As a Rolling Stones fan, I have to admit, I had some my doubts when I heard Martin Scorsese was making a documentary about them After all, the Stones have been around for well over forty-five years now, longer than most folks have been alive. There have been countless documentaries, 1970’s Gimme Shelter and Robert Frank’s never officially released Cocksucker Blues, among them. Along the way, there have been thousands of interviews with band members on television and in print and a a slew of books. What remains to be said?
Director Martin Scorsese is no stranger to rock-documentaries, having made the brilliant Last Waltz in 1978, which chronicled the last appearance of The Band. Now, Scorsese attempts to provide an intimate look at a live rock ‘n’ roll concert, with a group that is used to playing on big stages with big lights and lots of props. This time, the setting is the rather intimate Beacon theatre in New York City. The first ten minutes or so are fairly mundane as the band sets up; and the director makes final arrangements. The concert begins with former President Bill Clinton introducing the band. Just to put things into perspective: The Stones started singing together almost half a dozen years before Scorsese made his first full-length movie and while Clinton was still in high school.
When the Stones take the stage to perform their opening number, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” it’s hard to ignore how old the band looks. Their bodies seem amazingly frail, though Mick Jagger is still able to move his body in ways that would make many men half his age cringe. Despite their frail appearance, the Stones still play their music with a tremendous amount of energy. They have the ability to make you feel like you’re right there, in the front row, in the middle of the action.
The initial shock of the Stones appearance quickly wore off and it became about the music. The more I watched, I couldn’t help but be amazed that Mick Jagger can still dance and frolic around the stage like a teenager after more than forty-five years of the rock star life. While time has taken a certain toll on the group’s physical appearance, Shine a Light proves that their musical skills are still fully intact. Scorsese peppers the live, 2006 concert presentation with archival footage of interviews from the early and mid 1960s, which serves to remind fans how young the Stones once looked, but it should also serve to amaze most that their still at it, after all these years.
The concert itself is mostly rock, with a sprinkling of country and blues. The Stones have several guest performers join them on stage, including: Jack White III, Christina Aguilera, and longtime bluesman Buddy Guy, who is the only person in the Beacon theatre who predates the Stones as a star entertainer. Despite the additional star power, the Stones manage to keep the spotlight firmly on themselves.
Scorsese too, makes sure the Stones stay front and center. He and his staff did a great job of capturing the excitement and enthusiasm surrounding the concert. Scorsese shows great respect and admiration for the band, by shooting every number for maximum effect and creativity. To Scorsese’s credit, he avoided using any special effects or camera gimmickry, allowing the Stones music to speak for itself.
Shine a Light might be the closest thing on film to being at a live concert that I’ve ever experienced, even though the visual are different matter from being there in person. Shine a Light is an excellent and worth repeat visits by any rock ‘n’ roll fan.
The picture on this MPEG-4/AVC, 1080p, BD50 Blu-ray is spectacular. The audio is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Engklish is the only spoken language. The BD also comes with English, French, and Spanish subtitles, with English captions for the hearing impaired.
The extras, also in MPEG-4/AVC, start with four bonus performances by the Stones, not shown in the movie’s theater release. These are “Undercover of Night,” “Paint It Black,” “Little T & A,” and “I’m Free.” Following these numbers is a fifteen-minute, behind-the-scenes featurette. The bonus songs and the featurette seem like deleted items that Scorsese could have left in the film.