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BMZ Review: ALL ACCESS: Front row, Backstage, LIVE!
By Herb Lash


BMZ Review: All Access
Written by: Herb Lash
Source: Big Movie Zone
Date: February 20, 2001


Category: Reviews

ALL ACCESS - Front Row. Backstage. LIVE! promises an unfettered look at the way in which Carlos Santana and some of music's other biggest stars prepare to take the stage, actually take the stage and leave the stage. The Imax cameras have the best seat in the house and are supposed to provide a large-scale intimacy with performers like Sting, B.B. King, Sheryl Crow, Kid Rock, George Clinton and others. Most of the performances are thoroughly enjoyable, but they are also a long way from delivering what the film promises.

Seven out of the nine ALL ACCESS  "concerts" are not concerts in the true sense - they are staged, one-song performances in front of fan/extras pushed in close. What we are left with are concerts apparentley inspired by actual concerts. On a related note, Macy's department store is now selling women's "shoes inspired by the music of Carlos Santana."  The shoes look cool enough, but they don't exactly come out of the box singing and dancing Black Magic Woman.  The ALL ACCESS concerts are closer to the real deal than those shoes at Macy's - but the movie is still a far cry from the real, sweaty, unpredictable and live thing.

Taken individually, each of the super-star performances and interviews are at the very least engaging. Sting shares the stage with rai singer Cheb Mami and shares his thoughts on keeping it real and keeping it honest. Sheryl Crow talks about Kid Rock and his links to classic Southern Rock. Kid Rock talks about his relationship to the hip hop world and his appreciation of Elton John as a songwriter. Moby talks about his early love for thrash and hardcore bands. Al Green and Dave Matthews horse around together and make it clear that fads and personalities don't mean much compared to the actual music - and there is a great deal more music here than talking.

There is no pleasing everybody when it comes to music, and yet the ALL ACCESS filmmakers manage an excellent job in selecting the featured musicians. Blues purists are treated to B.B. King jamming through ROCK ME BABY as he is joined on stage by soulful hip hoppers The Roots and king of the guitar noodlers Trey Anastasio of  Phish.  The younger musicians are clearly thrilled to be on stage with B.B. King and King is clearly thrilled to be playing the Blues. Respect and love of music is the (loosely) organizing principle of the film and it is nowhere more evident than in this particular performance.

In describing ALL ACCESS it might seem like little more than a line-up of All Star MTV concert videos. The 70mm format prevents such a routine fate. Sheryl Crow's several stories large bare feet keep the beat, B.B. King's fingers fly across a building sized fret board, Macy Gray's bathtub sized eyes hypnotize and Funk master George Clinton in Imax close up is something from another planet. It is a pleasurable difficulty to try and take in everything on screen at once. But Director Martyn Atkins is at his most creative away from the concert stages. A tracking shot of a beefy security guard leading us through the backstage maze, a split-screen/mirror image jumbo jet at take off, a fast motion 18 wheeler in a tunnel and time lapse shots of a Soldier Field stadium crowd are all captured with a sharp eye and real elegance.

ALL ACCESS seems to be aiming for a quilt work style of storytelling - single panels sewn into a balanced and thoughtful pattern. But the pattern never quite materializes and too often the film moves in a set'em up, knock'em down fashion - no sustaining mood is set from one performance to the next. There is no consistent, behind the scenes, fly-on-the-wall, roadie's-eye-view to the action. The music is real, but the concerts are manufactured and the film suffers for the lack of an authentic tension between performer and crowd. ALL ACCESS is enjoyable, but it seems to have missed the lesson provided by the gold standard of concert films, WOODSTOCK. A flesh and blood, authentic audience is half the story at any concert and leaving them out of the dialogue makes for a one sided affair.

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