Given concert flicks are in the news again I thought this would be a perfect time to share our picks for the Best Concert Flicks of All Time!
We don’t expect you will agree with all of our choices and we are, of course, anticipating the emails and comments that are sure to begin with, “Dude, what’s wrong with you?! I can’t believe you forgot…(fill in the blank)!” That being said, if we turn you on to one or two that you may have missed, we will have done our job as Pop Culturalists.
Before we get started allow me to explain the criteria we used to compile this list.
First and foremost, unlike every other list of this kind, we’ve kept the list to concerts that feature a single band or performer, which is why you won’t be seeing Urgh! A Music War, Woodstock, Monterey Pop or The Concert for Bangladesh. We, of course, believe they belong on a list of “the best”, just not necessarily this one.
Second, we based our selections on performance, direction AND setlist, (Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii is a very well made film documenting the early days of the band but the setlist only really appeals to the most extreme diehard fans of the band).
Again, you aren’t expected to agree with every title on here but then, when do you ever?
Alright, ready? Here we go!
11. Awesome! I Fuckin’ Shot That!
The film is a live performance shot by audience members at a 2004 Beastie Boys concert at Madison Square Garden. Leave it to the Beastie Boys to stand this entire genre on it’s head. Rest in Peace Adam and thank you for fighting for our right to Paaaaaarty!
10. Roy Orbison and Friends: A Black and White Night
Does this qualify as a “concert film”? Someone may argue this one never played in movie theaters, we say that someone is an idiot. It’s a concert, it’s on film and it’s freaking AMAZING, end of argument.
Every time you stumble on PBS rerunning this during their fundraising weeks you probably think you’re staying for one song and then, just like us, it’s two and then three, and before you know it the credits are rolling. In other words, this one is hard to ignore.
The list of “Friends” backing Roy up in this film is nothing short of a jaw-dropper. Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello, T-Bone Burnett and Jackson Browne? Oh and then you have Mr. Orbison’s back up singers, Bonnie Riatt, KD Lang and Jennifer Warnes! It’s the kind of concert you only ever imagine In Dreams…. (yeah, that was a pretty lame segue, we know, we try.)
9. Sign ‘o’ the Times
In front of a sold out crowd at the Rotterdam Music Hall, Prince and his band perform 13 numbers, 11 of which are from his double album, “Sign ‘o’ the Times“, one of his absolute best if you ask us!
There’s only one problem with this concert flick, it’s really hard to stay in your seat and just watch, the compulsion to get up and shake yo’ ass is almost impossible to resist. Seriously. if you doubt us, click the link and turn it up, if you aren’t jammin’ by the end of this vid you need to see a doctor asap, cuz ya’ll might be deceased.
8. Gimme Shelter
Remembered as much for the riot incited by the Hell’s Angels, (the would be security for the concert), as it is for the performance of the Rolling Stones themselves, this would definitely be the most historically significant of all the films featured on our list. In it’s time Gimme Shelter stood in dark contrast to the “love fest” that was Woodstock and signaled the beginning of the end for the “Summer of Love”. Ah yes, the days of Coke heads, satin jackets and discotheques were just around the corner.
7. Rattle and Hum
Part documentary, part concert film, Rattle and Hum catapulted U2 into the stratosphere of legendary rock status. To this day it is still the best concert footage the band has ever committed to celluloid, which is no small feat when you consider how many they’ve actually filmed.
6. The Song Remains the Same
This film, like the band itself, ROCKS like no other. If anyone should ever be fool enough to debate the Rock God status of Led Zeppelin with you just pop this one into the DVD player and end the conversation. As far as we’re concerned, when it comes to rock and roll, there’s Led Zeppelin and then there’s everybody else. Watching this film again reminds us of just how woeful the state of rock and roll is these days. Seriously, when did the world of popular music become so unbelievably pussified?!
5. Rock Show
As far as we’re concerned the only thing Paul McCartney ever really did worth any note “post Beatles” was Wings, there, we’ve said it, deal with it.
By the time the 80s rolled around and “the cute one” started recording schmaltzy pop duets with the likes of Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson, many began to believe the conspiracy rumors that Paul actually WAS dead might be true. It’s a fair argument when you try and wrap your brain around the fact that the guy who recorded “Why Don’t We Do it in the Road?” was also behind “Ebony and Ivory“. Is it any wonder that, to this day, when you type Paul McCartney into Google the first thing that comes up is “Paul McCartney Dead”, (the second is “Paul McCartney Tour”)?
It should be noted, Wings, in their various incarnations, were technically together longer than The Beatles, (by one year) and, while the band were at the peak of their success they released Wings Over America, which, in our useless opinion, is one of the best live albums ever recorded. That tour eventually became the movie Rock Show.
Don’t bother looking for this one on DVD or Blu-ray anytime soon, due to miles of legal red tape and the infighting of the former members, the odds aren’t good for this to ever be re-released. You might, however, be able to find most of it online- in varying degrees of quality- if you’re industrious enough. 😉
4. Big Time
Tom Waits Big Time is definitely the strangest concert film you’re ever going to see, which is also why it’s ranked so high on our list. Half concert, half performance art, Waits performs some of his classic tunes, relying heavily on the album Rain Dogs, (one of his best in our opinion.)
3. The Last Waltz
The Last Waltz was Martin Scorsese’s first foray into the concert film genre and, without a doubt, remains his best. In many ways the legendary director set the bar high both for himself as well as for all who would eventually follow.
The film documents the final live performance of The Band, easily one of the best collections of musicians ever assembled, and features guest appearances from Bob Dylan, Van Morrison and Neil Diamond. It’s highly doubtful we’re ever going to see another “going away party” done quite so well.
2. Stop Making Sense
Oscar winning Director Jonathan Demme, (Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia, Something Wild), nearly one ups Scorsese with this groundbreaking flick. The Talking Heads may be long gone but their legend, both in music and in showmanship, will live on forever with this film. From the quiet beginning to the thunderous end, this one is very nearly as good as it gets.
1. Peter Gabriel’s Secret World Live
Yes, we know, this is where some of you may really be rolling your eyes and thinking we’ve lost our minds but, if this is the case, we’re willing to bet you’ve never seen this film in it’s entirety.
With Secret World Live the king of 80s music videos became the king of the concert flicks, at least in our eyes. Yes, this choice may be generationally influenced but rest assured, it’s the same kind of influence that leads the baby boomers to top their “Best Concert Film” lists with Gimme Shelter, The Last Waltz and Woodstock every time. In the large scheme, who really cares?
The simple truth is, from the first moments of this film to the final encore, Peter Gabriel and his amazing band are absolutely riveting. For several decades now Gabriel has become known for his showmanship as much as for his music and, if you ask us, there really has never been anyone better at marrying the concepts of theater with live rock and roll, (Yes, Alice Cooper and Kiss are both pretty amazing live but we feel like they belong in another category entirely).
Secret World Live was filmed during Peter Gabriel’s tour in support of the album US, the follow up to his monster hit, So. The record was largely inspired by Gabriel’s breakup with his long time girlfriend Rossana Arquette, who, interestingly enough, also inspired Toto’s biggest hit, “Rossana“, (gotta give it to the girl, her heartbreak has often lead to our musical gain).
For fans of this flick you’ll be very happy to know the long awaited Blu-ray release is due at the end of this month on 7/24/2012!
If you’re unfamiliar with this one, just watch the opening number and tell us you don’t want to see the rest of the show immediately!