Words By: Gerrod Harris
Release Date: June 29th, 2015, via Universal
Forty-five years after its initial release, The Rolling Stones have rereleased Sticky Fingers, one of their most impressive records. The new release is re-mastered, and is accompanied with a bunch of demos and alternate takes of their classic songs (including “Brown Sugar” featuring Eric Clapton on guitar). However, this is not a review for that because we already know Sticky Fingers is a masterpiece as it continues to be one of the Stones bestselling albums, with a handful of hits which cemented their reputation as one of the finest rock n’roll bands. Instead, this is a review for Sticky Fingers Live, a live album released online from the Stones sold out, surprise gig at Los Angeles’ Fonda Theater. The show took place on the 21st of May this year and was the first time ever that the band performed the entire Sticky Fingers album in full.
Starting off with a slower, but equally intense, opener, “Sway”, the ballad which evokes a swaying feeling as the title suggests, The Stones dig right into the track with much energy and proficiency. Even without visuals, you can hear through the speakers the sheer energy and momentum Mick Jagger carries with him on stage. He may not be the best singer, but no one can sing a Stones song like him, and few can convey such stage presence that it can be felt through a recording. “Wild Horses” is a definite show stopper, demonstrating what Keith Richards has called “ancient form of weaving” and between himself and Ron Wood, the two make one of the best guitar duos. Their parts are nearly indiscernible from each other, and there is no designated lead and rhythm part like most bands would do. Keith has stated in the past, often he would write and record far too many parts. As a result, Wood and Keith are not only seamlessly weaving between each other, but they are instinctively jumping from their own part to another whenever they please, while managing to not step on the other’s toes. This is apparent throughout their entire set, but most notable on tracks like “Wild Horses” and “Brown Sugar”.
On “Sister Morphine” and “You Gotta Move” (originally by bluesmen Mississippi Fred McDowell, and later covered by Aerosmith) The Stones have somehow replicated the drug induced, hazy effect heard on the original recording. In “Sister Morphine”, the acoustic guitar drives the song forward, which a crunchy, and obnoxious electric slide guitar part which comes in from time to time, adding a chilling effect to a song which shifts and sways but remains centred to Charlie Watt’s shuffled beat. Similarly, “You Gotta Move” main motif is a rather haunting acoustic melody, enhanced by an electric which mimics Jagger’s trance inducing vocals.
On a more driving perspective, “Bitch” is performed in great form, with a solo type guitar part played throughout many parts of the song and the horn section really brings the song to life. The signature riff to “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” is played excellently, but most noteworthy is the sax solo during the break down. Written, recorded, and frequently performed by the late Bobby Keys, was played amazingly, veering off from how Keys would play it, and intersected flawlessly with Wood’s soulful solo. The only way this recording would have been better would be if they chose to include their full set, which consisted of a number of other hits (including “Start Me Up” and “Jumping Jack Flash”) along with Sticky Fingers.
The concluding three numbers, “I Got The Blues”, “Moonlight Mile” (the first time this track has been performed live), and “Brown Sugar” capture The Stones at two opposite peaks. The former two of the three, are still, soothing, and masterfully played, the calm before the hurricane that is “Brown Sugar”, where they let everything loose. The crunching riff, solos from the guitars and pianos, and Jagger belting out the anthem, what’s not to love? Often people claim The Rolling Stones to have hit a performance renaissance in the late 1960’s, early 70’s and then once again in the late 70’s, but I would argue they have hit another high stride, fifty-one years after the start of their career. There is a certain wonder to hear such an organic group of highly skilled musicians who play classic material the way they feel like that night. Mistakes and irregularities will be made when a main part of the performance is a constant improvisation on part of the two guitarists, but said mistakes are fewer and farther in between than one would think, and when they happen, it’s almost tasteful, adding to the mystical and mysterious character set by Keith. Along with his guitar work, his rough and grumbly backing vocals perfectly juxtaposed beside the clean and magnificent presence of Jagger. The two titans of classic rock, standing as strong as ever, more than half a century later.
2: Dead Flowers
3: Wild Horses
4: Sister Morphine
5: You Gotta Move
7: Can’t You Hear Me Knocking
8: I Got The Blues
9: Moon Light Mile
10: Brown Sugar