Welcome to Check Your Mode

The all-inclusive, ever-changing, and uncomfortably flexible guide to all things music in the 2010's.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Live Album Roundup: March 15th 2011

Pearl Jam - Live on Ten Legs
Released: January 18th, 2011

After every live show, Pearl Jam give audience members a code to download a bootleg of the concert they saw online as a souvenir. They are produced respectably and are excellent time capsules for those few hours. Live on Ten Legs, the live album that has been released in conjunction with the twentieth anniversary of the release of the band’s debut album, Ten, sounds like one of these bootlegs. Which is fine, because the album is a decent recording of the group at their high consistency, playing a set that they could have played anywhere, split evenly between deep cuts and reworkings of old hits and closing with the one-two punch of “Alive” and “Yellow Ledbetter.” However, Live on Ten Legs does not sound like the live commemoration of my favorite album of the 90’s. The instrumentation, the audience and Vedder’s voice, which, after twenty years of torture, can still scream the “RHINESTONES” line in “Unthought Known” with particular vigor, are great. But I don’t see the point of Live on Ten Legs if it’s mixed with the purpose of being just another live album to be listened to by people who probably already own something very similar to it (not to mention the fact that only two song in the set are from the album it’s honoring). The only significant value in Live on Ten Legs is that the band plays a few songs from Backspacer amiably, but, with a career as consistent and lively as Pearl Jam’s, the group can afford to be less modest. B

Matisyahu - Live at Stubbs Vol. II
Released: February 1st, 2011

Matisyahu is probably the only modern artist that got started through a live album. Released in 2006, Live at Stubbs took the assured music of the Hasidic rapper’s debut and put it in a setting where it sounded distinct and better, and reached widespread attention from many, myself included, as a result. Four years later, and with two more albums under his belt (the abysmal Youth and the underrated Light), Matisyahu returns to Texas to bookend this chapter of his career, and it sounds pretty good. The set is evenly distributed between his three albums and the guy and his dub trio perform it energetically. He references the first Live at Stubbs by taking some of its most notable rhymes like that of “King Without a Crown” and “Aish Tamid” and injects them into newer songs, to good effect. My only complaint is that, although the Youth songs sound better in this context, they are still ham-fisted and overwrought. Their presence drags Live at Stubbs Vol. 2 down from excellent to still very good. Fans will like it for the performances of new songs like “Youth” and “One Day”, but I would still suggest the first Live at Stubbs for an excellent introduction to the man’s work. B+

Jònsi - Live at the Wiltern

Released: February 1st, 2011

Your enjoyment of Live at the Wiltern is under the assumption that you have not heard Jònsi's other live album, Go Live, which was released less than three months before Live at the Wiltern. If you have, Live at the Wiltern is useless, because both live albums feature the exact same setlist and feature extremely similar performances. The only reason I’m talking about this and not Go Live is because I dropped the ball on listening to Go Live and Jònsi was kind enough to give me another chance to rate a Jònsi live album. Those looking for new interpretations of Jonsi’s material from his debut, Go, will be disappointed, as Jònsi partakes in almost no stage banter or experimentation throughout his hour and a half long set. Those looking for a rousing field test of Go will also be disappointed, as Jònsi makes its songs even more pensive, “Animal Arithmetic,” the second half of “Around Us” and the bass drum at the end of “Icicle Sleeves” being the only exceptions. More than anything else, Live at the Wiltern stands as proof to naysayers that Jònsi's performance on Go was not all auto-tune and studio finickry. I don’t know if it convinces me to see the guy live anytime soon, but Live at the Wiltern is a pretty good representation of an excellent album, which should more than satiate the live album’s intended audience. B

Bob Marley - Live Forever: The Stanley Theater, Pittsburgh, PA, September 23rd, 1980

Released: February 1st, 2011
For many music fans from my generation (I don’t know what it’s called, but I’m 19, so figure it out), Bob Marley has become more of a symbol than an artist; we have heard and been taught to love his hits and humanitarian work, but, as a result, we have been conditioned to view him as an intangible myth rather than a musician. Live Forever, a recording of Bob Marley’s last concert before his death from cancer in May of 1981, does an excellent job of humanizing the reggae superstar and consolidating his legacy for a new generation of music listeners. The first hit on Live Forever comes ten tracks into the album, and all the deep cuts Marley leads off with are fantastic and exhibit him as energetic, charming, funny and committed to his craft. Live Forever’s first half of lesser-known songs is invigorating and eye-opening and its second half of hits is fluid and poised. The Wailers rip up “The Heathen” with a guitar solo and turn “Could You Be Loved” into an intense percussion jam and Marley sounds like he’s having the time of his life throughout. Live Forever may best 1984’s Legend as the best introduction to Marley’s music, because it portrays him as an artist with incredible range. As his final product, it shows that the man left us at the peak of his talents. A


No comments:

Post a Comment