From Rock and Roll Circus to Gimme Shelter to Sympathy for the Devil to Cocksucker Blues to Ladies and Gentleman: The Rolling Stones to Let’s Spend the Night Together, filmmakers have faithfullly fixed their cameras on the Rolling Stones. Now comes Shine a Light, shot in 2006 at the Beacon Theater during the Stones’ A Bigger Bang tour.
The doc begins with Martin Scorsese frantically trying to find out what the show’s set list is going to be. After a full-throttle “Jumping Jack Flash” opener, three special guests are introduced at various points: while Jack White nervously duets with Mick Jagger on “Loving Cup,” Buddy Guy injects genuine blues ferocity to Muddy Waters’s “Champagne & Reefer” and Christina Aquilera climbs octaves on “Live With Me.”
Quick cuts and extreme close-ups capture Jagger awkwardly shimmying about the stage and catwalk, and Keith Richards joyfully leading the 13-piece band (including backup singers and horns). In addition, Scorsese intersperses archival interview footage between songs. Towards the end of the 18-song set, the Stones’ signature centerpiece “Sympathy for the Devil” falls flat as the audience chants “ooh ooh.” But “Brown Sugar” – again, with the crowd loudly wooing along – is a rousing finale.
Shine a Light provides a backstage pass to rock and roll nostalgia of the highest order. It’s the nature of the game.