A few reviews.
Remove youth from any equation that has rock 'n' roll as a component part and there's always the danger that you're left with a formula for a freakshow.
The good news about Shine a Light, Martin Scorsese's tribute to the Rolling Stones, is that such fears aren't realised. Time might no longer be on their side but this concert film offers proof that the group widely accepted as the World's Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band still have what it takes.
Framed around a late 2006 performance in New York's Beacon Theatre, the film offers fly-on-the-Fender footage from the band's A Bigger Bang world tour.
In scenes reminiscent of This is Spinal Tap, Scorsese struggles vainly to get access to the set-list so that he can prepare his crew while the arrival of Bill and Hillary Clinton for some pre-concert photo ops add to a sense that the music is in danger of taking a backseat. Such concerns are rendered redundant, however, as the Stones go into performance mode.
Jagger's famed frontman theatrics lack the vitality of yesteryear but only the churlish will begrudge him this victory lap. The use of archive interviews confirms the suspicion that, with the Stones, it was more about the sound and the spectacle as opposed to having much to say but the intimacy captured by Scorsese's cinematographers ensures that Shine a Light will seem like a trip to the altar for the devoted.
As the camera zooms in on the legendary Rolling Stones during their performance for a new concert documentary, "Shine a Light," a few things stand out - Charlie Watts' precision drumming; Keith Richards' and Ronnie Wood's twin guitar attack; and of course, Mick Jagger's gyrating hip shake. But most striking are the wrinkles - on their necks, arms, eyes and mouths.
These signs of age - captured with extreme clarity by director Martin Scorsese - are so remarkable in that they betray the Stones onstage presence. The blues-rock icons may have lived a combined 254 years, but they still play with the same youthful enthusiasm as they did on their last big concert documentary - the 1970 classic, "Gimme Shelter." Scorsese's film - playing at the IMAX Theatre at the Maritime Aquarium - thus depicts an aging band whose performance is ageless.
Documented over two nights of the Stones' 2006 A Bigger Bang Tour, "Shine a Light" transcends your standard concert film in its level of intimacy. With several award-winning cinematographers working multiple cameras in the relatively small setting of New York's 2,800-seat Beacon Theatre, Scorsese creates a sense of omnipresence for the viewer. On "Sympathy for the Devil," the camera gazes up at the crooning Jagger before swinging around him for a wide view of the cheering audience - in effect, creating the feeling of being both audience and band member. The IMAX Theatre magnifies the film's authenticity, as its 60-foot-tall screen and 10,000-watt sound system create a sense of visual and aural immediacy surpassed only by a real Stones concert.
Though unlikely to satisfy every Stones fan (the band's catalog is simply too vast), the set list includes a plethora of classics such as "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and "Start Me Up." The Stones are joined on stage by a superb backing band as well as guests Jack White ("Loving Cup") and Christina Aguilera ("Live with Me").
The concert is preceded by backstage footage of the band joking with Scorsese, playing pool and meeting former President Bill Clinton, who later "opens" for the band. Meanwhile, Jagger labors indecisively over the set list, much to the dismay of Scorsese, who had storyboarded the songs for The Band's performance on its 1978 concert film, "The Last Waltz." To add to his worries, a stagehand tells Scorsese that the stage lights might be too hot, to which Scorses replies, "We can't burn Mick Jagger!"
The concert footage is punctuated by interviews from the Stones' early career. The technique creates a fascinating contrast between the seasoned rock stars, fully settled into legendary status, and their fledgling selves, embroiled in periodic controversy. In a telling 1972 interview on British television, Jagger is asked by a reporter if he can picture himself at age 60 "doing what you do now." "Easily," he replies. Flash forward to "Brown Sugar" - the camera gazes up at Jagger, the wrinkles forming and fading on his face as he struts precipitously across the stage.
Plenty of critics have gushed about the Rolling Stones new concert film, “Shine a Light,” which pairs the venerable act with Martin Scorsese.
Now, I haven’t seen the sucker yet, but I have seen the Stones in concert in recent years, both in person and on TV. And while hey, I like them as much as the next guy, I am in the hang-it-up camp.
So I enjoyed reading the New Yorker’s funny, negative review of the film, which basically concludes that Martin Scorsese should avoid doing what the Stones have done: Played their greatest hits while pretending they aren’t old.
The New Yorker compares Mick Jagger and Christina Aguilera singing together to the "hoarse roar or bellowing" made by Galapagos turtles during mating. Well played, New Yorker. Well played.
What is there left to say, hear or learn about The Rolling Stones?
For more than 40 years, they’ve been touted as the “world’s greatest rock and roll band.” For more than 30 years, they’ve been the butt of thousands of jokes about their aging process, drug habits and ultimate demise. And they are possibly, in both film and print, the most intensely documented band in the history of music.
So why would anyone need another Stones film after seeing “Gimme Shelter,” “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” “One Plus One (aka “Sympathy for the Devil”), “Rock and Roll Circus,” “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Rolling Stones” and others?
See Martin Scorsese’s “Shine a Light,” and the question will be moot.
All band members are now in their sixties, and The Stones are as vibrant as they have ever been. Frontman Mick Jagger has not only maintained his surefire stage persona but has managed to become a more fluid and graceful physical performer than he was in younger days. He hasn’t lost his sense of playful irony along the way either. The rest of the band – officially, it’s Keith Richards and Ron Wood on guitars and Charlie Watts on drums, but the support group consists of at least 10 more – follow him strut for strut.
While some may think The Stones are caricatures of themselves, it should be noted they have always been caricatures. That has always been part of their charm.
The other reason to see the film is Scorsese’s over-the-top approach to the presentation. Scorsese has already made what most critics think is the benchmark rock documentary, The Band’s “The Last Waltz,” as well as the PBS documentary about Bob Dylan “No Direction Home” and the first (and best) episode of the PBS mini-series “The Blues.” His oeuvre of theatrical films is well-known and much heralded.
Scorsese, in an interview with Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine – no relation to the band except both were named after a Muddy Waters song – talks about his obsession with the band and how its music shaped his films from the very start of his career. He says of listening to them early on, “I’d imagine camera moves or editing patterns, and it freed my mind creatively. A lot of that relentless energy went into ‘Mean Streets,’ into ‘Taxi Driver.’”
That energy is evident in “Shine a Light.” Scorsese used 18 cameras for the shoot and hired an array of Oscar-blessed cinematographers to helm them. The result isn’t so much like seeing the band perform the show but being on stage with them. After two hours of it, I was physically drained. Bob Clearmountain, an A-list audio producer/engineer who has a history with the band, did the audio mix.
Many of the clichés the group has developed over the years are readily (in your face, to be more precise) noticeable: Jagger’s mugging, preening and prancing; Richards’ iconoclastic swagger; Wood’s rubber-faced grins; and, as always, the epitome of an English gent, drummer Watts rolling his eyes at the entire carnival. He’s soft-spoken and droll and has one of the best lines in the film. Early on, when talking to a member of the film crew he says, “I love movies ... er, watching them.”
Scorsese does very little background documentation. He uses some pre-existing interviews from the 1960s and 1970s. As he said, “The history of The Rolling Stones is right there onstage, in their faces.”
Jagger originally wanted to do the filming at a 2006 concert on the beach in Rio in front of a million people, but he and Scorsese compromised, and “Shine a Light” was shot at New York City’s intimate Beacon Theater. It was a wise choice.
The first few minutes of the film touch on some friction between Jagger and Scorsese, who are both acknowledged control freaks with different agendas for the two shows being filmed. There are also scenes from the first night featuring Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Hillary’s mother who kept the band waiting for a bit. The two shows were benefits for the Clinton Foundation.
Other guests include Jack White of The White Stripes on “Loving Cup,” Christina Aguilera (who seems entirely unintimidated by Jagger) and blues legend Buddy Guy doing the showstopping “Champagne and Reefer.” At the end of the song, Richards hands Guy the guitar he had been playing and says, “It’s yours, man.”
Little moments like that are very telling. The Stones have always been champions of blues music and blues musicians and have turned many generations of kids on to the blues. The respect the band has for Guy when he’s playing is palpable. It’s a high point in a film filled with high points.
I have seen all of the band’s movies, and seen the band live five times, and while I’ve never lost my respect for them even through a long string of lackluster records, I wasn’t all too sure there was really any reason to see them rehashing their repertoire on-screen yet again.
I was wrong.
For fans of the band, “Shine a Light” is a brilliant piece of work.
The Film: In the fall of 2006, The Rolling Stones played a series of concerts at New York City's Beacon Theater to benefit former President Clinton's foundation. They invited director Martin Scorsese — who hadn't made a concert documentary since "The Last Waltz," almost 30 years earlier — to film the shows and turn them into an IMAX documentary. Scorsese inserts a mélange of archival interview footage from the band's long career between every couple of songs. The most commonly asked question: When will the Stones hang it up? In one clip, Dick Cavett asks Mick Jagger if he can imagine himself still playing when he's 60. "Easily," he says without a moment's hesitation. Cut to Jagger, age 63, rocking the Beacon to "Brown Sugar." As he did for "The Last Waltz," Scorsese recruited a veritable murderers' row of cinematographers to operate his seventeen cameras, including Robert Richardson, Robert Elswit, Ellen Kuras, Emmanuel Lubezki, John Toll and Albert Maysles. It's not the Stones' first IMAX experience either — 1990's "Live at the Max" anyone?
The Rolling Stones Are: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, with Ronnie Wood on guitar. A few years after the tour seen in "@#$%& Blues," Mick Taylor left the group because of a dispute with Jagger and Richards over writing credits. Wood, then a member of the Faces, had filled in for Taylor and began recording and touring with the Stones, and eventually joined full-time after the Faces broke up in 1975. As for former bassist Bill Wyman, he left the Stones in 1993 to start his own band, the Rhythm Kings. He's never been officially replaced.
With Special Guests: The Stones are joined on stage by guests during three numbers — Jack White shares vocals and acoustic guitar duties with Jagger on "Loving Cup," Christina Aguilera sings and dirty dances with Jagger on "Live With Me," and best of all, Buddy Guy joins the guys for Muddy Waters' "Champagne and Reefer." Guy's no spring chicken (he turns 72 later this year) and he absolutely wipes the floor with the rest of the geezers on stage. It's the one must-download song from the soundtrack.
Best Performance: There's a few other strong numbers besides Guy's to choose from: the set list runs 18 tracks and there are very few duds. Of the old standards, the best is probably "Sympathy for the Devil," if only for the showmanship of Jagger, who's spent a couple songs offstage while Richards warbled a few ditties, and bursts through the backdoors of the orchestra section as he announces "Please allow me to introduce myself, I'm a man of wealth and taste."
You Can't Always Get What You Want: Though Scorsese has used "Gimme Shelter" on the soundtrack of three of his films, it doesn't appear in "Shine a Light." Also, given President Clinton's role in the concerts and his appearance early in the film hanging out with the band, was it too much to ask for him to join them onstage? He'd be perfect for the sax solo in "Brown Sugar."
Keith Richards is Weird: Well, right off, his ensemble is weird. He's got a Silent Bob coat with a "Pirates of the Caribbean" pin and a weird schmata — it's not a hat, it's not a bandana — hanging off his head, and the full regalia of earrings and beads and who knows what else. It's also curious to note that, at 62, Richards is far more active on the stage than he ever was back in the '60s and '70s. Obviously, wireless technology has made some of that possible; but watching the Richards of "Gimme Shelter" — who was nearly as stiff as the positively Lurchish Bill Wyman — it's hard to believe he's the same guy in "Shine a Light" who gets down on his knees to tease the front row, tosses guitar picks to fans mid-solo and strolls over to Ronnie Wood to lean on his shoulder every now and then. This, too, is weird, but like most of Richards' antics, it's endearingly so.
Aftermath: Scorsese's involvement necessitates comparisons to "The Last Waltz" which are hard to live up to. After all, that was a concert commemorating the end of a band (The Band, technically). In Scorsese's eyes at least, the moment was something of an end of an era as well. Though "Shine a Light" is a similarly structured concert doc from the same director, it's tonally quite different. As the interviews in "Shine a Light" stress, the Rolling Stones have never and probably will never quit. Members have died, members have gotten ill and come back, members have taken more drugs than Scarface, but the band has persevered. The movie, then, is less about something ending than something that is endless. And why shouldn't such a movie be in IMAX, where every wrinkle is clear as crystal? It's a testament to longevity. These guys are like war vets showing off their scars.
Scorsese offers no reason why the Stones have carried on for so long; I think we need only look to their biggest hit. Only a band in such a perpetual state of dissatisfaction would still be doing this shit well into retirement age. It's not the greatest concert doc I've ever seen; it's not even the best movie I've seen starring The Rolling Stones this week. But with their tickets now going for upwards of $100 a pop, it's a pretty good deal. You'll never get a seat this good at a live Stones concert.
(BTW: This article also has reviews of other Stones films).
Those Rolling Stones prove they can still cut it in this spectacular concert film. Directed by Martin Scorsese (who was also behind 2005's Dylan documentary No Direction Home), it combines footage of two nights at New York's Beacon Theatre in 2006.
It's hard not to be energised by 64-year-old Mick Jagger as he struts and shudders around the stage belting out some of the best songs in the business.
Solos from the haggard Keith Richards are less impressive, but he provokes a certain fascination, while Christina Aguilera, Jack White and Buddy Guy all join Mick for rousing covers and originals.
It would be nice to see more weathered fans in the front row rather than the strategically placed young women but Scorsese lights and shoots it like a dream and includes entertaining archive interview footage reminding us of just how much – and yet how little – these guys have changed.
Cameras Roll Stones Rock
Legendary director Martin Scorsese talks to Will Lawrence about shooting the Stones in action -- and why he prefers making documentaries to features
While he was growing up in New York's Little Italy, Martin Scorsese recalls, the neighbourhood record players and jukeboxes sang the soundtrack to his life. As he wandered from street to street, he'd hear the skittering sounds of swing, the sighing notes of a sweet-tempered ballad, and the rich wailing tones of opera.
For Scorsese, however, it was the sound of the blues in all its varieties that appealed most of all.
"The whole thing was like a series of mini concerts," he sighs, "and I loved to hear the Rolling Stones. The sound of their music, the chords, the vocals, the entire feel inspired me greatly and became a basis for most of the work I've done in my movies, going from Mean Streets to Raging Bull, Goodfellas and Casino. The nature of the music is timeless for me."
Indeed, the Rolling Stones have entranced Scorsese for so long the 65-year-old director suggests that he has been filming the band for the past 40 years ("this is the only Scorsese film that doesn't contain our track Gimme Shelter," jokes Mick Jagger) and the culmination of that experience has now been rendered as a movie, Shine A Light.
Recorded over two nights at New York's intimate Beacon Theater during the autumn of 2006, the film is Scorsese's tribute to the music that has shaped his career. He forgoes the trappings of traditional documentary in a bid to capture the essence of the Rolling Stones -- namely, their live performance.
"I wanted to do a concert film because their performance is what makes them still so special," he says. "When we started, my editor looked at 400 hours of the historical footage and gave me about 40 hours to watch. Once I saw that, I thought we could make a terrific five-hour film.
"But when I asked them if they wanted to do one about the history of the Rolling Stones, they said that they'd done 25 x 5: The Continuing Adventures of the Rolling Stones at the end of the 1980s and they weren't that interested in doing it again. So I thought, what could I possibly add? The Rolling Stones in New York with some very clever interstitial moments? All I could bring to the table was something that encapsulated their performance."
And the performance that Scorsese captures in Shine A Light is electric, the film garnering almost universal acclaim when it premiered at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year. From the opening bars, Jagger erupts as the king of swagger, pouting and preening while gliding across the stage with all the grace of Fred Astaire. Keith Richards, meanwhile, is at his cartoon best ("It's nice to be here; it's nice to be anywhere," he mumbles), while the guest stars all match the Stones' impish delivery as they rattle through Mean Streets anthem Jumpin' Jack Flash, followed by Tumbling Dice, Loving Cup (with the White Stripes' Jack White), Live With Me (with Christina Aguilera) and all the other classics.
"It is a shoot dedicated to capturing the Stones on stage, in proximity to each other," he says. "It's all about their immediacy.''
Scorsese's passion for music, filming it as well as using it, has punctuated his career. As an editor, he helped forge the milestone music documentary Woodstock, while as the director of The Last Waltz he captured an elegiac moment as rock super-group The Band played their final show.
He also directed 2005's No Direction Home: Bob Dylan, painting a surprisingly personal portrait of the singer -- who he never actually met -- and worked as executive producer on PBS series The Blues, directing one of the televised segments.
"In many ways, I like making documentaries better than features," he says. "I mean, I do love cinema, but documentary always fascinated me because of the nature of the way people react. In a documentary, you really get a sense of human nature, and the sense of timing between people. It is so wonderful."
That sense of wonder emerged early in his career. In 1974, a year after his breakthrough film Mean Streets, Scorsese directed his first documentary, Italian-American. It was a portrait of his parents, his extended family and the Little Italy community in which he grew up.
The film is alternately hilarious and harrowing, as it exposes the intimacy and conflict of family life in the tenement where he and his older brother were raised.
The honesty and vitality that inhabit that film shine through in many of his later features. Just consider the scene in Goodfellas where Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Ray Liotta visit Catherine Scorsese (the director's mother) and enjoy a family dinner while a man bleeds to death in the trunk of the car. The dialogue is painfully real.
"I learned so much from doing the documentary of my mother and father," says Scorsese. "The relationship of the two in the film, I found that very interesting. I've seen documentaries over the years by the Maysles [brothers who shot the notorious Stones documentary Gimme Shelter] or by Chris Marker, or so many others, which are more like films, not documentaries. I try to create that in my fiction cinema. That scene you mentioned from Goodfellas, with my mother, that's all improvised. That's all real. It's like Joe Pesci is my mother's son -- that's what that scene's all about -- so we decided that we should get that for real as much as possible. It's always very interesting to me to see moments like that in documentaries. They are very revealing of human nature. It's so satisfying."
Scorsese has now satisfied most of his own ambitions, and he finally won his Oscar in 2007 for The Departed.
"I was very surprised to win," he admits. "Although what I was pleased about was that it was a film that was in the same genre as Mean Streets or Raging Bull or Goodfellas. It wasn't for me doing a children's film or a musical.'"
Scorsese still has ambitions in the realm of rock-doc. "I do plan a George Harrison film," he says, "although that would be more of a personal thing about his life. We had access to the entire archive. And I may do one on Bob Marley too, because of the extraordinary figure he was, musically and politically.
"I like to document what I think is important music. Although I must say that it's not a desire," he flashes a broad smile, "it's a compulsion."