A quick note before CHL starts this hlist. 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.
Word has it that the producers and director Martin Scorsese had to pony up a load of cash to erase the lump of cocaine seen inside Neil Young's nose during his appearance on this live film of The Band's last concert on Thanksgiving Night 1976. Elvis' "Mystery Train," featuring '60s British blues maestro Paul Butterfield, is an early standout.
As far as Stones concert films go, this is the most masterfully put together, by Scorsese of course. You had to see in IMAX to get the full effect of all the creases and lines in the boys' faces.
This was the classic Talking Heads that we all think of when the band comes to mind. David Byrne is the real joy here, dancing with a lamp and donning his trademark "Big Suit." Jonathan Demme's camera work is unsurpassed as well.
This was to be the last concert by Jay-Z, who at the time of filming was claiming to be retiring. He obviously didn't stay gone for long. The concert clips and the in-studio footage are gems, looking into the man's creative process. The look on his face when he hears the "Dirt Off Your Shoulder" beat is priceless.
This was the film that warped many young minds when it was aired on the USA Network late at night in the '80s. Performances by artists as disparate as Klaus Nomi, the Dead Kennedys, The Police, Wall of Voodoo, and others mark this film as one of the best looks into New Wave at its height.
The best part of this 1986 Berry tribute film, besides Eric Clapton and Etta James' performances, is the studio fights between Berry and Keith Richards over guitar sounds. It's like watching two Jedis fight.
The Beasties gave crowd members video cameras to shoot the show themselves, hence the title.
The Who burned down the house in this 1968 special with their take of "A Quick One While He's Away." Be sure to catch the Dirty Mac, an all-star band featuring John Lennon, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, and Mitch Mitchell. The Stones' own "Sympathy For The Devil" is smoking too.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Prolific rock director D. A. Pennebaker chronicled the last performance by David Bowie in his Ziggy Stardust persona in 1973. It featured Bowie at his haughtiest and most feral. Check out all the glitter kids outside the venue.
This film condenses the three-day 1969 rock festival into just a little over two hours of music, nudity, and drug freakouts. There is a cut that exists that runs almost four hours if you feel like getting weird.