The best concert movies
10 April 2021, 14:00
Here are the finest examples of live music captured on camera - from Bowie to the Beaties Boys, plus the Stones and Oasis.
David Bowie - Glastonbury 2000
Bowie made a few concert films, but this headline appearance at the festival has recently come back into favour and it's rapidly become the definitive live document of the man's career. Only an artist of his calibre can saunter on to the Pyramid Stage and begin his set with an emotional ballad - Wild Is The Wind - and along the way, all the key moments in Bowie's musical life are visited: Life On Mars?, Changes, Ziggy Stardust, "Heroes", Let's Dance, the lot.
The Rolling Stones - Gimme Shelter (1970)
The Stones had been off the road for two years - an lifetime in 1960s terms - so their North American tour of 1969 was going to be memorable. And it was, but for all the wrong reasons. Documentary mkers Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin followed the band as they got to know their audience again and tried to record a new song, Brown Sugar, along the way. The concert sequences are amazing, but the film ends with the nightmare that was the Altamont open air free show, in which one man was murdered as the Stones performed. It's both a fascinating and horribly disturbing chronicle of the time.
Talking Heads - Stop Making Sense (1984)
Director Jonathan Demme shot this impeccable document of the post-punk legends at the height of their powers It begins with David Bryne onstage alone, playing Psycho Killer and builds from there are more musicians join him one by one. An amazing band playing some amazing songs: Once In A Lifetime, Burning Down The House and more.
Pink Floyd - Live At Pompeii (1972)
The post-Syd Barrett, pre-Dark Side Of The Moon Floyd do their thing, setting their kit up under the hot sun in the lost Italian city. There's no audience, just the cameras and the band, who run through some mid-period classics like Echoes and Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun. There's also a brief sidestep into Abbey Road studios to see the group working on the then-unreleased Dark Side Of The Moon.
Queen - Live At Wembley Stadium (1986)
Yes well, Live Aid wasn't really their gig was it, so here's a proper Queen show in all its pomp and glory. From the mighty rock of We Will Rock You and Hammer To Fall to the epic ballads Love Of My Life and Is This The World We Created, this is one of Queen's last hurrahs, caught on camera. Freddie Mercury, of course, treats Wembley like his front room.
Nirvana Live At Reading (1992)
It was the band's final appearance on British soil and depicts a group not quite knowing what to do with their new-found fame, but this is a great summary of what Nirvana were about: humour and angs, plus a bludgeoning rock machine alternating at times with a shambolic garage band. And, of course, the songs: Nevermind classics like Smells Like Teen Spirit are all delivered perfectly.
Prince - Sign "O" The Times (1987)
To promote his double album of the same name in the US, The Purple One shot this live movie in the summer of 1987. The original footage shot in the Netherlands wasn't usable, so the gig was restaged at Prince's own Paisley Park studios in Minneapolis. Cheating? Come on, this is Prince - he gave his all every time. It remains a ridiculously brilliant memory of the man and his virtuosity from the ominous title track to the joyous I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man.
The Cure In Orange (1987)
The Cure's video director Tim Pope captured the band just after the success of their Head On The Door album, performing in a Roman amphitheatre in the South of France. Robert Smith was so famous in that country at this point that he cut all his hair off - but everything else is present and correct: the quirky pop hits (Boys Don't Cry, Close To Me) and the introspective epics (A Forest, Faith).
Beastie Boys - Awesome; I F**kin' Shot That! (2006)
The NYC hip hop trio gave cameras to 50 members of the audience at their 2004 Madison Square Garden show and compiled the results into this 90 minute concert film. It's a unique take on the genre - rough around the edges, but capturing the energy of the show perfectly.
Oasis - There And Then (1996)
The rise of the Gallagher brothers is probably best summed up by this collection of live tracks shot shortly after (What's The Story) Morning Glory? was released, and Oasis was the biggest band in Britain. Tracks from their Earls Court shows in November 1995 are mixed with songs filmed at their massive hometown gig at their beloved Maine Road in April 1996. If you never got to see Oasis live, this would give you a decent idea of what they were like.
The White Stripes - Under Great White Northern Light (2010)
Jack 'n' Meg head across Canada on tour in 2007 and the cameras are there with them as they attempt to perform in every province. Along the way, they meet Alaskan native elders and celebrate their tenth anniversary as a duo. It's a poignant look at a musical relationship.
The Who - The Kids Are Alright (1979)
Another part-documentary, part-concert collection, this film tells the story of the veteran British band via TV appearances and interviews, interspersed with footage from shows like Woodstock and the 1975 US tour. It's the clips shot at Shepperton studios in 1978 that are the most valuable, however, as they mark the final performance of Keith Moon with The Who, before his death that September. The version of Won't Get Fooled Again is the only one you need, just for Pete Townshend's epic knee-slide across the stage.
LCD Soundsystem - Shut Up And Play The Hits (2012)
48 hours in the life of James Murphy as he lowers the curtain on LCD Soundsystem at a farewell show at New York's Madison Square Garden. Arcade Fire turn up and frontman Win Butler provides the title - and LCD oblige by playing all their biggest tunes. Murphy got the band back together a few years later, the spoilsport.