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The Rolling Stones – Licked Live in NYC (Mercury Studios/Universal)

24 September 2022

As the Rolling Stones tour in support of the band’s 60th anniversary, this concert film is being re-released from the days when the band had merely 40 years, or “licks,” to their credit and only the late great drummer Charlie Watts was sporting gray hair amongst the band members. The British blues disciples’ 40 Licks tour included shows in stadiums, arenas, and theaters, altering the set list to suit the venue. This January 2003 show was captured at the jewel in any touring band’s crown, Madison Square Garden in New York City.

The program originally aired as an HBO special, but is expanded here to include four songs that were omitted in the 2003 telecast. All four are Stones essentials: “Start Me Up,” “Tumbling Dice,” “Gimme Shelter,” and “Sympathy for the Devil.”

The Stones have released numerous concert films and concert albums of tours since the band began playing stadiums. One of the best reasons to follow them is to hear and see the songs that the band have since retired from set lists. Most of this concert’s fare is composed of Stones staples, but forgotten gems include the jangling “Don’t Stop” (as Ronnie Wood cavorts with a camera mounted to his guitar) from the 40 Licks tour collection and Keith Richards’ feature “Thru and Thru” pulled from Voodoo Lounge and played alongside fan favorite Keef track “Happy.” Mick Jagger lashes into the forgotten howler “If You Can’t Rock Me” from It’s Only Rock and Roll. Background singers Bernard Fowler, Lisa Fischer, and Blondie Chaplin add extra attitude to the saucy mixture.

When the show opens, the band primed and ready for launch, tearing into “Street Fighting Man.” Richards does a youthful kick to start the riff of “Start Me Up,” fueled by Chuck Leavell’s bristling organ and ignited by Wood’s stinging Stratocaster leads.

“It’s great to see you all here looking really beautiful tonight all dressed up,” says Jagger when greeting the crowd for the first time. “You think you’re on TV or something?” Jagger says that maybe the Stones are the kind of fare people are accustomed to seeing on HBO, since the band are like a family. “But we’re not The Sopranos,” he adds, suggesting that the band are more closely aligned to _Sex and the City).

“Monkey Man,” the mighty blues of “Midnight Rambler,” and the 1969 title cut to Let it Bleed join Fischer showcase “Gimme Shelter” to round out a clutch of greasy rockers drawn from the only Stones album to be represented in the set by more than two songs. Watts drives each one with power and style. The vulnerable “Angie” is a tender highlight from Goat’s Head Soup.

“I liked your lungs,” praises Jagger after a particularly potent singalong from the Garden audience. When completing band introductions, Jagger joins hands with Richards and announces that they’re still engaged. After a rowdy “You Got Me Rocking,” Jagger says, “I read in the paper today it’s probably the last time the Stones are playing the Garden. I don’t think so.” True to Jagger’s word, the band would return in 2005 and 2006, in addition to joining the Concert for Sandy Relief in December 2012.

The band brings its early 21st century best to the gig, abetted by key partners including Chicago bassist Darryl Jones. Texan saxman Bobby Keys is highlighted among a group of four brass players on perennial favorites including “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” and “Brown Sugar.” Special guest Sheryl Crow appears to spar with Jagger during “Honky Tonk Women.”

After a blistering “Satisfaction,” the band moves to a small stage in the middle of the Garden to finish the main set surrounded by the audience. The four principals slap hands with fans along the catwalk, but Richards pauses to sign an autograph. The show concludes with a feral encore of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” amid a shower of red confetti. Richards riffs away on his five-string Telecaster while Wood lashes into an electric sitar and Watts keeps swinging. Jagger leads the audience in the room and at home into a final state of euphoria.

Bonus material on the Blu-ray format includes “Star Star” and a loping shuffle through Willie Dixon’s blues standard for Muddy Waters “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” both recorded at an earlier date in Amsterdam. A jam called “Well Well” and a soulful excursion featuring Jagger’s adept blues harmonica dubbed “Extreme Western Grip” are captured during a peek behind the curtain into rehearsals. Backstage footage from a French theater show Jagger and Watts admiring Buddy Guy’s opening set. The 50-minute Tip of the Tongue documentary rounds out a satisfying package for Stones fans.