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Music

The concert film that changed Jeff Bridges’ life

@TomTaylorFO

Jeff Bridges exudes more cool than a hostel’s air conditioning unit. His effortless charisma has sent generations of fans swooning, he is the sort of star who makes it look easy. His grasp on culture is equally fine-tuned—you couldn’t produce a ‘man of the times’ as perfect as ‘The Dude’ without it. Thus, when he offers up an appraisal you’d do well to listen.

Bridges is a certified music lover, and his Oscar-winning guitar-plucking performance in Crazy Heart epitomises that. When discussing the output of Talking Heads with Music Radar, Bridges said: The Talking Heads were just phenomenal. They affected me in a similar way to The Beatles; they were so fresh and different, and, of course, their songs were like ear candy.

And he even reserved special praise for the astoundingly good concert film Stop Making Sense, explaining: “The film that Jonathan Demme made of their show blew me away. I saw the band play in Los Angeles on that tour – it was either the Greek Theatre or the Hollywood Bowl; I’m not sure which – and I loved every minute of it. Everybody set the bar really high with this one. It kind of changed the way concert films could be presented.”

He even likened the concert film’s effect to a ground-breaking movie that stirred him in a similar sense. “[Pulp Fiction’s effect] was similar to the effect that Talking Heads had on me. […] I was listening to my own music and the stuff that I liked and then suddenly the Talking Heads came out and it was kind of like a splash of cold water. And I remember Tarantino’s film gave me that same kind of reaction when I saw that.”

Beyond that mind-opening innovation, the film is simply a Friday night-in masterpiece. The camera opens on a pair of espadrilles peeking out of the bottom of billowing grey trouser legs. They belong to David Byrne who strides out onto the stage alone and as angular as ever, with a boombox in one hand and his acoustic guitar in the other. “Hi, I’ve got a tape I want to play,” he declares, and so begins the greatest concert film of all time. 

What follows that iconic introduction is an hour and a half of pure creative freedom as Jonathan Demme expertly captures a band taking to song like a bird to flight in a breezy tailwind, leaving in their joyous wake a chem-trail of pure eudemonia for the adoring audience to lap up in a spell of rhapsodic bliss. 

The band and filmmakers construct the show in front of the audience’s eyes, starting with Byrne’s solo acoustic rendition of ‘Psycho Killer’ before Tina Weymouth joins him on bass and the pair casually impart an almost hymnally spiritual version of ‘Heaven’ and they continue to race through hits as the show gathers like a rising sun behind them. 

For my money, and presumably Bridges’, Stop Making Sense remains the watermark that no other concert film has ever reached (even if Byrne himself ran it close once more with American Utopia). You can check out the iconic performance of ‘This Must Be The Place’, that still induces spine-chills on the thousandth viewing, below. 

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