x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Top rock and pop concert documentaries

With the release of One Direction: This Is Us, we remember some of the best rock and pop concert documentaries.

Mick Jagger in Gimme Shelter. Courtesy Maysles Films
Mick Jagger in Gimme Shelter. Courtesy Maysles Films

With the release of One Direction: This Is Us, we remember some of the best rock and pop concert documentaries.

Stop Making Sense (1984)

Jonathan Demme directed this innovative concert movie featuring Talking Heads onstage at Hollywood's Pantages Theater in December 1983. Beginning with their lead singer David Byrne walking out to an empty stage with just a cassette player and a guitar and each band member coming out one by one to join him, the movie features classic tracks such as Psycho Killer, Burning Down the House and Once In A Lifetime, and has a memorable visual style thanks to the shadows created by unusual lighting, the lack of audience reaction shots, and, of course, Byrne's memorable "big suit".

Don't Look Back (1967)

The documentary maker D A Pennebaker (who also directed Monterey Pop and Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars) made this film about Bob Dylan's 1965 UK concert tour. Opening with the now iconic scene of Dylan holding up and discarding cue cards featuring lyrics to Subterranean Homesick Blues, the movie features some of his Royal Albert Hall performance and captures his waning relationship with Joan Baez. Best of all, however, are Dylan's mean swipes at reporters and put-down of the poor folk musician Donovan, who makes the mistake of popping backstage.

Gimme Shelter (1970)

Quite rightly regarded as one of the best rock documentaries of all time, Gimme Shelter chronicles the last weeks of The Rolling Stones' 1969 US tour that ended with the tragic Altamont Free Concert, where the concertgoer Meredith Hunter was stabbed to death by Hells Angels who were acting as security. Showcasing the directors' Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin's "direct cinema" approach, it begins with the band's earlier gig at Madison Square Garden but soon focuses on the events that led up to the infamous murder.

The Last Waltz (1978)

The Band's farewell concert appearance in 1976 was filmed by a young Martin Scorsese, who interviewed each member for their reminiscences about the group that started out in the 1950s as a rock and roll band. There are some great trivia moments - Robbie Robertson remembering playing in a nightclub owned by Jack Ruby is one - and superb guest stars, too, including Neil Young, Neil Diamond, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr and Bob Dylan.

Madonna Truth or Dare (1991)

This followed Madonna at the height of her fame during the 1990 Blond Ambition world tour. While the electrifying concert sequences are in colour, the rest of the movie is black and white and has some choice moments as celebrities like Antonio Banderas, Al Pacino and Warren Beatty (whom Madonna was dating at the time) show up - the most memorable being Kevin Costner, who calls her show "neat", causing a terrific reaction from the blonde superstar.

The Decline of Western Civilisation Part I and II (1981, 1988)

Penelope Spheeris, who went on to make Wayne's World, directed Part I - about the Los Angeles punk rock scene at the end of the 1970s - and followed it with Part II: The Metal Years almost a decade later (there is a part III, about gutter punk in the 1990s, too). Mixing interviews with fans and performers with concert footage, both films are fascinating - but Part II, featuring Alice Cooper, Kiss, Megadeth and Aerosmith among others, has the wilder tales of excess.

Woodstock (1970)

Far too many people than could possibly have been there claim to have experienced the Woodstock Festival - three days of peace and music at a dairy farm in the Catskills in August 1969. Over 400,000 people did attend but the rest probably watched this documentary that won an Academy Award. Joan Baez, The Who, Joe Cocker, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin are among the performers, although the Grateful Dead asked for footage of their set to be removed as they felt it wasn't up to their usual standard. For a more modern look at a rock festival, check out Julien Temple's 2006 movie of Glastonbury, detailing the history of the festival.

Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (1973)

D A Pennebaker's movie shows a 26-year-old David Bowie - as Ziggy, of course - and his backing group performing at Hammersmith Odeon in London in the summer of 1973. It was the gig in which Bowie retired his androgynous, science fiction alter ego, and features performances of songs such as All the Young Dudes, Changes, Space Oddity and Oh! You Pretty Things. Bowie on stage is always electric, and this slice of the artist at his peak is a must see for fans.

Katy Perry: Part of Me (2012)

There have been a slew of recent concert movies focusing on artists such as Justin Bieber (Never Say Never), the Glee performers and the pop band JLS (JLS 3D) - presumably made for young fans whose parents won't let them go to the real thing - but the most fun has to be Katy Perry's 2012 movie that tells the story of her life mixed with concert footage from her California Dreams tour. As bright, poppy and brash as the star herself, this is fun stuff - although grown-up viewers will note the undertone of sadness as it was filmed during Perry's break-up with husband Russell Brand.