The Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers Live at The Fonda Theater 2015 starts off where the Shine A Light film ended, from a theatrical standpoint. It opens with a helicopter shot of North Hollywood CA, the exact place where this tour was rehearsed. The shot pans across Los Angeles, taking in the Hollywood sign, the drive down the Hollywood Freeway, something I’ve waxed poetically on, and then zooms into the Fonda Theater, showing the marquee of the club.
This is The Rolling Stones at their most intimate, up close, warts and all, and there are few warts. You’d think that 44 years after Sticky Fingers was released, there would be less energy, less enthusiasm, and less snarl. But no, there’s nothing missing. Mick Jagger is in top form, spitting out lyrics just like he did back in 1978, with clarity and purpose. There are many out there who love to proclaim that “The Stones are too old, they should hang it up”. Normally I would tell them that they aren’t my target audience and should stop reading now. But in this case, they are part of my target audience. The film was shot just a scant twenty-eight months ago, which can be longer than some bands career. For those who think The Stones are too old, I say “Watch this”.
The band comes onto the stage with no fanfare and launches into Start Me Up. Yes, it’s the same old “warhorse” that the band always starts with, except here, as it was then, this is no tired old predictable song to start a Stones show. The band tears into it with reckless abandon and makes it seem new. In a flash, the band has taken us back to 1981, and subsequently takes the audience back to 1971. I know what you’re thinking, this is coming from the perspective of someone who was there. Or maybe you think this review is just fanboy lit. You’d be wrong on both counts. I wasn’t a huge fan when I attended this concert, but after seeing them from this perspective, I turned into one. Anyway, back to the review…
After watching for a few minutes, you’ll notice that there’s something missing; people holding up cellphones. Also happily absent are the video screens and pyrotechnics that usually accompany a Stones show. This was a gathering of 20 or so of my close friends, some hollywood A-listers, and the few other fans lucky enough to get a seat at this table. Having been front and off-center for this show, I remember it as vividly as if it were yesterday, and they’ve managed to recreate the evening quite well. There are very few overdubs, thanks to the remixing efforts of Bob Clearmountain. There are spots in the film where keyboardist Chuck Leavell has been turned up in the mix, but otherwise it’s pretty close to how it was that night. I’m sure on a much better sound system turned up to 11 the experience will be a lot more immersive. One of the highlights of the film from a musical standpoint for me is “When The Whip Comes Down” which funnily enough wasn’t from the Sticky Fingers album. The Stones absolutely shred this number, using their three-guitar attack to chop it to bits.
There is a smoldering “Rock Me Baby” tribute to B.B. King who had passed shortly before this show took place, and it’s performed low, slow, and slides up and down the neck the way Keith intended it. At many points in the film, there is some fabulous bottleneck slide work by Ron Wood. And speaking of wood (not Wood), there is the point where Keith Richards sits down with his 12-string to play “You Gotta Move”, and he cuts through the number like he’s sawing a log. The number is sharp, clear, and determined. I’ve always admired the acoustic skills of Keith, and if you do too, you’ll be mesmerized at this point.
Saxophonist Karl Denson makes his debut U.S. appearance and does a very adequate job filling the massive shoes of the beloved Bobby Keys, who sadly passed six months before this gig. Denson steps up expectedly for his solo during Can’t You Hear Me Knocking and on the DVD, it’s truer to life than the CD released in 2015 was. I found this DVD to sound slightly better, possibly due to less compression. This was also the beginning of the end for long-time vocalist Lisa Fisher who had been touring with The Stones since 1989 (read my interview with her here at https://thelosangelesbeat.com/2015/09/fifteen-by-two-the-lisa-fischer-interview).
Missing from this DVD are the fan testimonials which were greatly anticipated by those in attendance, but YCAGWYW. There are however some great clips of the band members interspersed amongst the film. At one point, Charlie Watts is asked what his recollections of the cover of the Sticky Fingers album cover are and he can’t remember what it looks like. Charlie actually speaks more than what’s considered normal for him on this DVD, so that alone is worth the cost. The band interviews were conducted on 5/15/2015, five days before the actual show. The genesis of the Sticky Fingers album is discussed as it should be, given that this show was partially meant to promote the recently released deluxe edition of the album, and to promote the tour which commenced on May 24th in San Diego. So technically this was the opening night of the tour, and there are no “opening night jitters” present here.
Overall, the band does much more than they’ve done on any recorded performance that I’ve seen. The enthusiasm of the audience is unmatched, the energy of the band is at its peak, and it belies the fact that this is a band that is fifty three years into their career. The band is currently touring Europe and is expected to return to the stage in 2018.
Track Listing (DVD):
Start Me Up
You Gotta Move
Can’t You Hear Me Knocking
I Got The Blues
Rock Me Baby
Jumpin Jack Flash
All Down The Line
When The Whip Comes Down
I Can’t Turn You Loose
About Ivor Levene
Ivor Levene likes to interview musicians, write about music and musicians, play music, listen to music, read about music, photograph musicians, and anything else you can think of with music. He has been involved with the music scene for over thirty years and his posts have appeared all over the place! Ivor says "I'm going to write about music as long as I have something to say".