‘Shine a Light’ – Martin Scorsese’s Concert Film on The Rolling Stones

I have never been to a Rolling Stones concert before. Shame on me for constantly missing out on the opportunity to see them live. Every tour they go on always feel like it will be their last. Even if no one gets all that excited about their recent albums, no one would dare miss seeing them perform onstage. Years after they formed, they still sell out seats like crazy in concert, and some are willing to pay hundreds of dollars to get a decent seat. Heck, as long I have my binoculars with me, I am confident I can get a good view for less than what most people pay. But then again, I still have to spend a lot of money for even a crappy seat at a concert. Come to think of it, I haven’t been to a concert in a long time. Maybe I am saving up too much money!

Anyway, I caught the Rolling Stones documentary entitled “Shine A Light” which was directed by Martin Scorsese. Not only that, but I saw it in IMAX where movie screens don’t get much larger, visuals are never more visually extraordinary, and sound systems capture every single sound no matter how small. At I write this, this may be the closest I ever come to seeing a Rolling Stones concert, but it was still quite the experience. Even after being around for 40 or 50 years, they still put on one hell of a show like few others can. The band members have been beset in the last few years with legal and medical problems. Drummer Charlie Watts had a cancer scare, Mick Jagger continues to father too many children, and Keith Richards continues to astound medical experts everywhere who expected him to be dead by now. But here they are, and they are rocking as hard and with as much love as ever.

Oscar winner Martin Scorsese (it is so nice to finally say this) is a master of musical documentaries, having directed one of the greatest ever with “The Last Waltz” which was about The Band at their very last concert ever and of how they (or Robbie Robertson anyway) wanted to get off the road before the road claimed their lives. “Shine A Light,” however, is not at a film about a band on its last legs. Instead, it is about a band which continues to play with the same love, passion and excitement they had when they started making music so many years ago. It is not an in-depth documentary about the band, but instead a celebration of one of the greatest rock bands ever and their music which even I cannot ever get sick of.

We see the band and Scorsese going over the details and where the cameras are going to be at this documentary’s start. There is even a moment where Scorsese is talking with Jagger via speakerphone and of how Jagger is worried all the cameras will be distracting not just to him but to the audience as well. Scorsese and cinematographer Robert Richardson don’t even get the set list of songs until just seconds before the show begins. Jagger and the band keep going over what songs to play, having so many to choose from. The one thing I have to give them credit for is how they don’t start off the show with one of their most well-known hits like “Start Me Up” or “Sympathy for The Devil.” I guess you could say it makes this more unique than hundreds of other concerts they have performed.

This particular concert was filmed at the Beacon Theater in Manhattan, New York over a two-night period. When “Shine a Light” starts, it only appears as a small square on the enormous IMAX screen. I thought to myself, why did I spend $16 dollars to see this in IMAX? I could have seen it on a regular movie screen and saved myself a couple of bucks, you know? We see the band meeting with Bill and Hillary Clinton and also with Hillary’s mom. Hillary looks very happy here, so this all happened before her current presidential election. This turns out to be quite the star-studded event as Bill Clinton introduces the band himself, as this concert is actually a benefit for the awareness of climate change (which is very real everybody). If you look closely enough, you can see Bruce Willis out in the audience wearing a yellow hat.

But then the concert starts, and the picture goes from a simple box on the IMAX screen to encompassing 100% of it. From then on, we are instantly taken in at how the Rolling Stones is one of the greatest rock bands of all time. They may be eligible for senior benefits, but you wouldn’t know it from the way they perform. During this documentary or concert movie if you want to call it that, we get to see footage of the band from the past. Between songs, we see Jagger in a black and white interview in which he admits how he is surprised the band has lasted as long as it has. And that’s after the band has been together for two years, and he thinks that they will remain together for another year at best.

Seeing the band come onstage and perform their hearts out is inspiring. Age has not affected their love and passion for music, and I think it’s what makes this documentary especially good. No, it doesn’t get deep into the personalities of the band members and what makes them tick. Still, it does show how, even in their old age, they play rock and roll brilliantly. Even Keith Richards, who always looks like he might just keel over any second, still plays the guitar like a master. One too many cigarettes has not taken away from this man or his singing, and he gets his on solo and sings to us like a well-seasoned blues man.

This concert also features some well-known guests performing with the Stones. Among them are Jack White of The White Stripes who sings along with Jagger on “The Loving Cup.” White is no slouch on the guitar or on vocals, but we should have known this after the albums “Elephant” and “Get Behind Me Satan.” But the big treat was when Buddy Guy, one of the great bluesmen guitarists, came out to jam with the band. Richards was clearly a big fan because, at the end of the song, he ends up giving Buddy the guitar he was playing on. You can even hear Richards telling Guy, “It’s yours!”

Even Christina Aguilera is here singing with Jagger to a song which was first written and performed before she was even born. I haven’t bought any of her albums, but there is no doubt she has one hell of a voice. Does she even need a microphone? Her voice alone probably powered the extremely bright lights at the Beacon. That’s how good she was when she sang with Jagger and the others.

Kudos also goes out to the Rolling Stones for being backed up by an array of fantastic musicians. Among them are Darryl Jones of Living Color fame who has been the bass player for the band for over a decade now. There is also the great piano player Chuck Levell, and you may remember him brilliantly stealing the spotlight from Eric Clapton on his Unplugged session on MTV. Granted, the Rolling Stones don’t need all these people to sell out shows, but it certainly adds to this cinematic experience.

Scorsese and Richardson do a great job lighting the band and keeping up with them as they do their thing. The other thing which really added to this experience was the sound system in the IMAX theater I watched this film in. On top of the pristine visuals, the surround sound stereo system sucked you into the experience and made you feel like you were part of the crowd. You felt like people were clapping to the left and to right of you, and even behind you. There were points where I started looking around me to see if the people in the audience were applauding, or if it was just the sound from the film.

This all reminded me of when I saw “U2 3D” a couple of months earlier on the same IMAX screen. The 3D effects made you feel like you were in the middle of the concert. When people put their hands up onscreen, I almost told them to put them down so I could see. Then I realized it was all onscreen and not in the audience. Even though “Shine A Light” was not filmed in 3D, it didn’t need to be. I got sucked into this experience to where you can say you really felt like you were at this concert. It was also a loud film too, and this made me wonder why I didn’t bring any earplugs with me.

In the end, I’m glad “Shine a Light” was not a simple documentary which delved into the psychology of the band members and how they survived the record industry and drugs. The movie is about the fact of after so many years, the Rolling Stones continue to rock harder than ever. This is as certain as Johnny Depp’s character of Jack Sparrow from the “Pirates of The Caribbean” movies was based largely on Richards. It does not, nor should it, matter how old these guys are, but that they rock on with the same love they always have had for rock and roll. You can hear it in their music and see it in their eyes. Jagger continues strutting across the stage as though he was still in his 30’s, Richards still plays the guitar without missing a beat, Wood plays a mean slide guitar, and Watts beats away at the drum as if nothing ever serios ever happened to him. Why does age matter when you have passion for what you do?

I hope I have the same love and passion in what I do as they do in music at their age. I’m pretty sure I won’t need a boatload of drugs to get there, and even Richards would agree with me on this. Or maybe not. I guess it doesn’t matter. Or maybe I should just shut up for now…

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If I Had Hosted ‘Your Turn’ on 100.3 The Sound

1003 The Sound Banner

With 100.3 The Sound shutting down operations soon, it looks like I won’t get a chance to host an edition of “Your Turn.” This is a program where “Sound Listeners” like you and me can act as DJ for an hour and play ten of our favorite songs. This is one of the many things I love about this station as it shows just how much they truly respect those who listen in on a daily basis. Since first learning about this particular program, I was very eager to be a part of it as I have some experience in being a radio DJ in the past while I was a student at UC Irvine. But with the station going off the air, its likely they have little time to accommodate those who have sent in their song lists to the station.

Whatever the case, I’m going to do the next best thing and provide you, my fellow readers, with the episode I would have done. So here it goes.

Hello people! My name is Ben Kenber, a Sound Listener from Los Angeles, California and also the writer and CEO of the website The Ultimate Rabbit which focuses on my love for movies as well as the challenges I face in training for the Los Angeles Marathon, a marathon I have participated in for seven years. The songs I am going to play have affected me deeply throughout my childhood and as an adult, and I look at them as a journey through the crazy terrain life gives all of us.

  1. “I Can’t Drive 55” by Sammy Hagar

The first song on my list needs no introduction in my opinion. You have all heard this classic before, and the best way for me to describe it is that it’s the song I just LOVE listening to whenever I am in a bumper-to-bumper traffic jam on the 405 freeway. Here it is!

  1. “Shock the Monkey” by Peter Gabriel

This song cast a spell on me when I first heard it on the radio back in the 1980’s. Then I saw the music video for it, and it was the scariest video I ever saw. Keep in mind, I was 7 years old at the time, and this was the worst time to watch a music video like this one. All these years later, I have since become a huge Peter Gabriel fan and have no problem watching this song’s music video as it is one of the few from this decade which really holds up. While my favorite song of Gabriel’s is “In Your Eyes,” one which The Sound has played on a regular basis, this one still holds a lot of meaning for me and still sends a chill up my spine whenever I listen to it. Here is Peter Gabriel with “Shock the Monkey.”

  1. “Find Your Way Back” by Jefferson Starship

I remember when my dad bought the album “Modern Times” by Jefferson Starship back when we were living in Marietta, Georgia, and the first song off of it remains one of my all-time favorites. I even got my dad to let me take this album to my kindergarten class at Wesleyan Day School, and my classmates were eager to rock out to this track every time I put the needle to this vinyl record. It’s a good thing we never got around to playing “Modern Times” in its entirety as the last song, “Stairway to Cleveland,” had a four-letter word parents were eager for their children not to learn about until they turned ten years old. I also have to say that the woman on the album’s cover became a significant part of many nightmares I experience at such a young age. Anyway, here is Jefferson Starship with “Find Your Way Back.”

  1. “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts

I have been a fan of Joan Jett & the Blackhearts ever since I first heard their cover of “Crimson and Clover” on the radio back when I lived in Marietta, Georgia. But I am choosing to play this song because I love its defiant attitude, and it’s the kind of attitude I wish I had during my high school years because I was way too concerned about what others thought of me. Plus, it was also the theme song to one of my favorite television shows, “Freaks & Geeks,” and like many brilliant TV shows, it only lasted one season. Anyway, here’s “Bad Reputation.”

  1. “Can I Sit Next to You Girl” by AC/DC

I have been a die-hard fan of AC/DC ever since I bought their album “Who Made Who,” and 100.3 The Sound has played their music non-stop. This makes selecting a song by them especially challenging as “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” “Back in Black,” “Big Balls,” and “Thunderstruck” are always being played on this station. This song from their album “High Voltage” has always been one of my favorites, and I would like to give it a spin here. With the late Bon Scott on vocals, here is “Can I Sit Next to You Girl.”

  1. “Black Dog” by Led Zeppelin

I have to include a song by Led Zeppelin here. I became a devoted fan of their music after my dad bought their untitled album, commonly known as “Led Zeppelin IV,” on compact disc. This particular song by them kept playing in my head while I was on vacation with my family in Hawaii. While looking at the tall cliffs, I couldn’t help but think of this song, and I still can’t get sick of listening to it. Here’s Led Zeppelin with “Black Dog,” because this station has played “Kashmir” way too often.

  1. “State Trooper” by Bruce Springsteen

If you had asked me what my favorite Bruce Springsteen album was years ago, I would have said “Born in the U.S.A.” These days, I would pick “Nebraska” which seems simplistic in its production to his other albums, but is still a very powerful listen as its lyrics are intensely personal. As much as I wanted to select “Atlantic City,” I had to pick this song as it has haunted me ever since I first listened to it while on vacation with my parents in Maine. Here is “State Trooper.”

  1. “Shadows of the Night” by Pat Benatar

Up next is something by Pat Benatar, one of the great rock and roll singers from the 1980’s. She had great hits like “Invincible,” “Hit Me with Your Best Shot,” “Love is a Battlefield” and “Promises in the Dark,” all of which showed she was not someone to mess with. I am selecting this song by her because I love the melody of the chorus and how it soars over the lyrics with grace. Here is “Shadows of the Night.”

  1. “Undercover of the Night” by The Rolling Stones

My parents introduced me to the music of The Rolling Stones when they kept playing their album “Tattoo You” on a regular basis. This one included their classic hit “Start Me Up,” but this song from their 1983 album “Undercover” remains a favorite of mine from childhood. Here is “Undercover of the Night.”

  1. “King Tut” by Steve Martin

Choosing my last song was a tough one as I would love to include one from The Beatles or the late Tom Petty, but again, I wanted to go back to my time in kindergarten as this was a song me and my fellow classmates boogied out to without ever understanding the lyrics. Years later, I came to see it as comedy classic from one of the most brilliant of comedic minds. Here is Steve Martin with “King Tut.”

I again want to thank 100.3 The Sound for all the great music they have played for the last ten years. They have given me a deeper appreciation for bands like Deep Purple, and they made me realize there is more to Lynyrd Skynyrd than just “Sweet Home Alabama” (I foolishly thought this band was a one-hit wonder for years). Happy trails.

Goodbye 100.3 FM The Sound, Dammit

1003 The Sound Banner

I honestly thought it was a joke when I first read the article on LAist.com, “100.3 The Sound to Be Replaced with Christian Music Station.” LOL. I mean, come on. Replacing the best classic rock radio station in Los Angeles with one which has one singer praising God and then another saying how much they love God and even another one speaking of how God got them through tough times? You know, a radio station with real variety. Aren’t there a couple of radio stations on the AM/FM radio dial with Christian music already? Do we really need another featuring songs indistinguishable from the others played before them?

Well, it turns out this is not a joke and, as I write this article, April Fool’s Day is not around the corner. In completing its merger with CBS Radio, the American broadcasting company Entercom has agreed to sell three of its radio stations, among which is 100.3 The Sound. The classic rock station is to be replaced by the Christian Contemporary station, K-LOVE and, according to Program Director, Dave Beasing, The Sound now has 30 days until their operations are shuttered. Now radio stations may come and go, but to learn this one is heading towards the annals of radio history has left me utterly infuriated and deeply depressed. Like many out there, I found The Sound and am not prepared to lose it.

Like everyone else, I grew up on FM radio with KISS-FM in Southern California (Rick Dees in the Morning!) and KFOG up in Northern California, but as the years went by, I grew continually restless with every single station I tuned in to as commercials and advertisements became more prevalent than actual music. I eventually gave up on radio for a time and became much more open to inserting a cassette into my car’s tape deck where I could get my music fix more easily and be spared from another advertisement for car insurance.

100.3 The Sound, however, was different. They would play a bunch of songs in a row, and they were the kind of songs which, even after listening to them hundreds of times, I could never get sick of. When the commercials came on, I never found myself eager to change the station as I eagerly anticipated which classic song Uncle Joe Benson, Rita Wilde, Cynthia Fox, Mary Price, Tony Scott, Tina Mica, Steve Hoffman, Mimi Chen, Andy Chanley or Gina Grad would end up spinning next. Did it matter which song they played? No, because I could always count on it being one which raise my spirits whenever I am stuck in a bumper-to-bumper traffic jam on any given Los Angeles freeway. Furthermore, listening to this station on a daily basis keeps making me forget 95.5 KLOS still exists, and this is quite a feat.

Of course, it became an obligation to turn the volume down whenever that blasted Kars 4 Kids jingle was played. So simplistic and annoying in design and yet so catchy at the same time, it has long since proven to be equivalent of the Silver Shamrock jingle from “Halloween III.”

It didn’t matter if they were playing Led Zeppelin, Styx, The Eagles, The Beatles or The Rolling Stones because 100.3 The Sound made you realize why classic rock became classic rock; you never got sick of listening to it. Songs like “Stairway to Heaven” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” never get old for me, ever. “Hotel California” still has relevance in this new millennium. Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” still has us holding out hope even when times seem darker than ever. And while I may not have “Too Much Time on My Hands” like Tommy Shaw does, I always look forward to hearing it as much as another Styx song, “Mr. Roboto.”

That’s the thing about classic rock, it never ever gets old. It has heart and soul which today’s music seriously lacks. The artists of the here and now seem way too focused on generating the next big #1 hit to where they employ an obscene number of writers and producers on a single song in an effort to create something commercially viable, demographically friendly and inoffensive to the most sensitive of ears. Musicians from years past were never as concerned about making hit records as they were in creating music which spoke to them as much as it did to us. Even today’s generation has a great love for these bands to where their music’s power is undeniable. Taylor Swift may be the hit maker of today, but can you see “Shake it Off” or “…Ready for It?” having the lasting power of “Bohemian Rhapsody?” I think not.

Whenever I am driving people all around Southern California, they remark how the music playing on 100.3 The Sound makes them feel like they are in high school again. I feel the same way, and I went to high school back in the 1990’s! Sure, there are some passengers who instead want to hear the latest in hip hop which is fine, but more often than not, they dig listening to what this great radio station plays had on its playlist.

I love it when Andy Chanley breaks down a song to where you hear only the lead singer’s vocals or a particular guitar riff. I love Rita Wilde’s album side at 11, and she made me realize Journey’s “Frontiers” album was actually not a part of my record collection and needed to be. I love Uncle Joe Benson’s “10 at 10” as he was great at taking you back in time to a year which remains fresh in our minds, and his show “Off the Record” had him indulging in down to earth conversations with artists I always want to know more about. This station even managed to lure Mark Thompson back into the realm of morning radio, albeit for far too brief a time. Still, he had his “Cool Stories in Music” podcast which I always enjoyed listening to on a Sunday night.

100.3 The Sound also plays host to “Little Steven’s Underground Garage,” the guitarist and “Sopranos” actor’s radio show which showcases what he sees as the “coolest songs in the world.” Now this is what Vincent Vega would call “a bold statement,” but in Little Steven’s case, he is absolutely justified in making it. While he plays songs by The Rolling Stones and The Monkees, bands we know and love, he also includes the grooviest of tunes from Butch Walker, The Weeklings, Jeremy & The Harlequins, Fleshtones, and the Kurt Baker Combo. I have to say I don’t know these ones but feel like I should, but with his show, Little Steven has introduced them to a new generation of listeners. It is also further proof of how my rock and roll education is far from over as his song selections provide me with a gloriously rockin’ good time.

Plus, how many other radio stations have a show like “Your Turn?” This is where Sound listeners like you and me can spend an hour as a DJ (pre-recorded of course) and play our favorite tunes for devoted listeners to hear. Now this is a radio station which respects its fans like few others do. While many of them may not sound ready for prime time, it is always great fun to hear what songs they selected. I was hoping to get a chance to do it, and I do have experience as a radio DJ, but thanks to corporate greed, it is unlikely I will get the opportunity.

Well, all I can do now is enjoy the remaining days 100.3 The Sound is on the air as I feel uncertain there will be another radio station like it in the near future. I have no real desire to tune into a Christian music station. Granted, there are some great Christian singers out there (Vanessa Jourdan, you rock!), but being without The Sound on my FM radio dial will make it painful to even try to tune in to this channel.

A big thank you to everyone at 100.3 The Sound for all the great times and songs they have given me. You will be deeply missed.

WRITER’S NOTE: I am including the following song as it started playing in my head loudly after it set in that 100.3 The Sound is going away. It was released back in 1992, and I believe this makes it “classic rock.” After all, this station also plays the music of Pearl Jam.

See also:

If I Had Hosted ‘Your Turn’ on 100.3 The Sound