It Might Get Loud
- Directed by Davis Guggenheim
- Starring Jack White, The Edge and Jimmy Page
- Classification: PG
At the end of It Might Get Loud , guitarists Jack White, The Edge and Jimmy Page, sit around a furnished Los Angeles sound stage, strumming acoustic guitars and struggling through the Band's song The Weight like a trio of high-school students jamming in the school stairwell.
The point seems to be that, inside every guitar god, is an awkward kid trying to learn those few basic fingerings.
The fact that all this takes place with a crew of dozens and three high-definition cameras on hand to record this not-so-momentous occasion seems like the definition of overkill. (Okay, perhaps Led Zeppelin in the early seventies was the definition of overkill, but at least that band made your neck hairs stand up.)
Still, if you're an electric guitar fan, you really want to like It Might Get Loud , Davis Guggenheim's follow-up to his Oscar-winning An Inconvenient Truth .
The idea is to bring three celebrated guitarists from different generations together to talk shop, play some favourite recordings and jam a little. As with An Inconvenient Truth , the film roves between scenes of the subjects in different settings - their homes, on tour, visiting old stomping grounds - and returns to them standing or sitting on the soundstage.
The choice of Page, The Edge and White is intended to show a line of rock evolution and generational rebellion: Page's technical mastery, followed by The Edge's post-punk electronic experiments, followed by White's neo-primitivism. The film is divided into chapters, as the players discuss beginnings, their breakthrough moments and love affairs with favourite instruments.
Page, 65, who stands on a higher guitar-god pedestal than the rest, comes across as very much the English gentleman, with a fluty speaking voice and quiet warmth. He also has the most colourful history, with a career that includes a stretch as a studio session player. (He says he played on the 1964 Shirley Bassey hit, Goldfinger : "She did one take and just collapsed at the end of it.")
Later, with the Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin, he pushed the technical and sonic boundaries of the instrument, with distortion pedals, violin bows and double-neck instruments.
We see Page as a young, short-haired teenager, appearing on an after-school television show with a skiffle band, talking about a career in "biological research." Later, he's a grey-haired handsome gent, standing in his record-lined room, playing air guitar, dancing and raving about Link Wray's 1958 instrumental hit Rumble .
The Dublin-spawned U2, according to 48-year-old Edge (née David Howell Evans), was formed in reaction to Led Zeppelin rock-star excesses and seventies' Top of the Pops banality, fusing a punk sensibility with a love of plangent echo effects. The Edge likes to take his amps and digital processing rack out to the beach, sending ringing tones out over the ocean.
White, 34, grew up in the eighties in Detroit, rejected glossy studio tricks in favour of a do-it-yourself retro-primitivism, steeped in 1930s rural blues and early country. He's obsessed with music as struggle: Better a guitar with a bent neck that makes you work, than one that makes things easy.
The trouble is, once you get past the historical information and chummy interviews, you have to put up with the inevitable risk of any ad-hoc jam session: It Might Get Boring.
As genuinely likeable and accomplished as the three musicians are, nothing really ignites here. The three men are respectful of each other, but the ice barely gets broken, which is no surprise under the film's artificial circumstances. It Might Get Loud never comes close to capturing the "lightning in a bottle" of the creative process. At best, it suggests only a faint reflection.