In Concert review by Rick Butler
Written by Rick Butler
I got the BBC disk and have listened to it twice through. I'm very familiar with all of their albums, and I must say, "hmmmmm". For a "live" performance, this sounds really canned, almost "sterile" (i.e., as "sterile" as GG can sound). I realize this was done for the BBC, so everything had to be nice and clean, but the overall impression I get from the performances, arrangements, and recording quality is a boxed-in feeling.
I would have thought the Missing Piece tunes would have benefitted from live performance by getting a rawer edge and more spontaneity. Wrong! I don't know how this is possible, but these songs seem more spontaneous and "alive" on the studio album. I remember thoroughly enjoying songs like "Two Weeks in Spain" and "For Nobody" when I saw them performed. They had some hair on 'em. These versions were safe, overly controlled, and uninspired. (Green and Minnear are pretty funny on "I'm Turning Around"; they both seemed to be deliberately cheesing up the hokey hooks throughout.)
As for the other stuff, nothing wrong, but nothing right-- no surprises, they played the Free Hand tunes almost identical to the performances on Playing the Fool! Why didn't they just play that album and lip-sync? Only problem is that these renditions were not as fun! Due to recording quality, uninspired musicians(?), (and maybe directions to "play it straight and keep it clean"), the music lacks a raucous edge and spontaneity that makes Playing The Fool such a good time. Tunes were simply a too-similar, bottled-up rehash of the material on PTF.
It also seems like Derek's voice is kind of "thin", he even sounds out of breath in spots. I know this is tough vocal material; he is still excellent and distinctive, but I remember him being able to belt it out more on PTF. Also, what is with some of Minnear's keyboards? Can't remember what tune, but at one point it sounded like he was playing a Casiotone! The recording quality *is* clean and the band is tight. But overall effort is pretty safe and listless. Mind you, *for Gentle Giant*. Maybe I expected too much, and I will certainly listen again. The playing *is* excellent. I was hoping for a wilder time I guess. A video of this? I'm almost afraid it would be depressing and "tarnish my fond memories" of seeing 'em live. They didn't seem too "live".