Though an unlikely combination, Academy Award winning director Martin Scorsese and one of the world’s greatest rock bands, the Rolling Stones, came together in 2007 to record and shoot a concert that is considered one of the Stones best to have ever been put on film. Hailed by critics and fans alike for its unique mix of archival interviews combined with one of the most star studded Rolling Stones performances to date, Shine a Light is the ultimate experience for the Rolling Stones fan. And who isn’t a fan?
Shine a Light starts with some playful banter between director Martin Scorsese and the members of Rolling Stones, but it isn’t long before the viewer is treated to a cavalcade of lights and music that instantly shakes off the “documentary” feel of the film and replaces it with a thunderous exhibition of what makes the Rolling Stones so great. Once the concert gets underway, classic interviews with the various band members make their way to the screen, which helps fill in only the casual fan on just what kind of mania the Rolling Stones caused in their early days…and even now.
While touted as a “documentary”, there is very little about Shine a Light that can be called a documentary. While it starts out with plenty of looks into the making of the concert, by the time the concert itself starts we never see or hear from Scorsese or the band members in present-time again. Archival footage is interspersed, which is quite interesting, but it hardly makes up for the overall lack of backstage sights that I expected from the film. Still, even with my expectations changed, I became so wrapped up in the concert itself, I didn’t care that I wasn’t getting a detailed look into the making of it.
I can’t say I was a huge fan of the Stones before watching this concert; I’d heard their music before, obviously, but it was never something I ever popped into the stereo on my own. I’ve probably heard more covers of “Paint it Black” over the years than I have the original, but hearing the Stones do it live definitely had a lot more energy (although it’s not part of the concert for some reason; only as an extra on the disc).
Also a joy to listen to was the various duets that went on during the concert. First up is Jack White III, who I’ve become quite the fan of from his work with White Stripes and The Raconteurs. His duet with Jagger is quite impressive and easily the highlight of the song. It’s a relatively low-key performance, however, so there isn’t a whole lot of music or vocal performance that sounds like something that we’re used to from White, but it’s still a lot of fun to listen to.
The other duets, one with the legendary Buddy Guy and another with Christina Aguilera are also fantastic, although I’m a bit embarrassed to say I’ve never heard the songs performed in their original form, so I can’t exactly put them on a “Well they’re not as good as the original!” type of scale. I can say that all three of the guests were fantastic, and combined with the energy the Rolling Stones exerted by themselves, made for a hell of a performance.
I’m sure I would have enjoyed this concert even more if I was more of a fan of their work previously, but this concert is easy to get into and a ton of fun to watch. The two hours fly by and whether it’s due to the way Scorsese set up the shots, the Stones music or a combination of both, Shine a Light really is just, plain and simple, a lot of fun to watch. Recommended.
While nothing can beat going to a concert, the Blu-ray format certainly is trying its best to make up for not being there by showing off some absolutely fantastic audio and visuals. The disc itself comes housed in a standard “Elite” Blu-ray case with an insert with information on keeping your Blu-ray player up-to-date and the disc itself, which is washed with the usual Paramount grey. Menus for the set are relatively plain and from the onset look like something that could be accomplished on DVD. There is some nice pop-up animations and the simple navigation is a welcome over some of the convoluted menus that a lot of Blu-ray’s come with.
And now for the tech specs! Shine a Light comes complete with a 1.85:1 AVC encoded transfer on a 50gb Blu-ray disc. It’s an absolutely fantastic transfer, although from the onset it doesn’t appear as such. The documentary opens with a black and white intro that is just laden with grain, but by the time the concert itself starts, you see so many more crevices and lines in Jagger and Richards faces than you could ever have imagined. While the archival footage looks a bit shoddy upscaled to 1080p, the lighting for the concert and the stage itself just pop off of the screen; I can definitely see this disc being used to “show off” televisions in electronic stores. It’s just an overall fantastic transfer.
As good as the video is, it’s the audio that’s the real important factor this time around. Both Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD MA is included in 5.1 varieties, as well as English 2.0 PCM. I had started off with the TrueHD track, which sounded fantastic, but once I realized there was a DTS HD track, I flicked that one on and the volume instantly jumped up a few levels and everything became just a tad bit richer. The differences between DTS and Dolby tracks has always ranged from either minimal or great and Shine a Light’s differences falls directly in the middle of the scale. The DTS definitely has the edge over the TrueHD track, but it’s nothing as drastic as one would expect. Either one of the tracks sounds absolutely fantastic and are more than enough to represent this concert to its fullest. Everything sounds so rich and deep and while I’ve only watched a few concerts on the DVD format, what I’ve seen from this Blu-ray release easily trumps it.
The extras on this set are all in 1080p and are all worth watching. The first is a “Supplemental Featurette” (15:09) which includes more behind-the-scenes footage from the making of the concert. This is exactly what I had wanted there to be more of in the film, so it’s a nice little extra to check out once you finish the concert itself. Also included are four bonus songs, “Undercover of the Night” (4:23), “Paint it Black” (4:38), “Little T&A” (4:08), and “I’m Free” (3:34). I had to laugh at “Little T&A” as I can just imagine Bill Clinton’s mother, who along with Bill and Hilary were in attendance, finding that song a tad bit uncouth.
Overall Shine a Light is a great concert with an absolutely stunning presentation on Blu-ray. I’m not sure if I would have enjoyed the concert as much as I did were it not for the high-definition presentation on this disc, so you’re definitely going to enjoy this concert more on Blu-ray than on DVD. Recommended.
Shine a Light arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on July 29th.