FT5: Music DVDs

We’ve been running ATH for awhile now, and honestly, getting ideas going for my scheduled Top 5 this week has been a little tougher than usual.  I guess that’s just another reason to be excited for the future since we’ve brought on some new talented writers recently who can stir up the pot and help me break through my creative block.  So as I started brainstorming for this week’s list, I was shocked to see that we’ve never created a list of Music DVDs.  Sure it’s a massive topic, but I’m narrowing it down with things that hit home with me and may not necessarily be “the best” by traditional standards.  For inclusion in this swanky list, I’ll stick with DVDs I actually own or borrowed for an extended period of time.  I’m also a stickler for sound quality and personal touches, so you’ll be seeing those in each spot.  Creativity and forward thinking in presentation also can’t hurt.  Follow the jump for full list.


5. Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble – Live from Austin, TX

Right off the bat I’m breaking one of my own made up criteria.  You surely won’t find many personal touches in this DVD outside of the intimate nature of the ACL TV show stage.  What you will find are 2 incredible performances by the greatest guitar player around and his technically amazing backing band.  Being a much bigger fan of SRV live as opposed to his recorded material, this DVD has been a part of my catalog for over 10 years.  I’ll also find any chance I can to give some love to my home town boys.  The legacy that is SRV will always live on with this DVD along with his other live recordings.


4. Sigur Ros – Heima

Wow.  This DVD is beautiful.  Now that I’ve watched this music film countless times over the last few years, it’s been increasingly hard to just listen to Sigur Ros without picturing the incredible images packed into this DVD.  As the band tours throughout their native Iceland, images of the country pop up and flow together while the music streams in perfectly.  On top of the images of Iceland, this DVD gets major major points for personal touches.  The band plays in a variety of locales; a school gymnasium, an empty church, a small outdoor stage, a grassy field with no amped instruments, and the list goes on and on.  Seriously, how amazing is the band’s performance of “Agaeti Byrjun” in that empty gym?  How in the hell can a band create a sound like that with just 4 members?  I’m not sure I’ve ever heard acoustics like that before.  Damn.  Just don’t watch this one too late or the soothing sounds and images might put you right to sleep…


3. I Am Trying to Break Your Heart: A Film About Wilco

So this was going to be just another plain ol’ documentary DVD following a band around as they recorded and released a new album.  Then boom, the shit hits the fan and the film makers got a whole lot more than they bargained for.  First up, the band loses one of it’s veteran members (R.I.P. Jay Bennett) citing relationship and creative differences with leading man Jeff Tweedy.  Then the band has their recently completed masterpiece of an album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot thrown back in their faces by their label (Reprise), who refused to put out the record as is and subsequently let them go.  Bummer man.  But that didn’t get Tweedy down.  What follows in the DVD is the ultimate “fuck you” to the man.  Tweedy and his mates give the album away as a free download and then sign to Nonesuch Records which just so happens to be owned by the same parent company, Warner Music, as Reprise.  This has got to be the best sticking it to the man moment ever captured on film.  Unlike most music documentary films, you get a real glimpse into the trials and tribulations of what it’s like the be in and work with a band struggling to be understood.  Oh and the music aint bad either…


2. Led Zeppelin (DVD)

This DVD is all about getting the bang for your buck.  Taking a look at the specs on Amazon, you get: 230 minutes of concert footage along with an hour and a half of extra material.  Not to mention all the footage was remastered with amped up sound quality for major rock even at volume 11.  Page, Plant, Jones and Bonham have to be given credit as one of the best live acts to ever grace the stage and the incredible concert footage jammed packed into this DVD will allow them to live on forever.  I don’t remember exactly what the venue is, but my favorite moment from the DVD is an intimate short set from Zeppelin in what looks like a small room void of much furniture.  The band is seen in the middle of this room playing to a small crowd of young people sitting on the floor.  I remember an old roommate of mine saying: “man these kids don’t even know what their watching”.  Being as the footage was from super early on in the band’s career, these young ones most certainly didn’t know what was in store.  A violin bow on your guitar!?  Holy hell!  This DVD is a must have for any fan of live music.


1. The Band – The Last Waltz

Every time I meet another person who hasn’t seen at least part of this DVD, I slap them in the face and let them take my copy home for a few days (seriously this happened like 2-3 months ago).  Where do I even start with this DVD?  I mean it’s well known as one of the best concerts ever put on by a band.  A taping of the concert alone, with a star studded cast of musicians like Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, etc. etc., could have easily snuck into a top ten or top 5.  Leave it to director Martin Scorsese however, to turn this into a true masterpiece of music AND film.  Live performances are mixed in with intimate interviews of band members back stage.  A few additional live performances were also mixed in outside of the actual concert with guest appearances by Emmylou Harris and The Staple Singers on an incredible version of “The Weight”.  The stories and drama behind this music film are also another reason why it comes in at #1, but are way to numerous for me to go into much detail here (criticism from Levon Helm, Robbie Robertson’s insistence on the inclusion of Neil Diamond, etc. etc.).  Just buy the damn thing and “Play this movie loud!”.  Any serious music fan shouldn’t speak to me if they haven’t seen this film.  For serious.


Honorable Mention: Woodstock (great lineup but one song by Sly & The Stone!?!), one of the countless live Pearl Jam DVDs, and A Concert for George.

So that’s my list.  What would you put in?  Or Subtract?  I’m open to ideas.



  • I’ll give you Heima, that makes me cry my eyes out.

    But I submit for your approval The Johnny Cash Show: The Best of Johnny Cash 1969-1971. Seriously, the best music DVD I have ever seen.

  • Can’t find much to disagree with on this list.

    @Dave – Speaking of Johnny Cash, I’ve got the old Highwaymen Live! DVD that is superb. The quality is shitty, but it’s amazing. They sing Highwaymen songs along with solo hits from all 4 singers.

  • @raygun … ummm… is that a real DVD or a wet dream?

  • For concert DVDs, I would suggest Farewell To The World from Crowded House. At the time it was the band’s swan song and wow, did they go out in style. Consummate live performers and even in front of a massive audience, their shows always had an intimate, welcoming vibe.

  • Heima for sure. No Low “You May Need a Murderer” is a crime though. Anvil “The Story Of Anvil”, Dig, You Are Going To Miss Me, Fallen Angel, Kurt Kobain “About A Son”, Nirvana “Live, Tonight!, Sold Out!”…..?????? I’m disappointed.

  • @MichaelE – You are always disappointed. You’re like a dad I’m trying to get approval from, but nothing is good enough. Damnit! I tried my best… I tried my best!!!!!

  • It’s hard to rank these, but Monterrey Pop gets my top spot, if not only for the tone, style, and the unbelievable performances. Pulse comes in a close 2nd just for the Acid flashbacks. Far out, man. Heima is third, it’s a classic, and obviously well-known.

    For nostalgic purposes only, Hard Day’s Night needs to be on my list and for even further nostalgic purposes, I’ll add Labyrinth at 5. No, it’s not a traditional music DVD, but Bowie butted his way into my top 5.

    Speaking of DVD’s, any of you see the new White Stripe’s DVD yet?

  • @jon.wagner MONTERREY POP! YES! so good.

  • I’m sorry, but I think you are all neglecting to mention Be Here to Love Me about Townes Van Zandt. This would be my No. 1, hands down.

  • The new White Stripes documentary Under Great Northern Lights is quite the awesome. I highly recommend it.


  • Yes, love the Wilco doc. So good.

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