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Chris High reviews books, movies, albums, theatre and gigs.

The Rolling Stones: Shine A Light (featuring Jack White III, Buddy Guy and Christina Aguilera).

Picturehouse at FACT, Liverpool

Director: Martin Scorsese
Producer: Victoria Pearman
Executive Producers: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ron Wood & Charlie Watts
Set Designer: Mark Fisher
Shang-ri-La Pictures
April 2, 2008
General Release: April 11, 2008

Promotional image for the movie: Rolling Stones Shine a Light

In the Summer of 2006, The Rolling Stones took a break from their ongoing Bigger Bang Stadium Tour and were invited by former President, Bill Clinton, to appear in an intimate, one off gig at New York’s famous Beacon Theatre in order raise awareness of climate change across the world.

A worthy cause indeed but, considering the amount of lights, dry ice and sound The Rolling Stones generate during their gigs, are they or any other rock band suitable awareness raising candidates? A debate with for another day perhaps, but what is undeniable is that Martin Scorsese has captured beautifully a gig filled with the raw power that personifies Sir Mick and his mates.

The added extra is that the gig footage is interspersed with clips of interviews from the very early days of their careers, which includes Jagger being asked how long he thought the band would last. “I didn’t think we’d last the two years that we have,” he says, “but we’re well set up to last another two or three at least.” That interview took place in around 1964. 44 years on and The Rolling Stones are still around, still touring, still selling out venues and all this despite not having a top ten hit in nearly 25 years.

The performance is everything and, having witnessed this film, it is easy to see why they remain the iconic band they are. Jagger takes a grip on the crowd as soon as the opening riff for Jumping Jack Flash is hammered out by a decidedly and expectedly rough-looking Keith Richards. Indeed Richards, in own inimitable style, steals the show, playing the naughty schoolboy in the background with cohort, Ronnie Wood, acting as his foil behind Head-Prefect Jagger’s back, so it seems at times there are two act on stage. Jagger the soloist entertaining the crowd with his posturing, pomp and circumstance, whilst the band do what they do in support of him and throw their heart and soul into providing the music and the fun.

When asked which of them is the best guitarist, him or Wood, Richards ruefully replies “Neither of us are much good on our own, to be honest, but put us together and we’re better than another ten you can mention. When we’re on stage we’re in a zone because we still love doing what we do. We all do.”

Oh the wit and the wisdom of it all.

So, the music then? There’s a lot of stuff here that’s never been performed before but the highlights are Loving Cup, performed with the exceptional Jack White of The White Stripes, the Muddy Waters classic, Champagne & Reefer with Buddy Guy adding vocals and sublime blues guitar and, surprisingly, Live With Me in which Pop-Diva, Christina Aguilera, actually out cavorts our very own Knight of the Realm and sings brilliantly whilst she does it.

Of course outside of the collaborations there is plenty to keep any fan of live music happy, not least of which is an up-tempo, rock-based version of The Temptations hit, Just My Imagination, which worked oh so well, and The Stones own rabble rouser, Sympathy For The Devil, which is as good to hear now as it was when Mick released thousands of butterflies in Hyde Park to cause a riot amongst Hell’s Angels all those years ago. Listening to Ron Wood bashing out a tune on the Steel Guitar for Faraway Eyes is an unexpected treat, too, as is Keith singing truly tremendous You Got The Silver.
Is Shine A Light controversial? No. Is it anything different from other rock concert videos? No, not really. Simple Minds did similar, for instance, back in 1992 but without the Hollywood Director calling the shots and U2’s Rattle & Hum remains pretty much the Fly On The Wall Rockumentary that best combines behind the scenes footage with live performance. 

What Shine A Light is, though, is the capturing of a moment; one of the world’s greatest Rock bands doing what they do best – and so bloody well – at a time of their lives when most men of their age are playing with train sets or dominoes. Oh yeah, and everybody got a nice commemorative T-shirt of the event, too. Ta!

Track Listing

Jumping Jack Flash
She Was Hot
All Down the Line
Loving Cup
As Tears Go By
Some Girls
Just My Imagination
Faraway Eyes
Champagne & Reefer
Tumbling Dice 
You Got the Silver
Sympathy for the Devil
Live With Me
Start Me Up

Brown Sugar
(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction


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Picturehouse at FACT opened in February 2003, as the first independent cinema
to open in Liverpool’s city centre in over a decade.

FACT, the Foundation for Art & Creative Technology. 88 Wood Street, Liverpool, L14DQ
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