Ronnie Wood got thrown right in the deep end when he joined The Rolling Stones in 1975. He had a lot to prove as the successor of Mick Taylor, the most classically accomplished musician ever to earn official-Stone status. That Keith Richards was in deep with addiction meant Ronnie had extra weight to pull on his first outing with the band, the Stones’ first tour of the U.S. in three years. With Jagger at center stage it wouldn’t be accurate to say all eyes were on him, but let’s face it, Ronnie had something to prove. Based on his work in the new “From the Vault” DVD, L.A. Forum (Live in 1975), he did a damn good job. Don’t get me wrong, Keith can still play, but he keeps an unusually low profile at this gig. When it’s his turn to step to the mic for “Happy”, he often doesn’t even bother to sing. The majority of the solos fall to Ronnie. When the band leans into “Fingerprint File”, it’s down to the new boy to play the funky bassline Mick Taylor handled on record. Bill Wyman sure couldn’t be expected to play it.
Ronnie stands out on Live in 1975, but he’s still upstaged by spotlight-snatching Jagger and even Billy Preston, who almost seems to be vying for bandleader at times. Kudos to control freak Mick for allowing the keyboardist so much leeway. Perhaps he realized he could use all the help he could get considering Keith’s condition. When the energy starts flagging during the center of this two-hour-and-forty-minute show (there’s an interminable version of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” that utterly fails to capture the recording’s propulsion), it’s Preston who gets it back on groove with performances of his “That’s Life” and “Outa-Space”. From there the Stones ride out the show with a Greatest Hits onslaught that never loses steam again, right up to the transcendent, show-closing version of “Sympathy for the Devil” that finds Mick leading a conga line of dancers and percussionists across the stage.
Not all of Preston’s contributions are stellar. He could have laid off his annoyingly squealing synth on several occasions. Yet he mostly shines in this show, and it’s cool to see a concert movie that isn’t solely owned by Mick for a change. We don’t see much of him, but Charlie Watts really makes his presence felt during this mostly powerful set too.
Eagle Vision’s new DVD release of the L.A. Forum gig sounds damn powerful too. The video is less spectacular, looking a lot like an old VHS bootleg complete with washed out bars running through the screen. The poor video quality actually didn’t do much to affect my enjoyment of this disc though. I guess a good concert is a good concert.
Get The Rolling Stones from the Vault: L.A. Forum (Live in 1975) on Amazon.com here: