For years bands have been playing classic albums in their entirety in concert as a way to entice fans to their shows. One notable exception to this has been The Rolling Stones -- until now. The band began their 2015 American Zip Code tour at Hollywood's Fonda Theatre, a tiny venue for the Stones. That's nothing new as the group has traditionally played smaller venues to begin tours or as nice surprises for fans during their tours. What was new was that they performed their classic album, Sticky Fingers, in its entirety for the first and, as of now, only time. The show was filmed and makes up the excellent new Blu-ray/CD set, The Rolling Stones from The Vault -- Sticky Fingers Live At The Fonda Theatre 2015.
The show opens with "Start Me Up" and one can tell from the opening notes that the electricity in the venue energizes the band, particularly Mick Jagger. While Jagger regularly makes giant venues seem like small clubs, actually seeing him perform in a small venue is a sight to behold as he commands the stage. Guitarists Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood are in fine form throughout and even drummer Charlie Watts manages to crack a smile or two.
While the CD presents the show in order, with killer performances of "When The Whip Comes Down" and "All Down The Line" following, the Blu-ray includes those songs, as well as set closer "I Can't Turn You Loose" as bonus tracks. This puzzling sequencing doesn't take away from the enjoyment of the show however as the Stones bring it from the first note to the last. For fans who think they are past their prime or too old, they clearly have not seen a recent Stones show as this is a band that, when it wants to be, is pretty untouchable at what they do.
The Sticky Fingers portion of the show follows and, unlike other bands, the group rearranges the song order to flow better in concert. "Sway" opens the proceedings with Jagger in fine voice and Wood doing a spot-on Mick Taylor impression on lead guitar. While Taylor had performed at a number of Stones shows in recent years, he was not present at this one. Nevertheless, Wood brings his A game. The song is payed slightly faster than the studio version, but it loses none of its potency.
A number of interviews with the band's members are interspersed throughout the concert, thankfully in between the songs and not over them. Topics discussed include who exactly is pictured on the album's infamous front cover to the album's numerous drug references to Wood's reverence for and friendship with Taylor.
"Dead Flowers" finds Jagger on acoustic and Wood on telecaster, playing his best country licks. Richards' harmonies, while ragged, make the song. The Stones sound like the Stones when he (and Wood) sings with Jagger, not to take anything away from backup vocalists Bernard Fowler and Lisa Fischer. Seldom-played songs such as "You Gotta Move" shine here, with Richards on acoustic 12-string slide guitar. The band seems to be reveling in the fact that they can play some of these deeper cuts over the warhorses traditionally found in their set and Jagger takes an opportunity to extend the sing-along part with the very enthusiastic crowd.
The band offers a killer 'Can't You Hear Me Knocking" that allows saxophone player Karl Denson, replacing the late Bobby Keys, to shine. Jagger mentions during the interview segment that he loves when the Stones venture into unfamiliar territory, such as the semi-Latin/Jazz feel of the second part of "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" and can make it work.
As B.B. King, one of the band's mentors, had passed away roughly a week before this show, the band delivers a killer "Rock Me Baby" in tribute before going into a sizzling "Jumpin' Jack Flash" to close out the main portion of the Blu-ray. A fun cover of "I Can't Turn You Loose" follows on the CD and as a bonus track on the Blu-ray to officially end the proceedings.
The show is filmed in 1080i High Definition 16:9 and looks fantastic. Audio options include LPCM Stereo and DTS-HD Master Audio. The sound is full and every instrument clear.
Sticky Fingers is one of the greatest rock and roll albums recorded by any band. To see The Rolling Stones deliver it live with this much passion, especially at this stage of their careers and in such a small venue, is a treat for the viewer and, especially those who were lucky enough to attend. Highly recommended for fans of the band.