There are some bands that have more than enough concert films and documentaries about them (The Rolling Stones, namely), and there are countless music artists who don't even have a one. For those in the lacking category, there are a few ways of earning such a showcase. The most common is to be a cult favorite, especially if you're a critically acclaimed yet modestly popular band who some young filmmaker considers worth more attention. It helps if one among the group is on drugs, has mental problems or has been hailed to be some kind of a genius (or better, a combination of the three), as that can bring a dramatic arc.
And then there are two "easy" ways to ensure you get a doc: one is to be past your prime and arguably overdue for fame, whether for comical results or the sake of a revelation; the other is to be an enormous pop act with a large enough following that will pay 3D prices to warrant a wide release. The former is the case for One Direction: This Is Us, which opens Friday. Not technically a concert film, since it contains only snippets of performances over the course of a world tour and also involves a larger narrative, it is nevertheless functional in that way for many who would like to see the boy band live but haven't yet been able to get tickets.
Concert films can often be only as good as the act itself. I've seen some really boring bands that aren't even worth watching in person let alone on the big screen. But even an enjoyable live performance isn't necessarily one that's cinematic. Even with the 3D and some added visual effects, I found the One Direction stage show as seen in This Is Us to be quite unremarkable. Still, the right director can make up for an underwhelming performance. I don't believe I would have been into the Band were I at one of their concerts, yet Martin Scorsese (who appears in This Is Us, by the way) made me interested in the event documented in his film The Last Waltz.
Scorsese also gave us one of the Stones docs, Shine a Light, which features the band performing nearly 40 years after their show caught in the classic Gimme Shelter. The idea of distance between the two made me wonder if we're already due for another Miley Cyrus concert film. Anyone who saw the singer's performance at the VMAs last night may have contrasted it in their head with her 3D doc of only five years ago, Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: The Best of Both Worlds Concert. It'd very likely attract a different kind of audience, maybe even become a popular midnight movie.
One band I would have liked to see get a legitimate, quality theatrical concert film is Ween. Sadly, they recently broke up, but the duo of Dean and Gene were an incredible live act, so much that while I was never a fan of their records (as were my friends), once I got dragged to one of their shows, I wanted to see them perform again and again -- and yet still not necessarily listen to their albums. Given that most of the best concert films are those that fill in for the experience of actually being there seeing the act live, I'd love to both have that next-best-thing opportunity while also seeing others discover it, too.
Which band or singer is most in need of a concert film?
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