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Could do so much better...
on 5 January 2009
There's a handful of good bits in this (if you will) rockumentary, over which 'All Down The Line' from 1971's 'Exile on Main Street' stands head and shoulders; it's taut, driven and completely fabulous, and reminds you why the Stones were was once considered the planet's greatest rock and roll band - and, unfortunately, when they were last considered genuinely vital, in both senses of the word. In addition, there's a great cameo from Buddy Guy, who stalks on stage and immediately looks like the real deal, shouting, singing and playing up a storm, reminding people what the blues sound like and making Sir Mick seem suddenly lightweight (though in fairness he does play some pretty decent harmonica on the song in question). There's Keith singing 'You've Got The Silver' with some feeling, backed up by Ronnie's better-than-efficient slide. Interesting that it's one of the few times in the film when the Stones look and sound like a band (rather than journeyman backup to a barely-tolerated frontman).
Unfortunately there's an awful lot of bad stuff. To name but some: Jagger's endless prancing and queening and shaking his scrawny tush about (OK, you're 65, Mick, we get it) Keith still doing his smoking thing and looking (I can't take the credit for this, unfortunately) like something that's been pulled out of Brian May and Anita Dobson's plughole. Ronnie still looking like the hired hand after 30 years or whatever it is, Charlie looking like he's all ready to smack Mick one (again) at any time.
Most of the playing is average-to-deplorable. 'Faraway Eyes' in particular is an almost unlistenable combination of Jagger's 'singing' (for which, on this song at least, 'mannered' is too small a word) and Ronnie's pedal steel (which he plays, or rather tortures, like a man who'd only been introduced to the instrument in the dressing room). Lots of really duff songs ('She Was Hot', I ask you....). Pointless cameos by Jack White and Christina Aguilera. Gushing encounters with Bill Clinton. And Hillary. And Hillary's Mum. Very rock and roll, I'm sure. Pointless and randomly introduced archive clips, most of which are tediously familiar. Fatuous 'what's the setlist' drama at the start to give Marty 'di Bargi' Scorsese something to emote over.
To say it's a curate's egg would be a kindness. Why is nearly all Rolling Stones output like this? Too many egos involved (and that of the knight of the realm in particular) perhaps? Avoid, and try instead to track down a copy of 25x5 which will remind you that there was once a really great band here, and one which could still, even at this late stage, do so much better.