Recorded during the band’s 1999 tour, Live features galvanizing performances of six originals and three covers. Nine tracks may not seem like a lot, but “Broken Chairs” (from Keep It Like A Secret) and Neil Young’s “Cortez The Killer” each get a 20-minute workout. I mention this early so that those who cannot comprehend enjoying such a commitment can bail out now.
Okay, for those of you still here. We’re not talking about drug-addled “In A Gadda Da Vida” monotony or the pretentious noodling of those hackey-sack jam bands that suck up the Deadhead dollar. Guitarist Doug Martsch is a brilliantly inventive guitar player who is part Robert Fripp, part Neil Young, part Adrian Belew and part Doug Hopkins (Sidewinders/Sand Rubies guitarist, and another axeman who loves to trot out lengthy Neil interpretations). His tones and tempos are challenging, demanding and ultimately thrillingly emotional. On these tracks, the band is absolutely airtight, and the combination comes off like a more polished Crazy Horse as much as it does a more pop-oriented King Crimson.
Martsch would seemingly have enough to do just playing, but he also is the band’s lead singer. Ironically he sounds a lot like Neil, which means he is an acquired taste; I quickly got used to his voice and found that his unique tones suited the material perfectly. Phil Ek’s production is pristine—the live audience is unobtrusive like on Joe Jackson’s Big World—so the listener can get lost in the spontaneity of the performance without distraction.
We live in an age where everything blows by so quickly, and we always push for more, faster, sooner. Forget that nanosecond lifestyle, take a breather and listen to this record.
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// Notes from the Road
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