Shine a Light

"In Autumn 2006, Martin Scorsese assembled an award-winning camera team to capture the raw energy of one of the greatest rock'n'roll bands on stage. Using 16 cameras and shooting more than half a million feet of concert footage, he has created an extraordinary musical event."

Now, I normally would not begin a review with the publicity blurb. But for once, the PR lackeys have actually got it right. Shine a Light truly is an extraordinary event. There have been great concert films made in the past — films like Stop Making Sense, Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars, Woodstock and The Concert in Central Park rank among the best ever, and now Shine a Light can join that illustrious rollcall. Scorsese and the Stones have been there before — Marty with The Last Waltz, his 1978 film of The Band's final concert in San Francisco, and Mick and the guys with Gimme Shelter in 1970. But this is the first time that these creative powerhouses have joined forces, and one has to ask — just what took them so long?

This is two hours of furious sound, raw energy, strutting, preening and playing up for a hand-picked audience over two nights at New York's Beacon Theatre. This is very much a staged event — it was a benefit gig for the Clinton Foundation, and Bill and Hillary themselves are in the audience (Bill even introduces the show) — but what shines through at every moment is the sheer experience and professionalism of the Rolling Stones, who are without doubt still the greatest rock'n'roll band in the world. It comes as no surprise that all the favourite numbers are there — Jumpin' Jack Flash, Sympathy For The Devil, Satisfaction, Start Me Up, As Tears Go By, She Was Hot, Brown Sugar, Tumbling Dice. What does come as a surprise are some of the guest performers — from the brilliant Buddy Guy jamming with Keef on Champagne and Reefer to Jack White joining Mick on Loving Cup and the ultimate WTF moment when Christina Aguilera walks onstage for Live With Me. It's funny in a really weird and kinda creepy way to watch her and Mick flirting with each other when you realise that he's old enough to be her great-grandfather. Ewww.

As concert films go, this has to be one of the most intimate I've seen. Scorsese and his team make great use of the 16 cameras, catching every moment — all of Mick's pouts and preenings, all of Keef's licks and fags, all of Charlie's sighs and wry grins — wrinkles and all, in lovely high definition. And it's sharply edited, too. Much of the film is the concert itself, with a top and tail of Martin with the band. There's some lovely black and white footage at the start of Jagger and Scorsese clashing over the phone — Mick doesn't want all the the cameras intruding on the concert; Marty wants the setlist so he can plan his shots. It smells terribly like a setup, but it's an amusing moment nonetheless. Also amusing is some of the archive footage cut in throughout. It's quite a shock to see the guys as the young rebels they once were — certianly not buddies with former US presidents, that's for sure. Anyone who thinks that the Stones are "too old for this shit" really must see this film. All now in their 60s, these blokes can still pack a punch. As long as they don't party themselves to death, I reckon that Mick and the guys will keep on rocking well into their 80s.

Official Site
Shine a Light at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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