You can’t suppress a tinge of regret that The Rolling Stones’ version of a new release to support their continuing stage activity is actually 44 years old. But, while they conduct the traditional dance around the subject of making a new album, the Sticky Fingers era is fertile ground for excavation.
Universal’s deluxe reissue of the original album is available in a bewildering number of formats, all depending on just how much of a pounding your wallet can take. The deluxe edition features excerpts of the band’s concert at the Roundhouse from the period; the super deluxe has the whole of the Leeds University gig and a DVD with two tracks from this Marquee Club show that ended the 1971 tour, before they exiled themselves in the south of France. But the full audio-visual experience of that night in Wardour Street is only to be had on Eagle Rock’s new DVD, the latest in the From The Vault series of vintage performances being officially released for the first time.
Stones-watchers will be familiar with this celebrated gig in the intimate confines of the London club, and the climate of creativity that had Mick Taylor now fully established both on the tour and the album, not just as Keith Richards’ guitar foil but often as an authoritative lead player.
From a technical perspective, the visual quality here is sharp, superior to several previous releases of recent years. With the caveat that the filming of rock gigs in the early 70s had none of the sophistication we now expect, there are at least a few different camera angles and vantage points, and plenty to keep the devotee visually occupied. It’s a shame not to get more of a glimpse of what Melody Maker described as a “small but elite” audience, who seem to be at a distance from the stage, unusually for what one remembers of the old Marquee.
The sense of occasion is also somewhat diluted by a matter-of-fact performance, but that’s just the way the Stones rolled at the time; Jagger looks the part in a glittery half-top and Richards is comfortingly bedraggled, but there’s barely any communication with the crowd beyond the song introductions.
All of that said, it’s a rock-solid Stones on show here, with Taylor playing some shimmering lead runs, notably on Dead Flowers; Richards in steady if unspectacular form, Messrs Watts and Wyman the definitive rhythm section and an impossibly angelic-looking Bobby Keys in several starring roles, including a soulful I Got The Blues. In a made-for-the-camera show, there are two alternate takes of that number, which they hadn’t been playing on that farewell UK tour, two more of Bitch and the endlessly-aired version of Brown Sugar from Top Of The Pops, on which the band are miming to the record but Jagger sings an invigoratingly live vocal.
Even then, the whole DVD comes in at just over an hour, but then an hour with this band, in this form, is worth two or three with anyone else.