If you have never heard of PETA, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, they are an organisation that was formed in 1980 to draw attention to animal cruelty. They boast a cavalcade of stars amongst their high profile supporters (not that these people are any more important than any of their other supporters), many of whom come together here for what in actuality is entitled Paul McCartney & Friends – PETA’s Millennium Concert.
The show begins with a quick tribute to the classic US show Laugh-In, before leading to the concert proper. There are introductions, stand-up from Ellen DeGeneres (who is a lesbian – now don’t look at me like that, she mentions it about ten times here alone!) and Margaret Cho, highlights from the PETA Awards and, of course, the music – which receives most all the attention on the packaging of this disc, when it doesn't actually start until after more than 25 minutes have elapsed. We are first treated to the wonderful Sarah McLachlan performing her track Angel in honour of the late Linda McCartney, the always wonderful B-52’s follow with three of their biggest hits - Love Shack, Roam (joined by Sarah and The Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde) and the absolute highlight that is Rock Lobster. Hynde then returns for the lovely I’ll Stand By You, and even gets a piggyback for her troubles!
Then comes the star of the evening, Sir Paul. Along with his mates David Gilmour (Pink Floyd) and Ian Paice (Deep Purple) he rockets through six tracks from his recent rock-revival album Run Devil Run, clutching his gorgeous Hofner bass and obviously relishing the chance to rock out a bit. So in all there’s only about 35 minutes of music included here - the infinitely more vital content is hidden away in ‘special features’...
The show proper was filmed using high definition video equipment, and looks wonderful for it. It’s sharp, it’s clear, it’s colourful, it exhibits great black levels, is very detailed and it doesn’t head into over-sharp territory like many similar releases, which can make aliasing the order of the day. Some interview and archival footage is included, in which video quality varies markedly. We get a 1.85:1 presentation, which is NOT anamorphically enhanced.
Sonically things are a little disappointing, as there’s only a Dolby Digital stereo mix included. As the feature isn’t just a music concert this is perfectly acceptable, however the problem here is that the disc is being well and truly marketed as a music title. Anyway, it’s a pretty good soundtrack for what it is - always clear, the music is well mixed, and no synching issues arise.
The ‘special features’ menu is what hides away this disc’s most valuable programming, all of which varies in video quality as much of the footage was acquired surreptitiously via hidden cameras, and some of it dates back more than ten years. To quickly get the frivolous out of the way, there’s a music video of a song entitled Tame Yourself, which goes uncredited here, but was release in 1991 under the banner Raw Youth. They have many recognisable hangers-on, and it’s so incredibly tres ’80s that it appears much as if they raided Haysi Fantayzee’s dress-ups box for wardrobe. It even carries the fabulous hook of “Oink! Cluck! Moo!” - Old McDonald eat your heart out!
And, if you’re one of the farmers depicted in any of the following features, Mr McDonald, I for one would be quite happy if you do yourself plenty of further damage. For what follows are a series of mini-documentaries, all preceded by “explicit and graphic images” warnings which mean what they say, and hosted by various stars. Pammy Anderson presents The Skin Trade, a look at some of what many may not know about leather production; Alec Baldwin brings us Cheap Tricks, showing the conditions animals can suffer in circuses, rodeos and other animal shows; Fashion designer Stella McCartney helps expose some realities involved with Fur Farming; Todd Oldham goes undercover, with some fascinating interview footage with furriers in Fur Trade; Charlize Theron looks at Puppy Mills and James Cromwell introduces and narrates North Carolina Pig Farm Investigation. The many absolutely appalling horrors depicting how utterly cruel and inhumane some of us supposedly civilised people can be that are shown here cannot be easily described in words. I won’t pontificate any further as this isn’t the appropriate forum, but suffice to say that if nothing at all here moves you at least close to tears then you must be heartless. Or if that doesn’t work on you, imagine having electrodes fastened to your genitals and then being electrocuted via your rectum...
Speaking of genitals, rounding out the features are a rather funny 30 second TV commercial urging people to get their cats fixed. This is accompanied by a seven minute compile of public service announcements featuring all manner of celebrities including k.d. lang, Belinda Carlisle, River Phoenix, William Shatner, Alicia Silverstone, Sir John Gielgud and even, bless her, Elvira. These cover all manner of topics, and give a perfect overview of what PETA is all about. Many, however, will baulk at some of the vegetarian messages and similar, as to be honest they often have a tendency to be overly preachy, which doesn't necessarily help the cause that much.
The use of the word “party” in the title could be seen as being rather misleading when the bonus features are taken into consideration, and in all this is a curiously marketed, yet incredibly eye-opening, release that demands a much wider audience than it will probably ever get.