Unfortunately, while this January, 2008 meeting remains the heart of the film, Guggenheim goes to great efforts to contextualize these musicians. We see the Edge in Dublin, plinking away at his home studio. We visit the mansion where some of Zeppelin’s hits were recorded, visiting the hallway that led to the booming drum sound of “When the Levee Breaks”. And with Jack White, we see him plink away at his cardboard guitar, recording direct to quarter inch tape a funky, raspy blues.
These scenes are compelling, but they are mere divertimenti from the main program. When you have Jimmy plunging into the riff for “Whole Lotta Love” on the circle stage, you see the sides of the Edge’s lips curl into a smile, clearly reveling in the sheer joy of the moment. Even the ever cool Jack finds the crack of a grin, as giddy as he ever is on film in this moment of musical sharing. When the three sit down and tackle a few of each other’s songs, there’s a genuine camaraderie captured onscreen. Their final performance, plinking away at Robertson’s “The Weight”, is simply excellent.
These moments could have made up the entirety of the film, and it would have been all the better for it. This is one instance where providing the context and expanding the scope may have in fact hurt the project. This is a fine film, certainly worth experiencing, but I frankly would have preferred it to have focused entirely on the meeting of the guitar minds on that January day.