The first time you play Shine a Light, avoid checking the set list. Let each song surprise you. You’ll ask, “Hey, isn’t that the intro to ‘Some Girls’? No way — ‘Far Away Eyes’? WTF, ‘All Down the Line’?” Like Bob Dylan, the Stones thrive onstage by celebrating the thrill of rediscovery — you can hear them seize forgotten gems from deep in their torn-and-frayed past or open up new pleasure zones in songs you figured they’d already played to death. Like any live Stones album, this one is about the World’s Greatest Rock & Roll Band rediscovering how great they are.
Shine a Light is the soundtrack to the Martin Scorsese concert film, catching the Stones at two New York shows in 2006, one with Bill Clinton in the house. (Maybe that’s why they did”Some Girls”?) It documents the Stones on a historic roll, reveling in their mastery. Jack White duets with Mick Jagger on “Loving Cup,” while Buddy Guy jams on the Muddy Waters oldie “Champagne and Reefer.” Christina Aguilera sings on “Live With Me,” but she misses all the humor. Too bad Britney wasn’t there instead — it would have been fun to hear her dish with Mick about “nasty habits.” Jagger’s comic timing in “Some Girls” and “Shattered” is as limber as his hips; when he splutters, “American girls want everything in the world,” it sounds like a fresh memory. He does a surprisingly autumnal “As Tears Go By” and a soulful “Tumbling Dice.” As for Keith Richards, he sounds sublimely ravaged in “You Got the Silver,” “Little T & A” and “Connection.” (After that one, he tells the crowd, “Guess you know the feeling, right?”) When the Stones lock into classics like “Brown Sugar” and “Satisfaction,” it’s gravy. But the weirdest emotional highlight is “She Was Hot,” a long-forgotten groupie tale from 1983’s Undercover — the Stones rescue the melancholy melody and build it up into an ode to nostalgia, regret and loneliness, with Jagger yelping for salvation and Charlie Watts banging away. It’s a bold stroke from a live album that’s full of them.