In March 1971 everything was in place for the release of The Rolling Stones‘ Sticky Fingers the following month. So why did they go on tour in that month? Bands have often toured in support of their albums, either starting a tour shortly after the release of a record or making their new album available sometime during the tour – but in this case, The Stones decided to tour before the record hit the shelves, starting in Newcastle on March 4 and ending ten days later at London’s Roundhouse.
The reason for this Stones UK tour, their first since 1966, was a matter of expediency. For tax reasons, all five Stones had decided to move to France, and they needed to be out of the country before the new tax year started in the first week of April.
Their final concert in England, although not officially a part of the tour, prior to heading for the South of France, was at London’s Marquee Club on March 26. According to the Melody Maker, it was “before a small but elite audience that included Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Ric Grech, and Andrew Oldham.”
A film crew was there to capture the event and it is the closest we can get to “see” the band on their ’71 tour, as all but one of the songs on their Marquee performance was played during the tour.
Their set kicks off with “Live With Me” from Let It Bleed and after a typical Ian Stewart piano intro the band immediately hit their stride, helped by their new horn section of Jim Price and Bobby Keys who effortlessly add a funky southern soul vibe.
The Stones used the opportunity to showcase four of Sticky Fingers’ nine tracks. The first number at the Marquee that had been played throughout their March tour was “Dead Flowers.” The second Sticky song is, “I Got The Blues,” which had not been a part of their tour set. The latter is a Stax-influenced ballad reminiscent of Otis Redding with Keys’s tenor sax to the fore. Following their Marquee performance of this song, it would not be played again on stage until 1999’s No Security Tour.
The band’s affection for the songs of Chuck Berry is well documented. The Stones included two originals from the Chess Records legend on their 1969 tour, having featured them on Get Yer Ya-Yas Out; they maintained the tradition for their 1971 UK tour, as well as their tour of Europe the previous year, by this time covering “Let It Rock.”
At this time (and forever after) and for a few years before this, one of the highlights of their concerts was “Midnight Rambler”; their Marquee version of the song that first appeared on Let It Bleed is superb. “Midnight Rambler had its live debut at Hyde Park in 1969. At the Marquee, the band seems to operate from inside the song, at one with every nuance of this classic. Mick Jagger is brilliant, both vocally and on the harmonica, while Keith and Mick Taylor give the song an “edge” that has rarely been bettered.
A Stones’ show without “Satisfaction”? It has rarely happened since it came out as a single in June 1965 and here the band take the opening of the song at a more languid pace than on most other occasions, making it sound like a new song in places, yet it still manages to build to its more traditional climax.
The set closes with new songs, both are from Sticky Fingers and both are on the single that heralded the album. The opening riff to “Bitch” is classic Keith and, like many other numbers from the set, it benefits from Price/Keys’s horns and a rock-solid backbeat from Charlie.
“Brown Sugar” brings the set to a fitting climax. It would be two years before the band would again play concerts in Britain. As their former manager Andrew Loog Oldham told the New Musical Express at the time, “They’re still the most fertile live group there is. They’re still into songs. The music business has nothing to do with real life, whereas The Stones do.”