Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Is anybody neutral on The Rolling Stones? I seriously doubt it. It's always seemed to me they are like The Talking Heads or Madonna . . . either you like them or you don't. And if you don't like 'em, you hate 'em, and if you do like 'em . . . well, I do like 'em. I've seen them a couple of times in concert at widely different points in their career. Once in the mid-1970s and again in the mid-1990s. Just reporting that underscores what an amazing aggregation these guys are. They formed as a band in London in 1962, and here, 46 years later(!) the Stones are still around, still playing kick-ass chops, still as amazing as ever.

Anyway, last night I spent a couple of fun hours watching Martin Scorsese's Shine a Light, a concert film he shot of the band's show at the Beacon Theater in New York City in 2006 during the band's tour that year. Well, not exactly all concert because there was some backstage and historical footage, too. But the light he shone on the band was as bright and searching as you're going to find. Great band + gifted film maker, what do you expect? I don't know how many cameras he had working, but they seemed to be everywhere. It's a first class production. More here and here.

Random observations: the rock and roll is marvelous. No bad tracks. The set had several Stone standards--Jumping Jack Flash, Tumbling Dice, Sympathy for the Devil--but for my money the best stuff was the stuff you don't often hear in concert. Four songs from the Some Girls album, including the title track and a delicious countryfied "Faraway Eyes" with Ronnie Wood on pedal guitar. (I didn't know he could play that.) Jagger wields an instrument, guitar or harmonica, on probably half the songs, something you rarely see. The best track for my money was "Champagne and Reefer," a blues number with Buddy Guy as a guest. Check it out.

Jagger is as old as I am, and I tell you right now, I don't know where he finds the energy for all the jumping, running, shaking, dancing, arm-waving, and wild gesticulation he does for almost two straight hours. It's ridiculous. These guys also look like they could use some fat grams. The four Stones are so damn skinny--basically a collective bag of bones with long hair and a bunch of great guitar chops--that I doubt they weigh more than 500 pounds together. And what can one say about Keith Richards, a guy who looks positively ravaged (and he don't help anything with the get-up he wears)? Believe me, pictures of this guy, who looks like something the cat dragged in, don't do him justice. He looks a lot worse.

But with the Stones the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And ain't that grand?
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