Play It Loud – This One Goes To Eleven
“It Might Get Loud” is an experience not to be missed. It’s a treat for all music fans, not just electric guitar aficionados or those who geek out at anything related to rock, Led Zeppelin, U2 or The White Stripes. This is a film for those who feel that emotional, often irrational pang when the right song plays. It’s a great rock tale where no one overdoes, goes broke or learns a lesson the hard way. Although labeled as a documentary of the electric guitar, this is the story of rock revolutionaries Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White, illustrating the music, charisma and the coming of age stories of each subject.
Filmmaker Davis Guggenheim keeps it intimate and simple with a minimal set and lush photography that doesn’t get bogged down with fancy moves. The subjects are important here, each possessing an intangible, magnetic quality that shines in this film.
Page and The Edge are best known for working alongside their larger-than-life front men, but this film clearly demonstrates the importance of all three subjects, without being pretentious. It’s visceral, effective and apparent when the first few guitar riffs of their music are played. An introspective Edge quietly plays an old tape of an early track of “Where The Streets Have No Name” and it’s a thrill to hear it; cut to a stadium full of screaming fans jumping up and down acting out the same feeling.
The guitarists go back to places that were meaningful to them, figuratively and literally, and it’s a rare treat for the audience, like seeing The Edge reminiscing in the small classroom where a young U2 moved desks aside to rehearse. Intercut with the interviews is footage of the three guitarists gathered on a soundstage to talk and play music as the mood strikes them. What could have been a derivative episode of “Unplugged” is nothing like that. Rather, it becomes a communal experience, with music enthusiasts identifying with rock gods who are in fact fans themselves.
The moment where Jimmy Page plays the opening to “Whole Lotta Love,” The Edge and White look like any fan would feel, like kids flushed with excitement, suppressing their giddiness. Their love of music is forefront. Each listens to and talks about the songs that stirred their being or as Paige describes it, “friends I used to visit daily… hourly.” When he plays air guitar to Link Wray’s “Rumble” at his home, his eyes twinkle and his smile lights up the room. The man still induces goosebumps.
The film underscores the humble beginnings of the guitarists music and why they do what they do. It’s told in a way that makes one root for them while cheering their success simultaneously. White was an upholsterer from a rough Detroit neighborhood where the DJ was king and musicians weren’t respected. His commitment is absolute and he spends a lot of time working to create music that’s real and never easy. He tells his nine year-old alter ego to “pick a fight with the guitar and win it.”
Page was a studio musician who paid his dues, but the sterility of performing musak was the last straw. It makes his work in Led Zeppelin, where he was free to play what he wanted in the way he wanted, more meaningful and his joy is much more obvious. The Edge tells of a family trip to NY where he visited a music store and found a guitar, “twenty minutes in this store just defined the sound of the band.”
“It Might Get Loud” reveals details about the artists that may be known but haven’t been seen in a meaningful and endearing expose. It manages to capture and create the intangible excitement that comes from listening to music. For everyone who has ever had the urge to be a musician, this film will remind them why.