Concert and tour films have become a cult phenomenon, with some standing the test of time as true classics. In our admittedly subjective top 10 list, we present a curated selection of films, each captivating in its own unique way.
1. Taylor Swift – The Eras Tour
The year 2023 marked the ascendancy of Taylor Swift. Amid the ongoing The Eras Tour, three of her August 2023 performances at the SoFi Stadium in California were recorded, crafting a unique cinematic concert experience for both theaters and living rooms. The Extended Edition for home even includes three songs not seen in theaters. This film undeniably possesses the potential to become a classic!
2. Metallica – Through The Never
Released in 2013, Through The Never seamlessly blends Metallica’s concert footage with a surreal storyline surrounding a roadie on a mission during a live show. The plot revolves around a mysterious bag, raising questions about whether he will deliver it to the band in the stadium and what secrets it holds. A visually and aurally compelling experience!
3. Depeche Mode – 101
Centered around the 101st concert at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, with over 80,000 spectators, this film combines concert, documentary, and road movie elements. It marked the conclusion of the “Music For The Masses” tour on June 18, 1988. In addition to featuring music, the film includes extensive information and interviews with the band. Alan Wilder’s explanation of his on-stage synth setup is legendary! The framing narrative, often considered a precursor to MTV’s reality shows, follows a group of fans on their journey across the USA to Pasadena. Truly a cultural phenomenon!
4. Aretha Franklin – Amazing Grace
Recorded in 1972, this concert resulted in the best-selling gospel album of all time, sharing its name with the film. While director Sidney Pollack had produced an outstanding film, synchronization issues hindered its release during Aretha Franklin’s lifetime. Fortunately, these issues have since been rectified, allowing the posthumous approval of the performance by the Franklin family. Gratefully, we can now experience Aretha Franklin at the pinnacle of her gospel career.
5. AC/DC – Live in Donington
Capturing the moment when Angus Young ascends the stage to the thunderous drums of “Thunderstruck,” viewed from behind as the camera pans across the concertgoers, and Young raises his finger to the sky in front of over 70,000 spectators, creates a spine-tingling moment every musician aspires to. AC/DC’s performance at Donington Park in 1991, featuring 18 hits, is unparalleled – even River Plate can’t compare!
6. Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids
Often, closing concerts are chosen for filming, as the crew is intimately familiar with every move of the performers. Recorded during the final two shows of Justin Timberlake’s “The 20/20 Experience World Tour” in 2016 in Las Vegas, this concert film represents the last work of the Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme (“The Silence of the Lambs”). Justin Timberlake dedicates the film to the late Prince, a profound influence on him. The energy portrayed is palpable!
7. Bruce Springsteen – Springsteen On Broadway
Bruce Springsteen, accustomed to the grandeur of the world’s largest stadium stages, finds his true home on Broadway. This concert film, recorded with a small band and featuring Patti Scialfa on two songs, offers an intimate experience for the audience. The concerts garnered a Tony, the highest Broadway honor. For those unable to secure one of the few tickets for the total of 267 performances, this film provides a remarkable show.
8. Beyoncé – Homecoming
“Homecoming” captures Beyoncé’s 2018 Coachella Festival performance. The scale of this show is enormous, making its cinematic portrayal no small feat. The film not only received excellent reviews but also secured a Grammy for Best Concert Film in 2019 and various other awards. If you appreciate a stage show executed with absolute perfection, this film is a must-see.
9. The Rolling Stones – Shine A Light
Directed by none other than Martin Scorsese in 2008, this concert film adeptly showcases the Rolling Stones and, most importantly, their music. Filmed over two nights in New York, the focus is unequivocally on the music of these rock legends. The inclusion of old recordings, interviews, and behind-the-scenes preparations for the film adds depth. This is not a documentary, but a film made for fans of The Rolling Stones’ music – and it rocks!
10. Prince – Sign O’ Times
Initially conceived as a promotional tool for the American market in 1987, this concert film accompanied Prince’s album of the same name, which gained success in Europe. Although originally recorded in Rotterdam and Antwerp, dissatisfaction led Prince to nearly reshoot everything in the Paisley Park Studios. While the film struggled in theaters, its home release on VHS brought it to prominence. Today, both the film and Prince himself are considered legendary – and rightly so!