Wednesday 19 January 2011

Shakedown: "Ride, Rise, Roar"

A long, angular shadow falls over the concert movie Ride, Rise, Roar, and that shadow is Stop Making Sense, Jonathan Demme's record of a Talking Heads live gig, which 25 years ago revolutionised the way concert movies were conceived and filmed. This time, Heads frontman David Byrne - now white-haired and the model of weathered indie cool, resembling Jim Jarmusch crossed with Christopher Lloyd's Doc Brown - is flying solo on a 2008-09 tour that saw him playing old favourites alongside songs from Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, Byrne's recent Brian Eno collaboration. Around him: a decidedly energetic troupe of contemporary dancers, choreographed by Noemie LaFrance among others. The Tom Tom Club are conspicuous by their absence, and at no point does Byrne reappear on stage wearing an outsized suit - although he does don a rather lovely tutu for "Burning Down the House".

Without Demme's cleverly shifting sets and innate gifts for storytelling at his disposal, director David Hillman Curtis instead goes for a stylistic halfway house, observing the interactions between main attraction and his band, and the backing singers and the dancers, from the back of the auditorium and the wings of the stage, flicking back and forth between straight-ahead spectacle and a slightly compromised study of bodies in motion; the moment he begins interjecting standard-issue monochrome rehearsal footage into the live performances - in effect, turning the film into its own making-of documentary - the feeling is of a filmmaker trying to have it every which way at once.

Yet if Ride, Rise, Roar isn't as formally dazzling as its predecessor - which happened to catch a cutting-edge pop band at the very peak of their creative powers - it remains a largely pleasurable experience, and actually retains one advantage over Stop Making Sense, in that it now has the entirety of the Byrne back catalogue to select from: good news for fans of "Road to Nowhere", "I Zimbra" (Sense's "deleted track", here given a full and proper airing) and the newly mellow, melodic, Radio 2-friendly direction Byrne is currently pursuing. If you're one of those who got annoyed by the way Oliver Stone crowbarred some of these tracks into Wall Street 2 with the aim of making the credit crunch slip down a little easier, it'll be a doubly valuable artefact.

Ride, Rise, Roar opens in selected cinemas from Friday.

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