The Rise of Concert Films

Who are the artists behind the rising concert film trend?  

Concert films are making a storming comeback, merging the art of cinema and music while allowing fans to connect with their favourite artists and experience the vibrant energy of live performances across the globe. Sounds thrilling, right? 

Paving the way in 2023 were some of the biggest names in the industry – Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour encouraged a sea of adoring Swifties to ditch their seats and dance in the aisles of their local cinema, quickly becoming one of the highest-grossing concert films of all time ($261.6 million to be precise). Beyonce’s ultra-glam world tour Renaissance lured a swarm of BeyHives to screens everywhere, banking a whopping $44 million. 

So, why are girls – sorry – concert films running the world right now? For fans, these films are their golden ticket, offering up-close, intimate access to a live show they might not be able to attend otherwise. No more waiting in an online queue only to fall at the hurdle at the last minute or having to fork out £100 + a ticket and, even scarier, the cost of drinks and travel.  

Concert films aren’t new: here’s a deep dive into the landscape, both past and present (with plenty of entertaining examples!)

The swift evolution of concert films    

Concert films came of age in the 1970s – a shop window for record sales with ties to live albums, for example, the deep cuts of MTV Unplugged: Nirvana (1991). The early videotape effects of these movies never washed over the authentic energy on-stage – as seen in Cream’s performance of ‘Sunshine of Your Love’ in their Farewell Concert (1969) – capturing entire eras of live music and discographies for audiences to transport back to. 

Micheal Wadleigh’s film-documentary Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music (1970) flipped the art form on its head, starring legendary performances from Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Sly and the Family Stone in 1969. This wasn’t a film to sell records but to record a sub-culture in all its unbrushed glory. 

A24 is the latest independent film studio to sift through the archives, remastering Talking Heads’ legendary concert film Stop Making Sense (1983) in 4K resolution. Scoring an impressive 4.7 on the film-review app Letterbox, the captivating on-screen performance of David Byrne, Tina Weymouth, Jerry Harrison, and Chris Franz was one of the first to diminish the distance between artists and audiences as well as create a collective celebration of pure artistry.  

On the B-side, Madonna: Truth or Dare (1991) captured the iconic pop-queen during her Blond Ambition World Tour through Japan and North America. Directed by Alek Keshishian, the documentary-style film shines a light on the backstage antics of Madge alongside her dancers, crew, and loved ones – a window for fans to peek through beyond the glitzy stage.  

More recent concert films, from Kylie’s Showgirl: The Greatest Hits Tour (2005) and BTS’ Burn the Stage: The Movie (2018), back to Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour and Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé, are seamlessly weaved with cinematic grandeur (think lavish costume changes, dance routines, vibrant stage lighting and all that jazz). Each scene unfolds with songs and narratives that crowds can fall in love with repeatedly, curating a universal experience that might be even better than the real thing.  

What exactly is a concert film?  

Simply put, a traditional concert film is the cinematic version of an artist’s live performance. These productions capture the grand spectacle or intimacy of the shows, transporting fans to sold-out arenas, stadiums and venues worldwide.   

Some concert films offer a glimpse into the artist’s personal space behind the scenes, the highs and the lows (note Katy Perry’s unpolished reaction to her divorce in Part of Me (2012), a few minutes before composing herself with a smile on stage), alongside the creative direction of the event. These include interviews, sound checks, and set transformations, bringing them closer to documentary-style filmmaking.  

Others capture the earthy magic of music festivals, sharpening the blurred lines between audience participation and a line-up of independent and world-leading musicians. 

In a world where live music experiences are cherished, these films are not only a yellow brick road for devoted superfans to see their favourite artists but also emerge as time capsules, preserving iconic performances for generations to come. 

Tune into our best recommendations: 

Fancy experiencing live music at home? Check out our collection of top-selling concert films and concert streams, from Noel Gallagher’s High-Flying Birds live at Wythenshawe Park and (upcoming) Eurovision superstar Olly Alexander’s Night Call to Armin van Buuren’s sold-out performances in This is Me: Feel Again. 

Latest articles