On a wet and disgusting Saturday night in Melbourne, what better way was there to warm up than with a tribute concert to one of the greatest albums of the last half century? Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, Sticky Fingers, by The Rolling Stones, remains influential, vibrant and relevant after all this time.

The golden period of The Stones career kicked off with 1968’s back to basics Beggar’s Banquet, and continuing with 1969’s Let It Bleed (this scribe’s all time favourite album), right through to the live album Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out (1970), right through to 1971’s Sticky Fingers and concluding with 1972’s benchmark Exile On Main Street.

This period of time found the band at their most creative, while also introducing sensational new guitarist Mick Taylor, who truly brough a sense of fire and energy to the band with his playing and style, which was radically different from ‘the human riff’, Keith Richards.

Tonight, local artists such as Ash Naylor, the Wolfgramm sisters, Dave Larkin, Carl Treasure and Matt Sonic, along with an absolutely cracking house band, paid tribute to an album that saw The Stones at the sonically filthiest and sleazy.

The evening kicked off in highly entertaining style with New Zealand five piece Luger Boah. Performing a very enjoyable set and promoting their new album New Hot Nights, the band, featuring members of legendary NZ band D4 powered through their half hour set, playing great tracks like “Asteroids” and “Girlfriend”. Definitely showing their Stones influence, along with that of some great eighties rock, Luger Boah were a lot of fun. A great way to start proceedings.

Next up was Melbourne music industry stalwart Spencer P. Jones and his band The Escape Committee. Displaying a more direct influence of The Stones and the blues in general with what they do, the band performed an excellent support set, which showcased great tracks like “Bogans”, “Change Your Mind”. Finishing with a great version of the classic Beasts Of Bourbon track “Make ‘Em Cry”, this lead beautifully to the dirty, filthy, sleazy musical vibe of what was to headline this evening.

Playing the album in sequence and in full, the tribute to “Sticky Fingers” kicked off in rocking style with a great version of “Brown Sugar”, featuring Matt Sonic absolutely kicking it on vocals. The band proved tight as a drum in their interpretation of and respect for the original album. The love that the artists assembled felt for Sticky Fingers felt was palpable, as was the warm response and excitement from the crowd.

Other high points of this evening were Spencer P. Jones doing a heartfelt and very faithful take on “Sway”, which was always one of the best tracks on the album. Another absolute high point was The Wolfgramm Sisters performing a lovely version of “Wild Horses”, each taking turns on the verses and injecting a lovely sense of oestragen into what has always been a very male song.

Highlights came thick and fast this evening, which wasn’t difficult considering the excellent source material. Dave Larkin, along with the house band, absolutely ripped Cherry Bar up with an utterly storming version of “Bitch”. The band really excelled on challenging tracks like “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking?”, with its extended, Latin influenced outro. The band also really proved themselves with a wonderfully delicate take on “Sister Morphine”, conveying the original’s harrowing depiction of drugs and their negative results and connotations.

The evening proper ended with a rather brave and successul take on a Stones track that one imagines would be hard to translate on a live front, the utterly beautiful and beguiling “Moonlight Mile”. Feauturing something you don’t see at Cherry Bar every day, a four piece string quartet, Ash Naylor from Even really nailed the naked emotion and rawness of this track, (which originally saw The Stones at their most emotionally vulnerable) and showcased the brilliant playing of Mick Taylor.

To avoid what would have been something of a ‘down’ note to end on, the band concluded this evening with a sensational version of “Jumping Jack Flash”, capturing the energy and fire of the original beautifully. After the set concluded, DJ Max Crawdaddy, who had been playing some wonderful selections of blues tracks earlier in the evening, dropped “Happy”, from “Exile On Main Street”, with Keith Richards on lead vocals. The title of this track described wonderfully how many felt after this evening’s performance, which captured and paid tribute to its original sense of inspiration in a heartfelt way.

–  Neil Evans