Shine a Light

I wrote this movie review (of Martin Scorcese’s concert/documentary film of the Rolling Stones “Shine a Light”) for my high school newspaper. I saw the movie in an IMAX theater in Vancouver, BC.


There are some things about your parents and their past that you just have to ignore or pretend don’t exist. Like the fact that both of them may have worn bellbottom pants and enjoyed disco balls at one time. But you can’t always just write off their music sense… or even lack thereof. I think I can truthfully say that my life changed when I started listening to what my parents said was great music.

Of course, it’s also thanks to them that I’m rather in denial about what decade to which I think I belong.

While they relive their adolescence through movies like “Across the Universe,” all I can do is long for what I missed. And while my parents were able to experience real concerts of groups like the Stones and Queen, I’m forced to only imagine what it could be like to actually sit in Mick and Keith’s audience.

It is, admittedly, a little easier to imagine in an IMAX theater where Keith’s guitar and Mick’s lips are even larger than life.

Martin Scorsese has brought us hits like “Taxi Driver,” “The Aviator,” “Gangs of New York” and “The Departed.” Now, he’s brought a New York stage to mere mortals who haven’t been touched by the sweat of a Stone (metaphorically speaking) or counted their wardrobe changes during a concert. Complete with snippets of black-and-white interviews straight from the 60s, Scorsese’s newest film “Shine a Light” reveals the glory of one of the finest rock groups of the British Invasion.

The main performance footage of the movie was shot at the Beacon Theater in New York City, where the Rolling Stones performed two nights in a row to packed crowds. The audience was varied in age and social status, from your average teenage girl to Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton.

Bill Clinton introduced the group, reminding everyone that he’d had the pleasure of doing so before, and that he still thought the Stones were forever a classic group, one that many generations could enjoy. And when the camera panned over him in the second half of the movie, he seemed to be genuinely enjoying himself.

Some say the Stones are at the absolute bottom of their game. They’re still wearing skin-tight leather and hippie-era-jewelry, while their wrinkles are growing and their skin is sagging. But they’re no less talented than when “Satisfaction” was number one on the charts. In fact, they secure their One-of-the-Greatest-Rock-Bands-of-All-Time status when they collaborate with other contemporary artists, like blues guitarist Buddy Guy, Jack White of the White Stripes and Christina Aguilera. These musicians were all featured in the movie in duets.

The Rolling Stones have always had a somewhat questionable reputation. Between the Beatles and the Stones, the Stones were always the “bad boy” band who had supposed drug references and satanic allusions in every song. They are quick to remind critics that it’s all in the interpretation, however.

The band is made up of Mick Jagger (vocals), Keith Richards (guitar), Charlie Watts (drums) and Ron Wood (bass, guitar). All are in their sixties. Their voices are gravelly, their arms are veiny and their hair is thinning. But they’re still performing, with more vigor and enthusiasm than we find in many other artists. They’re still producing music, with more talent and genius than most mainstream contemporaries.

So why wouldn’t you want to experience the closest thing you’ll ever get to seeing the second-best rock band of all time (Beatles still rank number one, of course)? Maybe because the thumping bass is just too thrilling. Maybe because the songs are too familiar and enjoyable. Maybe because otherwise, your parents might just rub it in your face that they got to experience the hype firsthand.

Or, ok… maybe because “Shine a Light” isn’t actually playing in a theater near you, let alone the IMAX. It’s bound to come to our hamlet soon, and if it doesn’t, it will definitely be available for rent. At least invest in some digital surround-sound to make the most of the experience, and watch it with someone who can relive the band’s greatest highlights.


Shine a Light

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