The 20 best concert films to stream right now
Your guide to music gig quaran-streaming, from Stop Making Sense to Sign o' the Times.
There’s no substitute for seeing live music in person. But thanks to coronavirus-related cancellations around the globe, fans will have to settle for the next best thing: watching shows online. While everyone from classical musicians to punk bands are currently live-streaming performances without audiences, anyone staying home also has a variety of on-demand gigs to choose from.
Whether you’re looking for straight-up concerts, ones with a documentary feel, or something a little more artsy, these movies will help even the antsiest fans get through this temporary period of social distancing. All 20 of our picks are available for free on YouTube or at no extra cost on subscription services, so you won’t have to shell out anything on top of your existing bills. (Also: don’t forget about free trials!) Best of all, your at-home concert experience won’t involve overpriced drinks, long bathroom lines, or the people in front of you blocking your view with their phones.
Following the cancellation of SXSW, the postponement of Coachella was the ultimate sign that the coronavirus would wreak havoc on the concert industry. Thankfully, we still have Beyoncé’s 2018 performance from the festival, as documented in this collaboration with Netflix. A surprisingly in-depth look behind the scenes at Bey’s creative process, Homecoming is a stunner that truly upped the bar for all headliners to come.
Woodstock might get all the glory, but this ‘67 festival arguably had a bigger impact on music history. Monterey Pop helped introduce the world to Janis Joplin, the Who and their instrument-destroying ways, the show-stopping Otis Retting, and Jimi Hendrix — who burned his guitar onstage while covering “Wild Thing.” This 1968 documentary from D.A. Pennebaker captures all of that, plus the Mamas & the Papas, Simon and Garfunkel, and Jefferson Airplane.
The Last Waltz
When the Band decided to call it quits, they enlisted Martin Scorsese to capture their star-studded final concert. Filmed in San Francisco on Thanksgiving 1976, the freewheeling show featured the group’s greatest hits, covers, and appearances from Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, Muddy Waters, Dr. John, Neil Diamond, and Neil Young, who performed with a glob of cocaine in his nostril so noticeable that Scorsese had to edit it out in post-production.
Radiohead, In Rainbows – From the Basement
Seven months after the pay-what-you-want release of In Rainbows, Radiohead hit up The Hospital Club, a private London establishment for the arts crowd, to record this 12-song set of album cuts, plus a few tracks from Hail to the Thief and Kid A's "Optimistic." It's icily tight and the studio is just large enough for all of the members to maintain a proper two-meter social distance. Hopefully more artists grace us with similarly sparse gigs in the months to come!
Stop Making Sense
Directed by Oscar-winner Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs), this film enchants from the moment David Byrne walks out to perform “Psycho Killer” accompanied only by a boombox. One of the best concert movies ever made, Stop Making Sense captures the Heads at their most inventive and energetic — highlighted, of course, by Byrne’s wryly enlarged suit.
Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids
Another Demme film — and the last before his 2017 death — this doc covers the final night of Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience World Tour at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand. JT’s at the top of his game here, running — and dancing — through a career-spanning set that evokes memories of the recently deceased Prince, to whom the film is dedicated.
By now you’ve probably heard of the Stones’ infamous Altamont show, during which the Hell’s Angels, serving as the event security, killed a man in the crowd. This movie documents the leadup to it, including footage of the band’s recording of “Wild Horses” and “Brown Sugar,” as well as the performance and the death. If you’re looking for something less somber, try Scorsese’s celebratory Shine a Light.
Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese
With footage culled from Dylan’s 1975 tour — considered to be his greatest string of performances by devotees — this film blends fact and fiction using real-life attendees and completely made-up characters. If the fantastical elements aren’t your thing, you can always head to Spotify for two contemporaneous live albums, a Bootleg Series entry and a sampler from the 1975 Live Recordings 14-disc set.
This documentary takes you inside the Pixies’ 2004 reunion, which came after frontman Black Francis dissolved the group in 1993 — and informed two of the members of his decision via fax. The title comes from the group’s habit of starting songs at full blast, going soft for the verse and roaring back on the chorus, a tactic Kurt Cobain says he stole for “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
Sign o’ the Times
If you liked the performances in Purple Rain but could do without the film à clef plot, you’ll love Sign o’ the Times, a concert doc that comes with its own Princely drama. Ever the perfectionist, the Purple One filmed shows from this 1987 tour only to scrap the footage and re-record his act at his Paisley Park studio/home. Also worth streaming: Prince’s 2007 Super Bowl halftime medley and his spotlight-stealing shredding of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
Shut Up and Play the Hits
Now that LCD Soundsystem has reunited, this doc’s title really works. You can skip James Murphy’s introspection about their then-farewell show and watch them play Madison Square Garden with all the passion of musicians that think this will be their final gig together.
Depending on the flyer or ad you saw, T.A.M.I. stood for either "Teenage Awards Music International" or "Teen Age Music International." Either way, the 1964 show packed a lineup that would include eight future Rock Hall inductees: James Brown, the Stones, the Beach Boys, Chuck Berry, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, the Supremes, and Darlene Love. Oh, and the house band was the legendary Wrecking Crew.
The Kids Are Alright
Released just after drummer Keith Moon’s death, this film tells the story of the Who through a greatest hits collection of their live performances and interview footage that inspired This Is Spinal Tap. There are many highlights, including Moon detonating an explosive hidden in his bass drum during a live TV taping and their rendition of “A Quick One (While He’s Away),” a six-part mini rock opera.
Dave Chappelle’s Block Party
Filmed before and released after Dave Chappelle abruptly walked away from his Comedy Central show, this Brooklyn-filmed concert features an all-star hip-hop and neo-soul lineup including the Roots, the Fugees, Erykah Badu, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, and Kanye West, way before he’d go down his own mercurial path. More than anything, the loose spirit of the outdoor event makes it a must-watch right now.
Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
Another concert film from D.A. Pennebaker, this 1973 concert was the last time Bowie ever appeared as his alter ego Ziggy Stardust. Though the film has its technical flaws, mainly in the picture quality, it’s worth watching if you’re a fan of this iteration of the Thin White Duke and all the early hits.
As you might expect from Sigur Ros, this film marries their ethereal sounds with stunning visuals of Iceland’s landscape. From a massive outdoor show to a small acoustic set at a coffee shop, you get the best of all worlds.
Filmed in 1972 but unreleased until 2018 due to technical and legal issues, these kinetic visuals show the recording of Franklin’s live gospel album of the same name in a Los Angeles church. You don’t have to be a believer to want to get up and move to this one.
The National: Live at Rock the Garden
In support of their most recent album, I Am Easy to Find, the National headed to the Twin Cities to headline Rock the Garden, an annual day festival put on by local radio station The Current. The setlist leans heavily on the new stuff but also includes favorites such as “Bloodbuzz Ohio” and “Fake Empire” — and it’s always jarringly pleasant to see them performing in the sunshine.
Taylor Swift: Reputation Stadium Tour
By now you’ve already watched the powerful Miss Americana, so switch gears and enjoy two hours of Taylor performing live in Texas in 2018. It’s the best encapsulation of her shows — with all the jubilation, glitz, and crying fans — to date.
Fleetwood Mac: The Dance
One of the happiest times in Fleetwood Mac’s turbulent history, The Dance saw the Rumours-era lineup reunite for an MTV special that featured mostly the hits and a few new tracks from each of the five members. The set kicks off with “The Chain” and closes out with the 1-2 combo of “Tusk” and “Don’t Stop,” with the USC marching band adding their firepower to the quintet’s reinvigorated punch.