Warning: Staring at Mick Jagger's hips may cause impure dreams
I can admit that I didn't know much Rolling Stones history walking into the theater and upon leaving I didn't know much more; Shine a Light isn't that kind of movie.
Even calling Shine a Light a movie is a bit of a stretch. The tagline on the film's poster reads "Experience it in IMAX" and "experience" is a far more accurate description of the film. Scorsese mercifully avoids a "Behind the Music" story arc and focuses primarily on the Stones' Beacon Theater performance and for the most part this works just fine, especially if you've never seen the band live and, even if you have, I guarantee that you've never seen them this close before.
Keith Richards looks fabulous for a ninety-four year old guy. Too bad he's actually sixty-four
But looking great is only one part of the equation and, thankfully, The Stones justify Scorcese's interest and prove they can still bring the noise. The band is loud and exhilarating and Mick Jagger is, bar none, the best sixty-something stage performer out there. He might not have the same vocal strength he used to, but his ability to prance and sing without degenerating into Darth Vader huffing is nearly as superb as his obvious physical conditioning. The man is ripped ten ways from Sunday.
Balancing out Mick Jagger's unnatural sinuous grace is Keith Richards' awkward "dance moves, " which include circling Ronnie Wood like a scuttling crab and flicking guitar picks into the audience. Meanwhile Charlie Watts never fails to look like a five-foot pole resides underneath his buttock and Ronnie Wood does his best Rod Stewart impersonation, but watching each band members' quirks is surprisingly entertaining.
Shine a Light would have been even more entertaining with additional archived footage to inject further texture into the performance. Martin Scorsese obviously wanted to make a film that was loud, fun, and easy to digest but he missed out on an obvious opportunity to give Shine greater staying power.
For example, Keith Richards sings vocals later in the set list. Musically, Richards' performance is the weakest portion of the concert and the film, but Scorsese offsets the lull by inserting more interviews. In one interview he and Ronnie Wood joke about who is the better guitarist and their banter flavors the glowing nods they threw each other while rocking out on stage. In another interview, Richards shies away from discussing his numerous addictions and dangerous lifestyle and credits his survival to luck. These snippets add extra wrinkles to The Rolling Stones' performance and infuse a greater sense of perspective and accomplishment. It's a shame more weren't included.
If you've already seen the Stones live or have watched a true documentary on the band's history then Shine a Light will no doubt prove a redundant experience. But if you've done neither, then do yourself a favor and check out Shine before it leaves theaters because it's almost, but not quite, as good as the real thing.
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