Shine a Light full movie review - The Rolling Stones are still rollin'
The Rolling Stones are still rollin'.
That is the primary message of Martin Scorsese's well crafted if conventional rock and roll movie, 'Shine a Light,' based on two concerts played at the Beacon Theater in New York City in late 2006. Mick Jagger was always considered a phenomenon, the sexiest, most hyperactive white soul dancer in the world. He's almost freakish now, as exhilarating and kinetic at 62 as he was at 20. But 62!
Mick has the same tiny butt and slim body and an astonishingly flat, smooth stomach, But he like Keith Richards and Ron Wood has the ravaged face of a Bowery bum. These Dorian Grays bear the marks of their dissipation--or simply their intense living--in the visage. Only Charlie Watts, the perennial Stones drummer, just looks like an ordinary, healthy old man. Four or five years ago Wood was downing a bottle and a half of vodka a day and smoking a pack and a half a day. Keith Richards' indulgences are legendary, including his own claim, later retracted, that he once snorted up his father's ashes in a line of coke.
Watts, the drummer, has always maintained a Buddha-like silence together with a Cheshire cat grin. Richards is notable for often kneeling on the stage, and draping his wrist over a mike, or one of his cohorts. Ron Wood is constantly mobile and smiling, and has that standard aging rocker look: big seventies mop of dyed or otherwise assisted hair, ravaged face, stick-thin limbs. Mick of course is the front man of the band, its voice, its dynamo, its flame. He has as many moves as Michael Jackson, and you may wonder who influenced who of that pair.
Ups and downs they have had, and changes of personnel, with Wood coming in after Mick Taylor, who replaced the drowned Brian Jones, left the band, Daryl Jones replacing Bill Wyman as bassist, and so on. But the Stones have an exceptionally solid history nonetheless, with Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, who met at the age of four or five in Kent, still after 45 years together not only the creative center but the center of enthusiasm and joy of performance.
The aggregation Scorsese records here is typically excellent. The Stones not only have an unrivaled set of songs but still deliver extremely classy musical backup as well as all the old style in their renditions. It's just hard to get on the stage as an equal with a band this tight and this strong. But since the newest song they do is from twenty-five years ago in the film, the occasional fresh partner provides welcome variety. Success varies. The cute, smiley Jack White is a charmer when he joins Mick with guitar and voice for "Loving Cup," but his performance is so good natured it's more a sweet sing-along than the exciting duel it might have been. Christina Aguilera does a blistering rendition, with Mick, of "Live with Me," but she tries too hard and almost wails out of control. Best of these assistants, not an assistant at all but a fully equal partner, is the blues great Buddy Guy along for a song Mick says he first heard Muddy Waters perform, "Champagne & Reefer." That one is a true duel--and it's astonishing to see the youth of Guy's face, alongside the deep creases in Jagger's, given that he's nine years older than Mick.
As an album, Shine a Light unquestionably works. It doesn't include all my faves, but it does have exciting, risk-taking performances of "Satisfaction" and "Sympathy for the Devil." not to mention "All Down The Line," "Start Me Up," "Brown Sugar," "Shattered," and "Jumpin' Jack Flash" Mick imparts all his old swagger to "Some Girls" and "Tumbling Dice" and makes "As Tears Go By" and "Faraway Eyes" touching and (tongue-in-cheek) sincere. It's simply awesome that all these songs can still come across so intensely and musically; but that's what being great performers and the greatest rock and roll band is about. Scorsese shows them up too close though, and shows too many wrinkles.
Scorsese used so many photographers and so much light it made the Stones nervous ahead of time. The result is technically impeccable, but for a director who made the classic musical summing up 'The Last Waltz' and just recently the penetrating Dylan documentary 'No Direction Home', and for a band famously recorded in the shocking Maysle brothers 'Gimme Shelter' not to mention dozens of inventive song videos, the tame technique used here is a bit disappointing. One thing that's missing is any long looks at members of the audience, though glimpses show that they're of all ages. It doesn't add too much to have footage showing Marty's control freak nerves before the shoot (he could never accept that he didn't know exactly what songs were coming and in what order), nor is it hugely exciting to have Bill and Hillary present, though they have to be, because there they were, and Bill said a few words to the crowd before the concert began. Not earthshaking either are a few clips of early Stones interviews, though it's inevitable to show the one where Dick Cavett asks Mick at 24 if he can imagine doing concerts when he's sixty, and he replies, "Yeah, easily. Yeah." He was playing for laughs at the time, but truer words were never spoken. There is a recording of the concert by itself, including a few extra songs. I'd like to see the whole film again in IMAX. The sound system wasn't cranked up quite enough in the screening I saw. This is a remarkable experience. It confirms the excellence of the band. But to see them in their prime, better the 1974 concert film, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Rolling Stones, when Mick's face was smoother and his costumes more immodest--though that one is hard to come by.
Are the Stones still getting their rocks off? "Yeah, easily. Yeah."