The Best Concert Movies Of All Time

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A quick note before CHL starts this hlist. We define a concert movie as a flick that documents one or more shows on a tour. More narrative-oriented rock flicks like D.A. Pennebaker's Bob Dylan mash note Don't Look Back, Charles Peterson's grunge chronicle Hype!, and of course the lighthearted GG Allin tale, Hated, don't count this time.

We are running this hlist today because this hweek's birthday boy, Elvis Presley, had his time to shine in 1970's That's The Way It Is. If anyone ever tries to belittle the amount of love that the King got back in his heyday, show them this glimpse into what it was like to see him live post-'68 comeback. We'll cover the best rock docs next week, but for now let's have a look at the best concert films ever, or at least the ones CHL liked enough to include on our hlist.

Some of these are the best documents we have of a band at the zenith of their live creativity, and some are a lively representation of a band in their death throes before they shuffle off into the sunset, or at least until someone throws enough cash at them to belly back up to the stage.

The Band, The Last Waltz

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Word has it that the producers and director Martin Scorsese had to pony up a load of cash to erase the lump of cocaine seen inside Neil Young's nose during his appearance on this live film of The Band's last concert on Thanksgiving Night 1976. Elvis' "Mystery Train," featuring '60s British blues maestro Paul Butterfield, is an early standout.


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56 comments
OliviaDunham
OliviaDunham

This is a joke! Rolling Stones garbage? Well, OK, I did enjoy Gimmie Shelter, but, the best concert film of all time is definitely The Song Remains the Same, followed by the Beatles in Let it Be footage on the roof of Apple Heandquarters, The Last Waltz, Woodstock(first one only, the rest were newbie trash),Grateful Dead Live Concert, The Concert for Bangladesh, John Lennon live at Madison Square Garden 72', The Beatles on Ed Sullivan were the greatest shows in Rock & Roll History, Period. Anything after 1979 is pure garbage, and anything after 1989 when all this shit hip-hop bullshit started. That's not even music, just ghetto trash...

Toursiveu
Toursiveu

Once again, Frank Zappa's wonderful Baby Snakes film gets no love. Sad. This is Zappa at his most outrageous and funny. And the music of course is brilliant.But the film is also known for showing Bruce Bickford's magnificent, weird, terrifying and inventive animations.

OliviaDunham
OliviaDunham

Toursiveu......Wow! Great pull out of the sky with Frank Zappa's Baby Snkaes! I went to opening night at the Zeigfeld, it was insane, but, that Frank for you! I felt like Gumby & Poky were going to show up any second. Frank Zappa's incredible music is usually looked over by the Be Bop crowd as I call them. I attended 4 Frank Zappa Halloween concerts at the Paladium in New York, each one better than the last. But, Bady Snakes and Joe's Garage is some of Frank's best work. And, what can you say about Titties & Beer?, (one of my Favorites of Frankie Boy). I was lucky, I had an in with great seats at Madison Square Garden from 1973 to 1979, and attended some of the greatest shows ever. I hadfront row for two outta four nights with LedZeppelin 1977, ELP 1977 with the London symphany Orchestra, & a 300 person choir, Pink Floyd's Animals tour which they preformed songs from Animals, Wish you were here & Darkside of the Moon, one of the best Grateful Dead shows ever at Englishtown New Jersey at the Racetrack. It started with the New Riders of the Purple Sage, then the Marshall Tucker Band and ended with about six hours of Grateful Dead. I wish they made that into a movie. Any of these concerts, especially the ELP concerts at Madison Square Garden, they actually lost money on those shows, but I can't describe it only as INCREDIBLE! But, my very favorite concert the I attanded was the 1974 Thanksgivine Elton John concert at Madison Square Garden, sitting 10 row on the floor, when Elton brought out a special friend to preform some songs with, a Mr John Lennon! To me, that would've been the greatest concert of the decade of the 70's and would've made a very special concert film.

Toursiveu
Toursiveu

Wow... Great experiences! Sadly I was born in the wrong country (Belgium) and in the wrong decade, in 1976. When I finally started to get interested in Frank Zappa's music... he died.

This is one of my greatest regrets in life : never having attended a Frank Zappa concert, or a concert from The Band.

I'd love to see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Levon Helm but for some reason they don't tour in Europe anymore.

That beig said, I've seen Bob Dylan about 20 times and it's always fabulous.

Joe Blevins
Joe Blevins

I haven't seen all the movies on this list, but I've seen most and agree with the choices. I actually liked "Fade to Black," even though Jay-Z didn't actually retire after it came out. Maybe I'd like it less now. I don't know. I agree that "The T.A.M.I. Show" should have been right at the top of this list, and there's another film people should check out called "Let the Good Times Roll," which features -- among other things -- a spectacular set by a truly unhinged Little Richard. "Good Times" is not on DVD as far as I know but does air on Turner Classic Movies from time to time. Really, really check it out if you get the chance.

Mrtnriley
Mrtnriley

Hello, anyone, how' bout Stevie Ray Vaughn " live at the El Mocambo" ???

dg
dg

What about Heima and Flight 666?

slax
slax

Monterrey Pop (1968)

Guest
Guest

what about Led Zeppelin?

BOBBY PLANT
BOBBY PLANT

HOW THE WEST WAS WON BY LED FREAKIN' ZEPPELIN !!!! AMAZING FOOTAGE !

Ace
Ace

You left out INXS' "Live, Baby LIve" from Wembley Stadium ! 70,000 fans can't be wrong !

Jackie Bona
Jackie Bona

Hello? Purple Rain? Like, seriously, at the time, it was hailed as one of the best rock movies of all time. So you get a little of the Concert with the club shots and you get the film with a storyline. Can't beat Prince at his best... that little purple guy never gets any respect in these lists

I-am-max
I-am-max

How about Metallica's S&M concert or maybe their Live Sh*t: Binge and Purge stuff?

Kellyanne30
Kellyanne30

What about Prince's "Sign o the Times"? It's a masterpiece - Prince at his best!!

On the other end of the musical spectrum, Genesis' "Three Sides Live" is also amazing!

Kellyanne30
Kellyanne30

Oh yeah, forgot Nirvana: Unplugged. Kinda makes me sad a little when I see it, though. :(

CraigHlavaty
CraigHlavaty

I wish I could have put that on there, but it is more of an episode in a series.

Polluxcastor
Polluxcastor

Like thelist, but the addition of Jay-Z and The Beastie Boys was kind of offputting. The Jay-Z doc was a little pretentious, since we know the result after that and the Beasties were well past their prime.

Some notable exclusions: Rattle and Hum by U2, which was more performance than doc, any film with Neil Young, and Sigur Ros' "Heima."

Rigo es Amor
Rigo es Amor

Rigo: una confesion total, Rigo Tovar worthy of inclusion on this list

Mexico's Idol reigns supreme

In spanish of course but the music and concerts are some of the best captured on film

max
max

No MONTEREY POP? No GIMME SHELTER? No JAZZ ON A SUMMER'S DAY? No COCKSUCKER BLUES? No LET THERE BE ROCK?

What kind of a half-assed list is this?

Unbobb
Unbobb

Black and White Nights shows Roy Orbison at his best. And how about the T.A.M.I. show. James Brown's best ever performance!

RedJohn88
RedJohn88

Where's The Song Remains the Same?

Guest
Guest

I'm a huge Zep fan, and I love the actual concert footage. But, the vignettes are too freaky for me. I'd pick their "How the West Was Won" dvd for a top concert.

chuck tanner
chuck tanner

it just really seems that whoever wrote this hasn't seen that many concert films.

Jefftrotter
Jefftrotter

I would have gone with Monterey Pop over Woodstock. And if Last Waltz qualifies, I don't see why "Gimme Shelter" wouldn't.

Chuwie18
Chuwie18

Pink Floyd's P.U.L.S.E. should be on the list. An excellent performance, very well captured by David Mallet. C'mon that's a true audiovisual experience, and a great concert film. The Show was amazing, the lights, the lasers, the sound, they even crash a plane on the stage!!!

I AM NO ONE
I AM NO ONE

I would go with Live In Pompeii over PULSE

Jjr320
Jjr320

I would add "The Concert for Bangladesh" and Joe Cocker's "Mad Dogs and Englishmen".

Myhiphurts
Myhiphurts

Portishead Live at Roseland. Might not be everybody's cup of tea, but their first American show is astonishing. Backed by the New York Philharmonic, Beth Gibbons nervously chainsmokes between verses and leads the band into one of the most memorable concerts caught on film.

I AM NO ONE
I AM NO ONE

Wow, finally someone who appreciates Portishead and the seductive Beth Gibbons.

Daniel Bojckov
Daniel Bojckov

Stones, Stnoes and STONES again, as no one comes even close to what they do on the stage ...

Frank Bond
Frank Bond

Where's Roy Orbison's Black and White Night? Lot of big names in it.

Rockinrio
Rockinrio

Best moment from Chuck Berry's film is Little Richard and Bo Diddley discussing the "influence" of Pat Boone.

Ablebravo
Ablebravo

I can't believe Led Zep's "The Song Remains The Same" wasn't on this list. Just for novelty's sake, I'd also add ELP's "Rock and Roll Your Eyes".

Angel
Angel

what about Queen Live at Wembley?

DKL
DKL

Seriously, when I think great rock concerts, I think that performance, the best recording of Queen in their prime. Oh what I wouldn't give to have been alive then (and be there)!

Angel
Angel

what about Queen Live at Wembley? o.O

Arka Samanta
Arka Samanta

NO Flight 666!!! Cmon!! That deserves a place at least!!

adam
adam

As far as Stones concert films go, even if Scorsese's was better filmed, their performance in Ladies and Gentlemen may be the greatest concert footage ever on film. I would also include The Concert for Bangladesh, any of Springsteen's concert film releases (his live in Hammersmith Odeon '75 being the best in my opinion), Radiohead Live at the Astoria, Nirvana Unplugged in New York (or At Reading), and The Who at Kilburn. Also I think the recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th anniversary tribute might be one of the best ever.

Steve Gilbert
Steve Gilbert

Ummm...in "The Last Waltz", Ronnie Hawkins sang "Who Do You Love". "Mystery Train" was performed by Paul Butterfield.

rocksoffsr
rocksoffsr

Oh crap. That one was my fault. Sorry Craig.

CraigHlavaty
CraigHlavaty

"A quick note before CHL starts this hlist. We define a concert movie as a flick that documents one or more shows on a tour. More narrative-oriented rock flicks like D.A. Pennebaker's Bob Dylan mash note Don't Look Back, Charles Peterson's grunge chronicle Hype!, and of course the lighthearted GG Allin tale, Hated, don't count this time."

Jesus.

Bruiser
Bruiser

Another great URGH! moment: Chelsea's "I'm On Fire" - watching Gene October pull the monitors around the stage and having the guitar trip backwards over one of them. Guitar player never missed a lick...

Bruiser
Bruiser

Watching XTC's performance of "Respectable Street" on URGH! makes one wonder why Andy Partridge had serious stage fright - that guy looked possessed (in a good way).

rocksoffsr
rocksoffsr

Check back here next week. You may very well see Gimme Shelter and/or Cocksucker Blues, both of which are less concert films than narrative documentaries.

bibulb
bibulb

I will always remember the double bill at the River Oaks back when they did this kind of thing : "Urgh! A Music War" and "The Decline and Fall of Western Civilization". One hell of a night, that was.

Damn, I love Urgh!.

(And of course, the period where they ran "Stop Making Sense" as the midnight movie for several months. Also awesome. Danced like a madman.)

bubbles
bubbles

Seems like several of the best concert films focus on the Rolling Stones. That said, no Cocksucker Blues?

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