'It Might Get Loud': For Music Buffs, Plenty To Riff On

WIDE Jack White, The Edge, and Jimmy Page in 'It Might Get Loud' i i

Jam Session: Davis Guggenheim's latest documentary brings together guitarists Jack White of the White Stripes (from left), The Edge of U2 and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin. Eric Lee/Sony Pictures Classics hide caption

itoggle caption Eric Lee/Sony Pictures Classics
WIDE Jack White, The Edge, and Jimmy Page in 'It Might Get Loud'

Jam Session: Davis Guggenheim's latest documentary brings together guitarists Jack White of the White Stripes (from left), The Edge of U2 and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin.

Eric Lee/Sony Pictures Classics

It Might Get Loud

  • Director: Davis Guggenheim
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Running Time: 97 minutes

Rated PG: Bloody fingers, earthy talk

With: Jimmy Page, The Edge, Jack White

Did you hear the one about the 1960s heavy metallist, the 1980s new waver and the millennial blues-rocker who walked onto a movie soundstage?

That's the setup for It Might Get Loud, a guitar-hero conclave that introduces Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page, U2's The Edge and the White Stripes' Jack White to each other. The documentary doesn't really have a punch line, but should amuse guitar buffs nonetheless.

The centerpiece is an L.A. encounter between the three musicians: James Patrick Page, 65, who grew up in a London suburb; Dave "The Edge" Evans, 48, born to Welsh parents who moved him to Dublin as a young boy; and Jack White (aka John Gillis), 34, a Detroit native who now lives near Nashville.

The moments when the guitarists teach the others their best-known riffs are fascinating. Edge and White marvel at the secret to Page's monumental "Whole Lotta Love" hook, while Page is perplexed by the chord changes of Edge's "I Will Follow" jangle.

Jimmy Page and The Edge in 'It Might Get Loud' i i

Jimmy Page (left) and The Edge share the secrets of their best-known guitar riffs. Eric Lee/Sony Pictures Classics hide caption

itoggle caption Eric Lee/Sony Pictures Classics
Jimmy Page and The Edge in 'It Might Get Loud'

Jimmy Page (left) and The Edge share the secrets of their best-known guitar riffs.

Eric Lee/Sony Pictures Classics

Yet most of the movie consists of individual interviews with the musicians, as well as archival footage. Page plays the country squire at the mansion where Led Zep used to record; Edge shows off his myriad gizmos in a Dublin warehouse; and White poses as a rustic bluesman at his farmhouse, constructing a one-string guitar with a board, a Coke bottle and an electric pickup.

Director Davis Guggenheim assembles disparate material as skillfully as he did for An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore's illustrated global-warming lecture (which might be termed a concert film). The most interesting vintage footage features Page, who began playing professionally while still a teenager.

It Might Get Loud offers no outside commentary, which won't bother viewers who know the musicians' careers well. But there are places where a little analysis would have helped.

The movie, for example, demonstrates conclusively that the plugged-in guitar is an electronic instrument. Page lovingly performs "Rumble," the 1958 Link Wray instrumental that established the power of guitar distortion. Even more revealingly, Edge plays the riff from "Elevation" both adorned and naked, showing how much evaporates from his sound when he turns off the effects.

Jack White in 'It Might Get Loud' i i

Next Generation: Jack White cuts his own path, but keeps great guitar traditions alive, says It Might Get Loud producer Thomas Tull. Alba Tull/Sony Pictures Classics hide caption

itoggle caption Alba Tull/Sony Pictures Classics
Jack White in 'It Might Get Loud'

Next Generation: Jack White cuts his own path, but keeps great guitar traditions alive, says It Might Get Loud producer Thomas Tull.

Alba Tull/Sony Pictures Classics

Guggenheim doesn't press for biological information, or challenge the stories he's told. This matters most with Jack White, who is relatively obscure and relishes manipulating his own image.

Led Zeppelin's history is well-documented, and U2 has a high profile (although Edge generally stands in singer Bono's shadow). But only White Stripes devotees will know that the band's frontman is fibbing when he calls drummer Meg White his sister. (She's actually his ex-wife.)

However notorious Page was at the peak of Led Zep's fame, White is now the trickiest of the three. He idolizes vintage bluesman Son House, but his strategies for challenging himself owe more to arty rocker Brian Eno.

Fans can debate endlessly if Page, Edge and White are the greatest living rock guitarists of their epochs. Page is the easiest choice, although some might prefer fellow Yardbirds Jeff Beck or Eric Clapton. Edge certainly isn't the top guitarist of his period, but U2's prominence is inarguable. As for White, who's currently playing drums with the Dead Weather, he represents a musical era that's too scattered to be represented by any one musician.

For the purposes of this documentary, however, Page, Edge and White work fine: elder statesman, quiet technocrat and brash young thing. Together, they make an entertaining racket.

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