Rock documentary. Be honest: the next words that entered your head were ‘This is Spinal Tap’, right? Yet, helmed by An Inconvenient Truth director Davis Guggenheim, It Might Get Loud couldn’t be further removed from Rob Reiner’s majestic spoof.
Instead of lampooning rock’n’roll excess, it stands as an homage to the allure of the guitar, an earnest attempt to explore its enduring attraction for millions of music-lovers the world over. Conceived by producer Thomas Tull – an amateur axe-man, unsurprisingly – it brings together three celebrated guitar gods, each from a different generation of music, each emblematic of a specific musical approach and each willing to chat with his fellow guitarists about what makes the guitar so special to them. Tull says “on a global level, the personification of contemporary music is the guitar” and, while that sounds more than a little pompous, it’s a credo that actually makes sense the more you think about it. Look at Guitar Hero, for starters.
Guggenheim’s film revolves around this endearingly informal three-sided conversation – somewhat grandiosely badged a ‘Summit’ – intercut with one-to-one interviews with each of his three stars. And what stars they are: Jimmy Page seems entirely comfortable as the group’s understated elder statesmen, The Edge slips seamlessly into the role of technically accomplished, gadget-obsessed experimentalist, and then there’s Jack White, all awkward hair, disconcertingly pasty complexion and harrowing intensity, his determined view that “I want it to be a struggle” exemplified in the film’s first frames, where he assembles a functioning diddly bo guitar out of what appears to be the contents of an average hillbilly dustbin.
They seem unlikely bedfellows, and on occasion White’s evident disdain for the U2 man’s tech-driven approach threatens to bubble up into outright hostility. But Page’s Alpha-male status always keeps a lid on proceedings, partially because he’s so innately charming – and so clearly revelling in the occasion – and partially because the others clearly worship the ground he walks on. This is never more obvious than when he picks up his beloved Gibson to belt into a searing rendition of Whole Lotta Love’s juddering riff: immediately White and The Edge, world-renowned superstars both, adopt the rapt grins and frozen posture of fanboys awestruck in the presence of greatness.
Of course, it’d be easy for all this enthusiasm to become wearing, but Guggenheim sensibly keeps to a taut running time, only seldom allowing his charges the scope to stray into pomposity (ironically, it’s the younger men who are most inclined to tread that particular path). The only downside to this approach is that you’re seldom, if ever, treated to a full song: only the trio’s formidable three-pronged assault on In My Time Of Dying earns longer than a minute’s screentime, save for an enjoyably acoustic rendition of The Weight over the closing credits.
For that reason, this is no great test disc, whatever the promise of its DTS-HD Master Audio score, although its HD-captured video is undeniably pristine. Yet that shouldn’t detract from It Might Get Loud’s obvious charm for any music lover. Tull says “I made this film for people like me, people who love music and the experience of a live show”. If that’s you – and it probably is, given where you are right now – it’s a must-see.
Picture: 1.85:1 (1920x1080p)
Sound: DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
It Might Get Loud is released on Blu-ray and DVD on 18th January, but you can order it now from the usual retailers. Amazon (opens in new tab) has it listed at £15.98, while you'll pay a whole penny more to buy it from Play.