LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE
On February 7, 2003, more than major 50 artists across multiple music genres and generations took to the stage at New York City's Radio City Music Hall to pay tribute to the blues, in front of thousands of fans. The film follows the story of the week leading up to the concert - including rehearsals and back-stage footage - and the concert itself, which takes a historical and geographical journey through the blues, beginning with its roots in Africa, up through the Mississippi Delta into the cities of Memphis and Chicago in the 50s and 60s. It follows the music to England and back to the USA, and ultimately across the world through contemporary rock 'n' roll and hip-hop.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
For anyone into the blues, with its darkly comic lyrics and laid back funky rhythms that can get your heart pumping, and its soulful, melancholy yet life-affirming appeal . . . this is about as good as it gets, a two hour concert featuring the legends, if they're still alive, or tributes to them if they're not, from the early delta days with Honeyboy Edwards' I'm a Gamblin' Man and See That My Grave is Kept Clean, (Mavis Staples) to the 60s with Steve Tyler of Aerosmith covering I'm A King Bee (think Mick Jagger's Little Red Rooster), and closing with the living legend, B. B. King.
Honeyboy Edwards - close to the oldest of the gang - sparkled in a spangly, multicoloured waistcoat and Stetson hat, setting the scene for a succession of outfits that lovers of irony might describe as coloured, although Natalie Cole chose white pants and a backless sparkling string top, and some of the backing band were in classic suits or jackets. B.B. King wore a dark suit too, but with its bright leaf motif print, it can't be called classic. There were lots of hats and caps and exotic hair arrangements (mostly the men) and plenty of bling bling.
Ruth Brown reprises her 1953 hit, Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean, and stays on for a showpiece triplet with Natalie Cole and Mavis Staples, Men Are Like Streetcars, for which Bill Cosby plays the silent fall guy.
The film's quietly ironic moment comes just before B. B. King closes out the concert, with a tribute to the late and great John Lee Hooker - one of the granddaddy's of the blues; the song is Boom Boom, but it's given an anti war twist as No boom boom, by none other than ....The Fine Arts Militia. Boom boom.
Executive producer Martin Scorsese introduces the concert, and this is a fine companion piece to his other labour of love, The Blues, a historic series tracing the musical history of the music. The audience was definitely live that night, and judging by their faces, they were in raptures as the music and the juice of the blues flowed in a series of convincing and historic performances.
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LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE (PG)
CAST: Documentary introduced by Martin Scorsese, featuring major blues artists including B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Honeyboy Edwards, Bonnie Raitt, Odetta, Natalie Cole, Larry Johnson, Macy Gray, Clarence Gatemouth Beown, James Blood Ulmer, Aerosmith and others
PRODUCER: Margaret Bodde, Alex Gibney
DIRECTOR: Antoine Fuqua
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Lisa Rinzler
EDITOR: Bob Eisenhardt, Keith Salmon, Philip Shane (co-editor)
MUSIC: Various artists
PRODUCTION DESIGN: N/A
OTHER: Steve Jordan (Musical Director)
RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony Classics
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 17, 2005