Crowds were pulsing with energy as they pranced around the seats of cinemas worldwide. Possessed by some form of magic, tickets for these cinema screenings sold out weeks in advance. Social media was gripped in a fervour of some kind. As I walked into the same screen in my local cinema here in Galway with a week’s difference, two completely different groups of people walked in with me.
But both groups shared the passion, dressing up to see one of their favourite artists on the silver screen. Big suits in one hand, clean cut but anxiety captured as they emulated what was happening on screen. The other group, clad head to toe in pink and garish colours.
Taylor Swift and the Talking Heads both captured attentions worldwide by featuring in two different concert films. But despite the musical differences between 1984 and 2023 pop charts, it’s very clear that these emulate true art.
Stop Making Sense was originally released in 1984 with a shoestring budget of $1.2 million (a budget of $3.6 million today), raised by the band Talking Heads themselves. It was a recording of four nights of performance of the 1983 Talking Heads tour to promote their new album Speaking in Tongues.
It grossed over $10.5 million (over $31 million in today’s money) and is now revered as a cult classic in both the music and film world. Described as “exhilarating” by critics, it has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It is known for expanding and innovating digital and analogue recording of live music.
Taylor Swift has come a long way from a simple country singer, sat on a stage with a guitar, to being probably the 21st centuries most well-known pop icon. I don’t think there bears a need for me to explain who she is, judging by the fact that Swiftie fan clubs are everywhere, with University of Galway having our own ‘Swiftie Society’.
The film documents the Eras Tour, Swift’s 2023-2024 concert tour of her entire discography. With a budget of $10-20 million, its so far grossed over $178.7 million, with $92.8 million alone on the opening weekend. Featuring all 10 of Swift’s “Eras”, it become the highest grossing concert film in history.
I’ve never been a big fan of Taylor Swift, but when I walked into the cinema with my friends, all dressed up, with a couple of pre drinks, I had the time of my life. It’s very clear why there is such a demand for concert films.
As humans, we may not have the budget to travel substantial distances to see our favourite musicians live, but when we have a local cinema, we don’t need to. Humans love to have fun, and what’s better than being with your friends listening to your favourite music with a bunch of people, friends, and strangers, all entangled within the energy and passion of the crowd.
Bollywood has shown us for decades that the demand for this type of cinema is there. We just want to listen to our favourite music. I went to a couple of Bollywood screenings with some Indian friends of mine, not knowing what to expect as a naïve Irishman who’s never experienced this form of art, but it shows that the human instinct is there.
A film may not be experimental, not set out to be a blockbuster, but just to show us as humans our desire for music. That’s what concert films do for us. They let us listen to what we want, lets us dance, lets us be ourselves. I expect concert films to explode in popularity in the coming years, with Taylor Swift and a re-release of Stop Making Sense leading the way.