The Rolling Stones: Live at the Wiltern Blu-ray Review: 20 Licks Up Close and I Like It

To commemorate the band’s 40th anniversary in 2002, the Rolling Stones released Forty Licks, notable among the many Stones compilations for being the first to collect songs recorded before and after their split from manager Allen Klein in 1970. In conjunction, there was a tour that saw the band playing stadiums, arenas, and theatres. In 2004, they released Live Licks, a live album that captured 23 songs from that tour.

Buy The Rolling Stones: Live at the Wiltern

Now 20 years later, the Rolling Stones are releasing Live at the Wiltern, a companion piece that presents their theatre show in Los Angeles on November 4, 2002, a few days after having played Staples Center, and Edison International Field down in Anaheim. Of the 20 songs played at the Wiltern, 10 appear on Live Licks, but I don’t know if those 10 are the same performances as what’s here.

Before the lights come down, Tom Petty and Neil Young and Carrie Fisher are shown seated in the balcony. They join 1,800+ lucky Stones fans in seeing the band’s only career appearance at the Wiltern. Thanks to the Stones and Mercury Studios, the rest of us now have an opportunity to travel back in time to see the career-spanning, genre-crossing set, which shows how singer Mick Jagger, guitarist Keith Richards, guitarist Ron Wood, drummer Charlie Watts (1941-2021) joined by bassist Darryl Jones, keyboardist Chuck Leavell, saxophonist Bobby Keys (1943-2014), and backing vocalists Lisa Fischer, Bernard Fowler and Blondie Chaplin earned the title of “the greatest rock and roll band in the world.”

They open with their classic hit single from 1968, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” which still proves to be “a gas, gas, gas” and gets the joint jumping right from Keith’s opening notes. Rather than the typical hits-heavy set list they usually deliver, these theater shows were intended to be more diverse and intimate so they could bring out the deep cuts, such as “Live With Me” and “Hand of Fate.” On “No Expectations” from Beggars Banquet, Jagger joins in on acoustic guitar as Wood plays acoustic slide guitar, which founding member Brain Jones played on the original. Some of the tracks are so deep, Mick confesses he doesn’t know what record “Dance, Part 1” is from. (The answer is Emotional Rescue, but I had to look it up.)

About midway through the set, they do a few covers, starting with Solomon Burke’s “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love,” which appeared on The Rolling Stones No. 2 (1965). Burke, who was this evening’s opener, briefly joined the performance. They followed up O. V. Wright’s “That’s How Strong My Love Is,” recorded for Out of Our Heads (1965), and the Miracles’ “Going to a Go-Go,” recorded for the live album, Still Life (1981).

After band introductions, Richards sings lead vocal on a couple songs and does such a good job, it makes one ponder an entire set of him leading this band. He also digs deep, treating the audience to the soulful “Thru and Thru” from Voodoo Lounge and the reggae-tinged “You Don’t Have to Mean It” from Bridges to Babylon.

Jagger returns for the extended jam that is the rollicking “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking”. The band pays tribute to their blues roots with a cover of “Rock Me Baby,” a standard made famous by B.B. King. The remaining quarter of the concert sees the Stones ripping the joint up as they deliver rocking classics, such as “Bitch,” “Brown Sugar,” and encoring with “Tumbling Dice.”

Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, the show was recorded in standard definition. Colors and blacks under bright white stage lights look good, but diminish under colored lights. The image isn’t sharp and the farther back the camera gets, such as from the balcony, the worse the picture looks. There was a tough of banding from the lights and smoke. The audio is available in DTS-HD MA 5.1 and LPCM 2.0. The vocals sound clear and don’t get drowned in the arrangement. The bass is solid and not over powering and the horns sound bright.

The Rolling Stones: Live at the Wiltern is available on DVD + 2CD; Blu-ray + 2CD, 2CD, 3LP (3 variants: Black, Gold (D2C Exclusive), and Black & Bronze Swirl (Amazon Exclusive). Surprised there’s not red for this ruby anniversary, but no matter the format, I strongly recommend this performance. The Stones and company deliver a great performance that fans of all stripes should appreciate, especially those that have seen a few of their concerts as the varied setlist is a wonderful bonus because they don’t often dig as deep into their vast discography as they do here.

Gordon S. Miller

Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of this site. "I'm making this up as I go" - Indiana Jones

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