Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 24, 2014)
Back in 1969, the Rolling Stones fired founding member Brian Jones and hired guitarist Mick Taylor. In late 1974, Taylor did the unthinkable: he quit “the world’s greatest rock band”.
This led to the third Stones guitarist in six years, as the band “borrowed” Ron Wood from the Faces to take Taylor’s spot. Apparently that choice stuck, as Wood remains a Stone almost 40 years later.
With a new DVD called LA Forum Live in 1975, we get to witness Wood’s debut tour with the Stones. The program documents the band’s July 15, 1975 concert at the Forum, the fourth of their five shows there that year, and it offers a broad array of songs from their career to date.
Usually when the Stones toured the US, they would do so to support a specific album. However, the band put out no new release in 1975; their most recent record came out about eight months before the tour’s start. In 2014, it’s not at all unusual to see bands “support” albums that came out many months earlier, but that was uncommon in 1975. (Technically, the Stones did release Made in the Shade right at the launch of the tour, but that was a compilation, not a collection of new material.)
In any case, we get four songs from the most recent “new” release, 1974’s It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll: the title song, “If You Can’t Rock Me”, “Fingerprint File” and a cover of the Temptations’ “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg”. Off 1973’s Goat’s Head Soup, we find “Star Star”, “Angie” and “Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)”, while 1972’s Exile on Main Street presents “All Down the Line”, “Happy”, “Tumbling Dice” and “Rip This Joint”.
Heading to 1971’s Sticky Fingers, we discover “Brown Sugar”, “You Gotta Move” and “Wild Horses”. 1969 presents the single “Honky Tonk Women” as well as three Let It Bleed numbers: “Gimme Shelter”, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and “Midnight Rambler”.
From 1968, we get the single “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” as well as Beggars Banquet’s “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Street Fighting Man”. The 1965 single “Get Off of My Cloud” also appears, and we get two songs from guest performer/pianist Billy Preston: “That’s Life” and “Outa Space”.
Notable in its absence: 1965’s “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”. This wasn’t that unusual for 1975, as the band had apparently skipped their biggest hit during their dates in 1970, 1972 and 1973. From what I’ve read, “Satisfaction” popped up a handful of times in 1978 but didn’t return to a regular place in the band’s setlists until their 1981 tour. I’ve seen the Stones 50-plus times since 1989 and only missed “Satisfaction” once in that span; they omitted it at a special club show I witnessed in 2002.
Like I mentioned when I reviewed the 1981 concert linked above, the Stones didn’t really start to veer into “oldies act” territory until 1989 or so. The 1975 tour did stand out due to the lack of truly new material to promote, but it nonetheless presented a band who could continue to legitimately claim to be the biggest in the world and one whose new material inevitably sold well and attracted tons of attention. People didn’t complain or hit the bathroom when they played fresh songs.
As one who didn’t see the Stones until 1989, I find the sight of the band in “current hit-maker” mode to be fascinating, and while Forum doesn’t show them at their creative or commercial peak, it does let us see them close to that era. While Wood lacked Taylor’s technical chops, he melded with Keith Richards better, and that gives the band a cohesion they otherwise might lack.
Wood simply plays a better foil, though he seems more subdued here than we’d see in later years, which makes sense. As the “new boy”, he likely didn’t want to step out of line. Heck, Jagger barely seems to regard him as a member of the band; when introduced, he calls him as being “from the Faces pop group”!
On other recordings from 1975 I’d heard, Jagger seemed overly willing to bark out lyrics. Combined with seemingly relentless shouts of “sugar pie” or “sugar pop” – I could never tell which – I found these other tapes to make the singer borderline insufferable.
Happily, this show presents Jagger in good form. Yeah, he still tends to yell more than sing, but he avoids too much excess and does pretty well. This seems like middle of the pack Jagger, but given the annoying vocals I expected, I’m fine with that.
The concert shows Jagger in hyper mode – and I mean hyper even by his own frantic standards. That can get a little tiresome at times; I love the man, but occasionally you want to just slap him and tell him to stand still for 20 seconds. Still, those behaviors helped make him a legend, so while he can be over the top, it’s still usually fun to watch him.
And we do see a lot of Jagger in this video. Forum lacks a credit for director, so I don’t know who made the shot choices, but the program sticks with Mick the vast majority of the time.
To a degree, I don’t mind that. Jagger is arguably the greatest frontman of all-time and he’s the visual focus of the band.
But still, it’d be nice to get more acknowledgement that others reside on stage with him. Even during the long instrumental part of “Midnight Rambler”, the camera remains on Mick most of the time, which seems strange.
At times like these, though, I sort of feel like I need to turn off my critical side and think how my teenage self would’ve felt if he could’ve seen a product like this. Back in those dark days before the Internet, DVDs and Youtube, programs like this were more rumor than fact, and the notion that I could watch an entire vintage Stones show would've made me poop my pants.
30 years later, no defecation occurred as I viewed Forum, but I did occasionally reconnect to my younger self and feel a little giddy that I owned it. At no point does Forum offer a perfect show or a perfect product, but it lets us seem the Stones in their “classic era”, and I’m pretty darned happy to be able to do so.