FILM REVIEW: It Might Get Loud
Rock and roll is always dying and yet being born all over again in the same moment. The karmic circle of sonic feedback passes from a Mississippi blues man like Elmore James into the hands of a maestro like Jimmy Page and inspires generation after generation of young musicians to take up the electric guitar and make it all their own. The superbly composed rockumentary, It Might Get Loud, by Davis Guggenhiem, brilliantly traces the evolution of three very different guitar heroes who have shaped the sound of modern rock and roll.
All guitarists search for a signature sound, but only a few rare pioneers find their way to truly undiscovered sonic frontiers. I went to see this film not only because I am a lifelong U2 fan and would probably pay to see anything they are part of, but because The Edge’s surreal waves of distorted feedback are among the most unique, sublime sounds to come out of an electric guitar since Hendrix – in my humble opinion. And any insight into his zen mastery is of great interest to me. Bob Dylan once said, “People will love U2 songs for generations, but no one will be able to play the damn things.” This film offers no lessons, but is nonetheless a fascinating insight into the process of artistic exploration and experimentation.
Jimmy Page, the legendary guitarist from Led Zeppelin, began his journey to guitar-god status at the tender young age of 13 when he appeared on a Brit variety show looking like a lot like Harry Potter and played an upbeat “skiffle” tune called “Mama Don’t Want To Skiffle Anymore.” Tracing the path that he took from session musician to Zeppelin and listening to Page himself talk about the music that inspired him is what makes this film fascinating. If you are a Zeppelin fan or a fan of rock music in general, this movie is exhilarating and inspiring. To see the old country manor where Zeppelin recorded Stairway to Heaven or to hear the Edge talk about the beginnings of U2 as violence and economic despair consumed Ireland, literally gave me chills. As such, this is more than a movie about music, it is an important historical document about the work and passion of great artists whose labor has transcended mere pop-art to become timeless.
Still, the best parts of the movie are the moments when all three guitarists – Page, Edge and the young Jack White – sit together jamming and talking about their love for the guitar. They are all searching for sound, musical persona and artistic expression of the soul distilled thru amplifiers and reverberation. And although their impromptu jam sessions border on rock magic, I hope they never do it again. I really don’t want any super-groups being formed that might break up U2 or delay the Zeppelin reunion I have dreams of seeing before I die.
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