There’s this one portion of the song “Freaks” that to me just sums up the ‘90s perfectly. It’s toward the end — it’s the astonishing discipline these bands had when putting songs together structurally, the ebbs and flows, everything in multiples of four but with more than enough feeling to make up for it. It’s like Silverchair with one more flat tire and one more toothache, as Charles Bukowski might say. By the way, definitely check out the video for “Freaks.”
And I mean, the formula is simple. That’s why the critics were sick of this band (or just didn’t really give them a chance), by the time Secret Samadhi came out in 1997. I mean, why would success only make this band angrier. They did this psychological study one time where they simulated a murder happening down the hall from people in their apartments. Some people actually underwent this psychological phenomenon whereby their brains actually convinced them they weren’t hearing what they were hearing — that the thing wasn’t happening that was happening. That’s almost like what happened with Live around Secret Samadhi.
As far as production goes, it’s pretty much the same on all of their albums. But lemme tell ya, happiness is sitting at home listening to a live album on Spotify, on ear buds. Yeah, I’m starting to finally think CD’s sound like dirt. You win, hipsters.
But back to the formula. Start out quiet. Then get loud. Real fu**in’ loud. Rip roarin’ loud. You know what’s coming but can you stop it. It’s like Michigan football under Lloyd Carr (or Jim Harbaugh, for that matter I suppose). Wait, that’s the home of The Verve Pipe. The Eagles under McNabb, there we go.
So this is Live. Live. Luckily, they don’t play the song “Live” by Lenny Kravitz. And this show isn’t QUITE all from show — it’s recorded over two nights. But the feeling is there and there are hardly if any clumsy moments. This band is pros — they go way back to the ‘80s when they were called First Aid. Live had to grow up in a “sh** town,” and now they’re really ticked off! York, Pennsylvania. Great story. And so we rock.
All of these songs get really fu**in’ loud and all of them are great. There is no ska on this entire album. There is no swing on this entire album, or white rappers talking about getting their nuts stapled to a stack of papers. This is why everybody, critics included, hated them in the late ‘90s. And I mean, who gets ANGRIER like that, for the followup to Throwing Copper, after the world-shattering success of “Lightning Crashes”?
One of the great things about Live at the Paradiso is that on their studio albums, though the volume and the feeling are there, they didn’t always make the best decisions — like what’s with those strings on “Turn My Head”? Guh. It’s like Celine Dion produced Secret Samadhi or something. I’ve got this sucker up so loud my ear drums are pretty much bleeding, but all of the sounds are mixed pretty well and each pronounce themselves with swagger in their own way — the guitar and the drums sort of melting into each other, pending how loudly Chad Gracey belts that snare. And that can get fu**in’ loud.
But here’s something interesting — “Lightning Crashes” comes on, just slightly sped up (not as badly as Pearl Jam does on “In Hiding” for Live on Ten Legs, sorry, slight pet peeve there), there’s a bunch of annoying hand claps, but it doesn’t even bother me too much. For the last chorus, though, Ed Kowalczyk totally cuts out and lets the crowd sing. What’s interesting here is that Chad Gracey isn’t just doing some two-and-four-beat hat walk through — he’s fully busted into this like ambient but yet Stevie Wonder – “Superstition” type beat that somehow just struts its stuff and blends right in — just it and the crowd singing the ubiquitous, mega hit. And praise God: no philharmonic orchestra, no strings during “Turn My Head.” It’s still a so-so song, but it fits in well enough on Live at the Paradiso.
The “I Alone” thing is extra spirited — which kinda freaks me out ‘cause there’s also this Live song where Kowalczyk is saying something like “I met God and he looked just like me”, or something — but anyway it’s a little sped up from the studio version, not too much, and opens with this extra emotive, caterwauling one-minute intro of like “ahh-ahh-ahh”’s and junk. The band retains its tightness, then, with the sped-up version, which is a relief — I would hate for them to screw this song up. Also on this jam, the six-minute, we get the closest thing from Live to an ACTUAL “jam,” bridled as it is with some confusion as to whether they’re jamming or just letting the crowd sing. Either way, this live album is paying off — this is what live albums are supposed to be, the primary meat and potatoes of the songs, just infused with some element of SPIRIT that’s just almost impossible to describe. Even for all their success, this is a band that to me never really got their FULL props. And here they are in 2008, before the ‘90s revival craze even started, playing a show in Amsterdam to an adoring crowd of stadium goers who know every word to every song and make deafening crowd noise between cuts. We hear that crowd noise between songs. Sometimes there’s no sound so sweet. Other times, “Lakini’s Juice” is playing.