By Phil Hall | July 16, 2005

It would seem the Russian people either have very poor taste in music or are extremely accommodating when it comes to playing audience to broken down old rock stars. Either way, it is hard for the jaded American viewer to share the enthusiasm of the 100,000-plus who jammed Moscow’s Red Square for Paul McCartney’s 2003 concert. This concert film is probably the best argument imaginable for Sir Paul to call it quits.

The Beatles had a profound effect on the Russians during the years of Soviet rule. Although officially banned from the Soviet airwaves, the Fab Four’s music was nonetheless smuggled in and circulated widely for years. For the Red Square audience, there was a historic value in having McCartney visit a country where he was an underground icon for three decades.

Sadly, the Russians who attended the concert did not get the vibrant, inventive and energetic McCartney of the Beatles era (or even the Wings years, for that matter). McCartney on the Moscow stage was lethargic, often enervated, and conspicuously hoarse. Anyone who grew up hearing him sing “Yesterday” or “Fool on the Hill” or “Band on the Run” is in for a rude shock here. In this concert film, McCartney sounds like a geriatric karaoke version of those memorable recordings rather than the great singer who spun magic years ago.

Director Mark Haefeli rarely allows his camera to linger on McCartney for more than a few seconds at a clip. Instead, the camera zooms all over Red Square to show young and old Russians (but with an emphasis on the young) bopping and rocking to the music. In fact, McCartney could’ve sought inspiration from his audience.

If those Russians knew any better, or at least knew McCartney in his prime, they’d be sticking cottonballs in their ears and tossing vegetables on the stage.

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