Friday, September 12, 2008
So, uh, yeah....I never made it to the theater to see Martin Scorsese's Rolling Stones feature, 'Shine a Light'. Well it showed up on the On Demand menu, and I thought about it for about a nano-second before committing the $4.95 to view.
So, yeah, I'm a bit, er.......conflicted.
I guess I thought it'd somehow live up to 'The Last Waltz', but no, not so much. I figured Marty's obvious love for The Stones (check his soundtracks) would bear out a great film. We'll, sort of. 'The Last Waltz' has better energy, better candid back story chatter from the musicians, and, as much as I'd hate to say it, stronger performances. The Band called on a great many more 'friends' to perform with them at their hootenanny, The Stones only brought out three.
I was mightily impressed, and pleasantly surprised by Jack White's duet with Mick on 'Lovin' Cup'. 'Lovin' Cup' is sacred territory, and I was a bit leery about it, having known in advance that it was coming my way. I was afraid of another horrible disfigurement of a Stones classic like that of a certain W. Axl Shithead and his maltreatment of 'Salt of the Earth' back in the late nineties. Well, apparently Jack has some affection, and respect, for 'Lovin Cup', as was evidenced by his reverential treatment, his obvious preparation - he knew the words, hell, twenty-odd years down the road and I'm not 100% on the lyrics to 'Lovin' Cup', and the sheer joy of the moment he displayed throughout. My God, imagine trading lines with Mick on 'Lovin' Cup'. I'd die from a joy overload.
The second guest was Buddy Guy. They played an obscure tune that, apparently, might have been written by Muddy, certainly performed by him, 'Champagne and Reefer'. Now, I'm going to love anything Buddy does, he's simply electrifying, and I'm also going to love a song that goes:
"Give me champagne when I'm thirsty
Give me a reefer when I want to get high"
Nobody was quite sure about the quirky 10 bar arrangement, it did seem odd, but it was a celebration on-stage, and Mick's harp playing proved a powerful contrapuntal element to Buddy's Strat on the barely stable musical see-saw.
The third artist to sit in with The Stones was Christina Aguilera on 'Live With Me'. Now, I'm on record as stating that 'Live With Me' is my least favorite song on an otherwise perfect 'Let It Bleed'. Many of you, and others as well, have argued the case for 'Live With Me', and I can dig your rap, my man, or woman, my person, if you will. I do love the nasty guitar stabs in the verse, but, I don't know, the song seems kind of a toss off, like 'Short and Curlies', or 'She Was Hot' (which they also performed). At any rate, I can see it's utility in a situation such as we're discussing. It makes a nice saucy 'Mick and Hot Chick' duet moment, reminiscent of similar moments of yester-yore with Tina and such, but, Christina, despite considerable chops, and a not too shabby, though a bit lean, physical construction, is not Tina. Tina and Mick were peers, contemporaries, they had simpatico, it worked. Christina and Mick, not so much. Gotta give her props for keeping up with the band though. Not a bad cup o' beverage, just not mine I suppose.
I think Keith had on off night. Strike that, I'm positive he did. The audio mix also seems a bit frantic with instruments darting in and out, a likely result of serious 'ducking' to hide 'unplanned tonal events' - we call 'em mistakes. I don't think I'd be up for telling Keith he fucked up, but Marty's camera's not only caught some of those events, they also caught Keith's glances to Charlie owning up to them. I suppose only Charlie enjoys the luxury of keeping Keith honest.
That brings up what is excellent about this film, however. The intimate onstage moments that Marty managed to capture are very enjoyable, moving, and effective. The Buddy Guy sequence is a great example. Not only does the camera lovingly capture a true Blues legend sharing a loose, largely unrehearsed jam with The Stones, it captures the magic, the magic conjured up by joy, that happens when talent and experience mix with abandon. Marty also managed to capture a special and telling moment as Keith and Buddy walked backstage after the song. Keith handed his black Gibson ES 335 to Buddy, 'take it, it's yours now', Keith says. This is not the action of a rich egotistical Rock Star patronizing a less fortunate comrade. Keith knows Buddy has plenty of guitars, as well as the means to acquire as many as he may desire, no, Buddy's doin' fine, as Keith well knows, no handouts necessary. It was an ancient act of chivalrous nature. The gunslinger knows he was bested, and in a gesture of respect, he hands over his side arm in acknowledgment of a schooling.
Time and again Marty captures the moments, like on 'Far Away Eyes' - brilliant pedal steel by Ronnie by the way - when Keith strode up the mic for the harmony part in the chorus - "....and you can't harmonize"...yeah, I know, ironic - and Keith blows the line and mutters "...aww fuck it." straight into the mic. Immediately Keith looks over at Mick, obviously pleading for mercy from the backstage barking he's sure is in store for him. Moments later, as the second chorus swings around Keith is obviously steering clear of his mic, and here comes Mick with his hand held mic imploring Keith to take another stab as they share the handheld. It's a touching moment of friendship, caught lovingly by Marty's camera jockeys. In years past, I don't think Mick would have been inclined toward touching moments of reassurance. No, I think in years past Keith would have received the tongue lashing (all puns intended) he was expecting.
It seems The Stones have arrived at a place of peace in respect to how they act toward each other. Like any marriage that lasts as long as theirs, forty-four years, a certain amount of acceptance settles over the union. You just have to survive long enough for it to happen, and in order to survive that long, you have to be in it for the right reasons. Pure reasons.
Marty may have caught the Stones on an off night, but he caught them loving it, he caught the purity in what they are, which is a forty-four year long homage to the Blues of Muddy, the Country and Western of Hank, and the Rock and Roll of Chuck.
I enjoyed Shine A Light as a fan. One of the cool things about watching a Stones flick is that it always inspires me to pick up the guitar. I seem to hear something new every time they fart one of these projects out.
Marty experimented with the whole ride the fader on whomever is in frame to mixed results and at the same time captured the mistakes you elude to.
The scene in which Keith gives Buddy his axe rescues the whole thing. I meant to blog that, but it got away from me. What a great moment of reverence.
I also enjoyed the brief scene in which a camera man catches Keith in a moment on stage during a break in rehersal sort of by himself playing some little riff completely intranced. I read the bio you blogged about shortly after buying 'Shine A Light' and that little moment was described many times in the book throughout their long journey.
Your right of course, it's certainly no Last Waltz, but for a fan I enjoyed it mistakes and all.
I love the camera move from behind the band during Van Morrison. The band was on fire. I'm not used to saying things like, "Those horns were fucking awesome"
I will check out the Stones flick for sure.
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