Teenage Locke’s Favorite Concert Films

by | May 15th, 2011 | 1:41PM | Filed under: DVD Reviews, Movie Lists, Movies

Justin Bieber’s concert documentary Never Say Never hit the redbox kiosks this weekend on DVD and Blu-ray, so I thought I’d use the occasion to share with you some of my favorite music and concert documentaries.

Granted, Bieber’s not really my cuppa teen-idol tea (Note to Self: “Teen-idol tea” sounds really weird. Follow-up Note to Self: Check into creating and marketing “Teen-Idol Tea”), but while Never Say Never is a super-sanitized celebration of bangs, screaming teenage girls, and the color purple, it’s also a well-made movie. Looking back over all 17 years of the young Canadian’s life while following him on tour as he builds to a big August 2010 performance at The Garden, it’s mostly a commercial for Bieber, but if you end up having to watch it with your daughters you may find it to be an interesting (if glossy) look at the modern life of a genuinely talented pop star and musician moving through the massive Industry machine.

The latest cinematic prescription for Bieber Fever (or is it spelled “Fiever”?) got me thinking about all the non-fiction music movies I’ve loved over the years–both concert movies and career documentaries (of which Never Say Never is a mix).

Of course there are The Classics–the Usual Suspects that turn up on any music concert/doc list because they are first and foremost great films and also because they capture a cultural and musical time and place. But do we really need yet another list that includes some combo of Gimme Shelter, Stop Making Sense, The Last Waltz, Don’t Look Back, Woodstock, Monterey Pop, Pink Floyd at Pompeii, The Rise and Fall of Western Civilization (Punk and Metal versions) and Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars?

Instead, I got to thinking about the movies that influenced me personally when I was young–that I didn’t just appreciate as film, but that filled me with get-up-and-dance joy. (Don’t worry, I won’t demonstrate for you.) You see, I’m not exactly the target audience for Bieber and his documentary today–believe it or not, I’m not a teenager anymore. But equally hard to believe, I actually once was. And growing up at a time when cable TV and home VHS tapes were just starting to take over the airwaves, these were the concert films that really affected me. They aren’t necessarily great concert or music documentary films, but they made me squeal just as much as teen girls now scream for Bieber. Only in a more manly way. To myself. On the inside.

Let’s Spend the Night Together (1983)

Hal Ashby’s overview of the 1981 Tattoo You tour is far from the best Stones film (see The Classics above), but it was My First and we all know how awkward and special that can be. I owned some Stones albums at the time, but this is where my liking them tipped over into a decade of Crazy Super Fandom. It’s also where I learned to do what would become my infamous Mick Jagger impersonation. (Sorry, I retired it sometime in the late ’80s.)

Serious Moonlight (1984)

A couple years later I went bat-snot crazy for David Bowie, spurred mostly by this HBO concert film. (Yeah, I’m cheating a bit–this was never a theatrical release.) Living in a small Iowa farming town and loving the Stones was okay. Doing Mick Jagger impersonations at basketball games was odd but entertaining. But in 1984 loving David Bowie and dressing like him was deeply, deeply suspicious.

Urgh! A Music War (1982)

Tangled music rights keep Urgh! out of print, but it’s the Rosetta Stone of early ’80s New Wave. Performances include The Police (by far the biggest name at the time), Wall of Voodoo, OMD, Oingo Boingo, Echo and the Bunnymen, XTC, the Go-Gos, Joan Jett, Devo, Pere Ubu, and X–but most shocking, seductive, and exciting to me at the time were Klaus Nomi and The Cramps. They, like most of Urgh! were weird, raw, unsettling, and scary, and the USA Network’s monthly late-night cable-TV airing of Urgh! in 1984 and ’85 expanded my musical boundaries and blew my small-town mind.

Want Even More Music-Movie Lists from Me?


Personal Faves from Recent Years

  • Heart of Gold–Neil Young
  • Awesome! I F**kin’ Shot That!–The Beastie Boys
  • Heima–Sigur Ros
  • The Fearless Freaks–The Flaming Lips

The Rise and Fall

  • Who is Harry Nilsson and Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?
  • Joy Division
  • Anvil
  • The Devil and Daniel Johnson

Oooh, Conflict!

  • Metallica: Some Kind of Monster
  • Dig!–The Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre
  • I Am Trying to Break Your Heart – Wilco
  • Shut Up and Sing — The Dixie Chicks

Punk’s Not Dead (Even if Some of These Guys Are)

  • Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten
  • The Filth and the Fury–The Sex Pistols
  • End of the Century: The Ramones
  • American Hardcore

Okay let’s hear your lists! What concert films really shaped (or warped) your young mind when you were a teenybopper? What ones do you still love and re-watch today? Have you seen any really good ones lately we should check out?


8 Responses to “Teenage Locke’s Favorite Concert Films”

  1. Trevor L
    Posted on May 15, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    Muse’s HAARP tour dvd even though it’s literally just the live sets, and no extra film stuff.

  2. bret
    Posted on May 15, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    Check out this clip from the Cameron Crowe Pearl Jam Documentary coming out in September.


  3. Mia Dentice Carey
    Posted on May 15, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    Cyndi Lauper, Psych Furs, REM, Flesh for Lulu, Gene Loves Jezebel, Oingo Boingo,Hooters …

    • Currently 5/5 Stars
    Posted on May 20, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    you are forgetting the GRANDADDY of all concert films. The Song Remains the Same, with the world’s greatest rock band LED ZEPPELIN!!! and how bout Gimme Shelter with The Stones. or Rust Never Sleeps` with Neil Young

  4. Locke Peterseim
    Locke Peterseim
    Posted on May 21, 2011 at 11:18 am

    Well Tom, don’t hate me, but I didn’t exactly forget The Song Remains the Same–I’ve just never been a hard-core Zep fan. Appreciate ‘em, enjoy ‘em, respect ‘em, like the songs, absolutely. But was just never really deeply devoted to them. I was a Stones, Floyd, Bowie, Beatles guy in high school. I did mention Gimme Shelter (which yes I do think is amazing) as one of the “Classics,” and I was going to mention Rust Never Sleeps in conjunction with the new Young doc Heart of Gold, but just didn’t have room to really get into it.

  5. Angel
    Posted on June 13, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    My brother has the Klaus Nomi video and this is only the second place I’ve ever seen it mentioned. My brother is eclectic to say the least and he would be thrilled. I will share with him.

  6. Locke Peterseim
    Locke Peterseim
    Posted on June 14, 2011 at 9:12 am

    Woo! Spread the Nomi love, Angel! And tell your brother if he hasn’t already, to check out the documentary from a few years ago called The Nomi Song, all about Klaus :)

  7. gary turco
    Posted on July 6, 2011 at 5:10 am

    Of course the Stones and Zep are Great,but the Best Live band for the past 20 years is Hands Down, The Dave Matthews Band.They change and evolve their Songs every time you see them.They have at least 4 live dvd or cd /dvd combos out.