One of the finest little concert films ever made, Roy Orbison personally funded the making of Roy Orbison & Friends: A Black & White Night (1988) re-edited as Roy Orbison: Black & White Night (1991).
So many great performers wanted to be in the back-up band that Roy was deeply moved by how quickly he was able to line up Bruce Springsteen, T-bone Burnett, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello & Elvis Presley's touring band, & back-up singers k. d. lang, Jennifer Warnes, & Bonnie Raitt. To see the looks of happiness on these performers' faces tells you everything you need to know as to why they're there.
Roy's initial plan was to have some of these people perform duets with him, but the recording artists themselves colluded to become, instead, his back-up band throughout the concert. It has ever since been referred to as "the million dollar back-up" & only love & admiration could've brought it about.
The music couldn't help but be great no matter who backed him up because it was a retrospective of Roy's best from his entire singing career. But the back-up increased the vitality & beauty of the concert, which was filmed in black & white to evoke something of a 1950/60s club atmosphere.
Roy alas died, at age 52, still in his vocal prime, so that this September 1987 concert night would stand forever as the retrospective of a thirty-year career. His concert for HBO would be received as a genuine classic & become a regular & reliable PBS fundraiser special for the next couple decades, besides selling reliably on dvds. A Black & White Night is simply beyond great.
There are seventeen songs (fifteen in the original broadcast) in a little over an hour & impossible to pick a favorite, though my least favorite has always been "Ooby Dooby."
To see Roy singing his classic rock ballads including "Only the Lonely," "Running Scared," "Comedians," "Dream Baby" & "It's Over" in the Coconut Grove atmosphere & with that back-up is nothing short of astounding. It remains deeply emotional even after multiple viewings.
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