Why just listen to music when you can watch concert music videos?

A roundup of great concert Blu-rays and DVDs from Bruce Springsteen, Duke Ellington, Radiohead, and more.

Steve Guttenberg
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
Steve Guttenberg
3 min read

Audiophiles are, by definition, listeners, but we can also be watchers. I have a collection of around 100 concert DVDs and Blu-rays. And while a good number of them are in 5.1 channel surround, most also have 2.0 stereo mixes. I play both types over my two-channel home theater system. The best of these discs will test the limits of your system's stamina, pop one on, turn it up to "11," and you're there.

Tell us about your favorite concert/music discs in the Comments section.

"It Might Get Loud" is definitely one of the best rock documentaries I've seen in a while. It features three guitar greats--Jimmy Page, The Edge, and Jack White--talking shop and playing music. On Blu-ray, the DTS Master Audio sound quality is definitely well above par.

Bruce Springsteen's "Live in Dublin" is from late 2006 when Springsteen was touring to support his "Seeger Sessions" CD. The Boss is clearly having a ball, and his large band, fleshed out with strings and horns, sounds fabulous. Fans will be happy to hear that the song list features a large helping of tunes from Springsteen's back catalog, and includes "Highway Patrolman," "Atlantic City," and "Growin' Up."

"From the Basement" is a TV series shot in London's Maida Vale Studios. This DVD features performances by Radiohead, White Stripes, Beck, Sonic Youth, Thom Yorke, and more. Picture and audio quality are excellent.

"Jazz Icons: Duke Ellington Live in '58" features his earliest-known filmed full-length concert, shot in Amsterdam. This 80-minute concert features the Duke and his big band. The picture is a little fuzzy and it's not in color, but the mono sound is really good. The band's performance is absolutely stellar!

The "Led Zeppelin" two-disc set has a running time of over 5 hours with shows from the Royal Albert Hall, 1970 to Knebworth, 1979. "Led Zeppelin" is also one of the rare DVDs I've seen that starts to play as soon as it's loaded! You don't have to slog through a FBI warning, coming attractions, or menus.

James Brown's "Live at Montreux 1981": if the sound of this DVD doesn't get your mojo working, the sheer spectacle of a sweat-soaked James Brown and his 14-piece funk band will. The DTS and Dolby 5.1 tracks' sound absolutely nails the music's "live" energy. The horns' sound is brassy and the rhythm section's heavyweight grooves will keep your subwoofer busy.

The Led Zeppelin two-disc set has over five hours of the band's best live performances.

"The T.A.M.I. Show Collector's Edition" documentary was made in 1964 but was only recently released on DVD. The show features spectacularly great performances by James Brown, the Rolling Stones, Marvin Gaye, the Supremes, and many more. The black-and-white video is grainy, and the mono sound is a little rough, but the music is so good you'll understand why "The T.A.M.I. Show" has been called the holy grail of rock-concert movies.

"Leonard Cohen, I'm Your Man" is part concert, and part documentary, with Mr. Cohen talking about his long career. It's a polished production, and the performances by U2, Nick Cave, Rufus and Martha Wainwright, Beth Orton, and others interpreting Cohen's music are consistently outstanding. Picture and sound quality are very good.