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Classic Albums Live—Sticky Fingers

Review by David Malahoff

Sticky Fingers (photo: ©pixbylorne)In the beginning, it felt like rock and roll church. The congregation gathered at the Confederation Centre. The ceremony was the Classic Albums Live performance of Sticky Fingers, the famous zipper album by the Rolling Stones.

The Classic Albums franchise puts together talented musicians and singers to perform famous albums, track by track, and near to note perfect as possible. It’s not sold as a tribute act or a clone band. It’s all about the music, and duplicating it. If the original recording had a bongo, bell or belch of feedback, then its been noted, charted and included in the live performance. At times, there were ten musicians on stage including cello, violin, piano and horn players, all working to recreate the exact sounds of the Sticky Fingers album. This was serious and studious attention to detail.

The trip through the Sticky Fingers song-list was fun, spirited and sometimes a little odd in its reverence. When the musicians first took the stage, there was no reaction from the audience. Just a slightly awkward silence. The musicians made straight for their instruments, there were some quick tuning strokes on the guitars, a quick nod to the vocalist and then they pounded out the famous one-two chord punch than opens Brown Sugar. They proceeded through each song on the album: Sway, Wild Horses, a roof-lifting version of Bitch, Sister Morphine, Dead Flowers and on it went. And after each song, when the applause died away, there would be a moment of silence in the hall and then the band would launch into its next song. This was not your usual concert interaction between audience and performer. It had its own etiquette.

But back to the music; high points were the gospel blues of You Gotta Move and the extended rock-samba jam on Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’. The first half of the show closed—as does the Sticky Fingers album—with the swirling, dreamy Moonlight Mile.

Church was clearly over when the musicians emerged for the second half of the show. They laughed. They spoke to the audience. They looked relaxed. Then with roaring versions of Satisfaction and Get Off My Cloud it was a changed atmosphere.

There was imagination and courage in the song choices. It would have been easy to stick with the big hits, the warhorses of the Stones catalog, but instead there were unexpected performances of Under My Thumb, She’s A Rainbow and 2000 Light Years From Home. And when it was time for a few songs from Exile on Main Street, they created the evening’s best moments playing Rocks Off, Shake Your Hips, Sweet Virginia, and a show-stopping version of Loving Cup featuring a duet between the lead and backup singers. Through it all they were faithful to the spirit of the original songs and to the spirit of the Rolling Stones but here, at this point in the show, there was a freedom and joy in their performance that was all their own. Even the bass player smiled.

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