Music DVD Reviews: Review of The Space Within US

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Buy your copy from Paul McCartney: The Space Within US starstarstarstarstarLabel: A&E
Released: 2006

Given all the nasty press our man Macca has been getting in recent weeks and months – ever since it was announced that he and Heather Mills were splitting, basically – it’s about time we had something to focus on beyond just the rumor mill…and that classical album of his just doesn’t count. (Sorry, Paul, you can have all the side projects you want, but it’s really just the pop stuff we care about.) Thankfully, A&E has presented us with just the thing to keep us occupied: another Paul McCartney concert DVD.

Even if you’re a diehard McCartney fan, though, you’re undoubtedly thinking, “Geez, y’know, I love the guy, but this is, what, the fifth concert DVD from Sir Paul to emerge over the course of the last decade?”

Let’s confirm that, just to make sure we’re not making any outlandish claims.

  • Last year, he was “Live in Red Square.”
  • In 2002, he was “Back in the U.S..”
  • In 2001, he was “Live at the Cavern Club.”
  • And in 1996, Paul was live with “Paul is Live.”

So, yep, this is number five…and, as a result, we’re obliged to ask the question, “Do we really need five Paul McCartney concert DVDs in ten years?” Nah, not really. But are we going to actively complain about it? Of course not. Because he’s Paul McCartney…and even though he is 64, we do still need him, especially given that he still sounds spectacular.

The bit that gives this concert film its title is McCartney’s two-song performance to the astronauts on the International Space Station, which consisted of “Good Day Sunshine” and “English Tea,” the latter taken from his 2005 album, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard. It’s not really the focus of the film, though. For the most part, what we’re presented with are 30+ McCartney songs – the usual mixture of Beatles, Wings, and solo stuff – interspersed with backstage footage, shots of the crowd, and gushing fans going on and on about how fab their man Paul is. The fans, however, range from ordinary folks (we see several families attending Paul’s concerts en masse) to the former ruler of the most powerful nation in the world (Bill Clinton) to some of the biggest names in popular entertainment (Bono, Jay-Z, Paul Stanley, Steven Tyler, James Taylor, Tony Bennett, Cameron Crowe)…and while we never forget that celebrities are just ordinary people who happen to be more famous than you, there’s still something cool about seeing that everybody loves Paul McCartney.

McCartney continues the courtesy of including a few tracks on each of these concert DVDs that haven’t appeared on previous releases. This time, we get “I Will” and “’Till There Was You,” along with a few additional songs from Chaos and Creation, such as “Jenny Wren” and “Fine Line.” As ever, it’s simultaneously simple and difficult to moan about McCartney’s tendency to focus so heavily on his Beatles work over his solo work; you know why he does it, and no one in their right mind is really going complain about hearing him singing “Eleanor Rigby” or “Penny Lane,” but given how many albums he’s released under his own name, it’d be nice if he occasionally threw in a solo surprise or two.

If this is the first McCartney concert film you’ve picked up, you’ll love it. If it isn’t, however, you might yawn a bit, as it treads approximately the same path as the previous releases, with its never-ending series of shots of the audience singing along. But, again, we come back to that whole “it’s Paul McCartney” thing…and even if you don’t want to actually sit around watching it, you’ll have a good listen.

Special Features:
If you caught McCartney on the 2005 tour that this DVD documents, you’ll be pleased to find the original pre-concert film included on the disc. If you’ve ever seen McCartney, you know that the films he shows before he comes on stage are always extremely interesting and well-made, but the crowd’s usually screaming so loud that you can’t appreciate them at the time. We’re also presented with three songs from McCartney’s soundcheck, including a cover of “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” as well as a few short featurettes about the tour; some of the material can be found within the film itself, but it’s easier to absorb it when it’s not edited down to fit between songs.

~Will Harris