Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Gathering No Moss

After a couple of years of stalling, and countless issues of Consumer Reports later, I have finally dipped my toe in the waters of hi def television. With a 32" screen and a Blu Ray DVD player, the wonders of current TV technology have entered our house. The digital stations, particularly those that feature nature programs are staggering. I had no idea how hairy elephants were. Box sets like Blue Planet go one step further towards true reality television. But for the best and most true to life visions of the Grand Canyon and deep ravines, no disc could be better than Shine a Light, Martin Scorsese's concert film of The Rolling Stones. No natural formation can rival the deep crevasses and trenches that mark the faces of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. And no rock can rock like these old veterans.

One of my sons said, mockingly, that Keith has an "angel's voice." There's some truth in that. His rare vocals are always a treat, and they have an otherworldly quality. In fact, Keith himself only seems partly there. He is both participant and spectator, enjoying both roles equally. Richards is insanely appealing. Literally, his insanity is appealing and can't help but connect with the audience. He is a pal to everyone, resting his arm on Jack White, Ron Wood and the mike stand. When he puts his arm on Mick and rests his head on Jagger's shoulder, there is a depth of emotion that Jags, all show, can never reach. Richards has a natural feel that he could not come close to producing when he tried to act in the Pirates of the Caribbean 3.

Jagger is polished and performs his usual shtick. He has always been a caricature of himself, so self-parody is impossible. He is as ridiculous mincing around in his 60's as he was in the 1960's. It has always been hard to fathom how the Stones could be seen as sex symbols. There are few bands who are as remorseless ugly. When Jagger struts around Christina Aguilera, outdoing Martin Short's best Ed Grimley, there is a discomfort that is hard to shake. You just don't want to see this old dude touch her.

A note on Marty. Why do the Stones torture him by not allowing him a glimpse of the set list so he could set up the opening shot? I guess because they can. Buddy Guy steals the show in the same way that Muddy Waters did in The Last Waltz. Perhaps this is simply the presence of a genuine blues giant amidst pretenders, although very good pretenders. Maybe it's the way Guy and Waters seem possessed by their music, rather than merely presenting it. Whatever it is, Scorsese's work on these two legends, separated by three decades, seems directly connected. When Richards spits out his cigarette which sparks its way vividly across the screen, the fireworks are complete.

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