Sunday, November 02, 2014

Best Concert Films Ever?

A. F. Litt: Hulslander Benefit - September 27, 2014 &emdash; Murderbait, Alhambra Theater, 2014 

Murderbait, Alhambra Theater, 2014
A Benefit For Chamblin Hulslander / Murderbait CD Release Party. Alhambra Theater. Portland, Oregon. September 27, 2014
Photo by A. F. Litt

I am currently in the process of editing a couple of small concert films and I thought I’d see what was out there, what others think are great concert films…

One of my favorites, Big Time by Tom Waits, didn’t show up anywhere.  Bummer.

Looking at the these lists, it’s clear that there is a lot of consensus out there on which concert films are clearly the best…

The 10 Best Concert Movies Ever | The Playlist: "The concert movie is a strange and ambitious thing, marrying live music to moving pictures and permanently fixing a fleeting, one-night-only live event for the masses so that you can recreate it alone, on tape, whenever you like. It's a noble objective, but a difficult one. If you like, you can just point a few cameras at the stage and leave them running, sure, and many, many concert movies are dull, flatly filmed cash-ins, and almost every band seems to have released a no-frills concert DVD or two at some point. But they’re not all like that, as you’ll find out below, where we’ve selected 10 of the very best."

  • Stop Making Sense (1984) – Talking Heads, dir. Jonathan Demme
  • The Last Waltz (1978) – The Band, dir. Martin Scorsese
  • David Chappelle’s Block Party (2005) – Various Artists, dir. Michel Gondry
  • Woodstock (1970) – Various Artists, dir. Michael Wadleigh [Very early in his career, Scorsese was one of the editors]
  • Awesome: I Fuckin’ Shot That! (2006) – Beastie Boys
  • " …in 2006, some time after they’d stopped feeling especially culturally relevant, the Beastie Boys had an interesting idea that actually does mostly work: let the audience make the film by distributing 50 camcorders into the crowd and editing together the resultant footage. Then they slapped a title on it that really gets the concept across. Inevitably, it’s scrappy as fuck—even professionals would have trouble getting a decent shot while being jostled by yuppies reliving their misspent 80s summers—but that adds to the energy and immediacy of the whole thing, and the mild ridiculousness of the Beastie Boys themselves is refreshing seen through such a literally amateurish lens: the guys on stage look just as homebrewed as the footage, except for how they’re actually absurdly talented rappers. The fans had fun too, above all the guy who filmed himself taking a bathroom break: he must have assumed that bit would be cut, but hell no it wasn’t. And, indeed, spare a thought for the editing process here too, which must have been nothing short of heroic. Someone ought to repeat this idea, now that you could get not just 50 camcorders’ worth of footage but video from every audience member’s phone."
  • MTV Unplugged in New York (1993) – Nirvana, dir. Beth McCarthy-Miller
  • Gimme Shelter (1970) – Rolling Stones, dir. Albert and David Maysles
  • The T.A.M.I. Show (1964) – Various Artists
  • Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1973) – David Bowie, dir. D.A. Pennebaker
  • Heima (2006) – Sigur Rios, dir. Dean DeBlois

Are these the best concert films of all time? | Film | The Guardian: "We asked @guardianmusic followers to chose their greatest ever music films. Here are some of the suggestions - add your own in the open thread below."

    1. Stop Making Sense
    2. Shut Up and Play The Hits (2012) – LCD Sound System, dir. Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace
    3. Live at the Astoria (1994) – Radiohead, dir. Brett Turnbull
    4. The Last Waltz
    5. Good Timin’: Live at Knebworth (1980) – Beach Boys

Readers' Poll: The Best Concert Movies of All Time Pictures | Rolling Stone: "Concert movies are often taken for granted at the time of their release but become very valuable over time – especially when they give viewers a chance to witness long-dead icons in their prime or bands who have since parted ways. We asked you to name your favorite concert film of all time and compiled this list of your Top 10 selections. Click through to find out what you picked."

    1. The Last Waltz
    2. The Song Remains the Same (1976) – Led Zeppelin, dir. Peter Clifton and Joe Massot  [Very interesting stories about this film:]
    3. Stop Making Sense
    4. Woodstock
    5. Rattle and Hum (1988) – U2, dir. Phil Joanou
    6. Gimme Shelter
    7. Live at Pompeii (1972) – Pink Floyd, dir. Adrian Maben
    8. Shine a Light (2008) – Rolling Stones, dir. Martin Scorsese  “…Scorsese didn’t half-ass it: he put together a dream team of the industry’s best cinematographers, led by Robert Richardson (Kill Bill) and including Robert Elswit (There Will Be Blood), Ellen Kuras (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), Emmanuel Lubezki (The Tree of Life), Declan Quinn (Leaving Las Vegas), John Toll (Legends of the Fall), and Al Maysles (co-director of Gimme Shelter).” [Flavorwire]
    9. Sign O’ the Times (1987) – Prince, dir. Prince
    10. Bullet in a Bible (2005) – Green Day, dir. Samuel Bayer

Best Concert Movies Ever Made – Flavorwire: "Forty-five years ago today, the Woodstock Music & Art Fair got underway at Yasgur’s Farm in upstate New York, kicking off a weekend of music and memories for 400,000 attendees and four-and-a-half decades of wistful Boomer nostalgia. (More on that next week.) It also resulted in 1970’s Woodstock, one of the most influential and perhaps the greatest of all concert movies — so in honor of the festival’s 45th anniversary, we rounded up the 45 best examples of the genre."

    1. Woodstock
    2. The Last Waltz
    3. Stop Making Sense
    4. The T.A.M.I. Show
    5. Wattstax (1972) – Various Artists, dir. Mel Stuart
    6. Dave Chappelle’s Block Party
    7. Gimme Shelter
    8. Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
    9. Jazz on a Summer’s Day (1960) – Various Artists, dir. Aram Avakian and Bert Stern
    10. Monterey Pop (1967) – Various Artists, dir. D.A. Pennebaker
    11. Awesome, I Fuckin’ Shot That!
    12. Buena Vista Social Club (1999) – Buena Vista Social Club, dir. Wim Wenders

Other Notable movies on the list…  Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll (1986) – Chuck Berry, dir. Taylor Hackford (14), Don’t Look Back (1967)  – Bob Dylan, dir. D.A. Pennebaker (15), loudQUIETloud (2006) – The Pixies (17); U2 Live at Red Rocks: Under a Blood Red Sky (1983) – dir. Gavin Taylor (19), Rust Never Sleeps (1978) – Neil Young, dir Bernard Sharkey [pseudonym for Neil Young] (21), Shut Up and Play The Hits (23); Neil Young: Heart of Gold (2006) – dir. Jonathan Demme (27); Let It Be (1970) – The Beatles, dir. Michael Lindsay-Hogg (29); Shine a Light (30); The Song Remains The Same (34); Fade to Black (35); Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones – “Rollin Binzer’s snapshot of the Stones’ ’72 Exile on Main Street tour was something of a Hail Mary; the group had originally hired Robert Frank, who took the cover photos for Exile, to make a gritty documentary of the American tour, but the resulting film, Cocksucker Blues, came out a bit grittier than they cared for. So four shows in Texas were shot on 16mm and blown up, augmented with “spectacular QuadroSound,” and “four-walled” into to theaters by the group as a special roadshow event. The backstory makes it sound thrown together, and the filmmaking occasionally supports that impression. But there’s no denying the power of the performance — the group was at the peak of its musical prowess, the musicians prowling the stage like the hedonistic rock stars they unquestionably were.” (38), Concert For George (2003)– Various Artists, dir. David Leland (41); YES: 9012 Live (1984) – dir. Steven Soderbergh (45)

50 Greatest Concert Films Of All Time |

    1. Stop Making Sense
    2. The Last Waltz
    3. Gimme Shelter
    4. Woodstock
    5. Awesome, I Fuckin’ Shot That!
    6. Don’t Look Back
    7. Meeting People Is Easy (1998) – Radiohead, dir. Grant Gee
    8. Monterey Pop
    9. Buena Vista Social Club
    10. Jazz on a Summer’s Day

Other Notable movies on the list…   The T.A.M.I. Show (14); Dave Chappelle’s Block Party (15);  Let It Be (16); The Song Remains the Same (18); Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (19); Heima (21); Shine a Light (23); Sign O’ the Times (24); Neil Young: Heart of Gold (25); Rust Never Sleeps (26);  Under Great White Northern Lights (2009) – White Stripes, dir. Emmett Malloy (29);  This Is It (30); Wattstax (32); Live at Pompeii (36); Fade to Black (37); The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus (1968 / 1996) – Various Artists, dir. Michael Lindsay-Hogg [Interesting…] (40); Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll! (43); Rattle and Hum (45); Never Say Never (46); Concert for George (47); loudQUIETloud (48); Shut Up and Play the Hits (50)

Top 10 Concert Films to See Before You Die | Village Voice: "For music fans, there's nothing better than seeing your favorite band or checking out an up-and-coming act in person. While the records serve as a tangible finished product that fans can jam on until eternity, the live show experience explains more about a band than their recorded work. With concert prices soaring to astronomical prices, it's understandable if people are staying home. That's why the concert movie/DVD/Blu Ray has become so vital for a band's popularity.

“For people who can't afford to see a show, the concert movie serves as a way to take in the action without all the strange smells that inhabit the floor section of the arena. With the number of concert films on the rise, we decided to take a look at our favorites from over the years. While the list is clearly subjective, the one common link is that the music and the cinematography both rock."

    1. The Last Waltz
    2. Stop Making Sense
    3. Woodstock
    4. Fade to Black (2004) – Jay-Z, dir. Patrick Paulson and Michael John Warren
    5. Concert For George
    6. Dave Chappelle’s Block Party
    7. Monterey Pop
    8. Shine a Light
    9. Awesome, I Fuckin’ Shot That!
    10. U2 Live at Red Rocks: Under a Blood Red Sky

10 Of The All-Time Greatest Concert Movies: "It’s become a pop music rite of passage for all the big acts to try to release a concert film at the height of their popularity. Or at least that’s the way it seems. I can’t help but cynically assume that once a pop star like Justin Bieber or Katy Perry or the Jonas Brothers come out with their concert movies, they’ve lost confidence in their future drawing ability. They figure this is the best chance they’re going to get to draw people out to a theater, perhaps even to shill out enough to cover a 3D ticket in the hopes of getting the True Concert Experience. It’s all downhill after the concert movie. And to be clear, I don’t know if this is an actual, measurable trend, or if it’s merely anecdotal. I also don’t know who “they” are in this scenario exactly, but I do know that at least one of “them” is Scooter Braun. 

"The latest group to try to buck this trend—which probably isn’t even a trend but instead just an opportunity to allow more people to get a taste of a musical performance at a drastically reduced concert price—is Britain’s pop music pride and joy, One Direction. The interesting thing about their movie, One Direction: This Is Us, is that it actually has a well-known and fairly well-respected director helming it in Morgan Spurlock, whose rebellious attitude has become notorious after works like Super Size Me and The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. I can’t be the only one wondering what Mr. Spurlock is playing at here. What I do know is that it sounds a least slightly more intriguing that that Beyoncé documentary that was directed by the visionary auteur known as Beyoncé. 

"Here are 10 of the very best concert movies that have left behind a legacy that One Direction: This Is Us will be trying to live up to."

    1. The Last Waltz
    2. Don’t Look Back
    3. Dave Chappelle’s Block Party
    4. The Song Remains the Same
    5. Pearl Jam Twenty (2011) – dir. Cameron Crowe
    6. This Is It (2009) – Michael Jackson, dir. Kenny Ortega
    7. Shine a Light
    8. Shut Up and Play The Hits
    9. Stop Making Sense
    10. [Tie or basically the same movie?] Never Say Never (2011)– Justin Bieber, dir. John M. Chu;  Part of Me (2012) – Katie Perry, dir. Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz

      “Some concert movies are made with the intention of providing an honest portrayal of a musical act, which can be unflattering, but ultimately demonstrate the creativity or mad genius of the artists at work. And that’s valuable. What’s becoming particularly interesting in recent years, though, is the employment of the documentary genre as essentially another way to sell a musical star’s product to a rabid fanbase. These movies come off as carefully sifted and combed through by a pop star’s management in order to show their client in the most positive and sympathetic light. At least that’s the way these movies seem to play. The prepubescent Bieber and the seemingly immature Perry are talents that are very closely handled and packaged, and most of what these movies show is the outer packaging. There are occasional glimpses behind the plastic, like the weird focus on Katy Perry’s relationship with Russell Brand, which it would appear was spun as “she had to choose between a relationship or her career and she chose her career because she’s the best.” For all I know, that could be true, but it gives off the air of desperate spin.”

Top 10 Concert Films: "We all love a good studio album, but fans of the best rock bands will always tell you there’s no substitute for seeing ‘em live — even if, given the vagaries of touring schedules and the ever-climbing cost of concert tickets, that isn’t always possible. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of live albums to help us get a little closer to the stage with our favorite artists, and for that added extra bit of verisimilitude, there’s nothing like a well-filmed concert documentary.

“The next time you’re in the mood to watch a classic rock artist tear it up in front of a screaming crowd, reach for one of these movies — whether you’re looking for killer riffs, psychedelic soundscapes, or all-star action, you can’t go wrong with our list of the Top 10 Classic Rock Concert Films."

    1. Woodstock
    2. The Last Waltz
    3. Monterey Pop
    4. Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll
    5. Concert for George
    6. Shine a Light
    7. Live at Pompeii
    8. The Song Remains the Same
    9. Stop Making Sense
    10. Double Down Live: 1980 & 2008 (2008) – ZZ Top

The Best Concert Movies Of All Time | Houston Press: "We define a concert movie as a flick that documents one or more shows on a tour. More narrative-oriented rock flicks like D.A. Pennebaker's Bob Dylan mash note Don't Look Back, Charles Peterson's grunge chronicle Hype!, and of course the lighthearted GG Allin tale, Hated, don't count this time.

“We are running this hlist today because this hweek's birthday boy, Elvis Presley, had his time to shine in 1970's That's The Way It Is. If anyone ever tries to belittle the amount of love that the King got back in his heyday, show them this glimpse into what it was like to see him live post-'68 comeback. We'll cover the best rock docs next week, but for now let's have a look at the best concert films ever, or at least the ones CHL liked enough to include on our hlist.

“Some of these are the best documents we have of a band at the zenith of their live creativity, and some are a lively representation of a band in their death throes before they shuffle off into the sunset, or at least until someone throws enough cash at them to belly back up to the stage."


    1. The Last Waltz
    2. Shine a Light
    3. Stop Making Sense
    4. Fade to Black
    5. Urgh! A Music War (1982) – Various Artists, dir. Derek Burbidge
    6. Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll
    7. Awesome, I Fuckin’ Shot That!
    8. The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus
    9. Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
    10. Woodstock

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