Friday, May 02, 2008

Young@Heart, too

In the Rolling Stones, the wrong man is named Watts. Mick Jagger is a dynamo whose megawattage could power half the Eastern Seaboard with the energy he incinerates on stage. Watching "Shine a Light," the concert film by Martin Scorsese, one understands why not even Kate Moss could squeeze into his skinny jeans, which must be size minus zero. What Jagger does on stage for several hours every night -- cobra-sway moves, Bollywood shoulder undulations, and air-traffic controller gesticulations -- is a cardio workout for him, cardiac arrest for just about everyone else. Who knew this was going to be an action movie?

But let's give Watts his due. You could set the atomic clock to his time keeping and his distinct snare sound is the envy of any drummer. The amiable and slightly goofy Ron Wood is one helluva player, scrubbing great solos out of his battleworn brown Strat. And the shambolic Keith Richards -- probably the only person on the planet who could qualify as a hair and blood donor to Amy Winehouse -- is the master of the groove and swagger. Hell, he's probably played the riff to "Satisfaction" 50,000 times and he still finds a way to give it fresh bite during this performance. (The original Jack Sparrow also sports a "Pirates of the Caribbean" badge on his coat lapel.)

Scorsese assembled the cinematographer equivalent of the Justice League -- including John Toll, Andrew Lesnie, Robert Richardson and Robert Elswit -- to bottle Jagger's lightning in this thoroughly satisfying document of a Stones gig. Like the recent "U2-3D," the beauty of the film is how it captures the interactions and personnel dynamics of a band in ways that aren't apparent when you're watching them on a stadium Jumbotron. (I've seen The Stones twice: at Wembley Stadium in the late '90s and again at Fenway Park nearly three years ago.)

The film isn't perfect. It starts with a pre-concert sequence during which Scorsese apears on screen, playing up the ambling, hyper public-persona he's been cultivating of late. It's schtick that doesn't convincingly stick. Later, archival interview footage -- much of it featuring disinterested, and uninteresting, responses to stock questions -- interrupts the flow of the concert.

Highlights? In a setlist of hits and obscure rarities, the early standouts are a forlorn "Faraway Eyes" and a rocking "She was Hot." Jack White III just about hides his nerves with his oh-so-nonchalant stage demeanor on "Loving Cup" and Christina Aguilera is scandalously attractive in just leggings and half-buttoned shirt during "Live With Me" and Jagger responds with something approximating sexual harassment (see it, here). Things really heat up when Buddy Guy lets rip with his polka-dotted Strat and a voice big enough to drown out a Swiss mountain horn on "Champagne and Reefer." The things go nuclear on "Brown Sugar" and "Tumbling Dice."

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