Riley Keough Powers the Amazon Drama "Daisy Jones & The Six"

By TV / Video Download Archives
Cover image for  article: Riley Keough Powers the Amazon Drama "Daisy Jones & The Six"

Films and series about rock bands have tended to be cliched -- chiefly because the stories of rock bands tend to be cliched. Inevitably the rise and fall narratives involve drugs, infidelities, touring excesses and a general inability to deal with success. Amazon Prime Video's Daisy Jones & The Six, the carefully adapted series from the bestselling book by Taylor Jenkins Reid, checks all those boxes.

But it proves better than most of its predecessors by showing a bit how the writing process works, including songs that are well worth hearing in their various incarnations, and paying attention to period details for a band in the 1970s -- a decade that clearly wasn't the '60s anymore (politics are a drag!) but one where the business of rock bands really was big business.

Most of all, Daisy Jones benefits from a lead fairly bursting with incandescent star power.

Riley Keough has proved a good actress in previous roles, but as the bold and often unpredictable Daisy Jones finally finds herself in her element by drawing on DNA that includes not only parents who were both musicians, but no less than Elvis Presley as a grandfather (not to mention, for a brief time, a stepfather named Michael Jackson). Her embodiment of the engaging and sometimes baffling title character burns brightly; audiences can't look away from her just as the rattled frontman of The Six cannot.

San Claflin plays the often-brooding Billy Dunne, the bandleader of The Six who bristles at having a woman step in to share his spotlight. But there's no questioning her addition helps make a humdrum band a hit with soaring harmonies and on-stage chemistry that keeps audiences questioning whether the love they address in their songs may actually be about them.

This is where the soapier elements of the series arise. Dunne is already married to a supportive girl from back home in Pittsburgh (Camila Morrone in strong performance) but his connections with Daisy seem undeniable, even to him. He's such a jerk in the early going of the series -- by avoiding working with Daisy, cheating on his wife and getting wasted -- that he's hard to warm to. But he's a more believable rock star than the rest of The Six, who all seem much younger and inexperienced.

Backing musicians Will Harrison, Sebastian Chacon and Josh Whitehouse appear to be most natural when they're a struggling high school band trying to get a big brother to join up -- their sudden advancement to recording-ready seems quite a stretch. Certainly, they don't seem promising enough to attract a keyboardist from another band (Suki Waterhouse, in a thankless role).

The latter's English accent and blonde hair serves as another broad wink to the audience, if they hadn't guessed it already, that this is supposed to be Fleetwood Mac and she's the Christine McVie in the group.

Author Reid has made no secret that she was inspired to write Daisy Jones & The Six by the stranger-than-fiction on-stage friction of Fleetwood Mac when they were at their commercial heights. Swirling in diaphanous capes is meant to cement the Stevie Nicks connection.

The on-stage friction between the two is based on a famous clip of Fleetwood Mac between Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham, playing out their issues on stage through song.

Making them a fictional band, rather than doing a straight drama about Fleetwood Mac, would seemingly allow for more imaginative turns for the series, but that rarely happens.

Still, the details in creating 1970s Los Angeles -- from the beloved clubs on Sunset Strip to the storied recording studios and the woozy late night vibe of the Chateau Marmont -- are well matched with some choice needle drops.

At least in its first handful of episodes, Daisy Jones & The Six exists in a world where the fringed and patchouli-soaked era reigned unimpeded, when in reality, big changes were already afoot in music (as recently seen in FX's Pistol, another recent rock series that was as whitewashed in its own way). Indeed, Patti Smith's cooly indelible "Dancing Barefoot" is the series' theme song, representing a whole other rock faction. It also raises a challenging bar for the original songs in Daisy Jones to reach.

Producer Blake Mills does his best to craft credible tunes, with Keough and Claflin using their own voices on new material from songwriters that include Jackson Browne, Marcus Mumford and Phoebe Bridgers. They've even released their own Daisy Jones & the Six album which, if it becomes as popular as the series, may require the fictional band to go out on the road in real life. Success could turn them into the modern-day Monkees.

Daisy Jones & The Six is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

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