“We’re going to do something we’ve never done before,” Mick Jagger said early in the Rolling Stones’ not-so-“secret” show Wednesday night at the 1,200-capacity Fonda Theatre in Hollywood to launch the group’s 2015 Zip Code tour.
You wouldn’t think the “world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band,” 50-plus years down the line, would have much left to accomplish (or at least attempt to accomplish), but this was the Stones' first time playing one of their albums in its entirety. Crossing that off the bucket list, the band ripped through all 10 songs from their watershed 1971 album “Sticky Fingers” live. A rep confirmed to the Times that Wednesday night will be the only night the Stones will play the album in its entirety.
Unsurprisingly, nobody groused that the Stones were simply engaging in a savvy marketing move to sell more copies of the recently remastered edition of “Sticky Fingers,” the album that gave the world “Brown Sugar,” “Dead Flowers,” “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” “Wild Horses” and a half-dozen others.
The album, and the live presentation of the songs — albeit not in their original order — harkened back to a time when the Stones were indeed still dangerous, still menacing, still dancing with the devil, in dark set pieces such as “Moonlight Mile” and, especially, “Sister Morphine.”
“You might hear some ‘60s drug references,” Jagger said before he and his longtime band mates delved into the darkness of that life-denying workout.
“That’s a bit of a downer song,” he added at the end of "Morphine," “and there are more to come. It must have been a down period.”
Yet, if the early ‘70s did constitute some rough going for the Stones — emotionally, physically, financially -- Wednesday’s show was characterized more by the broad smiles Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards flashed often, along with some faux-menacing mugging from guitarist Ron Wood, while cool-as-ever drummer Charlie Watts nonchalantly powered the whole rock juggernaut for a muscular 90 minutes.
Jagger himself was impressively animated, prancing and preening in his signature style, twisting, contorting and shimmying his still-lithe body in ways that seemed to belie his 71 years. All quips aside about septuagenarian rockers being better suited to walkers, the Rolling Stones, as ever, once again gave vibrant testament to the fountain-of-youth magic of rock ‘n’ roll.
The lineup: Jagger, Richards, Wood and Watts, bassist Darryl Jones and touring keyboardist Chuck Leavell, supplemented at the Fonda by a pair of sax/woodwind players, two singers and an additional keyboardist. Orange County-born saxophonist Karl Denson has stepped in for Texas tenor player Bobby Keys, who died in December. Keys was a vital cog on the Stones machine when they made "Sticky Fingers," and Denson largely stuck to Keys' signature solos that contributed so colorfully to "Can't You Hear Me Knockin'" and "Brown Sugar."
All onstage parties seemed to genuinely revel in the relatively cozy environs of the great indoors, which counterbalances the wide-open spaces they’ll be visiting starting Sunday at San Diego’s 42,000-capacity Petco Park baseball stadium.
“It’s great to be back in L.A.—it’s been couple of years,” Jagger said at one point. “A little bit smaller than Staples Center,” referencing the previous tour’s most recent stop in L.A. proper.
The group has periodically launched tours with similarly intimate shows. Two years ago it was the 700-capacity Echoplex in Echo Park. A decade earlier, for their Licks tour, they built a 117-date world tour around a mélange of appearances at clubs, small theaters, amphitheaters, arenas and stadiums, with L.A. stops at the Wiltern Theater on one end of the excursion and Dodger Stadium at the other.
At the Fonda, the Stones attempted to avoid the commonplace sea of cellphones, requiring fans to leave cameras and smartphones at home or check them at the door.
"It feels so good not to have my phone," one compliant fan was overheard telling a friend.
Still, a smattering of concert-goers managed to sneak their devices in, snapping photos or trying to take video footage surreptitiously.
“Wouldn’t it be so much better to remember this show in your heads and in your hearts than on your iPhones?” one of the band’s crew announced just before the show kicked off with “Start Me Up,” which segued into “When the Whip Comes Down,” then “Exile on Main Street’s” “All Down the Line” and then the “Sticky Fingers” songs.
Jagger-Richards & Co. also once more indulged their youthful passion for American blues and R&B at the show’s end. Following a tribute performance of "Rock Me, Baby" in honor of the late B.B. King, who died at 89 last week at his home in Vegas, they closed out with Otis Redding’s “Can’t Turn You Loose,” which has one of the most infectious guitar-bass-drums-saxophone vamps ever committed to vinyl.
The Times will have an in-depth review of the Stones’ full-fledged production next week following the Petco Park show.
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