Longevity in the arts can be a double-edge sword. Artists no doubt appreciate having long careers in the endeavors they love, but it must be aggravating when they inevitably and unfairly have new material judged in comparison to the best works of their careers rather than on its own merits.
This certainly happens to The Rolling Stones and director Martin Scorsese, two legends in their respective fields, who haven’t come close to the consistent creative heights they previously achieved. It’s a tough position for anyone to argue anything they have released since the former’s Some Girls (1978) and the latter’s Goodfellas (1990) have earned similar praise and acclaim. (No doubt some will bring up Scorsese’s Oscar for The Departed, but that was in essence a lifetime achievement award and does more to reinforce the claim above because the film is flawed.)
If there is any aggravation on their parts, you wouldn’t know it since they don’t shy away from their résumés and almost invite comparisons as their collaboration on Shine A Light, a concert IMAX film directed by Scorsese during the Stones’ 2006 A Bigger Bang tour, brings to mind historically significant concert films they have each made.
Gimme Shelter documented the Stones 1969 U.S. tour, which concluded with their headlining the infamous Altamont Speedway Free Festival, an event many point to as the cultural end of the spirit of the 1960s. Scorsese’s The Last Waltz was a star-studded swansong as The Band bid farewell with a little help from their friends at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom on Thanksgiving, November 25, 1976. Unless Shine A Light has recorded the last Stones tour, which they have likely been asked, it will not feature an end of era like those earlier films, yet it still does a great job capturing this particular time in the band’s history.
Over the course of two nights at the Beacon Theatre in Manhattan, The Rolling Stones along with their backing musicians and vocalists delivered a hit-packed, vibrant show that should put to shame any detractors fixated on their age. Mick Jagger was as active and engaged a front man as anyone a third his age. Charlie Watts was as competent and consistent as you would ever want any drummer to be. Ronnie Wood sounded good, especially when he played slide guitar.