Despite suffering the indignity of a diminished tape recording, the latest live Knack offering highlights what made the band special in the first place.
Long before they went up in a mushroom cloud of music critic snark and unprecedented man-on-the-street backlash, the Knack held residency as one of LA’s tightest and most promising working bands. Lest future generations forget this salient detail, the folks at Omnivore Recordings have conveniently offered up Havin’ a Rave-Up! Live in Los Angeles, 1978 to remind us of the days when Doug Fieger and Co. stood on the threshold of rock stardom. The recording, culled from a pair of summer shows at the Whiskey a Go-Go, unfortunately betrays its poor audio origins. Still, there are moments when not even the persistent tape hiss or canned audience applause can contaminate the band’s infectious live energy and power pop chops.
They soar on the Who-like stunner, “Your Number or Your Name” and even manage to inject some welcome attitude into their cover of “Come a Little Closer”. Though singer/guitarist Fieger’s heavy-handed id is front and center throughout, it’s the other three members of the Knack Pack who give the group its real muscle. Berton Averre’s fiery leads in particular are worth the price of admission. Check out his New Wave meets Duane Allman slide work on “End of the Game”. Unless you actually saw the band at the height of their collective powers, Havin’ a Rave-Up! will have to suffice. But that’s alright. It’ll still make your motor run.