You might have been looking forward to your local venue’s latest concert series or a road trip to your favorite annual music festival this year. Unfortunately, it appears that most fans will have to get their live music from streaming documentaries for a while, at least.
The world of entertainment has had its fair share of awkward elbow rubbing with sociopolitical events, but never like the severity brought on by the Coronavirus. The global outbreak has resulted in movie studios putting their most anticipated releases on hold, the production of several films and TV shows halted, and, of course, the postponement of big music events such as Coachella and SXSW in hopes to procure public health.
If you are a concertgoer who can no longer go to the show or festival you had been waiting all year for, looks like it is time to start streaming. The following is a list of 10 documentaries (or should I say “rockumentaries”) that will most likely not help in finding a cure for the Coronavirus, but may at least quench your thirst for big, live, musical entertainment.
The Beatles: Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years (2016)
You might find the claim, made mostly by adults in the 1960s, that rock n’ roll was dangerous to be utterly ridiculous, but, when you are a rock star, every day is a fight for survival. Just ask the Beatles, who played concerts for three of their eight years together. This documentary explains why.
Through archive footage of live concert performances and new interviews with the surviving members of the Beatles and their peers, director Ron Howard reveals the secrets behind the band’s brief touring career, which proved to be a severely distressing time for everyone involved, from a hectic schedule to obsessive audience members who redefine the meaning of “rowdy.” The Beatles: Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years is a must for fans of John, Paul, George, and Ringo, especially those were there to witness the chaos firsthand. Stream it on Hulu here.
Homecoming: A Film By Beyoncé (2019)
My heart goes out to those burned by the postponing of Coachella, who now have to wait until October to see the likes of Rage Against the Machine, Lana del Rey, and even Danny Elfman perform at the annual festival held in Indio, California. Fortunately, if you have a Netflix subscription, you can get the next best thing right now.
Homecoming invites fans to relive Beyoncé’s now iconic performance at Coachella in 2018, which featured a reunion with Destiny’s Child, but from an entirely new perspective. Co-directed by the Queen B herself with her frequent collaborator Ed Burke, this Grammy-winning film chronicles the the full story of the show, including its creative inception, rehearsals, and all the way to its breathtaking cultural impact. Stream it on Netflix here.
Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids (2016)
After putting his music career on a long hiatus in favor of prolonging his acting career, it was clearly important to Justin Timberlake to make the return to his bread and butter an especially grand comeback. It must have been equally crucial for his concert documentary, exclusively available on Netflix, to make just as big an impact, based on who he got to direct.
Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids is a documentation of the pop star and his 25-piece band in the final performance of The 20/20 Experience World Tour at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Academy Award-winning filmmaker Jonathan Demme (whom you have not yet seen the last of on this list) directs the show with his signature eye for capturing the most talented artists at the top of their form, making JT looks slicker than ever. Stream it on Netflix here.
The Last Waltz (1978)
One of most iconic acts in contemporary music is a group so recognizable, just calling themselves The Band was sufficient. When it came time for the Canadian-American quintet to part ways in 1976, music lover Martin Scorsese (whose name you have also not seen the last of on this last), who had previously received acclaim for gritty crime dramas Mean Streets and Taxi Driver, stepped in to film their final performance.
Featuring onstage collaborations with iconic guest musicians such as Muddy Waters, Neil Diamond, Joni Mitchell, and Bob Dylan to name a few, The Last Waltz is one of the most acclaimed concert documentaries of all time with how Martin Scorsese transforms it into more than that category simply suggests. Instead of merely capturing this legendary event onto celluloid, he preserves a lost era in music history into a captivatingly intimate cinematic experience. Stream it on Amazon Prime here.
Katy Perry: Part Of Me (2012)
You might remember Katy Perry best as the pop star who kissed a girl and liked it, the woman who was once married to Russell Brand, or even from her days as a Christian music artist. Whichever stage in the Grammy-winner’s life you know best, you will be reminded of all of it and more from this hit doc.
Released theatrically in 2012, Katy Perry: Part of Me follows the eccentric singer-songwriter on her international California Dreams Tour, complemented by bizarre stage decoration and costume design. In between performances, you’ll get an inside looks at Katy Perry’s personal life and career through interviews with family and other musicians and behind-the-scenes footage that sees the artist at her funniest, bubbliest, and most vulnerable in this film that is veers between exciting and heartbreaking, but all-around inspirational. Stream it on Tubi here.
Springsteen On Broadway (2018)
Bruce Springsteen performed a one-man show for 236 nights at Jujamcyn's Walter Kerr Theatre on Broadway from 2017-2018. He saved the best for last and shot it for this Emmy-winning Netflix special.
Directed by Thom Zimmy, who is responsible for many filmed performances throughout Bruce Springsteen’s long, illustrious, and inspirational career, Springsteen on Broadway sees the singer-songwriter in a rare sight without the accompaniment of the E Street Band - just an acoustic guitar, harmonica, piano, and his life story. Even if you have had the pleasure of seeing him in concert before, this remarkable, 153-minute film, featuring a special guest appearance by his wife Patti Scialfa, will make you feel closer to the Boss than ever before. Stream it on Netflix here.
Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story By Martin Scorsese (2019)
Any die-hard Bob Dylan fan knows that there is not just one way to describe the prolific singer-songwriter and that whichever rendition you choose may or may not be the truth. Rolling Thunder Revue, a Netflix original film profiling the North American Concert tour of the same name that ran form 1975-1976, uses its subject’s mysterious reputation to its advantage to create a rockumentary that exists between the realm of myth and reality.
Martin Scorsese returns to the world of Bob Dylan after once telling the folk singer’s life story in the 2005 documentary No Direction Home, but this time focuses less on fact to craft a story that reimagines a boundary-pushing moment in his career and a pressing time in American history. Fusing actual concert footage and staged interviews with real musicians and made-up characters, Rolling Thunder Revue is one bizarre experience that you could only expect from a musician as unique as Dylan and a vision as ambitious as Scorsese. Stream it on Netflix here.
Miss Americana (2020)
You would surely get the live Taylor Swift performance you are looking for in her 2018 Netflix concert special depicting the Reputation Tour. However, if you really want to get an inside look at the incomparably famous singer-songwriter beyond the stage and behind the curtain, try this more recent documentary exclusive to the streaming service.
From Emmy-winning director Lana Wilson, Miss Americana chronicles Taylor Swift's rise from a teen starlet to the pop star who everyone either worships for her talents or taunts for her public persona. Yet, in between the end of the Reputation Tour and the recording of her 2019 album Lover, she learns to have the strength to toot her own horn without fear of scrutiny. Stream it on Netflix here.
Stop Making Sense (1984)
The Talking Heads are the kind of group that aims to make their performance style as more than an expression through the sound of their music. They wish to take their audience on an intimate journey that celebrates the art of eccentricity. In the hands of director Jonathan Demme, their 1984 concert film Stop Making Sense does just that.
The documentary, shot over the course of multiple live performances in 1983 at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood with each angle representing a different night, is one of the most iconic and beloved of its kind, with Talking Heads frontman David Byrne’s goal being to do just as the title suggests by going as far as wearing a much-too-large suit and dancing with a floor lamp. Stop Making Sense is an innovative achievement in music on film that still stands as being nothing like anything to come before and nothing to follow it either. Stream it on Amazon Prime here.
Shine A Light (2008)
When you think of Martin Scorsese, it is not unusual to suddenly hear the sound of The Rolling Stones, whose music has been a staple of the director’s filmography since “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” appeared in Mean Streets in 1973. I suppose Mick Jagger and crew thought it would be a nice way to repay their most cinephilic fan for making their music important to film history by making film history with them.
Shine a Light, spans the Stones’ career from their days as the bad boys of rock n’ roll to rock’s oldest souls through interviews interspersed between a pair of shows at New York’s Beacon Theater in 2006. Also featuring special guest appearances such as Jack White and Christina Aguilera, the film is an infectious celebration of the legendary band that shows them at their most raw and exemplary at an age when most rock stars tend to slow down. Stream it on Tubi here.
Do these rockumentaries fill the void left by your favorite cancelled concerts, or are there any available to stream that you feel we criminal left out? Let us know in the comments and be sure to check back for more music movie news and updates on how the Coronavirus is ruining the entertainment industry here on CinemaBlend.
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Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.
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