While getting ready to fly from New York to London one September morning in 2001, Paul McCartney's plane suddenly stopped taxiing down the runway. It seemed that there had been some sort of accident downtown, and all flights were being grounded. Devastated by 9/11, the former Beatle wanted to do his part. So when Harvey Weinstein asked him if he'd participate in a benefit concert for the first-responder policemen and firefighters, McCartney said sure. He'd even ask for a little help from his friends. (Yes, we know that's a Ringo song.)
Having already aired on Showtime, Bradley Kaplan and Albert Mayles's documentary on McCartney's headlining appearance at the Concert for New York City on October 20, 2001, makes its theatrical premiere shorn of specific tenth-anniversary baggage. Which may be a blessing, as the show itself is the least interesting part of this vrit chronicle. (Notwithstanding McCartney tearing into "I'm Down" with a Hamburg-era ferocity. How old is this guy again?) What does resonate is how the film captures McCartney in laid-back ambassador mode, walking around in midtown and turning big names into awestruck fanboys. There's famous and then there's Beatles famous, and the love Macca inspires in everybody from janitors to James Taylor is superheroic. To see him unleashing his papal celebrity on New Yorkers still licking their psychic wounds is to witness someone take a sad city and try to make it momentarily better.
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