Shine A Light

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Review bu Jane Freebury

The Rolling Stones are sure squeezing new meaning into the definition of rock star. Even the guys who made Spinal Tap wouldn’t have credited it. The quintessential rock band still on the road 46 years on, Keith Richards alive and vaguely compos mentis and Mick Jagger with a knighthood in the bag. How will this rock n’ roll show ever end?

Impossible to imagine the answer to that, but this terrific concert doco is all about the moment. Two hours of footage from a couple of Stones concerts held in the Beacon Theatre, New York, in 2006. Some of the opening footage is in grainy black and white, a homage to those great B&W pop music docos of the sixties, like Don’t Look Back. And the movie is orchestrated by director Martin Scorsese, a Stones fan enjoying the luxury here of an entire soundtrack of their music, rather than having to restrict himself to a selection of tracks.

A sprinkling of archival interviews is a reminder of the days when the establishment didn’t know what to make of such notoriety. We hear them grilled in plummy, condescending tones by journos who want to know how long the boys think they can keep it up: ‘at least another year’, they say. Scorsese just wants to celebrate this pop culture phenomenon.

There’s a bit of gentle comedy at the start as Jagger withholds a vital piece of information from Scorsese until the last minute. It’s the song list and the director doesn’t get his hands on it until the curtains go up with Jumpin’ Jack Flash. It’s really the only moment of any drama in the entire show, except for when Keith Richards, tilting slightly, ventures too close to the edge of the stage.

The art nouveau décor at the Beacon is just the setting for a performer with Jagger’s theatrical flair. He springs from a doorway for the second act, a caped figure backlit by a furnace of light behind him, before he leaps into the auditorium to sing – yes, of course – Sympathy for the Devil.

The boys arrive on stage and the cameras, eighteen of them, take it in.
The cinematography seems to capture every significant moment but it’s a shock to see how deeply etched the Stones faces are in 35mm. I also felt the music didn’t have the oomph of old, and the fans looked polite rather than frantic. Still, it’s a fitting tribute to their satanic majesties, but I just wish Scorsese had investigated the Stones story as well, not just immersed us in the music. More insight into this rock n’ roll phenomenon would have been welcome.

4 stars