The Rolling Stones
Sticky Fingers — Live at the Fonda Theatre 2015
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Subtitled “From the Vaults,” no one had to dig far in those seemingly bottomless Rolling Stones archives to unearth this performance from a mere two years ago. Meant to capitalize on an expanded reissue of the Stones’ 1971 classic Sticky Fingers (in “deluxe” and “super deluxe” editions), the boys hit the comparatively intimate Fonda Theatre in Hollywood to knock out every track from the disc for the first and likely last time ever live.
While there is no shortage of available live versions for “Brown Sugar,” “Bitch,” and “Wild Horses,” this was a rare opportunity for the band to revisit some pretty great tunes that seldom if ever made it to their set lists in the 45 years since Sticky Fingers’ release. Under-the-radar tracks like “Sister Morphine,” “Sway,” “I Got the Blues” and especially “Moonlight Mile,” all key elements of the occasionally moody album, were just too dark and slow for the caffeinated, high energy razzle-dazzle gigs the Stones deliver. The smaller venue and a relatively stripped down presentation (no fancy lights, pyrotechnics or background projections) helped deliver these seldomly performed gems with unusual warmth.
The five piece, augmented by two saxes, two background singers (who could have taken the night off), and Chuck Leavell’s keyboards charge through Sticky Fingers’ ten selections, notably not in their running order, in front of a specially invited audience clearly in sync with the concept. The 80 minute concert is rounded out with oddities such as a tribute to B.B. King (“Rock Me Baby”) who had recently passed, Otis Redding’s sped up version of “I Can’t Turn You Loose” (both infrequently performed), “All Down the Line,” “When the Whip Comes Down,” and favorites “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Start Me Up.”
Everyone, both on stage and off, seems to be enjoying themselves. Ron Wood does an admirable job reproducing guitar lines he had no part in originally creating, Keith is energized and Mick keeps his sometimes insufferable, crowd pleasing moves in check as he works a far smaller setting than the stadiums the Stones frequent. He’s in good spirits and a cheeky mood too as he jokingly promises to recreate Their Satantic Majesties Request album next year.
The two disc package includes a DVD featuring interviews with each member alone, in stark, stylized black and white, weighing in on everything from late saxist Bobby Keys to the background details of the songs. While it breaks up the rhythm of the show (they are not listed as chapters, so you can’t skip them), the information is interesting and none will tax your patience. The audio CD, oddly with a different running order, smartly eliminates these segments.
The surround audio, especially on Blu-ray, is crisp, beautifully mixed and seemingly not overdubbed to fix errors, the camera work is subdued yet effective, and the relatively smaller stage brings out the best in the band. If you’re a Stones fan of any longstanding, this is a must-own set if only because of the rarely performed cuts. Sure, there is plenty of Stones live DVD footage out there, but this now takes its place near the top of that bulging heap.