Among the many films that I’ve watched in the last several months, the Musicumentary “It Might Get Loud,” is among the most intriguing and compelling. In case you’re not familiar with the basic concept, the filmmakers thought it would be interesting (and man, were they correct) to bring together three different guitar players, all of a different and distinct style, orientation, background and, even, generation. The three chosen were Jack White, he of The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and other amalgamations, classic rock God Jimmy Page, who’s strumming for Led Zeppelin is nothing short of iconic and legendary, and finally my personal favorite of the trio The Edge, guitarist and zen master for U2.
The film is both a rumination on the nature and definition of the electric guitar; how it’s made, how it’s played, why it is so integral to the sound of a band (Quick, think of a band without and electric guitar….yes, Keane qualifies, but they probably use studio musicians to make their records), as well as a bit of a performance piece. First, the lives of each of these three men are outlined, with each narrating their own personal journeys, and then the three guitar heroes converge in a kind of guitar circle jerk. Each man puts his chops on display. Archival footage of each in concert over the years is shown. Jokes are trades. Sarcasm and wit are used to both build up and, in a few cases, cast a few arrows.
And then, when the guitars are taken apart and put back together and all the tricks are revealed, it’s finally time for The Edge, Jimmy and Jack to jam. And jam they do, playing bits of their own songs alone and together and finally pulling out an old chestnut to rock out together on from beginning to end (Hint: It’s a song that you’ll instantly know but it’s not by any of these chaps.)
What results is a homage to the guitar and a deconstruction of what the guitar essentially does musically and how important it has been in the evolution of blues and rock and roll. It also just plain fun to see these rock idols interact on a soundstage….somewhere in the world, all the time watching the awe they have for one another and the love they have for playing guitar. This is essential viewing for any fan of rock and roll; absolutely riveting for anyone who ever loved a guitar solo, a total blast for those about to rock (and we do salute you.)
At the beginning of the filming when asked what he expects to come of the gathering, Jack White quips comically that he thinks “a fist fight may break out.” But in the end it’s a love in, a celebration of these artists and the axes they hang around their necks.
And yeah, it does get goddamned loud. And glorious. And, for music lovers, sublime.