Monday, April 28, 2008

Shine A Light - Stones' Movie Review

I went to see the Stones’ Shine A Light at the Imax this past weekend. The overwhelming thought I had at the time, and the vivid memory I still have with me: wrinkles and veins! Wow. The 2007 version of the Stones is not suited for the big screen, let alone Imax! I was drowned by 40 foot wrinkles and veins for 2 hours. You’ve all heard the old line “he has a face for radio” – well these guys at age 65 or so, certainly do.

Yes, I think the Stones are great and are certainly one of the great bands ever. They have great songs, are great song writers, and are fun to see live - but I have always thought the Stones were a bit contrived. I will come under heavy, and arguably valid, fire for this review from many people, including Taxman, but Shine A Light seemed to be another contrived creation. It is the Stones, so how bad could it be, really – but I did not think it was very good, and certainly not nearly as good as the reviews it has gotten.

> The premise of the movie (obviously other than to show a Stones show on Imax) is Scorcese making this Stones concert film and wanting to know what tune they were going to open with, and what the setlist will be so he can focus on the right musician. So the band hits the stage, someone hands Scorcese the setlist, and they show him intensely yelling who to focus on for the production. Please. Seems ridiculous.

> With all the ballyhoo over the setlist, overall I was honestly disappointed with what they played. Yes, you can always say with a band that has as much great material as they do, that they didn’t play more great tunes than they played, but… She Was Hot seemed like a cheesey Jagger solo tune, but come to find it was on 1983’s Undercover album. Huh? When you are playing 16 tunes, why on earth is Just My Imagination included? More Jagger/Stones cheese, and more importantly taking time where Paint It Black, Let It Bleed or the other 30 more preferable tunes would have been.

> I honestly did not read or hear much about this film before I went, so I was not sure of the format or context of the film. For me, I would have preferred more old concert footage for juxtaposition as well as compare and contrast to present day. They showed some old footage, but nothing overly cosequential, and the clip of a young Jagger predicting the band would last “probably another year or so”, while somewhat revealing, seemed too cute and obvious, and meant for very casual fans to chuckle at.

> Anytime Mick picks up the guitar, things are not right. Jagger is very talented and you have love the acid chicken, but a guitar is merely a prop. Similar to Roger Daltry – stop pretending and do what you do well, and that is sing and be the front man.

> I wonder why a band as relevant and big as the Stones need to have or want to have guest artists on stage in a feature film. Why is Jack White singing on Loving Cup? Let alone I don’t know who the hell he is (that is my issue), why is anyone besides Mick or Keith singing with the Rolling Stones. Double for Christina Aguilara who also appeared for one tune. Was this so the Stones seem new, hip, and still vital? I don’t know the purpose or point, but it seems ridiculous to me. That said, Buddy Guy playing an old blues tune with the boys certainly seems relevant, is of great interest, and was great.

> You go to see the Rolling Stones, but you get the Rolling Stones Plus Eight. I realize that many of these older bands are doing it, and the Stones stage show incorporates more musicians, but I counted 8 to 10 non-Rolling Stones adding to the sound. Horns, backing vocals, keyboards etc. – in a small theatre? The Allmans play The Beacon for 6-12 shows every year (not this year due to Greg’s Hep C) and FILL the venue with more sound than it can handle. Why doesn’t the self proclaimed world’s greatest rock & roll band do play it on their own. Again – I understand their arrangements are made more for stadium shows, but still.

> Whatever your political leaning is, the blatant politicking has gotten nauseating to me. The Clintons were apparently at this event with an entourage, and one of the more disheartening scenes was when a roadie or organizer was telling Charlie Watts he had to go to the reception for the guests of the Clintons. Charlie said “but we just met with the Clintons earlier” only to be told he would have spend another hour chatting with the 30 or so guests. However, the whole scene really got nauseating when Scorsese showed Bill and Hillary, the two love birds themselves, from the back walking while holding hands. The camera shot made you know it was Bill and Hillary, but then panned in to only show their holding hands. If the Stones’ wrinkles didn’t make me puke, this did.

> I don’t love or hate Scorses, but he certainly tried to be one of the stars of the show as well. Everyone can’t be Mick, Marty!

> Then it comes back to all the wrinkles and veins…

For as much “go” the Stones have (and they have a lot), they have way more “show” than “go”. I kept thinking of poor Bobby Weir of the good ‘ole Grateful Dead getting ridiculed for being “the rock star” on stage – the Stones made a living and became larger than life being the ultimate “rock stars” on stage with all the moves and crap that go with it. They are still at it too.
Most of these rock & roll movies that come out on the big screen I go to see at least twice (Festival Express, Neil’s Heart of Gold, Grateful Dawg) and can’t get enough of them. I honestly have no interest in seeing this film again, and that is telling for me.


Assman said...

Nice review. I must admit, I am scared to see those faces on an Imax screen. The crevices on Keith's face are already noticable enough in actual size. I don't need to see them on a fifty foot tall screen. Nice work, my friend.

Brakeman said...

"Know when to say when." Brian Jones and Ian Stweart are probably rolling over in their graves. Too much focus on the "production" and the staging and not nearly enough attention to the music. What is the most recent track from the Stones that would deserve to be called a "classic?" I would argue that you have to go back to "Start Me Up" and "Waiting on a Friend" from the Tatoo You album in 1981 my friends. Most everything since has been adequate maybe even a couple of good songs but nothing memorable, relavent, or defining for the times or the band. I will continue to be a huge fan of their body of work and their impact on Rock and Roll and my own personal life but their efforts in the last decade or two have not been the reason.

candyman said...

Overall, I agree, but some of their releases have been reasonably good, including the more recent Bigger Bang album (can I still call it an album?!). There are some pretty good tracks off Voodoo, Steel Wheels. In addition, it takes a little time before anything can be defines as 'classic'. Unless you are The Beatles. Sorry, but that band is further separating themselves from eveyone else as time moves on. I would argue for Dylan in that comparison, but not for mass appeal - as great and talented Dylan is, his music does not have the same universal appeal of that of the Beatles. Q107, the great Toronto radio station, had a Beatles top 107 songs this past weekend. They did not play them consecutively, but scattered them (in order) throught the weekend and played the Top 10 consecutively on their Pschedelic Sunday program. The Beatles are the only band you can really do a top 107 songs with - and actually, you are leaving off some really good music!

Assman said...

I think Tom Petty has made significantly more good music in the 90s and 00s than the Stones have. Neil Young too. The Stones, god bless 'em, keep making music, but it's just not as good as it used to be. Some of the more recent Tom Petty albums are his best work (Wildflowers, Highway Companion, etc). His face doesn't need to be on an Imax screen either...

Taxman said...

I can't disagree with any of the comments or this post. I do not want to see these guys on the big screen. Mick is full of himself. No really inspiring music in the past 25 years. i actually liked Bigger Bang a lot when it came out and there are some good songs but i can't remember the last time i chose to listen to that. There are about 8-10 other Stones albums i go to first. As Assman said, Petty, Young, Springsteen are still putting out great music although Neil is arguably the only one from the Stones era to be doing that.

by the way, Petty's new Mudcrutch album is very good - just picked it up (can i say that if i downloaded off i-tunes?) and listened last night - really enjoyable.
I will say this though - the Stones still rock live and put on a heckuva show for a bunch of old farts.

That said, Candyman (and maybe this deserves a long post), i have rethought my "Stones are the #3 artist of all time and there's no debate" position. The more i thought about it, i think Clapton slides up to #3 behind the Beatles and Dylan. Between Cream, Derek & the Dominos, the amazing solo stuff, his blues contributions in the past 15 years, etc., he may have actually made more music and just as many classics as the Stones...some further analysis and research may be required.

Anonymous said...

the stones rock! and they're movie rocked! i love them they're my favoite band ever!!and who cares if they are old but they are still great!!