Went to see Martin Scorsese's new concert film Shine A Light with the Rolling Stones, and I have to admit the aged rockers put on a good show. Sure, Mick and Keith's life-long love affair with the blues is still going strong, but their music has become strangely soulless. They jump around, make faces, and the energy level is high, but I didn't care. I've seen it all before, better--the Rolling Stones are now just a machine, reveling in their own outlaw, devil-may-care ethos, a mere simulation of their former selves. Kinda makes me glad the Beatles never got back together, that band stays forever young. The Beatles' music remains fully intact, pure, and blemish free.
The Beatles' film catalog is uneven all right, but as musical documents, they're all pretty amazing. A Hard Days Night remains a light romp; the tunes come fast and furious, the Beatles are having a blast. Help hasn't aged as well as a film, but the song sequences are still fantastic, Yellow Submarine is still trippy as all get out, Magical Mystery Tour is mostly awful cinema, redeemed with strong tunes. Let It Be has yet to make it to DVD, but even in the Beatles' twilight, the magic was still there.
If you want to see the Stones at their peak, check out Gimme Shelter, a documentary film covering the last days of their 1969 tour. Scorsese's high-speed editing of Shine A Light doesn't help the film, it just fritters away the band's true grit. Scorsese spends way too much time dishing out close ups of Jagger, and rarely covers the complete band. They're mere backup musicians to the star. That's sad, because the Rolling Stones, even now, are much greater than the sum of its members.