They are charismatic and charming at the same time and their history of powerful classic songs gives them a magic credibility few bands have attained. In their latest concert film – the Martin Scorsese-directed “Shine a Light” – they bring their best as they are right now despite qualifying for social security.
Filmed with a phalanx of cameras at the famed Beacon Theatre in New York City, “Shine a Light” gets right up Mick Jagger’s well-known nostrils.
Using a quick-cut, close-up method, Scorsese covers all the angles while the Stones run through a number of their biggest and best hits including “Shattered,” “Jumping Jack Flash” and “Sympathy for the Devil”.
Scorsese occasionally inserts some vintage film clips between the songs from the long history of the Stones – some of them laughably self-conscious – but that’s about the news coverage of the past rather than the Stones themselves.
The film starts with a rather humorous give and play between Mick and the frantic, fast-talking Marty Scorsese. Their conflict involves Jagger’s reluctance to give up the set list.
Keith gets a good one-off joke at Bill’s expense that’s not inherently funny but hilarious coming from Richard’s wrinkly visage.
Joining the boys on stage is Jack White of the White Stripes, bluesman Buddy Guy and an actually tolerable Christina Aguilera. They all perform tunes with Mick outside the typical Stones canon and they are the highlights in the film. Guy, who is particularly strong, trades riffs and raffs with Mick in the great “Champagne & Reefer”.
White is in fine form with “Loving Cup” while a grandfatherly Mick dry humps Aguilera during an enjoyable “Live With Me”.
I had forgotten how technically sound the Stones are as musicians. With their long association, they must be able to read each other’s minds as to the direction and purpose of the individual tracks.
While Keith Richards has a particular brand of alchemy that leaps from the screen like 3-D, it wasn’t enough to sustain the length of the presentation.
If you love the Stones, this is your concert film. It goes on and on and on with song after song without a peak or valley.
If you are a casual fan or first-timer, strap in for a long performance that breaks the show-business rule of always leaving the audience wanting more. But it is the Stones, dammit. They’ll never be your beast of burden.
“Shine a Light” opened in theaters and in IMAX (including the Navy Pier IMAX theater in Chicago) on April 4, 2008.