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I saw the Rolling Stones live last year for the first time and I was
blown away. I've been a Stones fan for decades but have never had any
interest in stadium rock concerts with their huge crowds and tiny stars
on stage. The few stadium shows I've attended were always mediocre
experiences. But the Stones' Bigger Bang tour changed my mind.
For one, the enormous video screens make every seat great. Beyond that, it was the Rolling Stones that won me over. Rocking songs, incredible performances, unbelievable energy, and every one in the crowd dancing and singing the whole show. And these guys are in their sixties! Watching 'Shine a Light' on IMAX at times made me feel like I was actually at a live Stones concert, but then I kept feeling that something key was missing. And it was.
Martin Scorsese covered the two explosive shows at the Beacon Theater in New York with 18 cameras but he somehow missed getting the band. As expected, lead singer and ringmaster, Mick Jagger, gets the most screen time, with guitarist, Keith Richards, coming in a not too distant second. And then there's Ron Wood, the second guitarist, and some might argue, the better soloist, He has juicy moments on screen, but is shockingly absent time and again when soloing, the camera instead lingering on a prancing Jagger or posing Richards.
And where is drummer Charlie Watts? Watching 'Shine a Light' one might think the Stones had backing tracks instead of a live drummer. Watts is the quiet one (who doesn't dye his hair) but he's the backbone of their sound, keeping time, holding it down while the boys jump around. I kept wanting to see shots of Watts, not only for the variety of imagery and the visual reinforcement that there really is a live drummer hitting the cowbell on 'Honky Tonk Women,' but also because he's an original Rolling Stone. Sadly, there are only a handful of very brief clips featuring Watts, and just as few wide shots of the whole band on stage. And Watts is not the only one nearly absent from the movie.
Although the original members are Jagger, Richards, Watts and Wood (Wood joined in 1974 so he's not actually an original Stone), they tour with a number of key support musicians, including bass player, Daryl Jones (who's worked with them since 1994), a keyboardist, a horn section and three back-up singers. However, except for some brief interplay between Jagger and the back-up singers, the other musicians are absent from the film. It's not so unusual to relegate non-member, support players to minor roles in concert movies, but to avoid them altogether is baffling and frustrating.
The support musicians may not be Rolling Stones but they are a part of the band. They are playing the music and adding to the sights and sounds on stage. But 'Shine a Light' mostly kept them in the dark. This isn't how a real concert is experienced. In concert the other players are seen and often featured in the spotlight as soloists. But time and again in 'Shine a Light', we hear a piano riff, a sax solo, a horn section blast, a bass run, but we never actually see who's playing. We neither get full nor medium shots, nor even close-ups of hands playing. We don't even get quick cuts of the support players, as one might see interspersed regularly throughout most filmed live concerts today. Instead, we see lingering shots of Jagger and Richards, sometimes so close you can see the brown behind Jagger's teeth, while a saxophone or some other player wails somewhere off-camera. The Stones sound is some much more than guitar, bass, drums and vocals. A concert is so much more than the starring players, but you don't get that from this film. It's as if the film makers had tin ears.
This is baffling because they had 18-camera shooting the action. So the film makers either didn't get the coverage, or they decided in the editing room not to include the other players. Bad decision. This gives the movie, the Stones concert experience, a frustrating myopic feel. I kept wanting to see what I was hearing, but couldn't. I kept wanting to get a visual of the focal point in the song and on stage, but it was not delivered. Even one of the few times Jaggar plays harmonica is off-camera. This left me feeling short-changed.
Ultimately, 'Shine a Light' is slightly claustrophobic, with all its medium and close shots. It rarely opens up to show the entire band on stage. The film suffers as a result, as wide shots would have provided much needed breathing room, offering a more open perspective, and also providing the myriad tight shots with context. We do see the interplay between Jagger and Richards, or between Richards and Wood, but we don't see the whole band working together as a unit. And ultimately that's what a live Stones show, or any live rock show is all about--a group of individuals performing together as a band. Even if Scorsese decided that the film was all about the four Stones, he could have easily divided the enormous screen into quads, now and again, so we could see the four Stones working their magic simultaneously in a multi-screen format. This is common place today and highly effective.
It's baffling that with all the resources at hand and experience behind him, Scorsese didn't quite deliver the goods. It's as if his infatuation with the visages of Jagger and Richards blinded him from showing us the Rolling Stones. 'Shine a Light' is enjoyable for sure, but suffers from a limited vision.
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."
Scorsese has made another fabulous concert movie using all modern techniques available. Scorsese had the Stones rehearsing their stage show for some days so he was able to choreograph his cameras. Shot with 16 cameras he is able to be always on the right image to the music. But yet it is not senselessly hectic like a bad music clip but allows you instead to watch the musicians and get a feeling for them. The Stones are at their best, delivering one hit after the other. There are some surprises like a duet by Mick Jagger and Jack White III. Buddy Guy and Christina Aguilera also blend in perfectly with the rhythm of the Stones. In between there are some short clips of old Stones interviews which are quite funny and also some Behind-the-Scenes-Footage.
Shine a Light displays, thrillingly and with the bombastic POP of a
revisited 'happy place', why many love the Rolling Stones and many love
the style of Martin Scorsese. It's mostly a concert movie shot over a
period of two mights at the Beacon theater (as if doing a workhorse
revival of thirty years ago, while Scorsese was busy shooting New York,
New York in 76 and doing the Last Waltz concurrently, this time he shot
the concert while finishing up the Departed), with some choice
documentary footage interspersed in between some songs. On both fronts,
however minor the (all archival) interview footage is, it's a big
success, visually and musically, as good old rock and roll performance
art (well, almost art, but I like it), and as visual virtuosity made
It might be easy to adulate the Stones, as well as Scorsese. They've been around for so long, doing what they do, with each side rumored here and there to quit doing what they do (for the Stones it's every tour, much to their grinning bemusement, and for Scorsese it was a point in the 80s when he thought he'd have to leave Hollywood and make documentaries on saints). They're always acclaimed, usually big money-makers, and they've acquired a kind of nether-region between 'cult' audience and full-blown mainstream mayhem. It's this that is, in a way, the subtext for Shine a Light. While Scorsese stays mostly behind the scenes, the Stones are up and front and in center of a marvelous performance, and showcasing the energy and level of pizazz that quiets the naysayers. They sold out, and it doesn't get to them a single bit.
After some funny early footage of Scorsese (shot usually in black and white DV by Albert Maysles, who also appears here and there) getting into a minor tizzy about what the set-list is going to be, and getting some downtime with Bill Clinton, the show starts up like any good Stones show should- Jumpin' Jack Flash. Then onward come some given numbers (Shattered, Brown Sugar, Tumbling Dice), the masterpieces (Sympathy for the Devil, Loving Cup, featuring an awesome Jack White, and Champagne and Reefer with an equally awesome Buddy Guy), and a lot of unexpected tracks too (Live with Me with showy Aguilera, As Tears go By, some country song, and a kick-ass She Was Hot). For fans it's an amazing mix, and it allows for those who are just casual admirers to get their money's worth, primarily in IMAX. This is not just because of the quality of the music and the performances- which is, at its best, revelatory of what this band can do, at any age- but because of Scorsese's cameras, moving around in epic and roving fashion, edited with efficiency to not go all over the place or too slow, and, chiefly, to make it intimate like how many remember the Last Waltz to be (lots of neatly defined close-ups, lingering on to capture these hardened rockers).
And at the end, what is the point? Is it just another blah-blah Stones concert movie? Not necessarily. It doesn't have the heavy sociological context of Gimme Shelter, however it's not a little sloppy like Let's Spend the Night Together. Shine a Light celebrates its heroes, but it doesn't go completely overboard. Scorsese knows, as he did with Bob Dylan, not to get too cocky with these fogies. It's important to throw in those bits with the Stones getting interviewed, candid and without much overbearing ego present, and by the end you know there's still a place for them, firmly, in the public consciousness. They sold out in the most ironically good way in rock music history, with Scorsese now wonderfully in tow. A+
"Shine a Light" is Martin Scorsese's second real concert film after
1978's "The Last Waltz", which by now is generally acknowledged as a
masterpiece and is my favorite film by the director. I really hope we
will see more concert films from Scorsese in the future, because "Shine
a Light" is further excellence from him. If all, or even a significant
number of concert films were filmed with such skill and exuded such
energy, there would be far more of them made and far more released
"Shine a Light" is a concert film. I'm not sure I'd call it a documentary on the Rolling Stones so much as a filming (a brilliant filming) of an especially good concert they played recently. Scorsese is smart enough, however, to use interviews and clips from all stages of the Stones' career for purposes of humor and even commentary on various aspects of music and the music business, as well as the band itself.
Your average Rolling Stones fan waiting to see a Rolling Stones concert and who isn't a fan of film probably will be bored during the film's opening scenes, but for those interested in film, they provide a fascinating glimpse into the marriage of live music and film-making, which doesn't happen as much as it should. It's also quite an intimate look at the Stones as a bunch of people, exposing them in the same sort of way the non-concert scenes in "Gimme Shelter" did. Then again, how much of it is real and how much is an act is really the essential question that we will forever be asking about this band.
"Shine a Light" isn't a document of an important historical event like Scorsese's "The Last Waltz" or the Maysles Bros' "Gimme Shelter" was as a Rolling Stones film, so one shouldn't expect that sort of greatness from "Shine a Light". What one should expect is a great concert, filmed with great skill, tasteful guest appearances that do nothing but add to the music, and a gorgeous film interspersed tastefully with archive footage chosen carefully and played at just the right moments.
The Stones and Scorsese are on top form here, making this a memorable and exciting concert film and the sort of marriage of film-making and live music that really should happen more often.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Can you picture yourself doing this at the age of 60?"
I thought that was the neatest line in this concert-documentary when Mick Jagger gave an honest and prophetic answer to that question, some 30 or more years ago (maybe closer to 40!). We see that short interview here on this concert DVD.
Not only Mick but Keith Richard, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood just keep going and going and going. None of that is any surprise to me as I own about a half dozen Stones concerts on DVD or VHS tape and this was entertaining, as are all of their concerts. This film is 95 percent concert and five percent talk, so those who think this is a documentary are going to be disappointed. The talk includes old interviews and an opening segment with the director trying to work with the group which, as we see, isn't easy. For those who want more documentary material, check out the 16-minute featurette which comes with the DVD. There is some great material on that, reflections by a few of the guys, some nice acoustic guitar work and a better chance to see what they guys are like in rehearsal.
As far as this concert - held at the Beacon Theater in New York City - goes, it's about average for the Stones. The 2003 concerts at NYC's Madison Square Garden and the earlier ones in London, Berlin, Turin, and other places around the world seem more dynamic than this one, because of the bigger stage and audience. At the smaller venue of the Beacon, we couldn't enjoy the big props, neon scoreboards, the boys walking down the long aisle for a small set in the middle of the crowd, Mick prancing down long sides of the stage, etc. The prancing and all that is still here but it's in a confined area, almost claustrophobic at times.
It was fun here and there to see old clips of the band being interviewed when they were only in their second and third years of touring. You get an idea of the inane questions reporters have probably asked the rock group a thousand times over. The Stones, especially drummer Charlie Watts, don't exactly sound like Rhodes scholars, either! Watts seems out of place, too, but - being the family man he is - that's always been the case. Everyone loves Charlie, though, and respects him - maybe because he is different from the rest.
The beginning, with film director Martin Scorcese, was kind of strange. All it basically showed was his frustration in trying to get cooperation from the band regarding cameras and a set list, and them basically doing what they want to do anyway. We also get a disgusting short scene with the band - I am not making this up - hugging and kissing the Mr. and Mrs. Clinton and the latter's mom. It just doesn't seem like part of the Stones' persona, but I suppose they had little choice.
I thought I would prefer to hear new material instead of the same old/same old, but as it turned out, this two-hour concert was best in the last 40 minutes when the band did the familiar upbeat songs. The concert seemed to come to life with "Sympathy For The Devil" and four or five other old-time favorites. Earlier, the electricity was missing on a bunch of the numbers that you don't usually hear. Maybe this would have had a much higher impact on me had I seen it in an IMAX theater, instead of a TV on a small screen.
There were sparks flying, however, when the three guests sang and played with the group. Jack White, Buddy Guy and Christina Aguliera all brought life to the concert. Being a blues fan, I liked Guy's number best. Buddy who really looked like he was having fun. Jagger and Guy traded lyrics about how much they enjoy smoking "reefer" and Guy put a plug in to get it legalized. Just out of curiosity, I wonder how the Clintons reacted to that and some of the other lyrics in the song and the post-song introduction by Jagger of "Buddy motherf--king Guy!" Odd that the f-word was muted - in a Scorcese film!! Later on, it wasn't. By the way, on the featurette, we get an explanation of why Jagger called him that.
One of the strangest moments - and maybe the most real - was the closeup shot of drummer Charlie Watts yawning after one number and looking very tired and bored. Hey, after all these years....he's entitled but it gave us a quick reminder just how old these guys are (mid '60s). I don't think director Martin Scorcese, whose slick cinematography in his films is fun to watch, did these guys a favor, in that regard. He makes them all look and sound as old as they really are and, hey, that's not the Stones. They jump around like 20-year-olds. They'll go on forever, right?
I've been a stones fan for about 25-30 years now A Relative Newcomer and I've collected over 300 bootleg recordings of live stones concerts during the previous 3 decades. Gimme Shelter is one of the best music documentaries ever. Martin Scorsese is probably the best director America has given us in last 50 years. The Last Waltz was superb, the Scorsese Dylan documentary No Direction Home was a wonderful look at the roots of Americana and folk music and I'm NOT a Dylan fan. So why oh why was this so dull. Reason 1: Special guest audience only, ex-presidents, TV stars, Movie Stars in fact just about anybody who wasn't a true Stones fan was there resulting in a lack of atmosphere for a Rock 'n' Roll concert Reason 2: Mediocre performance by the guys themselves. Reason 3: Vintage footage of their days in the 60s and 70s which I've seen MANY times before. Reason 4: Not exactly "Martys" best work. This post is not a flame, I truly wanted to love this film but it just isn't very good
Scorsese has tried his best to recreate the glory of The Last Waltz but
seems to have stumbled at the impossible: how can you recreate or
better what is arguably the best concert movie of all time? Quite
simply, you can't. The intro to this movie is as strange as its ending.
There was obviously some sort of ruckus between Mick and Scorsese,
because the lack of backstage footage and constant arguments between
the two regarding camera, stage and setlists seemed to have set
Scorsese on a "I find it very hard to work with this diva" twist on the
This seems to dissipate with the beginning of the actual concert. Maybe he's trying to tell us that Mick's diva-esquire attitude and pointless demands fall apart and don't matter once they come onstage. It's all lost in the music.
As far as camera-work is concerned, this movie is well above most in terms of energy and fluidness (regardless of the lack of rehearsals Martin seems to emphasise). The two cameras behind the front row of people give a great sense of being in the crowd looking up at Jagger and Richards.
The gig itself is as good as any Bigger Bang tour I've seen. Anyone who has seen the Stones live in the past 5 years knows exactly what to expect and they don't disappoint in this show.
Scorsese cuts to archive footage of the band being interviewed at certain times. As interesting as these are to see, they seem to not fit as effectively as the cut scenes in The Last Waltz did. They almost seem separate to the rest of the film.
The performances by Jack White and Buddy Guy are interesting. It seems like they appeared onstage unannounced and had no previous rehearsal with the band and just tried to play along. Especially for Buddy Guy. His usually inch-perfect solos and licks seem rigid and refrained. Its as if he's waiting for cues from the Stones that never come. Christina Aguilaira's appearance proves she certainly has talent in her well-trained voice, but seems like a strange cameo.
All in all, I'd say this is a pretty decent concert movie, but nothing special in terms of movies in general. If you're a fan of the Stones, you'll enjoy this, but it won't shine any special light on the band themselves.
Sometimes you might feel that the rock concert movie genre hasn't moved
much since "Woodstock". Which doesn't mean Scorsese doesn't manage the
tradition in a very proper way.
You certainly have the concert feeling here. But Stones have made it both better and worse. There are ups and downs in this performance, with an absolute peak from the blues man Buddy Guy entering stage.
The clips from old Stones interviews are entertaining, but what's the purpose of having them there? If they are supposed to be included, they should have taken a bigger place, telling something more of this band, which in itself forms essentials of rock history. Anyway, good work by Scorsese, although traditional.
The Rolling Stones was here for a concert not too long ago, but since
tickets were priced way out of my league, there was no way I could have
seen them in action live unless I opted for the cheapest of the lot and
sat well away from the stage. So I got to thank Martin Scorsese for
having design and capture some definitive moments from a Rolling Stones
performance, and share that stage magic the quartet provide when
they're at their element, on a celluloid screen, captured for
Make no mistake, the entire movie is just like being there at a Rolling Stones concert, only that you'll have to ensure the cinema hall has great sound system installed, and you can't actually smell the sweat the rockers exude, even though you get to go really up close and personal during their performance, something which even the standing-only front row pit will not allow. You can even throw your hands up in the air only to irk those seated behind you, unless they and everyone else are game enough to turn the sedate cinema atmosphere into a party one. So this review (if I can call it one) largely depends on whether you're a Stones fan to appreciate, or for non-fans to want to give them a go, to kick back, relax (if you can) or just soak in the rollickingly wild atmosphere and immerse yourself into a Rolling Stones experience.
More than 20 songs were performed (if my mental counter serves me right), and for a Rolling Stones fan, you'll likely be satisfied them all for the price that you fork out. For a simple fleeting fan like me, it's an eye (ear?) opener to a lot more of their music, as well as an opportunity to watch them in action on the cheap. The first 10 minutes or so was the setup, with Scorsese worrying and fussing over how to film the Stones in action, and to want to have their set of songs as early as possible so that he could plan certain shots. But of course Mick Jagger and the gang got other ideas, as they flit from performance to performance during their "A Bigger Bang" tour, only to connect physically with Scorsese when they're at the designated performance stop at the Beacon theatre for the Clinton Foundation - where you'll get to see how big a fan Bill and Hillary are, together with their 30 strong entourage.
Interspersed throughout the concert performance are plenty of vignettes culled from past interviews spanning from the 60s, which will bring on some laughter as you watch them with perfect hindsight. You will get to see how youthful all of them looked when they first started out, and be amazed at their longevity in this business where bands come and go after making it to the top, if at all. Despite being grand-daddies, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts still look in great physical condition to be touring and strutting their stuff, dishing out high energy, high performance concerts, with Watts even cheekily feinting tiredness at a point. In fact, none of them thought earnestly thought, back in their youths, that they will sustain their popularity, or would have reasons for it, except perhaps Jagger himself who jested that he had dreamt about rocking the stage into his 60s.
Shine a Light doesn't break any new cinematic ground, even though it has cameras almost everywhere in a concert hall to capture every aspect and angle of the performing stage. In fact, despite Scorsese making appearances in front of the camera, his work behind it, with all due respect, could be replaced with any other director, and the outcome would probably be more or less the same, only because of the fact that it is a Rolling Stones concert with the band holding court from start to end. Would have been more of a blast to be able to see this in the IMAX version though.
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