., (possibly “Maybe I’m Amazed” for example, but not 100% sure). But the bulk of this was shot at the Kingdome.

  8. Glen how old were you when you were so lucky to see the great natural music genius Paul McCartney with Wings?