The Rolling Stones | Live At The Wiltern – Blu-ray Disc Review

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At the dawn of the 21st century, the Rolling Stones were everywhere. Their 2002/2003 Licks World Tour, celebrating the band’s 40th anniversary, would keep the show on the road through Nov 9, 2003. A year earlier, the group made a stop in Los Angeles to play an intimate show at The Wiltern for roughly 2,000 lucky fans, many close friends and peers of the Stones. Fortunately, the whole shebang was filmed and recorded, and Live At The Wiltern can now be had on vinyl, CD, DVD, and Blu-ray Disc.

Next to the audio Live Licks set and video Four Flicks package, Live At The Wiltern is the only other keepsake from the 117-show Licks World Tour, and it may well be the top of the crop. This is the Stones in their element, without all the props and nonsense they employ for the big arena and stadium shows. Watching the video, there’s no denying the whole band were untouchably smokin’ hot two months into the long tour.

Mick Jagger is a master master of ceremonies; Keith Richards and Ron Wood engage their instruments like knights in battle; and Charlie Watts stomps out of the skins and the rest of the band like a boss. Call them old then, call them out now — and get schooled on how good they truly are. Tom Petty, Neil Young, Carrie Fisher, and Richard Lewis are all there to see it live because they know this.

Song choice is another plus for Live At The Wiltern. The obligatory hits squarely bookend the setlist, with “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” exploding out of the gate to get the party started, and “Honky Tonk Women,” “Start Me Up” and “Brown Sugar” winding it all down to a lively finish. In between, nuggets like “Live With Me” and “Hand Of Fate” show just how potent deep cuts can be.

“Neighbours” and “Dance, Part 1” remind us that the Stones were churning out decent rock and roll in the early 80s, though dips through “No Expectations” and “Stray Cat Blues” might haven proven a tad more satisfying for prime time connoisseurs. A tribute to their roots includes a randy run through “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love” with the show’s opener, Solomon Burke, along with a swinging, brass-driven stab at Roosevelt Jamison’s “That’s How Strong My Love Is,” which the Stones recorded in 1965, an equally hip-shaking take on Smokey Robison and the Miracles’ “Going To A Go-Go,” and a smooth roll of the blues standard “Rock Me Baby.”

For many, seeing the band tackle a nine-minute “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” may be the highlight of the set. The signature riff carries the song forward, though the background vocals tend to lift the burden, for better or worse. Bobby Keys effortlessly strolls through his famous sax solo, and Ron Wood does his best to fill in on the epic Mick Taylor guitar section (Perhaps a future video of Taylor playing this part during his guest appearances in 2012 is forthcoming). Jagger also jumps into the fray with a riveting harmonica jam that evolves into an irresistible, organic groove. It all ends on a happy note as Watts locks into the final stretch, while the other players get in their shots.

Live At The Wiltern is another stellar edition to the ever-growing catalog of live performances by the Rolling Stones. As they carry on with no end in sight, fans can still cherish these special captures, when it seems like the band could do no wrong. They’re not all expected to be models of perfection. If seeing and hearing the Stones four decades in still moves the dial, who really cares. In 2002, the Rolling Stones were still called the “World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band,” and this set lives up to that claim. Over 20 years later, their reign remains unchallenged.

~ Shawn Perry

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