The seven best band tour documentaries
The Black Lips are heading to Denver April 2 in support their new album Underneath The Rainbow and also a new documentary featuring their 2012 tour of that took them through Egypt, Cypress, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. Watching this rough yet intimate look at what it's like for a Western indie band to draw crowds in the Middle East post-Arab Spring got the Backbeat crew thinking about other intriguing tour documentaries. Here is the list of seven must-watch for any music enthusiast. Let us know what your favorites are in the comments.
7. Mistaken for Strangers
Mistaken for Strangers follows The National as they set out on their first worldwide tour after the release of High Violet. However, this documentary follows the tour from a very specific viewpoint: the brother of front man Matt Berninger, Tom Berninger. More a film about sibling rivalry and living a few feet away from rock stars, this documentary provides honest footage of the band on the road as well as an inside look at Berninger's mentality and his complicated relationship with his less ambitious brother.
Available: In Theaters and iTunes March 28.
6. The Road To God Knows Where
Shot by one person with a handheld camera, The Road To God Knows Where provides an intimate look at Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds' 1989 tour of American. While this documentary doesn't show a lot of Cave's impressive on-stage skills, it makes up for it by showing what happens when not in the public eye on the road. Nick Cave also has a new documentary coming out this year, so before you see that, it might be good to check out the Cave of 24 years ago.
Available: Online at nickcave.com, Amazon
5. Shut Up and Play The Hits
This documentary isn't about a whole tour, but one exceptional show. The last show LCD Soundsystem would play -- and man, was it a show. Intercut with backstage footage, an interview between James Murphy and Chuck Klosterma is a timeline the day after the show, post-LCD Soundsystem. This film perfectly captures the end of band and really the end of an era. This is a documentary about how big of a farewell party a band can throw, and what it's really like when an icon decides to walk away from it all.
Available: Netflix Instant, iTunes, Amazon
4. Meeting People Is Easy
It's hard to imagine there was a time when Radiohead wasn't one of the biggest bands around, but with the release of OK Computer at 1998, they were just starting to come to grips with the international fame they would keep growing for years. Meeting People Is Easy chronicles the band's exhaustive world tour promoting the now-iconic album. This documentary is, in a way, the opposite of The Road To God Knows Where in that it is quite impersonal -- not about Thom Yorke's brooding soul or the strain of a 104 city tour, but instead about the album itself and what it took for a band like Radiohead to make and support it on the road.
Available: Amazon, Youtube
3. Kids Like You and Me
Last year, The Black Lips decided to go where few Western indie bands have gone before-- the Middle East. This documentary shows how the adventurous tour was planned (and the many times it almost fell through), the odd venues the band is forced to play, interacting with the locals, and the lessons they've learned about being abroad from the India incident. From Cairo to Lebanon to UAE, this documentary is far from a clean, pretty concert film, and is more handheld footage of the Atlanta-based punks playing shows, partying with locals and trying to get a better grasp on what the region is really like, especially Cairo post-Arab Spring.
Available: iTunes, Amazon
2. Under The Great White Northern Lights
In what would ultimately be the last tour for brother/sister (?) ex-husband/ex-wife(?) duo the White Stripes, they decided to bring along a film crew as they toured Canada in 2007. While the documentary doesn't provide a lot of insight into how or why things fell apart, it does create the perfect live performance and tour documentary, showing the White Stripes on-stage and off, its two members hiding behind their personas and behaving organically as they play through the Great White North.
Available: iTunes, Amazon
In the beginning of the aughts, two bands were competing to be at the top of the indie rock scene -- The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols. This film chronicles seven years of the two front men's love/hate relationship for each other, their insane journeys on the road, and how two bands at the same level of fame can quickly go on divergent paths. The film highlights how precarious mid-level fame is, and how easily a band can fall apart or have their fame blow up.
Available: Vimeo, Amazon
Honorable Mention: Conan O'Brien Can't Stop
This documentary is more comedy based than music based, which is why it just gets honorable mention in this list. But that is not to discredit it, because this film, shot by O'Brien's friend from Harvard, is a raw and riveting look at what someone will do to get back the fame they think they've lost and what happens when that fame becomes too much. At first glance, it's a chronicle of O'Brien's post-Tonight-Show-fiasco tour called "Legally Prohibited From Being on Televsion" tour. At another, it's a harsh look at what it means to be a performer, a celebrity and how hard someone like O'Brien will fight to keep an audience's (and world's) attention.
Available: Netflix Instant, Amazon, iTunes
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