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Live
Live At The Paradiso
Vanguard Records
www.vanguardrecords.com


Long-overdue live album from band of same name

Twenty years into their career, aging alt-rock band Live released an eponymous live album last November that, given their name and mid-'90s heyday, was long past due. As drummer Chad Taylor put it, Paradiso represents "15 years of heartfelt love and dedication to our music."

With all the enthused, unsolicited audience participation through this career-spanning, 14-song set, you can definitely feel the love that Taylor described. But it's a dedication that belongs only to a fan base that's a fraction of what it once was. Hence, while Paradiso serves a good oeuvre for the Live initiate, it's an album that only followers will really notice or appreciate.

Live At The Paradiso is culled from two shows that the band recorded last summer in Amsterdam. Although the DVD performance is slightly longer, the CD version is comprised of 16 tracks, the latter two of which are new studio cuts. As for the performance, Live makes a pretty standard run-through of their hits and singles, but the band still sounds tight and plays with as much vivacity as they ever did. And while the set list meanders between material new and old, their biggest hits from 1994's multi-platinum breakthrough Throwing Copper remain the standouts, and still hold up years later. Newer, lesser-known singles like "The River" and "Heaven" are strategically sandwiched in the set list, but don't detract much despite not holding as much water as their predecessors. The only real pleasant surprise here is the rocked-out rendition of Johnny Cash's "I Walk The Line", complete with Cash-like baritone.

The two new studio cuts (the harmonica-squealing "Purifier" and the end-is-nigh ballad "Forever") are dismissible numbers that represent Live's spiritual U-turn taken six years ago during lead singer Ed Kowalczyk's religious transformation. The songwriting is bland and the music tame; just further evidence that Live is not the force it once was.

To this end, Paradiso serves as a snapshot of where Live is in the twilight of their career. In their prime they were playing large arenas and festivals; now it's rounds on the small-theater circuit. But in this day and age, they're just happy to keep their day jobs.

-Ken Devine

Download: "I Walk The Line", "I Alone", "Lakini's Juice"

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Mike Doughty



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