The Rolling Stones: Live At The Wiltern

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Live at the Wiltern: The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones: Live at the Wiltern DVD/2CD set from Mercury Records captures the Stones back in 2002 (egads, 22 years ago!) when they were supporting their “40 Hot Licks” compilation album. It opens into a 4-way sleeve with a picture of each member on the inside of each section along with a nice booklet insert with very good liner notes to bring you up to speed (or is it back in time?) to the time of the concert.

The concert differs in several ways from the normal Stones live album/concerts in recent years. Instead of being played in front of tens of thousands of fans in some huge outdoor arena, this concert is performed in front of about 2,500 fans…and one could considerate a star-studded audience concert at that with the likes of Neil Young, Sheryl Crow, Johnny Depp, Richard Lewis, Tom Petty, Stephen Stills, and Eddie Murphy to name a few in attendance. In fact, Mick even makes fun of the fact that there were so many famous people in the audience (well, famous and still alive 22 years ago). It differs also in that most of the 21 songs played here, unless you are/have been a huge Stones fan, won't be ones you would easily recognize. I find this thoroughly refreshing! I love me some live Stones and have seen them many times as well as have several live albums, CDs, and DVDs spanning the decades, and to hear a set with songs I haven’t heard live before or in many many years was invigorating, to say the least.

They play songs off of “Some Girls”, “Beggars Banquet”, “Let It Bleed”, “Black and Blue”, “Exile On Main Street”, “Sticky Fingers”, “Tattoo You”, and “Voodoo Lounge” and maybe some others that my memory has forgotten; in any case, as you can see and hear, they just didn’t settle for songs off of two or three albums. Sometimes when you listen to a set of songs where you're familiar with all of them, you find yourself comparing them to other versions you’ve heard rather than just listening to them for their own merit and enjoyment…here with this set, I was hit not with that feeling but instead “wow, I haven’t heard this song in 20 years” or “I have never heard this live before”; this really invigorated my listening experience as I listened to the songs on the CDs play out before me between my speakers. The sound was clear and the soundstage laid out in front of me like a blanket…I could pick out everyone should I choose to.

My favorites of all of the songs on this set are “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love”, an old-school rocker they used to open up with years ago, here because Solomon Burke comes out and sings with Mick! A fun song and better on the DVD because you can actually see Burke strut out on stage big as life…great sound and great visual (a solid reason why I say you need to not only listen to the CDs but also watch the DVD)…they tear it up! “That’s How Strong My Love Is”, a slower Otis Redding number that Mick and the band do a fabulous job of…the Stones‘ horn section here and throughout the album, for that matter, is in top form, especially the sax playing of the late great Bobby Keys! If I was to say the one thing that the DVD gives you that the CDs can’t convey is that on it you can revel in the way the band interacts with each other on the stage, especially watching Keith play his guitar…and I mean “play” it…there are few if any other guitar players out there that can work a guitar with the sheer coolness and style the way that he does…from watching him strum chords up on the neck of the guitar to the animated arm swings and body movements…no one else does it better and you need to see him do it to appreciate it…and the DVD does it so well here…filmed beautifully and so clearly you can even see Keith’s (and Ronnie’s) individual guitar strings from several feet away!

And believe me I take nothing away from Ronnie’s playing; he’s exceptional here as always and seeing him interact with Keith and the rest of the band is great….and what can I say…It was heartwarming to see Charlie behind the drum kit again….another case where you can remind yourself and ask “who can do it better than him?” Another is “Brown Sugar”, in my opinion, one of the greatest Stone’s songs (nay anybody’s songs) that gets the audience pumped and involved…so sad they bowed to the few woke people in the world who for some reason deemed this a derogatory song in nature…so sad…especially so since Lisa Fischer is an American of African descent (I don’t refer to anyone as a Black, White, Asian, or Hispanic American…we are ALL just Americans) and she was right up there center stage singing alongside Mick having a wonderful time working the crowd along with him…At least the song is splendidly captured here (as well as among many other albums) so all can enjoy and experience one of the greatest Rock and Roll songs whenever you want to.

The concert concludes with 4 of their more familiar hits and brings to a close a wonderful snapshot of the band as they were over 2 decades ago. The CDs sound wonderful and the DVD picture quality is exceptional to boot. It was refreshing to see them play the smaller venue with no big screen behind them or stage props (in fact, the only special visual effect you see are the stage lights and red confetti from the ceiling at the close of the concert)…It was good also to see “old friends” playing with the band again that have passed on through the years since the concert as well as those greats who are still with us but maybe not playing with the band anymore like Lisa Fischer and Chuck Leavell.

Once again, I take my hat off to Mercury Studios for bringing to us a musical moment in history that captures the greatest Rock and Roll band ever at yet another moment in their storied history that allows both old and new fans the opportunity to hear and see why not just I but most of the world probably considers the Stones the greatest band ever!