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Concert Films

Music, Movies | By The Top 13 on November 19, 2009

This Is It, the documentary featuring footage of Michael Jackson's rehearsals for the tour he was preparing at the time of his death, is raking it in at the box office. The success of that film got us thinking about the best concert films of all time. The resulting Top 13 spans four decades and features films about everything from hip hop to classic rock, from music festivals to shows at intimate venues.

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Stop Making Sense

1

Stop Making Sense

1984

The gold standard to which every other concert film is compared. Jonathan Demme's portrait of one of the greatest art rock bands of all time (The Talking Heads) is both a clinic on how to perform and how to film a concert.

The Last Waltz

2

The Last Waltz

1978

The final concert by The Band, filmed brilliantly by Martin Scorsese, is a fitting final chapter to The Band's illustrious sixteen-year career. The show features guests such as Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, and Bob Dylan (whom The Band served as backing band for years before breaking out on their own).

Buena Vista Social Club

3

Buena Vista Social Club

1999

Ry Cooder was so inspired by the music of Cuba that he urged director Wim Wenders to follow him to Amsterdam to record the first full band performances from these world music legends, some of whom were in their 90s when the film was shot.

Fade to Black

4

Fade to Black

2004

One part concert film of what was to be Jay Z's final concert; one part documentary of what was to be his final album. Featuring an epic list of guest stars (R. Kelly, Beanie Sigel, and Mary J. Blige to name a few), this one really sets the standard for hip hop films.

Woodstock

5

Woodstock

1970

Highlighted by performances by Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, The Who, and Joe Cocker, this film is a fantastic look at one of the most popular music festivals of all time. The film reveals not only the music, but also how the more than 500,000 people who attended Woodstock co-existed on an upstate New York farm during the festival.

U2: Under a Blood Red Sky

6

U2: Under a Blood Red Sky

1983

Many people prefer 1988's Rattle and Hum, but with the rain pouring down on Red Rocks in Colorado and fog blanketing the amphitheater, this is the definitive U2 concert film.

The Song Remains the Same

7

The Song Remains the Same

1976

Recorded over three nights at New York's Madison Square garden, this film artfully shows one of the greatest bands of all time (Led Zeppelin) during the peak of the band's popularity and creativity.

Rock the Bells

8

Rock the Bells

2006

This is a film about everything it took for a promoter with virtually no experience to put together a full-day festival featuring what would turn out to be the final performance of one of hip hop's most erratic groups, the Wu-Tang Clan. And although Rock the Bells includes some fantastic hip hop performances, don't expect to see Wu-Tang's now legendary set.

Gimme Shelter

9

Gimme Shelter

1970

What started off as a chronicle of the Rolling Stones 1969 tour ended up showcasing one of the greatest disasters in rock history, the riot that occurred at the band's free show at the Altamont Speedway in California.

Awesome; I Fuckin' Shot That!

10

Awesome; I Fuckin' Shot That!

2006

The idea itself is simple: Give hand-held video cameras to your fans and put together a film from the footage they shot. Shot at Madison Square Garden, the end result is a true tribute to exactly how fantastically energetic the Beastie Boys are live.

Monterey Pop

11

Monterey Pop

1968

Documenting the 1967 Monterey Pop festival, this documentary features some of the greatest live performances of all time. Look no further than Jimi Hendrix's incredible performance of "Wild Thing" for evidence of this.

Block Party

12

Block Party

2005

Shot by Michel Gondry, this follows comedian Dave Chappelle on his journey to throw the greatest block party of all time. The film mixes Chappelle's sketch comedy with performances at the Brooklyn bash by, among others, the Roots, Kanye West, Erykah Badu, and a reunited Fugees playing their first show in seven years.

PNYC: Portishead - Roseland New York

13

PNYC: Portishead - Roseland New York

1998

Backed by a 30-piece orchestra from the New York Philharmonic, Portishead somehow manages to eclipse the beauty of the band's recordings during this intimate show in New York. The subtle, monochromatic film is a perfect match for the band’s breathtaking and haunting performance.

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Comments Leave a comment

david 

Two of my favorites which are maybe more like concert/rockumentary films... Sigur Ros 'Heima' and Depeche Mode 101.

6:31 AM   Nov 19, 2009

ajay ★★

I was going to mention Heima, as well. But this is a great list. I loved Block Party even at a time I wasn't into hip hop.

6:40 AM   Nov 19, 2009

BelgianManders 

Glastonbury is also great!

7:08 AM   Nov 19, 2009

BelgianManders 

Oh and that one about Beastie Boys with the hand cameras. (can't remember the title)

7:09 AM   Nov 19, 2009

brian 

Belgian, the Beastie Boys one is number 10, no?

7:58 AM   Nov 19, 2009

BelgianManders 

I remember it. It's "Awesome, I Fuckin' Shot That!"
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0488953/

8:03 AM   Nov 19, 2009

jasun 

manders has lost his mind.

8:31 AM   Nov 19, 2009

Angelina 

Stop Makin Sense and the Last Waltz are spooott on as numbers one and two. I'd move Woodstock up the list a little though, if only for The Who's segment. Gah.

9:37 AM   Nov 19, 2009

stillathreat ★★

The absence of any grateful dead (like winterland maybe) is a pretty big omission. But there is a lot I like on this list.

9:41 AM   Nov 19, 2009

KungFuJay ★★

I can't believe you didn't include that Talking Heads one. You know, the one wear they wear the big suits?

9:45 AM   Nov 19, 2009

KungFuJay ★★

Also, I am surprised Iron Maiden: Flight 666 didn't make the list. But I am guessing that the author hasn't seen it.

9:48 AM   Nov 19, 2009

KungFuJay ★★

I remember it. It's "Stop Making Sense" http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088178/

10:01 AM   Nov 19, 2009

mojaveman 

Good list... I agree with your inclusion of U2's "Under a Blood Red Sky". How about their most recent concert movie: "U2 3D" (IMAX). Incredible 3D footage on the giant IMAX screen with sound that is better than being there in person. Bono really knows how to "use" 3D.

10:06 AM   Nov 19, 2009

oshoney 

lulz @ jay. i've only seen 3 of these, but yeah you can't go wrong with Stop Making Sense.

10:19 AM   Nov 19, 2009

tloveisready ★★

One word. Okonokos

1:47 PM   Nov 19, 2009

tloveisready ★★

After further review, I think this list is pretty lazy. Lot's of "best sellers" on here, but not a lot of true greatness. Yawn.

1:48 PM   Nov 19, 2009

jasun 

How many of these have you seen, Tlove?

1:53 PM   Nov 19, 2009

tloveisready ★★

I haven't seen 1,3,4,8, or 13

1:57 PM   Nov 19, 2009

jason ★★

Major agreement on Okonokos. Definitely better than Song Remains the Same.

2:49 PM   Nov 19, 2009

KungFuJay ★★

Needs moar Hayes Carll - Live from Dan's Silver Leaf

2:51 PM   Nov 19, 2009

tloveisready ★★

In any case, I'd put Under Blackpool Lights ahead of Dave Chappelle's fucking block party any day of the week.

4:29 PM   Nov 19, 2009

KungFuJay ★★

Block Party was hilarious and musically fantastic. Amazing film.

4:41 PM   Nov 19, 2009

tloveisready ★★

Hilarious? Yes.
Musically fantastic? Partially.
But if we're including comedy routines in our "greatest concert films," then we've probably left a few others out as well.

4:44 PM   Nov 19, 2009

tloveisready ★★

Also, Rock the Bells seems like it might be more about the build up than the actual "concert," but I haven't actually seen it, so that may be incorrect.

4:45 PM   Nov 19, 2009

jasun 

It is incorrect.

Also, Blackpool lights is a concert on DVD, and while fantastic doesn't really fit the "concert film" standard.
Same with Okonokos.

6:30 PM   Nov 19, 2009

Caseydog 

Ditto on Jasun and Tlove. Okonokos is so good! I'm having trouble distinguishing between a concert film and a film based upon a band. I feel like there are some other really good ones out there. Rattle and Hum, Pink Floyd Live at Pompeii, Bob Marley Live at The Rainbow, The Grateful Dead Movie or The Closing of Winterland, Neil Young Rust Never Sleeps, The Rolling Stone Bridges to Babylon (amazing sound and video quality), Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble - Live at the El Mocambo

9:43 AM   Nov 20, 2009

Angelina 

I casually dislike U2, but I actually agree that U2 3D is pretty sweet.

10:26 AM   Nov 20, 2009

mattmusicslut 

no love for 'heima' :(

4:10 PM   Dec 29, 2009

bludevil007 

I havent seen the majority of these, but the Song Remains the Same is my favorite on this list. Some other personal favorites: Nirvana Live at Reading, Coachella (the dvd chronicle), Pearl Jam (both Live at MSG and Imaginne in Cornice), Radiohead (live at the Astoria - this one is particularly awesome because you can tell the crowd still doesnt know the Bends songs, but has memorized the Pablo Honey tunes - little did they know they were listening to a classic), Okonokos, Incubus: the Morning View Sessions (say what you will about their later work, but up through that album they put out some stellar stuff (no pun intended) and this intimate performance is great, save for the armani exchange wearing dbag who somewhat dominates the background fan views), Rage Against the Machine (Battle of Mexico City), Coldplay Live (a rush of blood to the head tour), and my own personal recordings from the Arcade Fire performance in a church in Montreal in the dead of winter.

4:17 PM   Jan 04, 2010

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