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Mark Haefeli
Paul McCartney
Writing Credits:

In 2005, rock legend Paul McCartney crossed America with his record-breaking, sold out U.S. tour. Now, harnessing the power of more than 25 hi-definition cameras and the thunder of 5.1 digital surround sound, Paul McCartney: The Space Within US captures this epic experience on DVD. Better than a front row seat, this feature-length concert film takes viewers onto the stage and beyond, capturing Paul’s out of this world performance - which was beamed to the astronauts aboard the Mir space station who wake up to some "English Tea" with paul and the band through a live feed from the tour.

Rated NR

Standard 1.33:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
English Dolby Stereo 2.0

Runtime: 115 min.
Price: $24.95
Release Date: 11/14/2006

• US Tour Pre-Show Film
• Soundchecks
• “On the Road with US” Featurette
• “More About US” Featurette
• Booklet


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Paul McCartney: The Space Within US (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 17, 2006)

As I mentioned when I review 2002’s Back in the US, I’m a virtually life-long Paul McCartney fan, and I saw the ex-Beatle 11 times on his 2002 US tour. That was a bit much, to be honest. I’m happy to take in multiple concerts for acts I love – going to 15 or more shows on a single tour isn’t a big deal to me – but Paul’s act got a little tedious with all that repetition. Though it was a good concert, the lack of variation in the setlist and other stiff elements meant it wasn’t terribly satisfying when viewed that many times.

This meant I “took it easy” for Macca’s 2005 US tour and only went to six shows. That sounds like a lot to most people, but since it was barely half the number I saw in 2002, it acted as a major decrease for me.

And probably a good one, since I came away from the 2005 “US” tour wanting more. (Note that’s meant to be pronounced as “us”, not “US” as in “USA” – it’s a pun!) I’m sure part of the reason I was so happy with the “US” tour stemmed from my reduced number of viewings, but it also had a lot to do with the quality of the shows. While the 2002 concerts were very good, they didn’t quite click at times. Paul’s band was the best he’d had in years, but they seemed a little too respectful, for lack of a better word. Three of the musicians had never played with Paul in prior years, and I kind of got the feeling they were still just a little in awe of him.

By 2005, though, Macca and this band - Rusty Anderson on lead guitar, Brian Ray on rhythm guitar and bass as needed, Abe Laboriel Jr. on drums, and Paul “Wix” Wickens on keyboards – had tons of stage experience under their collective belt. In addition to the 2002 US shows, they toured Europe in 2003 and 2004. By their return to American shores, they were a well-tuned concert machine, and that showed onstage. The performances boasted a spark not seen in 2002 and became much more energized and vivid for me.

This meant I ended up with a shocking conclusion: the “US” tour was the best one I saw in 2005. I loved the show and regret only going six times. Given that McCartney had tons of 2005 competition, it’s amazing his tour wound up as my pick for the best. 2005 was a busy year on the road, as I also saw personal faves U2, the Stones, and Bruce Springsteen. In most years, Macca would end up a poor fourth in that crowd, but the terrific “US” show came out first for me.

As usual, the setlist remained essentially static from night to night. At least McCartney opened things up more than usual, though, as “US” included more semi-obscurities than expected. Space presents 26 of the concert’s usual 36 tracks. From Paul’s then-new album Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, we got “Fine Line”, “Jenny Wren”, “English Tea” and “Follow Me”; that accounts for all of the Chaos tunes played on the 2005 tour.

Heading into Paul’s solo days, we get 1970s’s “Maybe I’m Amazed”, 1971’s “Too Many People”, 1973’s “Let Me Roll It”, and 1997’s “Flaming Pie”. Tons of Beatle tracks appear. All the way back from 1963, we find “Till There Was You”, “I’ll Get You”, and “Please Please Me”. 1964 presents “I’ll Follow the Sun”, while 1965 gives us “Yesterday”. From 1966 we hear “Good Day Sunshine”, “For No One”, “Drive My Car”, “Eleanor Rigby” and “Got to Get Your Into My Life”; note that this means we hear all of Paul’s tunes from Revolver. 1967 gets represented by “Penny Lane”, “Fixing a Hole”, and “Magical Mystery Tour”. 1968 provides “I Will” and “Helter Skelter” from the White Album, and 1969’s “Get Back” and “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window” also appear. Finally, 1970 finished the Beatle years with “I’ve Got a Feeling”.

What songs does Space drop from the live show? It loses the following Beatle tracks: “Back in the USSR”, “Blackbird”, “The Long and Winding Road”, “Hey Jude”, “In Spite of All the Danger”, “Sgt. Pepper’s (Reprise)”, and “The End”. (Note that a brief snippet from the end of “Hey Jude” appears, but that’s it, and “Let It Be” appears in a partial form as a backdrop for comments about Paul’s music.) As for missing solo work, the show omits “Jet”, “Band on the Run”, and “Live and Let Die”.

If you look at virtually every McCartney tour DVD, you’ll encounter the same MO. Whether Get Back or Paul is Live or Back in the US or In Red Square or Space Within US, each one treats the live footage the same way. Not content to simply show us the action on stage, we get incessant shots of audience members. I’ve griped about this in every other McCartney review, and it continues to annoy me.

Why can’t we just see the concert as performed? An occasional glimpse of the crowd is fine, but we spend almost as much time with them as we do with the musicians. This is way over the top and creates a real distraction. I never feel like I’m at the concert, as the presence of all the crowd shots just reinforces that I’m watching the event on TV.

Even more irritating, there’s no musical flow to the piece. After virtually every song, we take a break to see elements outside of the concert hall. Some of these are moderately interesting – such as views of what the tour crew does – but the vast majority just exist to reinforce the Greatness That Is Paul.

To that end, we get many comments from fans and celebrities. Remarks emerge from President Bill Clinton, filmmaker Cameron Crowe, musicians Eddie Vedder, Herbie Hancock, Jay-Z, Tony Bennett,and Paul Stanley, producer Phil Ramone, actors Chris Tucker and Alec Baldwin, writer Bob Spitz, Cal State – Fullerton Professor Dennis Anderson, Bill Clinton, pyrotechnicians Mick and Michael McGuire, Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs, security personnel Michael Sherod, guitar technician Sid Pryce, production coordinator Diane Eichorst, Toronto Sun columnist John Derringer, NASA mission specialist Andy Thomas, Cal State – Northridge music therapist Ronald M. Borczon, DePaul University’s Professor Cathy Ann Elias, stage manager Scott Chase, Capcom coordinator Terry Virts, NASA public affairs officers Rob Navias and Nicole Cloutier, and fans Deborah Zuhr, the Pieschel family and the Decker family.

With all those different opinions, you might expect to hear something interesting. Unfortunately, they rarely tell us anything that stretches much beyond “Paul is great”. We hear all sorts of reflections on McCartney’s legend and all the amazing things he’s done over the years.

I bet that if you were to show these parts of Space to a member of an alien civilization, they’d think McCartney was some form of god. That’s how far the interview subjects go – they almost make him sound like a super-human figure with miraculous powers. I half expected someone to claim that he made the blind see and the lame walk. Where’s the footage of Paul strutting on the water?

Dear God, let it stop! I dearly love McCartney’s music, but I don’t need to hear this on a constant basis. Paul, let the music do the talking – we don’t require incessant discussion your talent.

At least Space tones down the editing of the concert footage. Some of its predecessors tended to cut the action at an absurdly hyperactive rate, but that’s not much of an issue here. Though the show doesn’t proceed at a leisurely rate, it offers the material at a reasonably appropriate rate.

In the “pleasant surprise” category, I’m happy that we get to see footage of Paul’s notorious second show accident. During the concert, a piano rises from a hole in the middle of the stage. At the Tampa performance, Paul forgot about this and tumbled into the gap. He used this as fodder for humor the rest of the tour, so it’s fun to see the actual fall here.

I also like the version of “I’ll Follow the Sun” found here. During the tour, Paul always employed multiple false endings to the tune. I think he never did fewer than three, and may have gone up to six at times; I recall that at the Omaha show, he did that many after a fan’s signs egged him on for more. The Space rendition gives us five endings and communicates the fun aspect of these fake-outs.

Although I’d dearly love a straightforward video that offers an entire McCartney concert, I won’t complain too much about the omissions here since Space makes sure we mostly lose tunes that already appeared on Back in the US. This means we get almost all the material that was new since then – only the puzzling omission of “In Spite of All the Danger” prevents a clean sweep - and the DVD doesn’t edit or abbreviate any of these. Back in the US occasionally cut tunes or marred them with speech or other interruptions. The only songs affected here are those that previously showed up on Back like “Let It Be” and “Hey Jude”. Fans of those numbers will be disappointed by their incompleteness on Space, but at least they can be found elsewhere.

As a concert document, The Space Within US works a little better than its predecessors, but that’s faint praise. The DVD suffers from the same lack of focus on the concert stage. It offers a lot of good music, but the disjointed presentation that emphasizes The Glorification of Macca gets old quickly. This is a real hit or miss product.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/Bonus C-

Paul McCartney: The Space Within US appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. That’s a first for a McCartney tour video. 2001’s Live at the Cavern Club was also 16X9 enhanced, but that came from a special show and wasn’t part of a full cross-country trek.

Prior McCartney tour DVDs stayed fullframe, so the 1.78:1 image here proved to offer a pleasant surprise. The picture quality offered a considerable improvement over the disc’s predecessors. Sharpness consistently appeared crisp and distinct. Concert videos inevitably encounter a few out of focus shots, and I saw one or two of those, but they were quickly corrected, and the vast majority of the program showed no signs of those concerns. Almost all of the show displayed detailed and well-defined images. Jagged edges were occasional nuisances and some shimmering occurred in backgrounds and amp grilles. Edge enhancement seemed absent, and the videotaped program demonstrated no issues related to artifacts or other interference. From start to finish, it looked clean and fresh.

The show used a pretty subdued palette, as most of the colors came from the lighting and massive video monitor stage backdrop. These hues appeared consistently clean and accurate, as I detected no bleeding or noise attached to them. Hues came across as warm and natural, and the lighting never obscured the performers unnecessarily. Black levels seemed good, and low-light shots looked fine; shadow detail was clear and distinctive. Overall, US looked very nice, as only the occasional jags and shimmering led me to a still-strong “B+”.

Prior McCartney tour DVDs faltered in terms of audio quality, but The Space Within US proved much more satisfying in that regard. The DVD offered both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. To these ears, the two sounded a lot alike. I couldn’t discern any significant differences between the mixes.

As one expects from a concert presentation, the soundfields remained anchored in the front, where they showed strong stereo imaging. Paul’s vocals appeared firmly set in the middle, though I was disappointed to note that this was a “phantom” center image; the vocals spread across the front speakers and didn’t simply use the middle channel as one might expect. The instruments were accurately located and they demonstrated nice breadth and delineation. I could distinguish the various instruments with ease, as they were placed in a natural and clear manner. They also blended together smoothly to create a forward soundstage that consistently created a real and involving setting.

As for the surrounds, they largely offered a general sense of ambience. The mix went for a “you are there” tone, which unfortunately seemed slightly distracting at times. The attempt to place us in the arena could result in a little excessive echo during a few songs; this was particularly noticeable during quieter tracks like “Eleanor Rigby” or “Jenny Wren”. Nonetheless, these concerns were minor, and I thought the rear speakers usually complemented the experience.

Audio quality sounded solid across the board. Paul’s vocals demonstrated a vivid presence that put them strongly out front, and he always appeared distinct and accurate. The rest of the track also showed good warmth and a dynamic tone. The instruments remained crisp and vivid during the concert. Bass response seemed generally deep and rich, and highs were clean and bright. As a whole, I felt pleased with these mixes.

A smattering of extras fill out the package. A nice treat, we open with the US Tour Pre-Show Film. This 10-minute and 13-second clip opened the concerts with a quick history of McCartney as a musician. I gotta admit I grew a little sick of it at the shows I saw in 2005, especially because it creates impatience; the piece feels long when you just want the damned performance to begin. That said, it’s a quality montage and a fun addition to this set.

In the Soundchecks area, we get three performances: “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” (3:53), “Friends to Go” (3:21) and “How Kind of You” (3:33). These are a lot of fun, especially since we get to see two songs from Chaos. McCartney never played “Friends” or “Kind” during full concerts, so they’re good additions here.

Next comes a quick three-minute and 46-second featurette called On the Road with US” Featurette. Set to Band on the Run’s “Helen Wheels”, this montage shows us various aspects of the McCartney tour. It’s not terribly interesting.

Finally, the package ends with More About US. This 10-minute featurette offers comments from McCartney, Clear Channel Entertainment’s Brad Wavra, musicians Brian Ray, Abe Laboriel Jr., Paul “Wix” Wickens, and Rusty Anderson, sound engineer Paul Boothroyd, personal assistant John Hammel, actor John Cusack, Disney president/CEO Robert Iger, musician Lenny Kravitz, and security director Mark Hamilton. It acts like much of the material in Space itself. We get a taste for what it’s like to be on the road with McCartney, but a lot of it simply tells us that he’s great. There’s not much here to make the program winning.

A booklet presents a few elements. In addition to some photos, the package includes a short essay from Cameron Crowe and four fun anecdotes from the tour. (I was at the Philly show during which Macca’s microphone stand got stuck and rose up with the curtain.) It’s a decent little booklet.

Someday before I die, I hope to get a Paul McCartney concert DVD that accurately represents the live experience. The Space Within US isn’t that DVD. It has a lot of good music and some solid moments, but it spends too much time with extraneous elements and takes us from the stage too frequently. The DVD offers good picture and audio along with a smattering of interesting extras. McCartney fans will want Space to hear the tunes but it’s not the product I’d hoped it would be.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.4222 Stars Number of Votes: 45
5 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main