The Hellacopters – Goodnight Cleveland – Review

The Hellacopters

Goodnight Cleveland (MVD)
by Brian Varney

Considering my expectations were that this would pretty much follow the “live footage plus a couple of videos and maybe a few bits of crappy footage labeled ‘special features’ even though nobody in their right mind would use the word ‘special’ to describe them” format that passes for the rock DVD template these days, I was actually taken aback by the reality of it. But in a good way. Goodnight Cleveland is, well, there’s no other word to describe it, a film: A tour documentary that follows the band’s 2002 U.S. tour.

Since the movie offers a “behind the scenes” look at a touring band, there’s not really much music in it. We may see a few moments of soundcheck, or a particularly satisfying big rock ending every now and then, but mostly, it’s the band sleeping in the van, doing laundry, doing interviews, talking to fans after the show, etc. Not very glamorous or exciting, but I guess that’s kinda the point, huh?

If you’ve seen any rockumentary, you’re probably saying, “Yeah, so what? I’ve seen all that shit before.” And while it’s true that the movie, like perhaps the band’s music itself, offers nothing truly new, it’s very well-crafted and will definitely be of interest to anyone who’s a fan of the band’s music. You get to see the band doing interviews, playing a mini-set in a radio station studio, and, most amusingly, exhibiting extreme reluctance while being photographed for a spread in some guitar magazine.

This kinda stuff, plus the fact that the band gets to stay in hotels every night, shows a band doing much better than most of the other bands I listen to, bands whose tours consist of sleeping in the van, eating gas station food at 3 a.m., and barely making enough money for gas to make it to the next show. But, as is pointed out at the beginning of the movie, The Hellacopters are major stars in their native Sweden, with gold records and Grammy Awards and the like. The desire for stardom in the U.S., taken in tandem with the band’s reluctance to completely abandon their roots in the whole underground shebang, presents a conundrum that provides the film’s heart. This dilemma is not resolved by the movie’s end and, most likely, will never be. But it makes for interesting viewing, especially if, like me, you’re already a fan.