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Shine a Light

Blu-ray Four Stars
I'm not a big Rolling Stones fan, and if I'm to be honest the most exposure I've had is through the covers and advertisements that use their song, and playing a couple of their hits on the guitar in the past. So there were only two things that were getting me excited about this concert, one that it was directed by Martin Scorsese and the other that it was on Blu-ray and promised a great audio and video experience.

I was disappointed by neither.

ShineaLight.jpgHowever there was one glitch. I loaded the Blu-ray into my Playstation 3 and was greeted by the message “Could not be authenticated” and that no network features available. Yet despite that error I don't think that anything actually failed on the disc, and that all the features were available. I'm unsure as to why the message appeared, but despite that the disc seemed to work fine.

Fine is not really the word. The picture and audio on the disc is superb, and with some interesting and innovative extras, this is a great DVD and well worthy of an Xmas present for anyone from the part-time listener to the hardened fan.

Plot.pngThere is no plot, although the beginning of the film does hint at some trouble behind the scenes during the pre-production of the concert, however this is soon forgotten and the music begins and the Rolling Stones take over.

TheFilm.pngThe film is primarily a concert film with short cuts taken from interviews from the past when the band were much younger. It starts with an interesting opening comprising of various scene setting and some drama, and closes with Martin Scorsese taking over and delivering some cinematic style.

The opening sequence is really interesting and grabbed me as soon as the drama element was introduced. Mixed through with footage of the band practising and doing the on stage meet and greet before the actual concert is the dramatic element that pitches Scorsese against Mick Jagger.

We are led to believe that Scorsese has been organising the lights, set and cameras without Jagger, and while he has great reservations, Scorsese is pushing on with what he thinks Jagger wants. This sets the scene instantly for some grating between the two. Then there's the little thread of the set list, the list of songs which the Rolling Stones are going to play.

This puts Jagger and Scorsese on edge, and the film shows us Jagger pondering over the set list while Scorsese panics about what he's going to do and how he's going to film each song, something that now seems rather odd considering that later in the extras we see he had a camera for each member of the band to give him all the coverage he would need to edit in the studio.

However in true cinema fashion Jagger decides the set list with seconds to go and Scorsese is handed it just as the lights go up.

I've no idea why this was filmed the way it was because it set up this interesting dramatic structure between the director and lead singer, but never goes anywhere or touches on it again. It does make for an interesting opening none the less and I wish that it had been touched on more throughout the film and at the ending, perhaps clearing up the battle between them.

Some of the meet and greet footage does carry on a little too long though, even if we are meeting Bill, Hilary and family Clinton, it does get a little dull after a while, but it goes to show you the duller side of the glamour of rock and roll.

When the music begins, that's when we start to see the beauty of Blu-ray, the detail and depth in the picture is superb and we get to see the intricate set details as well as the detail of the people in the audience. One thing that's great about high definition in concert footage is that there's not a huge need to zoom into sections for performances.

For example when you watch other concert footage you'll see the camera zooming towards the different hands to see fingers flying across the guitar. With Blu-ray the camera can stay back and you'll still see all that detail,

This is something that gives Scorsese some strength, although I'm sure that wasn't at the forefront of his mind when he decided to keep the camera back from the traditional concert shots, it is something that Blu-ray adds a lot to, the depth and the richness. There is little doubt that the film looks gorgeous.

The concert is up-beat and quite fast paced throughout with a great choice of songs that even appealed to me, and I'm not a Rolling Stones fan. What was perhaps the biggest surprise for me is just how much Mick Jagger and the rest of the band give to the performance, and how much energy they expel on stage. This is far from the sedate concert I expected, and Jagger is singing and leaping around stage as much as any other lead singer would be today.

However I did think that Keith Richards was, at times, struggling a little, and it was rather telling that when he sang his second song we experienced the only in song cutaways throughout the entire concert. I'm not sure if this was because of Richard's performance or not, but it is rather obvious.

The other cutaways are all between songs, flipping back to moments in the past with all the members at various stages in their career talking about the band and about the longevity of their career, or their expected longevity. These moments make for a nice break from the concert and provide a little insight into the band and how they've managed to make it this far.

The closing sequences add a nice little ending to the film and return us to Scorsese from a film that has been owned by the Stones as soon as the music began.

Audio.pngDTS-HD, Dolby Digital 5.1 HD, Dolby Digital 5.1
I listened to the DTS-HD audio track which sounded absolutely stunning. The sound was rich and deep and made you feel as though you were right in the middle of the audience enjoying the concert with everyone else. It even carried a little echo from the hall.

It was also an excellent mix of audio which pulled out every voice and instrument, and there was a nice touch to it in that whatever was the focus of the camera seemed to be lifted that little bit, so if Richards was the focus the guitar would be lifted slightly, the crowd leap up so would their clapping, and so on. I really liked that touch and it added an extra dimension to it.

The picture is perhaps one of the strongest aspects of the entire film and really does show off high definition. There's superb quality and depth to it, especially when looking at the ornate backing to the stage or looking out to the audience, or even just seeing Keith Richards face from a distance – the detail is superb! The lighting is excellent too and adds a great deal to the vibrant look, filled with rich colours.

Extras: Featurette, Songs, Trivia Challenge, Multi-Angle Songs, Bonus Songs
This features some additional footage and a lot of acoustic and rehearsal performance, the acostic part is what I really love – I'm a sucker for an acoustic guitar and love playing my six and twelve strings. What these moments do is not just show some intimate behind the scenes stuff, but make you realise just how good Keith Richards is as a guitarist, the other band members also get moments to shine, but with a few dodgy moments during the concert itself, this really does let Richards glow. There's also more behind the scenes, some more of the band talking and revealing more about themselves and each other. I was surprised that some of this wasn't in the film itself.

Trivia Challenge:
This is perhaps the first extra that I haven't gotten to the end of, yet. I thought that the trivia challenge would be a series of questions, something quite simple, not so. This has three levels, for the casual fan, the long time listener and the expert Rolling Stones fan. Select one and you get to watch the concert again, this time with questions popping up throughout and a counter to keep track. I haven't yet gone through the whole film with the trivia switched on – actually I found it really hard!

This is an interesting extra, you can view all the songs included on the Blu-ray disc, including the bonus additional tracks recorded from the concert but not used in the final cut of the film, and create your own unique playlist, then you can order it and download it from iTunes. Great, but if you have any other MP3 player than an iPod, what are you going to do?

Multi-Angle Songs:
This is an excellent feature, especially considering the camera coverage that Scorsese managed to get. Watch any of four songs and choose between five different angles for the film, each angle represents a camera which was assigned to a specific performer. So choose 1 for Mick Jagger, 2 for Keith Richards, and so on. What this gives you is the rare opportunity to play out your own cut of the performance. What would be great is if you could save that edit and watch it another time. The only real downside is if you're watching it on your PS3 with a handheld controller, it makes changing the camera a rather longer process and with the menu on screen it's a little awkward, but this is not the fault of the disc.

Bonus Songs:
Additional songs that weren't shown in the main feature, which is strange as these songs are some of the most well known out of the entire playlist – Undercover of the Night, Paint it Black, Little T&A and I'm Free. Strange, but thankfully they are still on the disc.

Overall.pngPerformance wise, the film is excellent. The Rolling Stones show that they've been at this for a long time for a reason, that they're all excellent together, they can still produce great music, and really entertain an audience, then there's the excellent high definition picture and audio, and some strong camera work from the plentiful supply of cameras.

It's an excellent performance film that has some nice touches, great style, and is superb in high definition.

Buy or rent from LOVEFiLM
Buy from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com
UK IMDB film details



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