While infinitely different than being there in the flesh, a live concert film can provide an up-close, multi-angled, cinematically inspired perspective of the music experience -- not to mention a glimpse into history for those who were born decades later. Such will be the case for a majority of the audience heading out to the Boedecker Theater tonight for the premier of The Doors: Live At the Hollywood Bowl. In honor of this very exciting release, we compiled a list the five best live concerts films the cinema has to offer.
5. Shut Up and Play The Hits (LCD Soundsystem) Few bands in history have ever pulled off being both stylishly contemporary and emotionally vulnerable -- particularly while making dance music. But LCD Soundsystem was that band, touching the hearts of thin-skinned music lovers, while simultaneously commanding them to move their feet. And long before drugs, girls or songwriting royalties had the chance to break up the band, James Murphy gently pushed the self-destruct button, moving on other creative endeavors. But before the band parted ways, it scheduled one blow-out event at Madison Square Garden, where the act's electrically stirring performance (which includes a supernaturally bad-ass cover of Harry Nilson's "Jump Into The Fire) was documented by filmmakers Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace.
4. Zoo TV: Live From Australia (U2) After U2's humiliatingly bombastic road-film, Rattle and Hum, almost ruined the band's reputation as the rock-saviors of the '80s, the band reinvented itself as post-modern humorists with Achtung Baby. The subsequent tour, Zoo TV, theatrically satirized the media, Televangelists, the Gulf War and perhaps most of all, the band's reputation as money-grubbing phonies with souls of lead. These killer, Manchester-dance influenced songs would be enough to make the tour a glowing monument to the expansion of rock possibilities, but the cabaret madness of several costume changes, mash-up video clips and Bono's hilarious caricatures of rock iconoclasts, make this concert film an essential gem of live-music history.
3. Monterey Pop (Various Artists) After he documented Bob Dylan's pre-rock, 1965 tour of England in Don't Look Back, and before he canonized David Bowie's glam-revolution in Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker was on hand to film one of the most important musical weekends in '60s rock. This three-day concert in 1967 would introduce the Jimi Hendrix Experience to America, Ravi Shankar to the hippies, as well as bringing many San Francisco acts like Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane to a national audience. While Woodstock hogs all the historical footnotes as the ultimate gathering of hippies, the Monterey Pop Festival gives a glimpse into the perfect year of the '60s counter-culture, a time when people could handle their drugs and peace-induced, enlightened creativity was treasured above mindless indulgence and paranoid politics.
2. Gimme Shelter(The Rolling Stones) Following their free-of-charge Brian Jones memorial concert earlier that year in England, the Stones assumed they could replicate the event in San Francisco at the end of their 1969 US Tour. Mick Jagger even boasted in a press conference that the event would "set an example to the rest of America as to how one can behave in large gatherings." However, a last-minute venue change, a large circulation of bad-acid and an enlistment of the Hell's Angels as security guards would all result in the event being known to history as the metaphorical Death of The Sixties, and the very literal death of an eighteen-year-old boy when an Angel stabbed him to death. Leading up to this, though, the Maysles Brothers document an incredible tour by the Rolling Stones resulting in the live album, Get Yer Ya-Yas Out!, along with some studio time where the band laid down some memorable tracks for Sticky Fingers.
1. Stop Making Sense (The Talking Heads) Cool yet weird, populous yet arty, hopelessly white yet terribly funky, the Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense set the tone for how a band could have a large-scale ambition for their live-concert without falling into the traps of bloated commercialism and self-important showboating. Directed by Ted Demme (Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia), the film begins with David Byrne performing solo with a guitar and boombox, then slowly, piece by piece, being joined by the rest of his band with each new song, culminating in a pop-art stage set and Byrne dancing about in a suit several sizes too large for him.
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