Shine a Light
Many rock groups are happy if they manage to become a one hit wonder. Having just one single at the top of the charts is indeed a fantastic accomplishment. Some groups even manage to become popular enough for a string of hits and a few albums. In the extremely long list of rock groups there are none that have had the staying power of a bunch of guys from England; the Rolling Stones. I may have more than a few decades behind me but I can’t think of any time in my life, at least when I was interested in rock music, that the Rolling Stones where not around and on the charts. Just do the math; they formed in 1962 so it has been 46 years of being one of the most recognizable rock groups in the world. They are still able to do what most current popular groups cannot do; sell out every venue they play. When I first noticed rock music around ten they were on the Ed Sullivan show. As I entered my teens they had hits like ‘Satisfaction’ and ‘Paint it Black’. In high school I would listen to ‘Sympathy for the Devil’, ‘Wild Horses’ and ‘Tumbling Dice’ with my first girlfriend. Like millions of people in several generations each part of our lives has a soundtrack that contains songs by the Stones. They have long ago pasted being mere rock stars they are now a cultural phenomena. They have been featured in film during this almost five decade reign but now there is a definitive concert film of their latest tour ‘Shine a Light’. Which such a group as this no novice director would do; they needed a film maker of stature and significance to match their own status. The man who took on the semi-documentary of the Stone’s performance is Martin Scorsese. This is more than the usual concert flick it is a cultural event that is a must have for anybody no matter what age. Now Paramount has this groundbreaking film available on either DVD or Blu-ray so you can add it to the Stones collection you know you already have.
Scorsese obtained the convert footage for this film on October 29th and November 1st 2006 at New York City's Beacon Theater during the Stone’s A Bigger Bang tour. Although some of the preliminary footage of the preparation for the show was fictionalized the concern is all real and recorded as it happened. There are a number of famous people on both sides of the stage. In the audience you can catch glimpses of former President Bill Clinton. Among the musicians performing with the Stones are Jack White, Buddy Guy and Christina Aguilera. The play list for this event is like a ‘best of’ compilation. Just about every hit they have had over the years is performed in this concert. There is one thing about the Stones. Even though they are all in their sixties at this point they have kept up with the times. Not only is their concert on DVD and Blu-ray they have a MySpace page with streaming video of various songs. They have also managed to keep reinventing themselves keeping their music fresh and new decade after decade. That is not to say that all their original, older hits are stale; far from it. Their song catalogue is a fresh and exciting today as they were back when I was a kid.
When it comes to the Rolling Stone the phrase ‘sex, drugs and rock & roll’ comes to mind. In fact it might as well have been coined for them. With all the abuse they have heaped upon their bodies for almost fifty years it is amazing that they are alive. Even more incredible is the way they can still perform. Mick Jagger still leaps and jumps around the stage the same way he did when I first saw them forty years ago. There is still the same energy they gave the audience when they were much younger men. There is something special about a Stones concert. Of all the concerts I have attended in my life few could come up to the level of excitement as they can provide. So many concert films fail to provide the energy of a live performance but hand it to a master like Martin Scorsese to capture the experience for home enjoyment. Between the crystal clear picture and re-mastered Dolby 5.1 surround audio it is almost as good as being there in person.
Okay, a lot of the beginning of the film has to do with the production and the set up. There are a lot of shots of Scorsese walking around checking the cameras and the roadies for the Stones doing the sound checks. There are also some chats with the Stones as they get ready. Sometimes there are artistic differences between the Stones and Scorsese has the model of the set are being built. A lot of people don’t realize the logistics of putting on a spectacle like the one about to unfold. Richard’s is always wearing a head band; perhaps to keep is head from exploding after all the drugs he has ingested. He is also rarely without a cigarette. It is interesting but lets face it you want the music.
The first song played is a true classic; ‘Jumping Jack Flash’. As soon as Jagger picks up his microphone, Richards hits the first chords and Charlie Watts puts his sticks to the drums the audience knows immediately the song. It is not just a well loved song it is a piece of our collective cultural consciousness. Jagger begins to sing; his arms and legs in a constant blur of activity. Most people in their sixties are happy if they can walk down to the store; Jagger is just pure energy exploding on the stage. The audience goes wild. This is a song that has transcended the generations. They do not phone in this concert. They have never given their fans anything but their best. Later Richards moves to the acoustic guitar for another favorite, ‘As Tears Go By’. This was one of their oldest songs and it still is a crowd pleaser. A hush comes over the crowd as the sway in time to the music. The second the drums start the unmistakable beat of ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ the crowd screams out. They echo the ‘woo woo’ imperfect time to the song. The men bridge the generations by introducing Christina Aguilera to help out with ‘Live With Me’. Jagger fans himself with his shirt and starts the song. When Aguilera saunters out to front stage the audience is beyond all control. Her gritty, sultry voice is a perfect counterpoint to Jagger. The two own the stage and the result is just beyond words. The pair is very obvious with the amount of fun they are having in giving the performance.
Most fans would be satisfied with just the concert but Paramount goes above and beyond with the extras. There is a making of featurette that is great; far better than most. The real treat is the extras performances of songs not on the album or shown on the TV airing; ‘Paint It, Black’, ‘Little T&A’, ‘I'm Free’ and ‘Undercover of the Night’.
For those out there with Blu-ray systems the concert is also available on this high definition format. The DTS-HD audio is just about the best concert sound track I have ever heard. It provides every little detail of the audio track in amazing clarity. The channel separation is excellent, the sound moves around the room making you feel as if you were there. If possible this is the way to watch and hear this film.
You know you are a Stones fan so just get this disc and enjoy it over and over again.