Shine A Light

Two Legends Unite for an Audio Visual Extravaganza

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Movie Reviews,   From Issue 660   By: Christopher Behnan

08th May, 2008     0

If Martin Scorsese had access to IMAX film technology in the 1970s, The Last Waltz would have been a very different film. Van Morrison's garish, purple, V-neck shirt would look even more garish and purple.

Dr. John's stage antics would be even more detailed and colorful. And, moviegoers could guess the purity of the rumored chunk of cocaine in Neil Young's nose as he entered the stage.

But IMAX was hardly a flash in the pan at that point.

Perhaps none too soon, this 3-D-like technology has captured The Rolling Stones in Shine a Light, another Scorsese creation that as with his foray into the career of Bob Dylan with his previous documentary, Don't Look Back, chronicles another significant musical exponent born from the 1960s that has endured and withstood the test of time.

The film captures the Stones in their element at a stop at the Beacon Theatre in New York during the A Bigger Bang tour in 2006. The film is named for one of a myriad of timeless classics on the landmark Exile on Main Street.

Shine a Light, like The Last Waltz, is primarily a concert film and aims to serve a specific purpose with slightly different results. The Last Waltz immortalizes the final performance of The Band after the legendary ensemble's 16 years on the road and backing Bob Dylan and Ronnie Hawkins - both of whom appear in that film.

Shine a Light has a far smaller roster of guest stars. This time, instead of legends like Dylan, Morrison and Joni Mitchell, we get Christina Auguilera and Jack White - both great in their own right - and an appearance by Keith Richards favorite Buddy Guy.

Shine a Light captures the Rolling Stones in their element during their most recent tour intertwined with witty footage and an awkward visit with Bill Clinton and his family. (Of course, meeting political families is nothing new for the Stones, if you recall Mick Jagger's liaison with then Canadian First Lady Margaret Trudeau back during their '75 tour of the Americas.)

Should A Bigger Bang be the last Stones tour, the film will have great significance, and again mark a milestone in rock history. If that's not the case, the film will be less of a historical marker, but will prove to be one of the best concert films ever made.

Gimmie Shelter, the Stones documentary shot nearly 40 years ago, captures the group's immense popularity at that time and a now legendary stand off with the Hells Angels.

But Shine a Light provides a rare glimpse of its own - the facial, physical and emotional features of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood in an intimate, controlled setting.
Following Jagger's mouth movements to "As Tears Go By" is worth the price of admission alone. His amazingly limber, yet clearly rehearsed stage moves and attempts to control the film's production illustrate Jagger the perfectionist.

Up close shots of Richards' rubbery, ashen, yet always smiling face prove the aging guitarist isn't faking it and that the stage will always be his heart and home. (Or as Richard's remarked to Matt Lauer on the Today show recently when asked what it was like to see his ravaged face 40 feet tall on an IMAX screen, 'This face is the result of external forces of nature.')

Panned images of Wood occasionally reveal a man who may forever feel a struggle to fill the shoes of founding member Brian Jones, despite the fact he's lasted longer than any previous Stones' guitarist.
Less of a surprise is how Scorcese captures Watts, the true-blue drummer who admittedly hates touring, and, as always, looks bored out of his mind.

With a full lineup of backup singers and at least a handful of studio musicians, it's difficult to tell how tight the Stones were in 2006. The finished product, however, is pristine and a real treat for die-hard fans.

The set list is irregular as ever, hop-scotching among decades of hits, along with a few rarities, a Muddy Waters classic and the standard Richards vocal solo. 

But I won't give the set list away.
With the life-like magic of the performance, it almost seems possible to expect a new show every night.

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