All Access: Front Row. Backstage. Live! (review)

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I wouldn’t have thought a documentary about the connectedness of contemporary popular music would have been quite the right subject to take advantage of the IMAX format. Boy, was I wrong. If you’ve ever brought binoculars to an arena concert and strained to hear the lyrics through the distortion of the amps from way back in the cheap seats, then you’ll love All Access. The giant-format screen brings you right onstage with the likes of Sting and Cheb Mami, Carlos Santana and Rob Thomas, Sheryl Crow, and Macy Gray, as well as the inspired, electrifying teamings of Dave Matthews Band and Al Green, and George Clinton and Mary J. Blige. Backstage, we’re treated to brief but thoughtful commentary from the performers: Moby delivers a valentine to rock; Kid Rock discusses the difficulties in learning to work with a live band. The juxtaposition of a wide range of popular styles — from rock to rap to funk, sometimes even within individual performances — speaks without words to the universality of music in the human experience. Even the performers of whom I’m not particularly a fan made me want to get up and dance — if All Access doesn’t at least make you tap your foot, you’re probably dead. The film is, if possible, even better than a live concert — the incredible IMAX sound system delivers crystal-clear lyrics and a chest-thumping rhythm. As Dave Matthews says about music itself, “It’s like a heartbeat — you can’t stop it.” Rock ‘n’ roll!

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