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  • Gig Review: Come Together: The Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers @ Civic Theatre, Auckland - 21/01/2022

Gig Review: Come Together: The Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers @ Civic Theatre, Auckland - 21/01/2022

23 Jan 2022 // A review by Roger Bowie

Oh man, what a funny old time. Here we are on the brink of climate catastrophe, and another Covid wave which threatens to lock us down if not out, and yet over the past 3 months we have been able to reflect on and enjoy the two song writing partnerships which have arguably defined modern rock. It’s like, so what? There is salvation in looking back, even though we should look up and forward but not down. Walking backwards into the future. Some wise kaumatua said that (but not Bob Dylan).

Music is what touches us from a distance, and, if we access it wisely and always, insulates and immunises us from life’s traumas. Therefore, it is to be greedily consumed, as if life itself depends on it, and so here we are.

Peter Jackson recently brought us 8 bours of unparalleled access to the magic of Lennon/McCartney, even when tired (not forgetting George). And tonight, Simone Williams and Jol Mulholland bring us the magic of Jagger/Richards (not forgetting Charlie and Brian) as we sit down with sticky fingers (where have they been? Did you wash your hands?).

And so here we are, a homage to the Rolling Stones and one of (if not) the greatest albums of their extensive discography, Sticky Fingers, 1971, post Brian, two Micks, Gram Parson influence in the background, The Beatles are no more, less risk, more options, open slather, free hand. And the third of a trilogy which defined The Rolling Stones as more than just a covers band, more than just a blues band, more than Brian who was tragically lost, and more than something which would take its course and soon expire. Of course, we know that now, but we didn’t know then, how much that trilogy of Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed and Sticky Fingers would help define the future of rock, and many of our lives.

Omicron is attacking our artificial borders, there is no moat, it’s a futile effort to buy time already wasted. This could be the last time, it may the last time, I don’t know.

My mate Steven asked me (not understanding the format), who is playing Mick Jagger tonight? Everyone, I reply, but no-one is betting against Jon Toogood opening the batting.

Brown Sugar, Marsha Hunt, slave girl, heroin, how come you taste so good, typically ambiguous introduction to the context of the 70’s. But what an opening song.

Now, let’s articulate the tonight context: Brett Adams, Jol Mulholland, Mike Hall, Matthias Jordan, Finn Scholes, Nick Atkinson, Karen Hu, play the instruments and sometimes sing. Jon Toogood, Luke Buda, Lou’ana, Sam Flynn Scott, Deva Mahal add vocals and sometimes play. What? How does this eclectic group of stars come together? Because they can, because Simone says, because they love it, and thus we have a selection of New Zealand’s finest putting their individual identities aside to come together in homage to the greatest albums of our time.

It's just great joy. And we know the format. Brown Sugar tells us that Sticky Fingers is going to be played straight through, and then the band will just play Stones. And the songs will have different players, and different singers. It’s a team game. It’s a game of love and respect.

You know, who ever said Mick Jagger was a great singer? A good singer, yes, but in the context of Dylan and Cohen. But not a great singer, in the context of McCartney and Mercury and (Jim) Morrison. But here we are tonight seeing a bunch of our finest vocalists (and I hesitate to use the word struggling, but yes, in the tiniest of moments it is a struggle) interpret Mick Jagger, trying to put the Mickey into their larynx, but it is for the most part an interpretation. There are key exceptions. Deva Mahal on the old blues number You Gotta Move takes me way past Mick to my other benchmark, which is Parker Millsap from his 2016 album, which chisels your spine. Deva gets close. And Brett Adams just kills us on Wild Horses and Sister Morphine. Luke Buda does a great campy version of the itinerant soapbox evangelist chasing the girl with the Far Away Eyes (reminding me of the bishop in the not so far away gaol). And Lou’ana brings Billie Holiday to I Got The Blues. And finally, Deva, in the last song, Gimme Shelter, would make Lisa Fisher proud. But that’s not my point. There are no bad singers here tonight. Mick Jagger is a great singer. I said that. And tonight, we know why.

Jon Toogood warms up as the night goes on. But he has the moves like Jagger. Bitch, Start Me Up and Jumping Jack Flash were written for him. He really nails it on Street Fighting Man. Sam Scott and Luke Buda share a bunch of songs like Dead Flowers (who sends dead flowers by the US mail, why not a dead possum?) and She’s A Rainbow. Lou’ana is pristine on Angie and super on You got the Blues, but supreme on Honky Tonk Woman, blowing her nose before blowing your mind. Luke does Miss You in great glamp. Deva gives us Satisfaction and Sympathy. Finn Scholes leaps forward to Paint it Black. Sam Scott gets a little worried about singing Let It Bleed, reflecting on how much the early Rolling Stones lyrics were “gisms.” Ah yes, but if you want to be revisionist and change history with words, or because of words, fill yer boots. You can’t rewrite context. And for me the context is that these songs were simply the soundtrack of my youth.

The band are just awesome. Nicole Amesha Bowie (aged 13) who doesn’t like the Rolling Stones, nudges me several times to say: “Dad, I know that song”. Especially when, in the second half, Matthias Jordan keys up She’s A Rainbow. That’s a big song on Tik Tok. And when the band finish up the extensive outro to Can’t You Hear Me Knocking (which is my favourite cut on the album, and causes man tears to well), Nicole nudges me, “Dad, that was really good.” But the best moment between us was when she says “Dad, is Mick Jagger in the Rolling Stones? There’s a great song about him……” Nicole comes of Stone age tonight.

Ah yes, Brett and Jol duel between Mick Taylor and Keith, Mike Hall is just the epitome of a statuesque Bill Wyman, Nick Atkinson is all Bobby Keys and Matthias Jordan is Hopkins and Stewart and Preston as well as singing a fitting tribute at the end of the first set, once the album is finished, with a song originally written for Brian, but now dedicated to the recently demised Charlie Watts, Shine a Light. Animations appear, little etchings of the men themselves.

Charlie played drums; did you know that? Let me ask you, how often (if you are not a drummer) have you listened to the drumming on Rolling Stones songs? If you are like me, probably not often. Charlie was a jazz drummer. He played nuance, not flair. But he played anchor, and it’s only when you focus do you realise how much of a leader Charlie was from behind. Take Charlie out of the mix, and Mick, and Keef, and Bill, and Mick (Taylor) are just flounders on a beach.

Hey, then how about Karen Hu? She’s on drums tonight, and you don’t take much notice unless you concentrate, mainly at the very end (Gimme Shelter) which is when you go, fuck, this girl is doing Charlie proud. Beat for beat. Anchor. No fuss, no flair. Solid. Hey Mick, if you are having problems with Steve Jordan, I’ll put you in touch with Karen. She’s on LinkedIn.

The songs tonight are anchored in the Trilogy, with a jump back to earlier singles as well as Satanic Majesties Request, and a leap forward to Exile and Some Girls, but no Time Waits For No-one, because it doesn’t, and because You Can’t Always Get Want You Want.

What have I missed? Who have I missed? Ah yes, perhaps the most diversely talented musician on stage. In Simone Williams’ own words, the genius that is Finn Scholes. Percussion, trumpet, voice and all the little pictures on the screen. I kid you not.

What a night for young and old. I’ve run out of superlatives. My well is dry. Wealth and taste. Thank you, Jesus.

Photo Credit: Chris Zwaagdyk @ ZED Pics


Other Reviews By Roger Bowie

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