Picture the scene. Mick grouses, fixates, slithers his hips and generally Jaggers. Keith flaps his hands, looks perpetually amused by his survival and generally Keefs. Marty flaps and tries to prise the prized set list out of Jagger’s clenched fist… then Joe Pesci struts in, barks “You nicotine fuck!” at Keef and mutters obscenities about Mick’s “mockney mulch fuck bullshit…”
Not all the above is true, but the Strolling Bones do verge on some “geritocratic” Stella Street self-satire as Scorsese’s gig flick opens. Mick criticises the stage design like Nigel Tufnel attacking a sandwich bar. Keef louches about like some dad-snorting panto dame. Once the show starts, you don’t get what you might want from a Scorsese rock pic, either. This is a straight gig shoot, albeit featuring Spinal Tap-ish archive interludes and a seemingly exclusive crowd, ranging from the Clintons (“Hallooo, Dorothy,” coos Keef to Hilly’s mum) to a suspiciously photogenic front row.
Thing is though, Scorsese is on home turf. The gig happened in New York, ’06. The Stones have rocket-fuelled Marty’s macho movie-myths, from Johnny Boy’s ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ sashay in Mean Streets, to the blues-rock whiplash of ‘Gimme Shelter’ in The Departed. The man knows his music: he co-edited Woodstock, directed The Last Waltz, explored His Bobness… Clearly, Marty’s the guy for a Stones gig.
And he cuts it. As the show starts with “a crossfire hurricane” – of course – the kinetic camerawork nails every single riff’n’wriggle, every inch of a cartoonish but still iconic inter-band dynamic.
Keef borrows passing band-mates to lean on, violates every US smoking law and grins like a man enjoying some life-long private joke. Ronnie Wood drips music: when Mick asks if he can play the pedal-steel, you think, well, derrr!. Charlie Watts, meanwhile, remains the rock to Ron’n’Keef’s roll, stone-solid as set peaks like ‘Tumbling Dice’ peel the years away.
And Mick? Take a deep breath. Once he’s bull-charged the stage, Jagger doesn’t stop. For a second, after a decadent ‘Sympathy For The Devil’, he looks like he’s carked it… then he grins as if to say, “Fooled ya, innit!” and starts again. Should he be singing ‘Some Girls’ at his age? (Should anyone?) Or grinding into guest-singer Christina Aguilera like that? Maybe not, but props to the man. He works so hard that even renowned street-fighting man-cum-guest star Jack White looks cowed.
If there is a Scorsese signature here, it shines on Mick. As cameras caress his elastic-band frame and every twitch in that lined, focused, intense face, we could be watching Travis Bickle or Max Cady at work.
Between Mick’s intense devotion to his calling and Marty’s obsessive energy, this pair’s tight subtextual bond ensures that two hours in their company flies by. Get yer wrinklies off.
Scorsese's concert movie feels like easy rolling on the surface, but look closer and it's an impeccably shot snapshot of a band taking their calling to its limit, from a director who knows that kind of fixation. No moss on 'em.