On October 20th of 2001 a huge concert was held at Madison Square Garden to honour and support the victims and heroes of the 9/11 attacks. On the day of the attacks Paul McCartney was actually in New York on an airplane that was taxiing for takeoff when they saw the smoke from the twin towers in the distance. As the hours and days went by he remembered hearing stories that as a coping mechanism his parents and relatives used humour and music to help them get through the darkest moments of the Second World War; that was the spark that ignited the flame of action for a benefit concert.
Paul and friends organized the stellar event, which featured performances by The Who, Elton John, David Bowie, Bon Jovi, Jay Z, Billy Joel and John Mellencamp, as well as other high profile musicians and celebrities in the sports and entertainment field. This film features some concert clips with plenty of audience shots of firefighters, police, ambulance attendants and friends and families of loved ones lost in the attacks, which only intensifies the already emotional evening. The concert was broadcast live and raised over 35 million dollars. This documentary DVD is Paul McCartney's behind-the-scenes look at the days leading up to, and the actual day of the concert, directed by Albert Maysles (who also filmed The Beatles first visit to New York in 1964) and Bradley Kaplan, edited by Ian Markiewicz.
The film was shot in stark looking 16mm black and white; it's juxtaposition with the full color concert clips makes for a visually compelling experience. It's interesting to watch as Sir Paul goes through the whole press junket thing, meeting with television hosts and other celebrities to promote the upcoming concert. It's also great to see the casual banter back and forth from a literal swarm of people such as Billy Joel, Pete Townsend, Jim Carey, Bill Clinton, Eric Clapton, Harrison Ford and James Taylor, to name a few.
Those candid moments reveal interesting tidbits, such as this one; in 1968 James Taylor actually recorded his first major label album in the same studio that The Beatles used for their "White Album", as James would go in during The Beatles down time, literally squeezing in recording time for his first record.
Paul McCartney was actually instrumental in James getting a record contract with The Beatles-owned Apple Records, and Paul was also the bass player on James's memorable hit song "Carolina in my Mind".
The real gem in this documentary is in the behind-the-scenes rehearsal footage for the live concert. It's a very powerful and moving moment when Paul listens to a small quartet solemnly playing "Yesterday", later when he sits alone at the piano and begins to do "Let It Be", which then morphs into the concert stage rehearsal with Billy Joel backing him up, it's a priceless moment as well.
I will admit that Paul McCartney was never actually my favourite Beatle, and over the years he's had his share of detractors, but this film offers the viewer a glimpse at another side of Paul; his casual interactions with fans on the street and industry people behind the scenes seems very genuine, humble and honest. This is a very powerful and entertaining film.