The Top 16 Best Music Gigs in Movies

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They are two of my favourite things – going to the movies and going to gigs. So when you combine the two, it has the potential to be mega. Here are the music concerts on film that it was worth pushing to the front for.

16. ‘Hi, I’ve got a tape I want to play’

Let’s begin with one of the best beginnings to any gig, any film or any gig in a film. It’s Talking Heads and their main man David Byrne rattling through Psycho Killer in Jonathan Demme’s brilliant concert movie, Stop Making Sense. I’m cheating a bit here, because there are no other concert movies in this list (sorry, The Band), but I couldn’t bring myself to leave this one out. Qu’est-ce que c’est?

15. ‘Bring on the real band!’

There are people out there who haven’t seen Road House. I pity them. No compilation of movie gigs would be complete without a trip to the Double Deuce, the dive bouncered by Patrick Swayze’s throat-ripping hero Dalton. Dalton’s the best bouncer in the business, but Jeff Healey is the best musician in the business, playing some great rock ‘n’ blues amid a torrent of bad behaviour on the floor below. Road House is directed by a man called Rowdy, after all. For more Healey, who sadly passed away five years ago, check out his rockin’ cover of Stuck In The Middle With You.

14. ‘The word is out on you o-NEE-ders!’

From a den of debauchery to some clean old-fashioned pop now, with The Oneders (or is that The Wonders?) in Tom Hanks’ That Thing You Do. This film should come with a warning: ‘You may have to listen to the same song 17 times throughout this movie’. Okay, so the track that give the film its title gets a bit repetitive, but no band with Steve Zahn could be bad.

13. ‘Get up here and sing, b**ch!’

Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy has dated a bit badly (not unlike its characters – HA!). What was cool in sixth form might not be a few years later. But it still gets by on its cheesy energy. Here, Ben Affleck, much more interesting as something of a big doofus (his dad dancing is great here), finds out the girl of his dreams may not be dreaming of him. Or anyone with the same genitalia as him. WARNING: There is some naughty NSFW language in this clip.

12. ‘Man, this joint is gonna jump!’

John Sayles is a brilliant talent – he directed the greatest baseball movie ever, Eight Men Out, and he wrote the film I have probably seen more than any other – Alligator. Back in 2007, he added another fantastic work in the shape of Honeydripper. And no one went to see it. But they should have done, because it has one of the best movie gigs ever at the end of it.

11. ‘HEROINE KILLS’

You can’t have a rundown of the greatest cinematic concerts without some Commitments action. A film made up of great gigs, watching The Commitments makes you want to run outside and get yourself some soul. And if they don’t have any of that, order some rock salmon instead. My favourite gig in the movie is the band’s first, where some errant spelling of a drug ravaging Dublin and the electrocution of the bass player makes it one to remember. Better than going to see Kings Of Leon in the 02, anyway. Well, I’m guessing: why the heck would I want to go see Kings Of Leon?

10. ‘STATION!!!’

The Godfather II. Toy Story 2. Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey. Sometimes the movie sequel can be better than the original. Just as B & T steal various things as they travel through time, make-up aficionados KISS stole God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll To You from English rockers Argent. Sometimes the song sequel can’t live up to the original. Version notwithstanding, it’s still a fitting finale for the time-travelling twosome.

9. ‘And that band made rock ‘n’ roll…’

Back in 2008, Zooey Deschanel’s kookiness was actually quite refreshing and kooky, not merely tiresome. She’s great here as the frontwoman of Munchausen by Proxy in forgettable Jim Carrey vehicle, Yes Man. Well, it would have been forgettable had it not been for this killer – yet sparsely populated – gig.

8. ‘You’re sweatin’ buckets and it’s not even hot’ 

If I could be transported into any ’80s movie gig, it would probably be to see Ellen Aim and The Attackers, the band at the heart of Walter Hill’s Streets Of Fire, arguably the most ’80s ’80s movie ever. Diane Lane is great as Ellen Aim, but then I love her in Must Love Dogs.

7. ‘I always hated that song. Now I kinda like it’

Another Must Love Dogs alumni now in the shape of John Cusack, who puts aside his hatred of Peter ‘f*****g’ Frampton to ogle the hot sister from The Cosby Show in High Fidelity.

6. ‘Rock got no reason, rock got no rhyme’

More Jack Black now, graduating from the School Of Rock. While his performance on stage in High Fidelity as Barry Jive and the Uptown Five is pretty good, it’s hard to beat his Angus Young impression here. Their rivals in the battle of the bands, No Vacancy, probably still deserved to win though.

5. ‘Death by stereo’

If I was a vampire and could fly anywhere I wanted, I’m not sure I’d swoop into a gig by Tina Turner’s saxophonist. But to be fair to non-shirted Tim Cappello, he gives his all here along the beach at Santa Carla, setting for the spooky goings-on in The Lost Boys.

4. ‘This is an oldie… Well, it’s an oldie where I come from’

Good old Marty McFly. What better way to celebrate avoiding hooking up with your mother than by playing a cover of a song that hasn’t even been written yet? Back To The Future’s Enchantment Under The Sea dance just got rocky.

3. ‘Got balls of steel, got an automobile, for a minimum wage’

Finding out that the new object of your affection used to date a member of a band isn’t perhaps the ideal way to spend a gig, but when the band – The Clash At Demonhead from Scott Pilgrim vs the World – is this rocking, does it really matter? Their cover of Metric’s Black Sheep does what all the best movie gigs do – take you right there into the sweaty, heaving crowd.

2. ‘Raise your expectations!’

And now for something new. From the 1970s. Gig sequences in movies are difficult to film – they end up looking as naff as football-playing scenes. But in this year’s Good Vibrations, the fantastic account of the punk explosion in Northern Ireland, seen through the eyes of record store owner Terri Hooley (played by Richard Dormer), the gigs are so good you forget you’re watching a film. Here, Hooley discovers his love for the band Rudi, a moment that’s head-spinning, fun and angry all at the same time. This is why people fall in love with music. And this is why people fall in love with films.

1. ‘I’m serious about this song!’

I quite liked Crossroads. A very underrated film. Despite what the critics say, Britney Spears isn’t that bad in it. Oh.. what? Oh, wrong Crossroads. The Crossroads I should be talking about, of course, is the one where the Karate Kid plays the blues. Kind of. Ralph Macchio may be holding the guitar in this great VHS classic directed by Walter Hill (him again), but he ain’t playing all the notes. In the film’s famous guitar duel between Macchio and the devil’s guitar player (it’s that kind of movie), both parts are played by legendary axeman Steve Vai, who portrays satan’s little helper. And it is epic.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE GIG FROM A MOVIE?

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6 Responses to “The Top 16 Best Music Gigs in Movies”

  1. I’m actually quite partial to the live concert scene in SLC Punk.

  2. If I had a time machine, would head back to the moment of the first chords of “Earth Angel”. Best music moment ever

  3. I like your number 1, but what about “Airheads”?

  4. Airheads! Great shout, zecchius.

  5. […] already read. Today I spent quite a lot of time thinking about a blog by Ross vs. Ross titled The Top 16 Best Music Gigs in Movies and I couldn’t help but think of about two dozen scenes he failed to mention. Or perhaps […]

  6. I love this list. You should make another with “honorable mentions”

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