It Might Get Loud flat out kicks. It’s one of the best rock documentaries I’ve ever seen and easily the most original. David Guggenheim’s Mission: Convene a meeting between three generations of guitar heroes. Guggenheim got some might fine rock gods to show up, too. Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White talk about starting out in music, songs that still give them a buzz and just how great the electric guitar is. It Might Get Loud isn’t a concert movie – though there are plenty of guitar heroics on hand, contemporary and archived, the footage that’s shown is there to illustrate one of the musician’s points. It’s not really a historical documentary, either. It’s a long, lingering look at how the electric guitar’s allure fires the creative spark of three very different artists and whether you’re a musician or music lover, you’ll be enthralled by the insights of these folks.
It Might Get Loud goes back and forth between The Rock God Summit and individual histories and profiles of the three artists. They make for a fascinating compare-and-contrast experience. You’ve got Page, who developed tremendous technical skill during what he calls his apprenticeship as a session musician. Then you’ve got The Edge and White, who had a distinctly by-your-bootstraps approach to attaining guitar proficiency. The discourses on technique are just as enthralling, ranging from The Edge’s joy in discovering the expanded sonic vocabulary that programming and effects gear give his music, while White sticks with the battered gear he’s owned for decades, paring his technique down to a simplicity Robert Johnson would have appreciated.
It Might Get Loud doesn’t digress into tabloid-level garbage, either, though the personal revelations the artists share are far more intimate in their way than anything a tell-all could deliver. There’s The Edge recalling his epiphany of realizing that passion and commitment, not pure technical proficiency, are what really make music resonate. There’s White’s declaration that he plays like he’s at war with his guitar and concert footage of White savaging the strings until his knuckles bleed serves notice that he wasn’t kidding. Then there’s the beautiful segment of Jimmy Page’s exuberant delight at listening to Link Wray’s “Rumble.” His look of pure, unfettered joy with the strains Wray coaxes from his guitar say more about who he is at his core than any 1,000 page tell-all biography could.
While there are contrasts aplenty, what Guggenheim really brings home is how much alike these three are. Their conversation is a little tentative in the early going, but soon they all realize that musically, they’re all speaking the same language and the rapport between them has the undercurrent of joy and pleasure you get when you’re talking about something you love with people who really, really get it.
It Might Get Loud is permeated with that joy and a love of music that’s absolutely infectious. If you enjoy rock ‘n roll on any level whatsoever, this movie will enlighten you, delight you and remind you why you fell in love with rock in the first place.