“It Might Get Loud” attempts to meld the talents and philosophies of three distinctively individual guitar players. Director Davis Guggenheim tosses Jack White (The White Stripes), The Edge (U2), and Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) onto an empty soundstage, and waits for some kind of magical synergy to occur.
And it does…to a degree. There’s an amazing moment where Page prompts his fellow string-stranglers to fit slides onto fingers for a triple-axe attack on the bluesy Zep classic, “In My Time of Dying.” Undulating and writhing like a snake, Page takes in the flow of synchronized sounds, and smiles. It’s a joyful, heartfelt expression of musical camaraderie.
However, there’s one problem. White and The Edge appear guarded, and perhaps a bit intimidated, by Page’s Yoda-like status. It’s a bit puzzling, considering the Led Zeppelin icon comes across as the most gregarious, unassuming chap one could ever hope to meet. While others play, Page nods his head in rhythmic approval. He listens intently when his fellow musos tell their stories. He’s rolling out the welcome mat, but the other two string-pickers seem reluctant to come inside.
Maybe it’s a generational thing. Page is in his sixties, having grown up at a time when interpersonal interactions were physical, not virtual. The Edge is a couple decades younger, while White is the youthful whippersnapper of the bunch, at 34. The latter two define a more technical, detached age, reflected in their more introverted personalities.
This might not make for the greatest chemistry between all three musicians during their mutual sound-summit. When the film probes each guitarist’s history, however, these differences in personality create uniquely contrasting portraits.
White might be closest to the Guitar Hero generation of virtual gaming, but he’s an outspoken critic of technology, calling it “the big destroyer of creativity.” The film opens with White assembling an amazingly primitive instrument from nails, coke bottle, and scrap wood. Meanwhile, we learn that White’s formative years were spent in a tough Detroit neighborhood, where he eked out a living stretching upholstery over couches and listening to blues records. Clearly, White prefers a “back to basics” aesthetic.
The Edge, however, embraces technology. Introduced with a sleek silver car, dark shades, and black ski cap, he embodies the experimental electricity that makes his band, U2, so recognizable. “It Might Get Loud” boasts a telling, humorous moment in which he explains, “This is what I’m playing.” He strums his instrument, generating a straightforward chord. “The rest is effects,” he then admits, powering up his sonic cauldron of sound-pedals for some ripping, electric mayhem.
Page represents both worlds, strumming “Battle of Evermore” on a mandolin, before later demonstrating the otherworldly, untamed vibrations of a theremin. Attending art college during his youth, Page soon traded paintbrush for guitar pick, in what would become “a total addiction.” He even brought his beloved instrument to school – until it was confiscated. The seeds of rebellion were germinating nicely. With Led Zeppelin, he brought theatricality to rock (love the Gibson double-neck guitar!), and introduced heavy metal to the masses.
“It Might Get Loud” will be nirvana for audience-member musicians, providing unique history lessons surrounding three of the more interesting rock ‘n roll authorities. And despite the shortage of truly brilliant moments during its meeting of the muso minds, Guggenheim’s film still manages to convey what these inventive, creative sounds are really all about. The Edge describes music as “connecting with people.” White calls it “one’s attempt to share something with another human being.” And Page, with his rhythmic strutting and luminous smile, effortlessly embodies its spirit.
Guggenheim’s concert might not merit an encore. Still, there’s magic in them strings. Jimmy Page…isn’t this alone worth a scalper’s ticket prices?