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Top 10 Concert Films to See Before You Die

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By Daniel Kohn

For music fans, there's nothing better than seeing your favorite band or checking out an up-and-coming act in person. While the records serve as a tangible finished product that fans can jam on until eternity, the live show experience explains more about a band than their recorded work. With concert prices soaring to astronomical prices, it's understandable if people are staying home. That's why the concert movie/DVD/Blu Ray has become so vital for a band's popularity.

For people who can't afford to see a show, the concert movie serves as a way to take in the action without all the strange smells that inhabit the floor section of the arena. With the number of concert films on the rise, we decided to take a look at our favorites from over the years. While the list is clearly subjective, the one common link is that the music and the cinematography both rock.

Honorable Mention: Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - International Magic Live at The O2:

Though the chief songwriter behind Oasis went solo, from a technical perspective, this show was pretty tight. There wasn't much on the showmanship side but from a technical perspective, this is a no-frills rock show without the pomp and circumstance of a major gig, and that's just fine.

10. U2 - Live at Red Rocks: Under a Blood Red Sky

Capturing a band on the rise is one thing; seeing them heading towards superstardom is an entirely different beast. Live at Red Rocks showed the Irish rockers at their explosive best, culminating during the iconic "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and foreshadowed how big of a force they'd become in the coming years.

9. Beastie Boys - Awesome; I Fuckin' Shot That!

On their last proper concert tour, 50 camcorders were given to audience members at the Beastie's Madison Square Garden show. What you have here is different views of the same thing, which was as innovative as it was badass.

See also: Clip Job: The Voice's First Impressions Of The Beastie Boys' Back Catalog

8. Rolling Stones - Shine a Light

Although they look haggard and ragged, this film, which is directed by concert movie king Martin Scorsese, shows how gracefully the Stones have aged (at least musically) through the years. Add special guests like Jack White, Buddy Guy and (believe it or not), Christina Aguilera to that mix, and you got yourself the definitive concert of the band's latter years.

 

7. Monterey Pop Fest

Featuring some of the biggest names from the '60s, this film captures rock legends as they were on the verge of becoming superstars. Remember the time when The Who destroyed their instruments or when Jimi Hendrix lit his guitar on fire? It's captured here in all its glory.

6. Dave Chappelle's Block Party

What happens when you combine the most enigmatic comedian of his time (Dave Chappelle), an acclaimed French director (Michel Gondry), Brooklyn and a Fugees reunion? You get one of the most underrated concert movies in recent memory. Featuring Kanye West and The Roots amongst others, the vibe is celebratory and triumphant and made you feel jealous you weren't in Fort Greene that day to take in the festivities.

5. Concert For George

Paying tribute to the quiet Beatle on the first anniversary of his death, friends like Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton and Tom Petty banded together for this charity tribute gig. Seeing Harrison's famous friends collaborate while covering his songs was the ultimate sign of respect for one of the most underrated guitarists of his time.

 

4. Jay-Z - Fade To Black

Showcasing what was supposed to be the Brooklyn-born rapper's final concert, this would have been the perfect send-off for Hova. Featuring some of the superstars and not-so-biggest names in hip-hop and R&B, the concert itself was a spectacle and cemented the rapper as the best at his craft.

3. Woodstock

Perhaps THE definitive film from the '60s, the festival that defined a generation has all of the ingredients of a great concert film, even though they may not have realized it when the first rolled tape. Memorable moments from greats like Janis Joplin, The Who, Sly and the Family Stone are as fiery as they were on those rainy August days, but it is Hendrix's legendary rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" that cements this as the essential document in rock history.

2. Talking Heads - Stop Making Sense

Directed by Jonathan Demme, this film captured the Talking Heads at their creative peak. Beginning with frontman David Byrne (whose big suit is almost as famous as the film itself), who walks on-stage with only a boom box and acoustic guitar before gradually adding layers, dancers, instruments and eventually bandmembers. Other innovations include its unusual lighting methods, minimal audience shots and lack of close-ups on the bands. In a time when MTV was a kingmaker, this movie reminded fans that it was possible to create a superior visual product, as long as the music measured up to the task.

See also: David Byrne and St. Vincent - Williamsburg Park - 9/29/2012

 

1. The Band - The Last Waltz

Hands-down the greatest concert film made, Scorsese captures the group's final shows at San Francisco's Winterland Ballroom on Thanksgiving 1976. In addition to guest appearances by Neil Young, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton and long-time collaborator Bob Dylan, the movie takes a look at the quintet's history and is shot unlike any other rock movie. When you combine those elements and an amazing send-off, you have the recipe for the greatest concert film of all time.

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