|The Beatles Anthology may be the motherlode for fans of the Fabs, but among other Beatle-related video offerings, only The Concert for George matches Paul McCartney - Live in Red Square for sheer emotional and musical impact. It's no coincidence that the latter two chronicle not just concerts but significant events--a memorial for Harrison (he had died a year earlier), and Sir Paul's first visit to the former Soviet Union.
For the Russian audience, McCartney's appearance in Moscow is little short of a miracle. The Beatles were banned for decades by the Soviet government, which regarded their music as the epitome of Western decadence and propaganda, and the fans' only access to the group was through the occasional photo or black market album. Their reaction to his 2003 visit is a mixture of frenzy and rapture; in interview after interview, what one fan calls the Beatles' "gentle intervention" is credited with helping to bring down the whole Soviet system, simply because they represented a creativity and freedom that had been almost totally silenced. And that's all before McCartney plays "Back in the U.S.S.R.," which inspires a response that simply must be seen and heard to be believed.
Elsewhere, Macca and his superb band perform a variety of Beatles tunes, along with some highlights from his solo career and stint with Wings. Considering the dozens of classics in the Lennon-McCartney catalogue, the majority of them never performed live by the group, he could hardly go wrong. Still, the choices are almost unerring; along with "Hey Jude," "Yesterday," and "Let it Be" are some unexpected treats (including "Getting Better" and "She's Leaving Home" from the Sgt. Pepper album, as well as "Fool on the Hill," "I've Just Seen a Face," and "Two of Us"). And that's not all: additional footage from a show in St. Petersburg features "Drive My Car," "Helter Skelter," and a powerful medley of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band" and "The End." The sound and visuals are good, and the extra features (including a brief parallel history of the Beatles and the U.S.S.R. in the '60s) are interesting. No, the Beatles will never reform. But Paul McCartney - Live in Red Square ain't a bad substitute. --Sam Graham