Shine a Light

| April 14, 2008

In Martin Scorsese’s rousing homage to one of the greatest, some say the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band, we see why the Stones continue to command such enormous respect, admiration and affection. If the essence of rock ‘n’ roll is sex, power and a promise of losing yourself to that primal big bang still reverberating in our blood and cellular memory, then this band and movie deliver. Mick kicks ass, singing, dancing and whirling himself into shamanic dervish bursts of primitive purity, while riding the powerful rock ‘n’ roll rocket fueled by his mates.
It was a smart move on Scorsese’s part to challenge Mick’s original desire to focus on the huge concert taking place in Rio de Janeiro. Scorsese convinced him to come off tour to play two concerts in a more intimate venue, the legendary and opulent Beacon in New York City. And intimate it is. Filming it for IMAX (sit in the back row to get the whole picture) and using the talent of 19 camera people, many of them Oscar winners, the film breaks the wall between audience and performer, coming as close to holographic participation as it gets. During tight shots of Mick, we can not only count fillings but observe his sincere intent as he spits out lyrics we’ve heard a million times. Mick treats the songs with the respect those pieces of gold deserve, without a hint of the boredom or weariness that James Brown exhibited in his elder days of performing. Watching Keith is like watching someone who has been crucified on the cross of excess countless times, only to rise again and again on the purified air of his effortless talent.
Mick’s made the clever decision to duet with some of the top talent from different musical genres. When Buddy Guy opens his mouth the sound deepens and elevates the energy to another stratosphere. Christina Aguilera, with her sexy blonde rock ‘n’ roll aggression, is the perfect foil, and Jack White from White Stripes matches Mick’s confidence and easy skill.
I challenge the reviews that refer snidely to the 60-year-old audience members and the aging of the band. Although it is weird to see the aging masks that Mick and Keith’s faces have become (especially when cut with footage from their youth), the light shining from their hooded eyes, wailing out of Mick’s mouth and flowing effortlessly from Keith’s fingers, is the pure impeccable soul of rock n roll, something that clearly does not grow old.

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