Sunday, May 9, 2010

Movie Review: "It Might Get Loud"

I have been a lapsed guitar player for quite a few years now. That means I used to play a lot, especially from the ages of 12 to 19. Since then I only play sporadically. As such, I have a predilection towards admiring the way people who never stopped playing work their instrument. It is thrilling to see someone who possess perfect mastery of their chosen form of expression, and even more so when it produces rock and roll as a result.
So I knew eventually I would have to get around to seeing the documentary, "It Might Get Loud", which features a constructed meet-up for three incredibly famous guitar players: Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, The Edge of U2 and Jack White of the White Stripes. While the combination of all three is an interesting experiment, the real takeaway here is how the interaction highlights both the strengths and the insecurities of those on stage:

The Edge
His name is "The Edge". That should explain most of what you need to know about The Edge. He plays in a band called U2 with a lead singer named Bono. The simplicity of these names implies a vast self-assurance. He talks a lot about himself and the mountains of effects pedals he has at his beck and call. While this is all amazing, when removed from these technological innovations his riffing is quite simple. This is not a criticism, but a reality.

Jack White
Jack White is a goofball. His urgency to come off as a contemporary of the two other stars permeates most everything he does. He is the anti-The Edge in that he frequently extols the virtues of raw sounds while The Edge bring his amps to the beach.
At one point I'm pretty sure there was supposed to be a song that each of them contributed a part to before passing it off to the next. White is the only one shown recording this song containing such lyrics as, "what do you got that I ain't got?" In the car ride over to the jam session he says that he wants to "trick them" so he can "learn all their secrets."
Oh, and he also had a harmonica microphone on a string attached to a small speaker custom installed in the body of one of his guitars.

Jimmy Page
Jack White would not be Jack White without Jimmy Page. Zeppelin is such a heavy influence on both White's singing and playing that it is nearly unimaginable that the White Stripes would be anywhere without them.
Jimmy Page has some of the more interesting things to say about the guitar as he basically invented an entirely new way to use the instrument. He has been what both Jack White and The Edge strive for: the embodiment of freedom and determination. Some of the more interesting scenes involved Page's recounting of his early days as a session guitarist before breaking out with the Yardbirds.

The only two complete performances come at the end, finishing off with a rendition of The Band's "The Weight". It's not spectacular, but I didn't mind the excuse to make this film. Being a lead guitar player traditionally requires a certain amount of ego that other instruments don't seem to acquire at such a rate. I'm more interested in how they came to be that way than what would happen if they all came together.

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