Now a grandpa himself, the indefatigable musician and punchline to a boatload of tedious age-related and post-apocalyptic zingers, explores his lifetime mission of making musical echoes and incredible rock ‘n’ roll in Keith Richards: Under the Influence.
However…For a guy who’s been a rock fixture for going on 5 decades, there aren’t many deep deposits left to drill.
So why bother at this point?
Director Morgan Neville (Best of Enemies: Buckley vs. Vidal) sagely focuses less on the war stories (the bulk of which are pretty well known to Stones fans — the shame Keith felt when busted for heroin, the dust-up with Chuck Berry, the shock the band experienced south of the Mason-Dixon line in their early days) and zooms a camera in on the gnarled hands of the guitar phenom.
However, this gets a bit old if you’re not a wholly invested fanboy…or…fan grandpa (this site’s contribution to the bad ageism yuks).
In this reviewer’s opinion, the Rolling Stones, both as a creative force and especially as a live act, are more vinegar than fine wine at this point, with their last serviceable album, 1981’s Tattoo You, released decades ago. And that’s not to downplay the incredible stamina of Mick, Keith’s underrated guitar prowess, and Charlie’s unique drumming.
Keith Richards: Under the Influence is a pretty standard 12-bar stomp.
It’s basically Classic Albums / Behind the Music stuff, with a few highlights: Keef shooting billiards with Buddy Guy, impromptu Jamaican horn jams with band-mates Waddy Wachtel and Steve Jordan. There’s also a terrific bit where we get to hear Richards tinkling the ivories (“pianos are laid out like a chess game” in front of you).
The film really comes alive when we hear about how Street Fightin’ Man and Sympathy for the Devil were recorded, and when Keith visits the Grand Ole Opry. Still, at 81 minutes, it seems long.
**3/4 (out of 5)