"Rockshow," the Paul McCartney and Wings concert film currently playing in a half-dozen ara theaters, is neither the best nor the worst of the rock films to come along this year. In fact, the most curious thing about it is the PG rating it has received; maybe the new conservatism will require ratings for live concerts as well, but there's nothing even slightly inflammatory, obscene or violent about the final concert that McCartney and company gave in Seattle's massive Superdome in 1976. It's only rock 'n' roll.
If you brought the "Wings Over America" three-record set recorded at the same concert, you will already have heard almost all of the music in similar high-quality sound. The McCartney millions have long made it unnecessary for the former Beattle to prove anything, but on the spectacular tour McCartney and his minions showed not only that they knew how to rock with the best of them, but that they could equal the sterling studio sounds that marked the best Wings and Beatles work. The frequent close-ups of McCartney reinforce his teen-idol qualities -- the puppy-dog innocence, the Little Richard Yelps, the youthful energy given to songs written more than half a lifetime before, the easy, loving glances at the Mrs., Linda McCartney, who never looks completely at ease in concert but is completely in love.
The film was directed by Jack Priestly, who used 13 cameramen to come up with some of the most obvious and unimaginative angles seen in any concert film. The size of the Kingdome obviously didn't help, though there are a few majestic shots of the crowd of 50,000-plus celebrating its hero by holding up lighted matches and sprinklers in the dark; at one point, the luminescence creates a galaxy inside the domed sports arena.
McCartney races through hits old and new, occasionally joking about young fans who might not even know about his Beatle days. There are moments of high hokum -- a "Live and Let Die" complete with trite expliding smoke bombs and "Band on the Run" with some weak laser effects. It's when Priestly keeps things simple that the film succeeds: The dreamy "Long and Winding Road" and a gentle "Yesterday" both benefit from extended close-ups. Elsewhere, the frenetic and on-the-beat jumpcuts don't do much to advance either the music or the film.
As a documentary of an artist who tours infrequently, "Rockshow" is a weak substitute, a passable effort at best, a poor excuse for five years of editing at worst. Among the highlights are the singing of ex-Moody Blues Denny Laine, some compelling guitar work from Jimmy McCullough and some crisp, propelling drumming from Joe English. The film shows its age here: English left the band three years ago and is now a born-again Christian; in a sadder footnote, McCullough died of a drug overdose two years ago.