It seems these days that any disbanded group that was the least bit successful will garner a customary outpouring of love amid an announcement of a reformation, regardless of where they actually stand in the greater scheme of things. History has long held Yazoo (billed as Yaz in the United States) mainly as a stopgap project for songwriter Vince Clarke between his more notable forays with synthpop icons Depeche Mode and Erasure. Yes, ’80s club staples “Don’t Go” and “Situation” remain catchy tunes to this day, but that period in the British tunesmith’s career is certainly not where the focal point of his musical notability resides. Yet the new two-disc concert set Reconnected Live (which documents performances from the 2008 tour that reunited Clarke with his Yazoo partner, singer Alison Moyet) implies a weightier legacy for the synthpop duo that doesn’t manage to convincingly argue why we should make much of a fuss about it all.
The pretensions are evident from first examination of the packaging: an exquisite-looking 32-page hardbound book stuffed with liner notes devoted to Moyet’s dewy-eyed reminisces of her relationship with Clarke over the years. Contained within the lavish set’s two discs is a series of pleasant if straightforward renditions of songs from both of Yazoo’s studio albums, Upstairs at Eric’s (1982) and You and Me Both (1983), that yield no surprises, and make it quite clear that the channeling of fond memories is the name of the game here.
On a pure entertainment level, Reconnected Live is a decent diversion. With both performers on form, there are no lags to be found in the setlist, and the only stumbling point is Moyet grappling with the clunky verse melodies of “In My Room” (which, to be fair, were already there). Clarke’s melodies have always been pure pop confections (occasionally hokey or cheesy, but always undeniable), but his Yazoo-era compositions prove to be remarkably dated as much of his early- to mid-’80s output stands, rendered in concert in the same ancient timbres heard on those quarter-century-old records. This means that what should be a potent introduction in the form of album opener “Nobody’s Diary” is dampened by its positively dinky-sounding keyboard intro, while “Walk Away from Love” and “Sweet Thing” unfavorably recall the soundtrack to some cheap 8-bit game. Luckily, Moyet is around to provide balance, giving Clarke’s songs definite oomph with her assertive delivery and soulful gusto, and proving as capable at delivering smoldering torch songs as she is uptempo dancefloor-fillers. Yaz’s signature hits — and its best songs — “Don’t Go”, “Only You”, and “Situation” are held off until the very end, which is a very curious way to structure the record — unless the goal is to advocate that all that comes before it is of equal merit and standing, that is. In Yazoo’s case, that argument doesn’t hold well. All in all, it’s a perfectly enjoyable listen, but there’s no getting around the fact that you would gain the same aural satisfaction from listening to the studio releases the material originated from.
Clearly, the whole endeavor meant something profound to Clarke and Moyet, helping the pair to reflect on their brief collaboration together while healing old wounds left over from the former’s dissolution of the project in the mid-’80s. There is a palpable sense of pride and affirmation felt every time Moyet lets loose one of her beaming “thank yous” between songs. That’s a valid reason to go out and perform these songs (many of which were never performed live) after two decades apart, but not so much for putting out a recorded document of the undertaking if all it is is a run-through of old glories. Furthermore, to everyone aside from hardcore Yazoo fans, it all means precious little. There’s no underserved legacy to be rescued, since Yazoo’s commercial and critical success was always perfectly proportionate to what it deserved, no more and no less. All the average listener takes away from it are several decent-but-not-outstanding tunes, with the true picks of the lot shunted to the closing minutes as if the baited wait for them was enough to compel one to sit through everything else. Certainly, the enthusiastic audience bellows heard between numbers indicates there’s some quantity of people around who hold Yazoo dear enough to their hearts to be excited by Reconnected Live, but the question of whether there are enough folks enthused about the reunion to warrant a release of this live set remains.