All Access: Front Row. Backstage. Live! Presented By Certs

on May 20, 2001 by Tim Cogshell
Yes, that's the entire, actual title, including the Certs bit--thus avoiding the tragedy of anyone not knowing this IMAX concert film was presented by a breath mint. That notwithstanding, this larger-than-life 75mm-format film is an amazing experience that takes its audience right through the Artists' Entrance to a concert collage one couldn't experience even if they were traveling with the band. In order to provide a sense of scale, veteran video and concert film director Martyn Atkins (who filmed Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Live from the Fillmore in 1999) begins this production (after a nifty Certs commercial) with a number of opening shots framed in the various aspect ratios of 35mm film--stagehands work in 2.35:1, roadies tune-up in 1.85:1, etc.--until suddenly the entire screen, eight stories high, is filled with the presence of Sting rehearsing "Desert Rose" with Cheb Mami. Seamlessly, the afternoon rehearsal becomes an evening performance in front of a crowd of thousands.

This delightfully entertaining film is made all the more so by the immense scale of the IMAX format. The artists all talk earnestly about their love of music and performance--including the inimitable Kid Rock, whose informed thoughtfulness is wholly unexpected. They refer not only to their own exploits but to their influences, including many of the other musicians performing on this bill. Rob Thomas waxes lovingly about Carlos Santana, Dave Matthews bubbles over Al Green and Moby is characteristically droll about everything. As for the performances, personal taste will determine overall enjoyment, but all are exceptional. Guitarist Trey Anastasio and B.B. King do a hip-hop/blues set with The Roots that is truly poignant; Funkmaster George Clinton and crew drop the funk bomb with songstress Mary J. Blige; Sheryl Crow performs "If It Makes You Happy" solo while sitting on bar stool; and Kid Rock gives an explosive performance of "Ba With the Ba."

If there are any drawbacks to this film, it's the lack of curtain calls--each artist only performs once--and, oddly, though the sound quality is good, it pales in comparison to the overwhelming visuals. But overall, this IMAX presentation is the next best thing to being there--and in some ways better. Starring Trey Anastasio, Carter Beauford, Mary J. Blige, Joe C., George Clinton, Sheryl Crow, Macy Gray, Al Green, B.B. King, Stefan Lessard, Cheb Mami, Dave Matthews, Moby, LeRoi Moore, Kid Rock, The Roots, Carlos Santana, Sting, Rob Thomas and Boyd Tinsely. Directed by Martyn Atkins. Produced by Jon Shapiro and Peter Shapiro. An Imax. Documentary/Concert Film. Unrated. Running time: 64 min

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