Davis Guggenheim, the Academy Award-winning director of An Inconvenient Truth, has brought together three generations of great guitarists to talk about music, their personal histories, influences and why they play. For those who play music or for those who simply appreciate it, It Might Get Loud is essential viewing.
Jimmy Page – the legendary guitarist of The Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin – and U2’s The Edge really need no introduction. Jack White, the front man of The White Stripes, who has a tendency to form side projects like The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather, is the relatively new kid on the block, but he has quickly proven his worth as a guitarist and as a keeper of pure, raw, unpretentious rock.
Guggenheim follows each of his subjects separately as they give tours of key locations and moments of their careers before bringing all three together in a warehouse to talk shop and teach each other their songs. For the most part, the film focuses on each musician’s thoughts on music both specific to them and in general.
Philosophically, The Edge and White are polar opposites. The Edge is a firm advocate of using effects to get the sound I hear in my head to come out of the speakers. White on the other hand states technology doesn’t make you any more creative. There is no direct debate of these opposing views. Guggenheim simply presents both views without taking sides. All three musicians are very clearly passionate about music and are, as White puts it, attempting to share something with another human being.
It Might Get Loud is be no means a complete history of rock and roll, but Page, who was one of the revolutionary guitarists that changed the game in the 1960s and 1970s, brings a historical context to the proceedings. Page, at age 64 at the time of filming, comes across as an elder statesmen of rock who still takes immense joy in music. He smiles broadly and plays air guitar as he listens to a record of Link Wray’s Rumble. That same giddiness comes across when he stumbles upon a theremin. Whether alone or with The Edge and White his sincere love of music is evident.
While the film is a lot of talk it always remains interesting and when the three do jam together it is truly awesome. There are thrilling sessions on I Will Follow, In My Time Of Dying and Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground. When Page plays Whole Lotta Love, The Edge and White just watch in awe. It is a great moment.
As a side note: Although the footage of the trio performing together in the film is limited, it was announced that deleted scenes (including performances of Kashmir and Seven Nation Army) will be included on a DVD release, which will reportedly be available 18 January.
As holds true with most documentaries, Guggenheim mixes his new footage with stock footage. There’s familiar material, but Guggenheim also includes such fantastic footage as a teenage Page playing guitar and early footage of U2 with Bono preening like Mick Jagger. Some animated interludes are also added into the mix. All these parts are well integrated together and the film flows together nicely.
Hardcore fans of the subjects’ bands will not learn any new insights into their origins, but for casual listeners the segments of the film that delve into each musician’s past will fascinate. Where the film does provide insight is why each of these men feels compelled to play music. There is no grand revelations about why music exists, but the film makes a genuine effort to explain and understand the creative process of these men and on that basis, it is a grand success.