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Lightning in a Bottle

4.6 out of 5 stars 154 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

On February 7, 2003, renowned artists across music genres and generations commandeered the stage atNew York City's Radio City Music Hall to pay tribute to their common heritage and passion: the blues. Shared with thousands of fans in attendance, legendary performers from the roots of rock, jazz,and rap joined forces for a once-in-a-lifetime salute to the blues benefit concert whose proceeds went to musical education. Executive produced by Martin Scorcese, produced by Alex Gibney and directed by Antoine Fuqua, LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE captures the night's magic and weaves a history of blues through the juxtaposition of performers, backstage interviews, rehearsals, and archival clips of some of the greatest names in American music, from blues royalty like Buddy Guy and B. B. King to theirmusical heirs ranging from John Fogerty and Bonnie Raitt to Mos Def and Indie.Arie.


Part concert, part history lesson, part summit meeting, and all blues, Lightning in a Bottle puts a bright spotlight on this quintessential American music. There are some heavy hitters at work here, both behind the camera (Martin Scorsese executive produced, while the film was directed by Antoine Fuqua of Training Day and King Arthur) and especially in front of it, with a superb house band and a mind-boggling array of musicians (including B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt, Aerosmith's Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, Solomon Burke, Keb' Mo', Macy Gray, the Neville Brothers, Robert Cray, and John Fogerty, to name but a few) performing at New York's Radio City Music Hall in February, 2003. The idea was to trace the music from its beginnings; thus we get an African song (by Angelique Kidjo), some early gospel blues (the great Mavis Staples), acoustic Delta blues, and so on, right up to blues-drenched electric rock and even some rap (a riveting version of Howlin' Wolf's "Killing Floor" by Chuck D.). Virtually all of the immortals who defined the blues (Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, and even Jimi Hendrix, whose fiery style is re-enacted by Buddy Guy) enter the picture, either through vintage film clips or new performances of their songs. One might wish for more insight into the influence of the blues on jazz (Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit," sung here by India.Arie, is a fine song, but it's not a blues tune) or country, but overall, Lightning in a Bottle is an edifying and, most important, highly entertaining portrait of the music and its heritage. --Sam Graham

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Buddy Guy, Ruth Brown, Natalie Cole, BB King, Bonnie Raitt
  • Directors: Antoine Fuqua
  • Producers: Alex Gibney, Jack Gulick, Margaret Bodde
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
    Some Region 1 DVDs may contain Regional Coding Enhancement (RCE). Some, but not all, of our international customers have had problems playing these enhanced discs on what are called "region-free" DVD players. For more information on RCE, click .
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Parents Strongly Cautioned
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: March 8, 2005
  • Run Time: 110 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (154 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00078RPGW
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,420 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Lightning in a Bottle" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Perry Celestino on April 16, 2005
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This memorable concert was filmed at New York's Radio City Music Hall in February 2003. It was the start of the "Year Of the Blues". Martin Scorsese, who gave us the wonderful (but a bit controversial content-wise) series of Blues Films (which took over a year to be screened and available here in Australia) opens the show, after the Blues Year he was also a voice in "Shark's tale"!

There is no denying that this is a memorable and well presented concert. Many of the greatest living Blues players are here as well as those we might refer to as marginal-transitional people with Blues interests. Some we don't get to hear, Robert Jr Lockwood and Jimmie Vaughan are seen, but not heard. the concert itself represents a musical journey through various Blues styles from African songs, to WC Handy, to music hall styles, women singers, the lone Juke Player right up through B.B. King and Hendrix and, yes, Chuck D trying to stop the Iraq Invasion with "Boom Boom" Rap!

This DVD is most enjoyable and a great and reasonably priced addition to one's music library. Highlights for me include B.B. King's story about "Sweet Sixteen" and his performance. Robert Cray's input, as usual is outstanding with his clean understated guitar work. David "Honeyboy" Edwards, who knew Robert Johnson, provides a rare self-penned tune (he mostly did covers during his career), Hubert Sumlin (who has just lost a lung!!; and was smoking in the interview!!!!; and who I got to meet in 1991) plays a great rendition of "Killing Floor" with the riff he made famous for Howlin' Wolf. Natalie Cole (a comeback?) does a great update of Bessie Smith's "Saint Louis Blues"-reminds me a bit of Janis Joplin-remember she started out sounding like Aretha on "This Will Be".
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Format: DVD
Billed as "a one night history of the blues," Lightning in a Bottle (with Martin Scorsese serving as executive producer) assembles a ton of great performers to retrace the steps of the blues from the Mississippi Delta to Chicago to the rest of the country. The concert took place in Radio City Music Hall in February 2003, and it packs a lot of music and history into a little less than two hours. Old clips, interviews, and snippets of rehearsal accompany the performances themselves, offering a blues history lesson of sorts. I won't pretend to be an expert on the blues; Muddy Waters is about the only blues singer I've ever spent time seriously listening to. That will probably change, now that I know a little more about the incredible music I've been missing out on all these years.

It would be impossible to talk about every performance crammed into this concert - blues songs tend to be pretty short (especially when you don't include any jam session stuff), so an incredible number of songs were performed on this historic night. Go check out the soundtrack to see who performed what. All of the living legends were fantastic, and their vintage blues is still the best blues on earth. Mavis Staple really gets the ball rolling with her spiritual performance of Blind Lemon Jefferson's See That My Grave is Kept Clean. David "Honeyboy" Edwards (at 88) still shows the world what acoustic Delta blues was all about with his performance of Gamblin' Man. The incomparable Clarence "Gateway" Brown plays Okie Dokie Swamp like only he can. Hubert Sumlin, despite having recently lost a lung, pours great energy into Killing Floor (although I thought singer David Johansen came off as hopelessly contrived).
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Attention, rhythm and blues fans- this is your movie! Exhilarating, toe-tapping performance film gives you a front-row seat for this milestone event, with peerless musicians young and old honoring the birth of the blues. Macy Gray and Steven Tyler, Natalie Cole and Buddy Guy, Bonnie Raitt and Keb Mo, and John Fogerty and B.B King appear to pay tribute and light up the auditorium with their joy and talent. What a ride!
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Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
Movie director Martin Scorsese presents the story of blues music and traces its origins to West Africa. International star Angelique Kidjo begins the evening with a traditional African song in which she laments that "they took away our people". She was followed by Mavis Staples amid screen images of the antebellum South. The presentation uses the very successful format of an earlier Scorsese concert DVD - The Last Waltz - in which artists talk briefly about the music and about themselves amid performances. The video is interspersed with snippets of past blues greats.

The concert provides delightful entertainment. Among the blues artists are Ruth Brown, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, B. B. King and Bonnie Raitt. But the night is not limited to blues. Rock and rollers Steve Tyler and John Fogerty take to the stage and belch classic rock. Solomon Burke adds classic soul music.

The DTS master audio of the disk is quite good and the video quality is better. If this is your music you should be very happy with the concert.
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To say I was looking forward to seeing Steven Tyler and Joe Perry would be an overstatement. I never owned an Aerosmith album, but if they had played a blues album or two who knows. Their two songs (one on Bonus songs) on LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE are well done with the only problem the songs, together, don't last 5 minutes. But, Tyler and Perry come across the cool showmen in the process. Tyler blues-shrieks and "hollers" like a dude with the best of 'em. Almost difficult to admit but true.
As for the rest of the show there is also the stunning singing by Natalie Cole (I want to find out if she EVER recorded a blues album now); the great combo of Robert Cray and Shemekia Copeland; Buddy Guy in general (and that great footage of Jimi Hendrix in front row "skipping a gig" to watch Buddy play in 1968!); and you just can't go wrong with seeing Clarence Gatemouth Brown do anything (performs - at 80 - Okie Dokie Stomp ... very well... and shows off his violin prowess Pre-show...).
As far as clear cut misfires (in my critiquing eyes) Mos Def (he is a good actor, if you didn't know); and the Fine Arts Militia (thing) doin' (tryin) the John Lee Hooker "Boom Boom" (great clip of Hooker from '62 or 64, though). At least the "Militia" is anti war.
I would have preferred another sad, lovely "Lady Day" jazz-blues song rather than the Chuck D's and Militias of the so-called blues musical influences of the world (or, of this documentary).
Fogerty is worth the mention playing "Midnight Special."
Hubert Sumlin - short one lung(!) - plays his guitar as a long-haired David Johansen does a (good enuff) Howlin' Wolf voice impersonation.
And B.B closes the show (naturally).
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