The Final Ya Ya's

Shine A Light. Scorsese meets the Stones.

First off let's get one thing straight: it ain't no Last Waltz!

The other night I saw, courtesy of Paramount Pictures, the new Stones–Scorsese picture, Shine a Light at the IMAX Theatre near Lincoln Center here in New York. As anyone who's seen it knows, the "IMAX Experience" is something akin to going over Niagara Falls in a barrel; something that closet Nazi Walt Disney left behind to torture anyone fool enough to slip into its clutches. With a sound system that is the very embodiment of those famous '70s vintage Pioneer ads— you HAVE to sit back in an IMAX theatre— the IMAX ain't for everyone. Seeing Mick Jagger's wrinkled face coming at me four stories tall nearly had a recently consumed club sandwich spilling out of me onto my New Balances. I remember thinking years ago that Vincent Price in the3–DHouse of Wax, with that damned carnival barker armed with the paddle ball winging towards your head was bad, but IMAX is positively brutal.

And after more than two hours of the Stones you do end up feeling like you've been punched or at least kicked a couple of good times in the eyes and ears. Too loud and too large. Some observations:

Best Lines:

Scorsese on lighting at the Beacon Theatre: "We can't burn Mick Jagger."

Keith after being told he had to meet more of Ex-President Clinton's guests: "Hey Clinton, I'm bushed!"

Keith on who is the better guitar player, he or Ron Wood: "We're both pretty lousy, but together we’re better than the next ten guys."

The beginning when Scorsese gets exasperated trying to deal with the Stones is self– serving and dumb. Marty needs to stop trying to be Woody Allen.

Mick Jagger is the most preening, overweening ego on earth. No human has ever loved themselves more. He's also the most in–shape sixty year old on earth. He is a ball of energy throughout the film. Of course that keeps the camera on him all the bloody time. His dancing/mugging/theatrics though are nothing short of amazing. You get fatigued just watching.

I was also struck, mostly during guest Buddy Guy's appearance, that Jagger has no voice at all really. He's made a career out of talking or singing in a very flat, nasal sort of bluster.

Another guest Christina Aguilera was like Jagger treats. He lapped it up. The look on his face when she turns her back towards him and they shimmy together, his hand around her waist, drawing her closer, is priceless. The amount of women that man has had, I mean HAD dammit, is absolutely incredible.

In a number of shots, when the lights were directly on him, Jagger's dye job was showing badly. And Woody's black dye job is just silly. And when Jagger walked towards the drum risers and a camera shot him full in the face, oh lord, did the wrinkles reveal themselves.

Musically, the newer songs like "Start Me Up" dragged while older material "All Down The Line" in particular, really cooked. Missed "Sweet Virginia" though. And for some odd reason, there was no performance of the title cut which is one of the band's very best: "Saw you stretched out in Room Ten O Nine/ With a smile on your face and a tear right in your eye…"

The complete lack of fresh interviews seriously hamstrung the film and made it just another overlong concert film. I mean if this was a show from 1972 maybe, but 2008… please. This will conform for you that you never again have to pay wildly inflated ticket prices to see their now ancient satanic majesties.

Keith Richards, whose wizened visage is a truly a wonder to behold—not to mention that spangle adorned doo–rag thang he's got wrapped around his head—, is the only human being in the band. Charlie is a robot as the vintage interview footage that Scorsese sparingly cuts into the film shows. Woody is a cipher of sorts. No real flavor there. He needs Stewie, and they need to be drunk for him to have a personality again. And then Jagger, well, the authentic juice seeped out of that sweet and bitter fruit a long time ago didn't it? It's Keith who truly benefits from the film and comes off as likable and real. Between his bent fingers and creased face (with eyeliner of course), he IS the Rolling Stones isn't he?

mrlowry's picture

Finally, someone with the guts to say it, instead of the old "It's their best album since. . .(insert certified classic here)". I once heard someone say that Keith Richards is everything that Mick Jagger pretends to be. However, I'd get an amulet of zombie protection if I were you.

Mcondo's picture

I'm sick of the Stones naysayers. This film is about their legacy. Many years from now the Stones, for all their warts, will be seen and heard at the Beacon, in a film directed by Scorsese. People will be amazed at their timelessness. I can think of few if any important artists/bands from the 40's, 50's or early 60's that can be seen as well as heard so beautifully. So what if they're old and craggy - they have defined rock performance as well as the heritage of the blues better than any other artist(s). Good for them - a bar band that made good.

Mike in Louisville's picture

I can't speak to the film in review, and I still drag out the Last Waltz about every six months, but I saw the Stones live at historic Churchill Downs two summers ago and have spoken to no one who was there that walked away not knowing they had seen what was still the best live rock-and-roll band on the planet. They played three hours in the rain on an outdoor stage and never missed a lick. Had last seen them live in 1975.

Adam Sohmer's picture

RB: your review is dead-on! Though from an amusement park perspective, IMAX is a lot of fun. I'd rather see it used to bring the Beatles' "Love" show to the screen rather than concert film #498 from the Stones.But, Mcondo, is this what the legacy is all about? The test is whether or not "Shine A Light" would convince a newcomer to dig deeper. There are plenty of other Stones docs to accomplish that goal. This latest update would be rightfully ignored if Scorcese's name were not affixed to the credits.

C.'s picture

RB: Do you always comment on the looks of the artists in your articles. Does anyone really care what the Stones look like when you are reviewing the movie? I will skip reading your next article because you getting long in tooth and it's really showing.

Sammy's picture

re: looks - "C": Half of what the Stones are about is the music, and these days the other half is the look or attitude. If RB didn't report on that part of a film, then it would only be half a review. You can stay in your cave and listen to music on headphones in the dark, but you'd be missing a lot of what the Stones are about. It's the look and that look cannot be ignored.

mcondo's picture

Just saw the movie yesterday. To the comment above questioning their legacy I would say that they now have a definitive document to convey their heritage of being the best damn live rock band ever. You should see how they string Scorsese along over the set list. I'm sure this "mystery" made Scorsese effort all the better. The rythym section is unbelievable - and Mick is oh so the performer despite his age! I loved it - but I'm an old Stones fan. YMMV

RK's picture


Jim Voz's picture

I attended a Stones concert thinking it was going to be their last for a while back in 89', I had 7th row centre and was prepared to enjoy the show. I've been to a number of shows before and since and found this particular concert boring and flat, Keith, Bill, and Ron were statues, Charlie can be excused he looked 80 years old , maybe Mick had an off night. Fast forward to the Toronto Rocks Concert for SARS a few years ago, AC/DC took the stage before the Stones and kicked everyone into a frenzy of fist thumping head banging and cheering then the Stones were next who deflated that energy into a mild hand clapping and questions of why these geriatrics were allowed to close the show, even Justin Timberlake was given a louder ovation when he left the stage and he was booed off