The Rolling Stones at IMAX

By Allen Howie

If you've always wanted to see the Rolling Stones in concert, or if you've seen them, but only from row ZZZ, grab $12.50 and head over to the IMAX to catch the boys in glorious, four-stories-tall, state-of-the-art sound. And if $ 12.50 seems high, it isn't. . . because this isn't really a movie. You'll understand what I mean as soon as Charlie Watts settles in behind his drum kit and kicks off "Start Me Up" with a shot that'll leave your sternum humming.

With sound like nothing you've ever heard before and the best seats in the house, Stones fans will enjoy a show like no other. Not only will you hear all your favorites, you'll get a rare chance to see the men behind rock's most infamous group. Even though the film consists almost entirely of concert footage, with almost no backstage shots, the personalities within the band leap off the screen. There's Mick Jagger, every move rehearsed in fine form and always aware of the camera. And Keith Richards, the soul of the Stones, looking for all the world like a kid in a candy store. Watching Keith romp around the stage, tossing off riffs and grinning from ear to ear, is a pure delight.

Ron Wood somehow looks exactly the same as when he was playing with Rod Stewart and throughout the show he displays a spirit of mischief interrupted only by some ferocious guitar work. Drummer Charlie Watts smiles serenely above it all, enjoying what he calls the best job in the world, while a bashful Bill Wyman looks as though he'd be more comfortable pumping out those rock-solid bass lines from somewhere in the back, where no one could see him.

But the film also lets you see just how much of a band these five diverse individuals have become over three decades. Augmented by the Uptown Horns, Chuck Leavell on keyboards and a few miscellaneous supporting musicians, the group delivers ninety minutes of classic Stones. From "Start Me Up," the band leaps into "Sad Sad Sad," then rolls into "Tumbling Dice."

Mick wryly announces, "Now it's time for the romantic interlude," offering a stately "Ruby Tuesday." But the pace picks up again when the band charges into "Between a Rock and a Hard Place" from its Steel Wheels album. Then one of those shivers of instant recognition, as the signature cowbell signals the beginning of "Honky Tonk Woman," with the stage flanked by two enormous inflatable women.

Next up is "You Can't Always Get What You want," complete with French horn introduction, after which Keith steps out front for a gleeful "Happy." Drenched with sweat, that familiar silver skull ring flashing, it's obvious that, more than Mick, Keith is still into this.

But Mick reclaims the spotlight with a vampiric vocal on "Paint It Black." Then comes a suitably bleak "200 Light Years from Home," its digital-palette, "Predator"-style format the evening's sole nod to a video age. This is followed by a primeval "Sympathy for the Devil," with blistering guitar work by Keith, by which point it has become clear that this is still the greatest rock 'n' roll band in the world.

Next up is another in a seemingly endless string of classics, "Street Fighting Man," then Bobby Keys and the Uptown horns weigh in on a crunching, definitive "It's Only Rock and Roll," with Keith beaming and having a ball. Not wasting an ounce of momentum, the band jumps headlong into "Brown Sugar," then closes the show with an encore of "Satisfaction," a fitting choice for what proves to be one of the most satisfying performances you're likely to see.

Although the film is just ninety minutes long, there's a twenty-minute intermission in the middle, due to the fact that the film for this format is so large that it takes two reels, which have to be switched halfway through.

However, the Museum offers movie/concert goers a cash bar and the chance to buy Stones T-shirts, adding to the impression that this is much more than a movie. If you're a Stones fan, grab this chance for the best seat you'll ever have at one of the best shows you'll ever see. The film continues through November at the IMAX Theatre in the Museum of History and Science.