22 October, 2009

GET BACK – Paul McCartney (1990/2005)

Get Back is the filmed record of Paul's '89/'90 comeback tour and began a tradition of annoying concert films that continues through to today. This one was directed by Richard Lester, who made his name directing the Beatles' first two films and his eccentric style comes out in the concert film. We all know that these films are cut together from dozens of different shows, but unlike most others, Lester makes no attempt to disguise the fact. While it's a refreshingly honest approach, it can be irritating if not downright creepy to see Paul and band change clothes in the middle of a song. And while it's perfectly legitimate to illustrate The Long and Winding Road with news footage of the Beatles and the space race juxtaposed with vision of the Vietnam war, showing it all at full screen for the entire song is not what we paid to see.

The concert itself is magnificent with heaps of Beatles songs that until then had never been performed live. But as with all the others, the film does not do justice to the show. Being shot on film makes it look more dated than it really is, and the cutaways to the audience become so ubiquitous that you sometimes feel like you're watching an audience film occasionally interrupted by a concert. The fact that the same mistake of overusing audience shots has been made by three very different directors over 15 years can only suggest that the order came from higher up the chain. Paul, we know you're famous, that's why we want to see YOU!

If Paul is ever going to release a decent concert film, he needs to look for two qualities in a director:
  1. Find someone who is actually adept at making concert films. Being good at making cheeky Britcoms and black comedies about the war, or 4-minute MTV clips doesn't necessarily qualify you to capture a concert.
  2. Get someone who is not a Paul McCartney fan. When Paul hired Nigel Godrich on George Martin's recommendation, to produce Chaos & Creation, Godrich admitted that he had never bought a McCartney album. The result was healthy creative tension and the best album Macca has made in 25 years. The same should apply to DVDs. Get out of the mutual admiration society.

Get Back, like just about everything that came after it, merely teases us with a taste of what might have been.

Highlight: The first live version of Hey Jude, closely followed by the Abbey Road medley
Feature: * * ½
Extras: None
Audio: Dolby Stereo

Previously posted at Strawberry Fields and at Fishpond.


  1. This was such a great tour. You'd never know it by watching the DVD.

  2. 25 years? Well, I personally thought that Flowers in the Dirt (1989) and Flaming Pie (1997) were great.

  3. I like Flowers in the Dirt a lot. Flaming Pie has moments of brilliance and moments that make me cringe. Somedays is up there with Eleanor Rigby. Really Love You is just awful.