Arguments that imply that the Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense is not, in fact, the best concert film ever made are hard to accept, but a YouTube video from Will Schoder does a good job of making the case for, at the least, a clear runner-up, The Last Waltz.
While the most obvious reason to celebrate Martin Scorsese’s look at The Band’s farewell shows is the quality of the songs performed (and a guest list that stretches from Dr. John and Joni Mitchell to Neil Young and Muddy Waters), Schoder goes a bit further into why the film resounds. He looks at the historical context of The Band’s final performances and notes that by 1978, the year of The Last Waltz’s release, The Band was an act whose music was soon to become out of step with a popular culture moving on to newly emerging genres like glam, punk, and hip-hop.
His video also highlights the inherent melancholy of a band playing what it and the audience know is its last outing. Drawing on the film’s interviews and the order of its set list, Schoder looks at how The Last Waltz acknowledges and celebrates the inherently transient nature of success as a musical act, the exhaustion of being a professional performer on the road, and just getting older in general.
It’s a solid argument that’s hard to ignore, although many would argue it is, ultimately, undermined by a single lively performance captured by Jonathan Demme. Still, The Last Waltz deserves this glowing appraisal, even if you still place it at number two.