Jacob Mendez
Jacob Mendez

The Rolling Stones played at the Wiltern for lucky people. How did the concert come about?

The Rolling Stones they performed at the Wiltern during the tour “Licks World Tour”, which took place in 2002-03, when they celebrated their 40th anniversary. The release was published by Mercury Studios and contains not only music, but also a film recording of the concert, which – for the Stones – was very intimate.

The album will feature 20 songs spanning the band’s entire career, including: “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”, Beast of Burden”, “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking”, “Honky Tonk Women”, “Start Me Up”, “Tumbling Dice”as well as some very rarely performed pieces, such as “Stray Cat Blues,” “No Expectations” and “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love”performed on stage together with the co-author of this hit, Solomon Burke.

On the occasion of the album’s premiere, he wrote an essay Paul Sexton, an author who has been interviewing band members for about 30 years. The writer is also the author of a biographical book “Charlie plays well today. Life, times and the Rolling Stones” about Charlie Watts.

“Club concerts of the best band in the history of rock’n’roll always have something electrifying about them. The principle of ‘less is more’ applies when stadium idols appear in a more human form, at your fingertips. For the lucky ones who can then watch from up close , a night like this with the Stones is even more special. Such an event took place on November 4, 2002 at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles. Now we can all recreate this experience.

The Licks tour included a celebration of the band’s 40th anniversary and promoted the ’40 Licks’ compilation. It started in the summer in Boston. The band also performed a concert at the Palais Royale in Toronto. The rehearsals lasted several weeks. “It was one of the hottest concerts I remember,” recalls Mick Jagger. “A real attempt to survive the heat. 35 degrees and terrible humidity.”

Due to Mick’s suggestion, the ‘Licks’ tour schedule was a mix of stadium and arena concerts and a few more intimate dates. Few people can afford such a mixture. They creatively deviated from standard tour logistics. Together with their diligent technical crew, the Stones traveled around the world with three sets of elements necessary for production. Setlists were selected to suit the conditions and size of the facility. The group selected from a total of 120 prepared songs for the tour.

In a conversation just before Licks started, Ronnie Wood told me about the set list’s good fortune: “We’ve prepared a lot of surprises and solid research for each of these shows. We’ve prepared with all of ‘Exile On Main St.,’ almost all of ‘Some Girls,’ and ‘Black and Blue’. Give me the name of the song, from ‘Beggars Banquet’ onwards. We went really wide.”

“We couldn’t do predictable shows,” Ronnie continues. “We needed the opportunity to surprise the audience. We tested several such tricks in Toronto and they all passed the test. We can go a step further, into the unknown, people will like it. We gave ourselves more space and freedom.”

“One of the reasons we’re doing this is to create something interesting for our audience and for the band itself. I have to think much more about setlists than I used to,” Jagger said about preparations for the multidimensional ‘Licks’ tour.

In one of the interviews, Jagger explained how smaller-scale concerts affect him: “My role as a frontman is changing: I sing more intensively than I perform, the emphasis falls on gestures. There are songs that cannot be performed in large venues. “Stray Cat ‘Blues’ isn’t one of my favorite songs, but it was really good at the Wiltern. And with songs like ‘That’s How Strong My Love Is,’ you can get soul notes at an intimate concert that aren’t possible when you’re playing in a stadium.”

Charlie Watts was also optimistic about smaller-scale concerts: “The acoustics are usually better on theater stages,” he said.

Did the drummer expect that in 2002 he would once again embark on a gigantic world tour? “No,” he replies with unwavering calm. “If you had asked me the same thing in 1991, I wouldn’t have thought that either.”

After playing their first 22 shows with the Licks, the band made it to Hollywood for a special night at the Wiltern, on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue. The place opened in 1931 as a vaudeville house. It survived several decades, was almost demolished at the end of the 1970s, and reopened in the 1980s – this time as a place intended mainly for rock fans. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers played an unforgettable performance there in 1985. The Wiltern stage also featured, among others, Tears For Fears, Heart, Neil Youngand for 10 nights in 2019 she took over the stage Madonna with his ‘Madame X Tour’.

At the Stones concert at the Wiltern, the audience included not only the above-mentioned Tom Petty and Neil Young. The auditorium, which consisted of almost 2,500 people, also included, among others: Sheryl Crow, Johnny Depp, Stephen Stills and Eddie Murphy. Tickets at the base price were sold for $53.50, but at the horse prices ranged from $600 to $1,200. Downstairs, all the seats were removed.

Two days earlier, the Stones had played a sensational show in Anaheim, and 48 hours after Wiltern, they were scheduled to play another big show at the Tacoma Dome. In the meantime, they were treated to a two-hour journey through all eras and styles in their 40-year career.

The Rolling Stones’ ties to Los Angeles date back to their first visit to the United States in June 1964. The group arrived on a Boeing 707 from New York and traveled to the Beverley Hilton Hotel. Then they boarded a bus to play their debut US show, 60 miles from LA, at the Swing Auditiorium in San Bernadino – one of the places they sang about in their version of Bobby Troup’s ‘Route 66’.

Over the following decades, the City of Angels hosted the Stones in 1996 at the Hollywood Bowl, the Palladium in 1972, the Coliseum in 1981, and Dodger Stadium in 1997. The 2002 concert was completely different from the others. No large screens, no extensive stage design, and no ‘Satisfaction’, ‘Sympathy’, ‘Street Fighting Man’ or ‘Gimme Shelter’ in the setlist. For one night, rock’n’roll transformed into something completely different.

‘1-2’ with ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ laid the foundation for the set, and Jagger led the band into ‘Live With Me’. Bobby Keys’ solos are particularly important from today’s perspective. It’s also hard not to shed a tear when we only watch the seemingly discreet Watts athletically performing the rhythm to ‘Hand of Fate’.

Solomon Burke supported the Stones at the Wiltern with an almost hour-long set. One of the kings of soul counted the young Stones among his subjects. Thanking him, Jagger paid tribute to Solomon’s old-school theatrics: “Keith’s a little worried I’ll be asking for the throne and the red carpet, but I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.”

Salomon Burke joined the musicians to sing one of his classics – ‘Everybody Needs Somebody To Love’. He also handed Mick his cape. “That was a goddamn moment. Keith says he could fit three of us in there,” Jagger gushed. During the concert at the Wiltern, the Stones also presented other soul hits: ‘That’s How Strong My Love Is’ by Otis Redding and ‘Going To A Go-Go’ by Smokey and the Miracles.

The rarities included, among others: “Neighbors” from “Tattoo You”, on which Keith collaborated with Darryl Jones. Even more unusually, “Dance Pt. 1” from “Emotional Rescue”, which turned out to be a revelation live. Much of this is due to Lisa Fischer and Bernard Fowler, who took care of the appropriate setting for the choirs and accompanying instruments.

On the Wiltern stage there were nods to country (“No Expectations” with Mick on acoustic), blues (“Rock Me Baby”) and juicy rock – including brilliant versions of “Stray Cat Blues” and “Bitch”.

The evening ended with the rousing “Can’t You Hear Me Knicking”, an epic replacement for “Midnight Rambler” for this special night in Los Angeles, with a fabulously long solo by Wood, Mick on maracas and harmonica, and a guest appearance by Jim Keltner on drums. A song from the album “Sticky Fingers” appeared in Torono in the Stones’ setlist for the first time since 1971, and its wonderful renaissance took place on the Wltern stage.

“It’s very good that we can still play stuff like this and get the attention of kids who have no idea what the hell these songs are,” Ronnie said. “Most of them are timeless and exciting to play. We’ve had a blast rehearsing ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knocking’ in the past and it was my kids’ favorite.”

The casual “Beast of Burden” appeared only four times on the Licks Tour, including at the Wiltern. In Los Angeles, Keith was tempted to reach for “Boodoo Lounge” and “Bridges to Babylon”, presenting the somber “Thru and Thru” and the reggae-related version of “You Don’t Have To Mean It”. Then straight to the finish line with the iron classics “Honky Tonk Women”, “Start Me Up” and “Brown Sugar”.

In conversations before the tour and the unique performance at the Wiltern, Keith reflected on how the band has stayed together for so many years – and how important each member of the crew was, whose work we see at the concert in Los Angeles: “We do it, what we’ve been doing for so many years because we’re still looking for freshness. We don’t cut coupons.

“Sometimes we get hit with bad weather while on tour and half the band has flies in their noses, but apart from those inevitable bad days, we still have a lot of fresh energy. It’s about more than just the Stones. Everyone is important when it comes to putting this whole thing together whole,” Richards concludes.

Paul Sexton

  1. Jumpin’ Jack Flash
  2. Live With Me
  3. Neighbors
  4. Hand of Fate
  5. No Expectations
  6. Beast of Burden
  7. Stray Cat Blues
  8. Dance, Part 1
  9. Everybody Needs Somebody To Love (with Solomon Burke)
  10. That’s How Strong My Love Is
  11. Going To A Go-Go
  12. Thru And Thru
  13. You Don’t Have To Mean It
  14. Can’t You Hear Me Knocking
  15. Rock Me Baby
  16. Bitch
  17. Honky Tonk Women
  18. Start Me Up
  19. Brown Sugar
  20. Tumbling Dice.