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We learn three things while watching Davis Guggenheim’s music documentary It Might Get Loud. First we learn that Jack White, though a phenomenal guitar player and one of the most innovative artists of his musical generation, is a pompous brat and quite full of shit. Second we learn that The Edge is nothing more than smoke & mirrors – the electronic man behind the Wizard’s curtain. And last, but certainly not least, we learn that Jimmy Page is still the coolest guy in Rock & Roll.
Snide witticisms aside, what we really while watching It Might Get Loud is, not so much the history of the guitar or the history of rock & roll per se, but the personal histories of how these three generations of guitar heroes (or anti-heroes if you will) have come to be who they are – both musically and in essence, since their lives revolve around such, personally. We watch as White pontificates on the old bluesmen that most influenced him (the youngest of the concocted trio is influenced by the oldest of influences) and the way their improv natures have had such a lasting impression on the music he writes and plays and the way he writes and plays such music. We watch as The Edge explains his fascination with the punk movement of the late seventies and in accordance with punk principles (most of them knowing only about three chords) how he can strum just a few chords and through the magic of modern technology sound like a Rock God. He even gives this admission with a sense of pride, as if he is both the Wizard behind that curtain and Toto unveiling himself to the world.
The highlight of It Might Get Loud though, is of course, that true Rock God, Jimmy Page. We watch in awe, along with White and The Edge, as Page tells of his early days in a skiffle band and his psychedelic days of the late sixties all the way up to his legendary recording sessions with Led Zeppelin. We watch in awe, again, as do both White and The Edge, as Page plays around on his guitar with the most nonchalant of ease. His musical doodles head & shoulders above anything the other tow could even dream of doing. The highlight of Page’s already highlight-filled section of the film, comes when we see the Guitar God, surrounded by a roomful of vinyl, playing air guitar to a record he giddily places on his turntable. Nothing can top that.
Unfortunately though, even with Page’s guitar antics and constant impish grin, Guggenheim’s film never delves as deep into the history of the guitar as it probably should. It is surely fun to watch Paige, and to a point White (snarky but brilliant at times!) and it is entertaining to watch the three work their way through a closing credits rendition of The Band’s The Weight, with Page refusing to sing for it and White not knowing the words (it’s Fanny you idiot! Take a load off Fanny!!) but the film never, as the title suggests it should, gets quite loud enough. But at least we have that image of a devilish looking Jimmy Page air-guitaring to old time rock & roll.