Since The Last Waltz — and more recently No Direction Home: Bob Dylan — no one can question Martin Scorsese’s credentials and credibility as a cinematic chronicler of rock music. Which is why he was the perfect choice to document a Rolling Stones concert for Shine a Light, new on DVD from Paramount.
Though it opens with about 10 minutes of setup, it’s a beautifully shot concert film, not a documentary, and this concert is what Stones fans should want, expect and love. Many of the hits are there, along with some choice album tracks, and the DVD includes four extra songs, one of which is the neglected but potent Undercover of the Night.
That said, the Stones have rolled on and on for so long that seeing them yet again, and hearing Jumpin’ Jack Flash for the zillionth time, is a bit of a rerun. Sure, it’s great music, but there’s nothing revelatory or truly spontaneous about it. Seeing and hearing much the same band do much the same show, no matter how well they do it, is more about a revered band’s ability to live up to its reputation.
That includes a bad-boy irreverence that’s branded this band from the start, even though singer Mick Jagger is the most practical of businessmen at heart. And that unruliness prevails in the opening segment, as Scorsese valiantly tries to plan his shoot at New York’s intimate Beacon Theatre, though Mick and the boys won’t deign to give him a set list — until moments before the show starts. Those rock ‘n’ rollers! It may be a bit staged, but it’s fun. And the glad-handing intro by Bill Clinton is delightfully ironic. Yes, when I think of the Stones, I think of environmentalists. Riiight.
It’s also nice to see a mix of more fresh-faced stars (Jack White III, Christina Aguilera) alongside Keith Richards’ craggiest of rock faces. But Keith — the only Stone I’ve met in person — you know I love you. And you should sing more! (Now you really know I love him.)
In all, Shine a Light is a grand time with guys who are the grandfathers of trock. Lord knows they’ve been around long enough — yet still seem joyful about it, rather than going through the paces. Guess that’s why Bill Wyman quit — he lost the joy. Happily, Mick, Keith, Charlie and Ron have not. Thanks, guys. And thanks Marty.