Sunday, April 13, 2008
Jagger isn't a burnout in "Shine a Light"
The most memorable performances at Rolling Stones gigs usually go to the guest artists who join Mick Jagger at the microphone.
Tina Turner clinched her remarkable comeback in July 1985 after she stole the show from Jagger when the two performed duets of the songs “State of Shock” and “It’s Only Rock ‘N Roll” at a Live Aid benefit at JFK Stadium. Bobby Keys delivered an unforgettable saxophone solo in “Brown Sugar” for the 1971 album, “Sticky Fingers,” that ensured he would always be invited back to accompany the "Bad Boys from Britain."
There are three outstanding guest performers in the new Stones blockbuster, “Shine a Light,” filmed at New York’s ornate Beacon Theater and directed by Martin Scorsese. Christina Aguilera’s vocal range is incredible when she joins the anorexic Mick in a sexy rendition of “Live with Me.” Blues King Buddy Guy is so convincing in the duet, “Champagne and Reefer,” that you can almost smell the marijuana burning.
But no one upstages Jagger this time in what is surely one of the best rock concert movies since Led Zeppelin’s “The Song Remains the Same” filmed in 1976 in Madison Square Garden. Even Jack White of White Stripes gladly backs off a bit, leaving Jagger in full control of the audience during their duet, “Loving Cup.”
Scorsese’s cameras focus on Jagger, especially when the androgynous front man prances his famous rooster struts under the brilliant white stage lights. The flashes of light are hot enough that Jagger will begin to burn under them after 18 seconds. Scorsese makes it clear early in the film that he doesn’t want to be immortalized for setting Mick afire. And the action is close enough to the audience to offer glimpses of the fillings in Jagger’s teeth. Or are those dark spots in his mouth part a dental plate replacing his top, front teeth? I really don't want to know.
The Oscar-winning director also makes the mistake of appearing in several scenes, coming off as the only confused old man on the set. Who cares that he frets over the playlist or how the Stones react to President Bill Clinton before the show? Clinton later takes too long to introduce the band, and reminds us that he is a wealthy guy who can afford to treat 30 of his friends and relatives to the show. Meanwhile, Keith Richards seems so tired and slowed by emphysema that is surely consuming his lungs when he takes center stage for two solos. The mascara-wearing Richards flicks another cigarette, appearing especially bored and worn out during his rendition of “Connection,” a song worth forgetting.
Sure, all the critics are talking about Jagger’s slowed energy in the show that was filmed two years ago when he was 63. But sequin clothes aside, he shines when the tempo slows to an acoustic pitch for “As Tears Go By,” with Richards at his best all night strumming a 12-string guitar.
And Richards joins Mick to sing the chorus during another slow song, “Far Away Eyes,” that suggests these two guys aren't entirely worse for the wear.
So if you’re feeling downright disgusted this week with the state of rock and roll, go see this movie, preferably at an Imax theater, where you can count the wrinkles on Richards’ face. Whisper a little prayer that the Rolling Stones return to the stage again before they are mumbling their tunes between nibbles of Melba Toast.