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For your early perspective let me first explain that ‘Aftermath’, ‘Beggar’s Banquet’ and ‘Let It Bleed’ are three of the most important albums in my life. ‘Beggar’s Banquet’ is an especially touching one. I’m not a very good ‘fan’ of the Rolling Stones in this way, especially when I consider, all great guitar playing aside, Ron Wood to be the beginning of the end for the band. I haven’t loved anything the band’s done since 1969, but the stuff I do love I love with fervour.

Shine a Light
Shine a Light looks fantastic on paper: a continuously popular stage band going on their 46th official year as filmed by Martin Scorsese. What could go wrong? How could this, the best combination since peanut butter and chocolate? Well, the band in question could make bad set choices and generally sleepwalk through the songs, and Scorsese could go all MTV in the editing room.

My opening statement already brands me a narrow minded Stones fan, so I suppose my set list problems are my own, but to help plead my case here’s the listing:

Jumpin' Jack Flash; Shattered; She Was Hot; All Down the Line; Loving Cup; As Tears Go By; Some Girls; Just My Imagination; Far Away Eyes; Champagne & Reefer (originally by Muddy Waters); Tumbling Dice; You Got the Silver; Connection
Sympathy for the Devil; Live with Me; Start Me Up; Brown Sugar; (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction

Shine a Light
I understand that some of these are the ‘old stand bys’ that the audience demands, but this was a chance to whip out some of the less heard, and more theatrical classics. They’re unquestionably fine songs, but do we really need to hear ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’, ‘Brown Sugar’ and ‘Satisfaction’ again? And do people really still like ‘Start Me Up’ and ‘Shattered’? Things are especially middling up until they get to ‘Just My Imagination’, which has some real soul behind it. The biggest chance on the whole set list is ‘You Got the Silver’, which Keith Richards does knock right out of the park (though some credit is due for ‘Loving Cup’). How about ‘Monkey Man’, ‘No Expectations’, ‘She’s a Rainbow’, ‘Jigsaw Puzzle’ or ‘Mother’s Little Helper’? Or maybe they could’ve brought out a full choir for ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ for the encore? Heck, I at least expected ‘Gimme Shelter’, considering the song’s in just about every other Scorsese movie. Are audiences and fans really so boring that they expect to hear the same songs out of a hundred plus song catalogue every time?

I understand that the band is old, really old, but besides Mick Jagger’s prancing there isn’t a lot of vigour behind any of the performances. The band’s push at stage presence has become a cliché, between Ron and Keith’s dipping, Mick’s hip shaking, and Charlie Watt’s stoic and exhausted looking drumming. Why keep up the act after it’s become so expected that just about anyone can do an impersonation of all four members of the group? Jagger’s so busy trying to look excited (and the guy can move for a sixty-five year old) that he often forgets to, you know, sing (a problem with many lively front men I’ve noticed), robbing the already messy songs (Richards and Wood aren’t big on basic rhythm guitar strumming) of their base melody.

Shine a Light
Scorsese lovers should remember that this isn’t the first concert film in the director’s repertoire. Marty also directed The Last Waltz, one of the seminal films in concert film history. The Last Waltz and Shine a Light are on opposite ends of many spectrums. The band featured in Waltz (no pun intended) is a band wrapping up a career at the top of their game, while the band featured in Light is one most people (including its original bass player) seem to think should’ve packed it in several decades ago. Waltz is often shamelessly theatrical, to the point that Scorsese forced the Band to play a few songs exclusively in a studio, where he’d have total control of the camera. Light is simply a concert with a lot of cameras pointed at it, and dynamic editing rather than theatrical camera movements. The interview footage inter-spliced with the concert footage of Waltz was exclusive to the film, and has a recurring theme of ending the era. The interview footage inter-spliced with Light is often made up of seemingly random archive footage.

And since I’m already in a slightly bitchy mood about Shine a Light, a film that I (perhaps unfairly) expect a lot from, I might as well accentuate my whining by comparing the guest stars to those of The Last Waltz. Waltz featured Muddy Waters, Paul Butterfield, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Dr. John, Neil Diamond, Ronnie Hawkins, Emmylou Harris, The Staple Singers, Eric Clapton, and Bob Dylan. Light features Jack White, Buddy Guy and (cough) Christina Aguilera.

Shine a Light

Video


Scorsese uses a mix of super-grainy black and white16mm, colour 35mm, and digital high definition, and there’s even some old catalogue black and white for the flashback interview, so texturally this print has a lot going for it. There isn’t anything for me to complain about here except a few minor compression blemishes during light flashes. The stage lights bring out some wonderfully rich and vibrant colours, including realistic flesh tones when the lights go a little less colourful. I question my own judgment in even wanting to see the faces of the Rolling Stones in high definition. Every crevasse, pockmark, crow’s foot, and good old fashion wrinkle is crystal clear and larger than life. It must’ve been horrifying in IMAX.

Audio


You’ve got three choices under audio—a very nice Dolby TrueHD 5.1 that you’ll have to crank a bit, a very intense DTS-HD Master Audio that you’ll have to turn down, and a PCM 2.0 track that is abnormally quiet (though this may be a problem with my system’s abilities). I went with the DTS-HD track, which is finely separated, sharply crafted, and full of little surprises. The LFE track is large without throbbing or overtaking the other channels. Scorsese make one audio mixing choice that I’m sure looked great on paper, but that I’m not sure I like. When a member of the band is centred in medium close up or closer his instrument, or voice, moves to the centre channel and becomes louder. It makes sense in theory, but in reality the noise is coming from amps, which are located elsewhere (I am aware that noise comes from the instruments as well, especially the drums and Mick’s mouth, but in a concert situation it would be impossible to hear). It’s a nitpick and an opinion, so please don’t take it as an indictment of the track.

Shine a Light

Extras


The behind the scenes featurette is made up of outtakes, more old interview footage, and best of all, footage of the band warming up. The warm up songs are a mix of full Stones songs, traditional blues, and some really wonderful acoustic stuff, which all adds up to something infinitely more interesting then the moulding standbys they picked for the actual concert. Paramount and Scorsese should cut and release an album of these outtake tracks. The footage runs about fifteen minutes.

Also included are four additional tracks, all presented in all three forms of audio and full 1080p video. The songs are ‘Undercover of the Night’, ‘Paint it Black’, ‘Little T&A’ and the boring commercial television standby ‘I’m Free’. ‘Little T&A’ is amusing just to watch Richards botch his vocals in an amusing manner, and ‘Paint it Black’ is probably the entire show’s high point (why wasn’t this included in the cut?).

Shine a Light

Overall


It’s not the worst concert I’ve ever seen, it isn’t even a bad one, but it wasn’t what I was expecting out of the band or director, and the trailer was very exciting. Perhaps it was just bad timing. In the past few months I’ve watched Tom Petty’s 30th Anniversary concert, Muse’s HAARP concert, the tribute to Joey Ramone, and re-watched Last Waltz on this television. Maybe my expectations were just too high. This Blu-ray looks and sounds good, and the extra material contains the best music on the disc, so if you’re a more full-blooded fan then me you’ll probably enjoy at least a rent.

* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.


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