Five Incredible Concert Movies

Movies based around rock concerts have a long and illustrious history. Next month the film Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour (2023) will be all entertainment journalists and fans will be talking about as Swifties pack theaters in North America to relive or just sing along to their favorite tunes.

While that film will surely break records, sell mountains of popcorn, and warm hearts, let's look back at some of the other concert films that were all the rage in their day.

Woodstock (1970)

Well before YouTube, TikTok or even MTV, the best way for music fans to experience the first giant US rock festival - without being there - was to watch the epic documentary in a theater.

And boy did they go. The Oscar-winning film featuring the performances by The Grateful Dead, Santana, Janis Joplin, The Who, Jimi Hendrix et al raked in $50 million, which would be the equivalent to $396 million today.

Yes, a four-hour concert film made that much money. More miraculous-- the average ticket price for a first run movie in 1970 was $1.50. So there were a ton of people flocking the theaters to hear about not taking the brown acid.

The setlists for all three days are conveniently located here.

The Song Remains the Same (1976)

For years a midnight movie staple, the Led Zeppelin documentary about the quartet's Madison Square Garden 1973 shows is such an iconic piece of filmmaking it's almost a parody of itself.

From the individual scenes featuring each of the talented musicians, to the bits where the groups obese manager ridicules an MSG official for allowing bootleg merchandise to be sold on the streets of NYC surrounding the famed venue, to the highly quotable Robert Plant asking the crowd if it remembers laughter -- there's a reason Rob Reiner was inspired by this '76 doc when he made his first feature, Spinal Tap (1984)

The MSG shows were the final three Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham would play in their hugely successful 1973 North American Tour, where they supported their fifth studio album, Houses of the Holy.

The tour began in two baseball stadiums in May where crowds jumped from 39k in Atlanta to 56k in Tampa. Houses of the Holy proved that yes, they could make a solid record after Led Zep I, II, III, and IV, and make it look easy.

While the MSG shows were supposed to be the cherry on top of the fantastic year, thieves absconded with over $200k of the band's booty on their final night in the Big Apple. The crooks were never caught, for if they had, they probably would have received no quarter.

Stop Making Sense (1984)

On Friday, 9/22, the artsy indie production company A24 is re-releasing the Talking Heads' masterpiece Stop Making Sense into IMAX screens for a week to celebrate its 40th anniversary.

A24, who last year produced the Best Picture winner Everything Everywhere All At Once, is calling the Jonathan Demme doc, "the greatest concert film of all time." If it's not, it's way up there.

You've got David Byrne's big suit, the muted color pallet, the unique camera work, and all of those beautiful songs and performances.

What more could you ask for? Maybe that's where the IMAX comes in: let's see it as big and as beautifully as possible.

Culled from several appearances the band had at the Pantages Theater on Hollywood Blvd in late 1983 near the end of their Speaking in Tongues Tour, for all its critical success, the film wasn't blessed with many awards and Roger Ebert only gave it 3 1/2 stars out of 4.

Roger missed the boat on that review. This is a perfect film and more than worthy of a re-release.

Urgh! A Music War (1981)

Filmed from August to September in 1980 in the US, UK, and France, this film is like no other.

It has no narration, no exposition, and no obvious agenda other than to document the underground punk, new wave and pop scenes happening at the beginning of the decade.

Boasting a lineup of truly original talent like Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, the Go-Go's, Joan Jett, X, Devo, the Cramps, Oingo Boingo, Dead Kennedys, Steel Pulse, Surf Punks, Echo & the Bunnymen and The Police, there is no finer collection of cutting age artists performing live music during that era than this.

This is the only type of war we should engage in. And it should happen far more often.

HOMECOMING: A film by Beyoncé (2019)

Next month everyone will be really happy for Taylor, and now that we're almost finished, it's only right to say Beyoncé made one of the greatest concert videos of all time.

HOMECOMING deserves to be in All-Caps just from that opening alone. The snare drum, the costumes, the strut, the attitude, the confidence, the pageantry.

HOW IS THAT ENTIRE MARCHING BAND ON THE GRANDSTAND? How can Beyoncé dance those complex moves so easily? And through the doc we learn how difficult it was for her to get back into shape after delivering twins with the clock ticking towards her Coachella appearance.

From Prince to Daft Punk to so many other memorable performances at the desert oasis in Indio, Beyoncé's two headlining 32-song spectacles in 2018 celebrating Black History, feminism, and the unique Black college experience have quickly become the gold standard.

And best of all, instead of having to schlep out to a midnight movie, or find a theater it's playing in, Beychella is available on Netflix so you can watch it as often as you like.

Beyonce's Renaissance Tour is winding down. Arlington, Dallas, Houston, New Orleans and KC are the last dates of this leg of the tour. Get your tickets on Beyonce's website.

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Last updated: 10 Dec 2023, 07:02 Etc/UTC