Sunday, August 30, 2009

It Might Get Loud

Tonight I saw the documentary It Might Get Loud.

What an incredible rush of music storytelling.

Three guitar Gods from three different generations (and really, three different genres of music), come together to talk about their favorite topic: guitar playing.

The elder statesman of the bunch is a white-haired Jimmy Page of the legendary Led Zeppelin; the in-the-middle genius is U2's The Edge; the new kid on the block is Jack White of The White Stripes. All complement one another in style and technique like time-traveling puzzle pieces that happen to have landed in the same era.

I thought it would be incredibly difficult for me not to favor The Edge, as I'm an unapologetic U2 fanatic, but really the movie is so painstakingly equal, it would be hard call anyone the star.

White is easily the most nervous, looking anxiously out the car window as he arrives for the summit. In footage with his own band or alone he is confident—even cocky; with the two other subjects he is humble and respectful. If only his styling wasn't so distracting (he looks like Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka), I may even declare him physically attractive.

The Edge, who I've watched on a regular basis since I was six, seemed like...well...The Edge. In other words, maybe the only rock star on the planet to appear more interested in the musical method than all of the fame/women/money that come with it.

Jimmy Page was almost unbearably sweet. The man who developed Stairway to Heaven now seems like a classy Grandpa who could tell you stories that would spin your head.

Thankfully, the stories all three musicians share in this film are sincere, honest and loaded with details that will send geeks salivating for their Gibsons. They give enough background about their entries into the music world without telling their life stories in the process. Why? Because this is a film about guitar playing.

The moments of spontaneity are the most delightful to watch—Page playing air guitar to one of the songs that inspired him; Edge realizing he was playing the wrong chord during a jam; White grinning as the older two enlighten him.

Director Davis Guggenheim achieves a brilliant balance between the summit and archival footage of each guest. The men seem at ease telling their stories to the camera and to each other, and take us on informal modern day tours of their past (a special treat for me was seeing the school where U2 met).

Perhaps the chemistry and the kindness of the subjects is why the outcome is so satisfying or maybe the director just had ways of getting them relaxed before filming so it appeared very natural. Whatever the reason, it was a genius idea that worked.

Now if only Guggenheim would make a series out of it and focus on drummers next. I'd like to place my order for Ringo Starr, Stuart Copeland and Dave Grohl.


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