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2014-04-11 09:35
What it's about:

A documentary about the concert that took place on 12 December 2012 to raise funds for those affected by Hurricane Sandy.

What we thought:

I genuinely have no idea how or why this film is gracing our cinemas right now, as it certainly isn't timely and I can't see it making much of a splash against the Easter holiday movies that are currently on release. I'm kind of happy to see it though.

Its mixture of Hurricane Sandy footage, backstage glimpses into the 12-12-12 concert and the concert itself aren't exactly revelatory and they add up to a relatively sub-par music documentary that doesn't have the backstage drama of a Gimme Shelter, the satisfying concert feel of a Last Waltz or even the spiky, often funny social conscience of CSNY's Deja Vu. Still, though it's hardly essential viewing, I challenge any fan of great 1960s/ 1970s music not to enjoy themselves watching it.

While there's some obviously well-deserved focus on the victims of the hurricane and there's a definite thrill to see the various performers interact backstage, the real coup of this particular concert is just the sheer amount of classic musical talent on the stage. Admittedly, just about none of these legends are at the top of their game but even as many of them celebrate 50 years in the business, they still bring a vitality to their performances that often leaves people half their age in their dust.

Straight off the bat, we have representatives of the three major pillars of the British Invasion: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Who. While the Beatles and the Who are obviously much diminished by a lack of half their members, Paul McCartney once again shows exactly why he is pretty much the biggest touring act on the planet with an explosive Live and Let Die to close off the show and - despite Roger Daltrey's once might roar being a strangled, croaking shadow of itself - Pete and Roger are still able to bring some of that peerless Who live magic to the stage with Baba O'Reilly. As for the Stones, they effortlessly knock out a wonderfully rugged but tight take on Jumpin' Jack Flash that is hurt only by Jagger's relatively recent tendency to somehow simultaneously under- and over-sing everything.   

The Big Three, however, are just about the only ones from whom we manage to get a full song, as most of the other acts are constantly interrupted by the other aspects of the documentary. That said, what little we do see is more than impressive enough that I really wish they would have cut the often pretty awesome extra bits and just show the concert in full. Especially because this sort of projected, big-screen concert is the closest that most of us are going to get to truly experiencing these masters at work in a live setting.

The concert is surprisingly British-centric but there are still a couple of great American legends on hands – specifically two that hail from places that were worst hit by Sandy. New York's Billy Joel, whose vocals have held up better than most of his contemporaries, gives us a stirring rendition of his ironically New-York-based science fiction ballad Miami 2017. Meanwhile, New Jersey's favourite son, Bruce Springsteen, delivered such a powerful rendition of City of Ruins that I immediately regretted having missed him when he performed on these shores a couple of months back – and I have never been much of a fan of the The Boss.

Back to the Brits though, we also had Eric Clapton doing his Guitar God thing with a bit of old fashioned rhythm and blues and - in stark contrast to much of his often overly pessimistic music - a noticeably relaxed and happy Roger Waters performed some numbers from Pink Floyd's The Wall, culminating in a team up with (of all people) Eddie Vedder who did a surprisingly sterling rendition of Comfortably Numb. Speaking of weird match ups, we also had Michael Stipe returning to REM's Losing My Religion with Chris Martin in tow.

It wasn't all classic rock giants, though. The documentary is also filled with plenty of a-list American actors and comedians – many of whom helmed the telephone lines for the telethon that ran side by side with the concert – and even one or two of them young, hippity-hoppity musicians. Mind you, though Alicia Keys fitted in amazingly well, as she joined Paul McCartney's band for the finale, Kanye West seemed incredibly out of place among the classic rock and rollers.      
It's a weird film, basically, that is both entirely unsatisfying and immensely enjoyable and though I have no idea why this - out of all the great music films out there - got a cinematic release, I can't really bemoan that it did.

A weirdly times and frustratingly uneven music doc, 12.12.12 is still a pretty great time for classic rock fans.
Read more on:    eric clapton  |  jon bon jovi  |  movies

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