Pearl Jam, Rage Against the Machine and Billie Eilish are among the ever-growing list of musicians having to postpone shows due to concerns over coronavirus. But while jumping, swaying, or body-slamming your way through a gig isn’t possible thanks to bans on large public gatherings, there is still much more than streaming playlists to make up for the absence of live music in one’s life.
SPIN has put together a list of 10 engaging rock documentaries and concert films available on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video for those looking for a music-related oasis away from the hordes hoarding goods at discount stores, people pouring on buckets of Purell, and social-distancing loneliness.
I’m Now: The Story of Mudhoney (Amazon Prime Video)
Pearl Jam were one of the first bands to pull tour dates due to COVID-19, citing its impact on their hometown of Seattle and concern for public safety. Since there aren’t any Gigaton gigs just yet, snuggle up in a flannel blanket and stream this Mudhoney doc, which charts the influential grunge group’s history, including the release of their debut single, “Touch Me, I’m Sick” (Note: Not a message appropriate under present circumstances). The band members and a host of other folks lend commentary to this feature, including Pearl Jam’s Jeff Ament (shown in old footage with some seriously ’80s metal hair) and Stone Gossard, who both discuss their time in the pre-Mudhoney outfit Green River. From Sub Pop to Reprise and back, I’m Now covers just about everything in Mudhoney’s story, some interesting observations on the differences between touring with Nirvana and Pearl Jam at the height of grunge, and the amicable departure by bassist Matt Lukin, followed by the band entrance of Guy Maddison.
Oasis: Supersonic (Netflix)
Liam Gallagher had to hit pause on his solo dates, too, but if his highly-entertaining Twitter feed (and this) isn’t quite enough to stave off social-distancing blues, roll out Oasis: Supersonic. Deportation from Amsterdam after drunken shenanigans on a ferry, Liam and Noel Gallagher’s sibling rivalry (a term Noel notes in the film he hates, but is accurate) and rough childhood, that disastrous first Los Angeles gig at the Whisky a Go-Go that led to Noel leaving the tour, and band member exits are all covered in this entertaining look back at the ’90s British rockers. Two albums, Oasis-mania, their massive 1996 shows at Knebworth in the U.K. (which Noel says in the doc are—to him—”the last great gathering of the people before the birth of the internet”) and reflections on Oasis’ impact from the brothers Gallagher all make this a must-watch.
Jane’s Addiction Alive at Twenty-Five (Amazon Prime Video)
Interested in less doc and more rock? Jane’s Addiction Alive at Twenty-Five fits the bill with a sweaty, sexy, cool amphitheater show from the LA legends, who play 1990’s Ritual de lo Habitual in its entirety in this concert film. Turn this one up loud. Filmed at former SoCal amphitheater Irvine Meadows, it’s an epic performance from the band that sucks you in—even if one of frontman Perry Farrell’s stage musings takes you briefly back to coronavirus and climate crisis-reality for a second (like when he tells the crowd, “Think about how fucking great the world is starting to turn around and it’s going to be even better when your kids get their shot at making this world fucking hot”). “Stop,” “Been Caught Stealing” and “Jane Says,” dancers, and guitar riffs from the man (Dave Navarro) who looks more at-ease shirtless than any Hemsworth, all make this mandatory quarantine viewing. Plus, streaming it through the TV or computer allows you the joy of not having to watch portions of the show through the cell phone screen of the person in the next row. Be on the lookout for special guests, including a certain blond drummer (hint: it’s Taylor Hawkins).
U2 at The BBC (Amazon Prime Video)
Even if U2 had upcoming stateside dates the likelihood of being able to see the rock superstars in an intimate venue, with less than 250 fans all spaced out from each other at safe distances is nil. So, queue up U2 at the BBC, and hit “Watch Now” to see the Irish outfit thrill a small group of concertgoers at this 2009 London, U.K. radio performance/interview session as they play some of their classics and newer numbers. And if you stick around until the end, U2 take their live set to the top of the BBC Broadcasting House in London, performing to packed streets below.
Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten (Hulu)
Sundance-shown rock doc The Future Is Unwritten takes a unique approach to interviews, getting friends, family and loved ones of Joe Strummer to talk by outdoor fires, sharing their memories of the late Clash frontman/punk/actor/composer. Not unlike other rock docs, this one starts with Strummer’s early years, his international upbringing, boarding school, squatting in London and joining The Clash–and it also uses interviews from the late legend. Sex Pistols’ guitarist Steve Jones, frontman Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream, U2’s Bono, Steve Buscemi (who once co-starred with Strummer in a film called Mystery Train) and even director Martin Scorsese dish on not just his importance, but his greater creative influence.
Echo in the Canyon (Netflix)
Jakob Dylan looks back at the Laurel Canyon music scene of the late ’60s/early ’70s, interviewing the stars of the time (like The Byrds’ David Crosby, Michelle Phillips from the Mamas and the Papas and Jackson Browne) in this mellow documentary/performance film, perfect for calming some of that extra anxiety everyone is feeling right now (seriously, stop buying up all the toilet paper). Interspersed with those sit-down chats and retro film snippets is footage from a show at Los Angeles’ downtown Orpheum Theatre in 2015 (that saw Dylan and friends—like Fiona Apple—cover the scene’s greatest hits), studio sessions (Beach Boys legend/songwriter Brian Wilson stopped by, so did Norah Jones), and early rehearsal jams (with Regina Spektor, Cat Power and Beck). Folks like Graham Nash and producer Lou Adler reminisce about the creativity that came out of the small Southern California community in an era that continues to inspire in all the right ways.
Stone Roses—Made of Stone (Amazon Prime Video)
With the Rage Against the Machine and My Chemical Romance reunion tours on pause, might we suggest adding to your watching list Stone Roses—Made of Stone to your list. The film documents the reforming of Manchester indie heroes The Stone Roses, who announced they were getting back together in 2011 after more than a decade-and-a-half apart (longer for drummer Reni, who skipped out on the band’s second album). Filmmakers (fans themselves) managed to capture the chemistry between the band as they rehearsed together ahead of their Heaton Park, Manchester reunion shows. Made of Stone is packed with performances—in rehearsal or from live stops—of some of the band’s most magical hits like “Waterfall,” “I Wanna Be Adored,” and “I Am the Resurrection.” It also recounts the band’s early days as a five-piece, bassist Mani’s arrival (and subsequent laying down of the groove), trouble with the law following a paint-related incident, early interviews of singer Ian Brown and guitarist John Squire, and an Amsterdam reunion warm-up show gone awry, all leading into the triumphant hometown gigs. Can’t spend hours outside a stadium venue before the doors open, chatting with fellow fans excited about seeing Rage or My Chem for the first/second/third/twentieth time? Watch folks at the band’s surprise Warrington, U.K. gig do just that.
Live Nation (Hulu)
Concert promoters Live Nation have a 2015 series of snackable, binge-able profiles on a variety of touring artists. Grace Potter (as shown above) talks going solo and switching up lyrics on tour while British trio Foals recount the early days of playing shows back home, driving up and down the country in a used postal van. Go back to the early days of Chino, California’s Echosmith, who discuss their formation and being a band of siblings and watch Imagine Dragons recount embarrassing memories—like having to turn on their own smoke machine, or playing covers for people eating Sushi in Las Vegas. There’s also an episode where Panic at the Disco’s Brandon Urie goes beer tasting with members of the crew—a reminder of what it was all the way back to two weekends ago when you could still eat out of the communal nut bowl at your local without fear (but seriously, never do that). Besides, each of these mini-video features is shorter than it would have taken to commute to a (now-canceled) gig, anyway.
Coldplay: A Head Full of Dreams (Amazon Prime Video)
Seeing as Coldplay tapped out of touring behind their November 2019 release Everyday Life (not due to coronavirus, but until they can figure out how to embark on a jaunt in an environmentally-responsible way), this film—another rock documentary—will have to tide fans over. Director Mat Whitecross (who also helmed Supersonic) dipped into his hefty archive of Coldplay footage—dating back to 1999 for this effort. As Coldplay members are shown recording (try and spot the Noel Gallagher cameo), prepping a tour and touring globally, A Head Full of Dreams looks back at how they got from forming at university to eight studio albums and sell-out stadium dates across the globe (spoiler alert: it has a lot to do with friendship and democracy). Footage from their electrifying neon-charged 2016-2017 tour in support of the album of the same name is intercut with early footage, including a baby-faced Chris Martin jamming out a song he came up with on the spot in a dorm room, and looks back at the band’s first U.S. dates—radio station festivals that saw them sandwiched between American metal outfits and crowds who didn’t know who they were.
Amy Winehouse: One Shining Night (Hulu)
With foreign travel limited, why not take a virtual trip to Dingle, Ireland for this stripped-back Amy Winehouse Other Voices gig from 2006 (released in 2014). English singer Winehouse—sporting her trademark beehive—belts out some of her greatest hits (“Back to Black,” “Tears Dry on their Own”) in a small church-setting, backed only by a guitar and bass. Like many of the other films on this list, One Shining Night features interview footage, but in this one, the late English chanteuse, who died in 2011, shares her musical influences and some recommendations for artists to check out.