Rolling Stones: Shine A Light [Blu-ray Review]

Studio: Paramount Pictures

Starring: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Ronnie Wood, Christina Aguilera, Buddy Guy, Jack White III
Directed By: Martin Scorsese

Running Time: 121 minutes
Ratings: Canada – PG, USA – PG-13, UK – 12A

Back Cover

It’s the Rolling Stones – as you’ve never seen or heard them before. This landmark musical event captures all the fire, soul and raw power of the World’s Greatest Rock ‘N Roll Band through the eyes and artistry of Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese. With classic band clips, exclusive behind-the-scenes moments and blistering concert footage featuring special guests Jack White III, Christina Aguilera and the legendary Buddy Guy, this film is destined to be one of the greatest musical experiences of all time!


It is fairly common knowledge that the Rolling Stones are easily one of the greatest Rock N’ Roll bands ever assembled in the history of music. Even those music enthusiasts who dislike the band material can’t argue with this fact. Obviously, Martin Scorsese decided that he needed to try and prove the world right on a subject that they already knew to be true.

Rolling Stones: Shine A Light is the benefit concert performance by the band at the Beacon Theatre in New York city. Not only do we, the viewers, get to see the band in action. We also get to see a bit about what is involved with setting up a show of this caliber. We also get to witness some archival interview footage from the bands past that lends itself nicely to their longevity and popularity. One scene in particular is quite astonishing as a reporter asks Mick Jagger if he could see himself “doing this” at the age of sixty. To which Mick instinctively responds with, “Oh yeah. Absolutely.”

The guest artists are surprisingly enjoyable as well. I found that Jack White III’s voice didn’t quite meld well with Jaggers, but he brought an energy to the stage that made up for it. Buddy Guy surprised me as a man who’s voice sounds so much better than what you would expect from looking at him. And, Christina Aguilera (whom I can’t normally stand) sounded quite good matched with Jagger. I could tell that she refrained from doing too much of her diva “hit every note in my range twice on every bar of music” style. That pleased me. I can’t stand it when they do that!

The composition of the presentation, assembled by Scorsese himself, brings a whole new standard to the practice of capturing live concert footage. With his eye for dramatic and aesthetic imagery, Scorsese never misses a beat when making sure that the viewer is seeing what they want to see. Just as I found myself about to ask for a guitar solo close-up, I was watching one. Just as I found myself about to ask for a wide shot, I was watching one. Just as I found myself about to ask for a facial expression close-up, there it was before me in full Hi-Def glory. Especially impressive is when Scorsese features Keith Richards during his vocal performance. It’s a perfect blend of performance and interview material. Scorsese either truly understands his material and knows exactly how he wants it to be portrayed, or he is the luckiest director of all time! With his history and filmography, I’d put money on skill over luck any day.

The most surprising aspect of this entire presentation for me was the band themselves. Not only are they still tight as ever as musicians working together, but they also seem to perform with the same energy I’ve witnessed in other archive footage that I have seen of them in their younger days. A group of men in their 60’s and 70’s have never been so physically active in my eyes! I never thought that they would still be able to put on a show like this being so advanced in years. I guess it just goes to show that you are only as old as you think you are.

Crave Factor – 10


Supplemental Featurette (15:09) – Presented only in TrueHD, this almost seems like a side project put together by Scorsese because there was so much footage that he simply couldn’t incorporate into the main presentation due to length constraints. The footage covers everything from archival clips, to rehearsal moments for this performance, to ‘making of this film’ footage. The only shortfall to this extra is that it is so short. I was hoping to see more of this material mixed with the concert, a la U2: Rattle & Hum.

Bonus Songs (16:44 as ‘Play All’) – Most interesting thing about these… they can be viewed with either DTS HD MA, TrueHD, or PCM Stereo audio tracks. There is no option to change between the two during playback, but select your preferred audio track on the main menu before activating the bonus song footage. And, I must say that the DTS HD MA track for these songs sound so much better than that of the main feature presentation. Specifically, the bass is far more potent and the treble is not as hot. THIS IS HOW THE CONCERT SHOULD SOUND! As for the songs themselves? I have no idea why they were taken out. Specifically, ‘Paint It Black’ should have been included!

Crave Factor – 9


1.78:1 Widescreen / AVC

This transfer contains a mixed bag of tricks which, when viewed from an artistic point of view, will enhance the viewing pleasure of the presentation. However, video fidelity purists will have a hard time with it. This AVC encode is spectacular at presenting the material as it is meant to be seen. Martin Scorsese’s vision is viewable exactly as it is meant to be seen. Now that that is out of the way, I must explain myself.

The entire presentation is centred around the concert footage captured recently at the Beacon Theatre in New York city. Amidst this footage is spliced archive interview footage from the bands past, along with some concert/filming preparation footage captured through various styles of camera. As a result, the numerous sources provide for a highly varied style of image presentation. The archival footage is exactly as one would expect. Colours are muted and image detail is modest at best with plenty of edge blending and print damage making itself known. The concert/filming preparation footage is mostly black and white. Therefore, colour is not an issue. However, there is plenty of grain and pixilation to drive the hardcore videophile bonkers. Also, the level of detail in this footage is very weak as the blacks are practically non-existent. They all blend together quite voraciously. As for the concert footage? The colours of the concert footage are bang on with skin tones and the rest vividly active on the screen. Black levels are also fairly rich, although I have seen better. Martin Scorsese and his team of cinematographers on this shoot were obviously in consensus on establishing a very specific type of visual quality before filming began. After all, it’s not like you can film concert footage twice in hopes to maintain continuity. This is where many will see problems where there is artistic license at work. The live performance footage contrast seems to be tweaked to the point of always seeming a hint too bright. But, I believe, this was an intentional decision on Scorsese’s part to bring a bit more of a “there in person” feel to the viewing experience. When at a live show with such strong lighting, there always tends to be a slight overpowering of the performers features… which is what happens when image contrast is elevated beyond “the norm.” The advantage to this is obviously a subconscious manipulation of the viewers perception. However, this also creates several moments where artifacting can be noticed through motion blur. With so much movement, it can’t be avoided.

Despite these “flaws” in the presentation, I am still very impressed as Scorsese is not the type to let his presentation be anything other than what he wants it to be in every aspect.

Crave Factor – 9


DTS HD MA 5.1 / Dolby TrueHD 5.1 / PCM Stereo

Like the video, this will be an area where many will have varying opinions. Anytime that both a DTS HD MA and Dolby TrueHD track get pitted against one another, there is likely to be blood shed amongst audiophiles the planet over. Most say there is absolutely no difference between the two codecs on paper and therefore none exists in application. Others fight on the side of TrueHD. Others fight on the side of DTS. In this case, I find a difference between the two and, surprisingly, find merit in both tracks.

The DTS HD MA track which Paramount has included on this release is a very strong and powerful element of the presentation. The track holds a very rich depth that resounds nicely through subwoofer and satellite alike. All instruments come through clearly on the lower end of their frequencies. The midrange is fantastic at representing the live performance. It’s in the high end of this track that there seems to be a hot mix. At times, especially during the very heavy rock offerings near the beginning of the concert, the treble tends to overpower the midrange. It hovers over the edge of the cliff that, if nudged in the slightest, would culminate in distortion. It is a minor distraction though as the full spectrum of instrumentation is so well represented. The wider spectrum of this mix and more prominent audience representation through the rears gives it merit.

The TrueHD track included on the disc is a much more balanced mix, but lacks the full breadth of dynamics of its DTS HD MA compatriot. The subwoofer doesn’t quite punch as nicely, but the treble doesn’t teeter on the verge of distortion either. As for the midrange? I couldn’t hear much difference in regards to it between the two lossless offerings. The better overall balance of this mix gives it merit.

The PCM Stereo track is always a tough one to fit into the equation. PCM always sounds the best of all, but it is only a 2.0 rendition of the material. Therefore, any signal sent to the subwoofer and rear satellites is matrixed from the front left and right signals only. As a result, this track obviously sounds the best, but lacks that extra detail that puts it in contention with the 5.1 lossless tracks.

All three tracks provide a “more than the usual concert” front heavy presentation. Why this was done on Scorsese’s part is beyond my understanding. Perhaps to create an emphasis on the crowd in the rears, thus affecting the “being there” intention of the presentation. Regardless, the lossless tracks seem to incorporate the rear speakers far better than the receiver matrixing the PCM Stereo track.

Crave Factor – 9


The disc menu loads up with a short collection of clips from the presentation footage that leads into a grainy black and white posteresque image of the four band members in action poses. Along the top is a black bar with the title written in an actively changing brightly coloured font. The menu options are located along the bottom of the screen. The entire menu is scored using a clip from one of the concert tracks. Menu transitions are smooth and consistent.

The playback menu functions precisely as the disc menu without the poster image and presentation title.

Crave Factor – 8


What is there not to like about his release? Rolling Stones: Shine A Light on Blu-ray is nothing shy of spectacular. The video quality will not please everyone, but it is represented exactly as it is intended to be. All three audio tracks are very good; although, strangely, the bonus songs contained within the extras sound much better in both lossless formats than the actual presentation. And, the extras aren’t great in number, but they are of top notch quality. Personally, I can’t see how anyone would want to experience this presentation in any other way than on Blu-ray. Unless you don’t have, and don’t plan on getting the necessary equipment for Hi-Def playback, this is the definitive way to experience the Rolling Stones!

Overall Crave Factor – 9

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