"Shine a Light"
Raw, in-your-face insolence rules Martin Scorcese's astounding new Rolling Stones concert documentary, "Shine a Light." The Stones have always been given to astounding their fans but even now more than ever since all four are sexagenarians.
Three Stones have birthdays this summer. Mick Jagger will be 65, Charlie Watts, 67 and Ron Wood, 61. And while Keith Richards waits till December to celebrate his 65th, no one in the band looks to be taking his boot off the accelerator any time soon.
In all their wiry androgyny, the Stones are caught by Scorcese on a battery of film cameras each simultaneously controlled by an award-winning cinematographer. All of it captured during a two-day performance shoot in the fall of 2006 at New York City's Beacon Theatre.
Robert Richardson, ASC, was Director of Photography. He won Oscars for "The Aviator" (2005) and "JFK" (1991).
I saw a screening of "Shine a Light" in late February and knew I had plenty of time to get some comments together before its opening. But on reading (this weekend) about an alleged 1969 plot on the life of Mick Jagger hatched by some California Hell's Angels (stemming from the rowdy Altamont concert of that year), I also knew the pre-release hype was already rolling out for Scorcese's first rock doc of the 21st century.
The supposed assassination attempt is the subject of a recent BBC radio documentary. It claims some Hell's Angels were about to whack Mick at his vacation home on Long Island, NY because Jagger vowed to keep the cycle gang from handling bouncing chores at Altamont after an 18-year-old fan had died on scene. According to the BBC, the motorcycle gang's hit squad approached Jagger's home by water, only to have their boat capsize due to stormy weather. To repeat: this allegedly happened 39 years ago.
Anyone who remembers "Gimme Shelter" knows Mr. Jagger gets his face bloodied in an altercation with Hell's Angels in that 1970 documentary because of heavy-handed security techniques employed on the unruly gathering at Altamont Speedway near San Francisco.
What great crossover promotion: segue from "Gimme Shelter" to "Shine a Light." Perhaps a 2-DVD double-feature, someday. Should be a slam dunk, given the pugnacious aura the World's Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band is famous for. Hey, this isn't just the music business, friendo.
"Shine a Light" is embellished by guest appearances from Christina Aguilera, Buddy Guy and Jack White III. Each takes a turn sharing the vocal mic with Mick. And there's the small brigade of back-up musicians and singers onstage who've also come to boogie at the Beacon.
The band's introduction is given from the stage by former POTUS, William Jefferson Clinton who has his wife and daughter in tow. It's a hoot to watch the Stones trying to seem mannerly while shaking hands with people who might be more famous than they. Just imagine Mick Jagger appearing more taken with someone other than himself. I think Carly Simon was right, but can that leathery bloke still strut 'n' rumble. It's enough to make me reread Anthony Burgess' "A Clockwork Orange."
Editing together the many takes of the same action gives the gig a real sense of happening as you see it. Add to that all of those images being projected on a mammoth IMAX screen with the digital sound pouring from several tracks, it's a concert film so real your olfactory glands may seduce you into thinking you smell the sweat dripping from Keith Richard's head band.
Intercut with the contemporary footage are about twenty minutes of vintage-filmed or kinescoped chatter showing the Stones---fresh-faced, glib and blasé. Their charming, anarchic demeanor, indicative of just about everyone who enlisted in the British Invasion of the 60s, is especially noteworthy as seen on the set of Dick Cavett's show (one of my faves from that day).
Here's the list of songs performed in "Shine a Light."
"Shine a Light" preview