CD Review: Various Artists, “Live at Knebworth”

Live albums, more than any other, date themselves immediately, and not merely because the date is plastered all over the recording. Multiple artists on a roster are even more susceptible. If the choices of songs don’t lock you into a particular era, the performers will. That’s fine if you, in fact, have a thing for the represented timeframe, which is the thing that will either sell or break Eagle Records’ new Live At Knebworth release. The thought that this concert benefiting the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy charity is 20 years old bothers me greatly, as June of 1990 hardly seems so long ago.

It was dubbed “The best British rock concert of all time,” and you couldn’t argue with the statement looking at who was on the bill: Clapton, Genesis, Pink Floyd, Sir Paul, Tears for Fears (for the kids, right?). At the same time, if you’re under the age of 30, you might be thinking, “God, what a bunch of old farts!” Clearly the two-disc set is not for you, but at the same time, one can’t escape the feeling this would have done more good being released a long time ago. And actually, it was. Polygram released this exact set in 1990 under the title Knebworth, but there’s nothing in the packaging that indicates this.  Now I know there couldn’t be two different recordings sourced from a one-time event, but initially I was hoping there were other songs by these performers that didn’t fit on the previous release, that somehow this was slightly unique. It’s not, and anyone who has the original release need not get their hopes up either.

So having that in mind, for the person who still is in the market for the set, how are the performances? Overall, the choices of songs are good but pedestrian. For example, with everything Eric Clapton has done, we still get “Sunshine of Your Love” which was an old warhorse even then. Nobody really needs another version of  “Comfortably Numb,” even if it is David Gilmour’s version of Pink Floyd doing it — without the orchestra, it just sounds like any number of prog bands paying homage. And what of Phil Collins grinding the “Sussudio” sausage? It’s certainly not as interesting as Genesis’ decision to do a medley mixing “Turn It on Again” with “Twist and Shout,” “Pinball Wizard” and “In The Midnight Hour” among others, and that track distinguishes itself as the standout of the piece. Other noteworthy choices is Dire Straits going for “Think I Love You Too Much” when “Sultans of Swing” would have been safer, Tears for Fears offering up “Badman’s Song” and Elton John injecting a little life into “Sad Songs (Say So Much).”

As a collection of classic rock artists who had their greatest success in the ’70s and ’80s, Live At Knebworth might actually be worth your while, but it occurs to me that if you were into these artists then, you would have already had the initial release. If you’re a newer music fan, you might be turned off entirely. There’s no escaping the feeling this was a remnant from a different generation. The set still contributes to the Nordoff-Robbins charity so it’s for a good cause, but it would have been a little more effective if it wasn’t a re-release in a new release’s guise.

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  • http://www.hemisphire.com hemisphire

    It is disappointing that it's a straight reissue and they didn't include more (or different songs), but it's worth picking up for the first ever live version of “Wearing and Tearing” when Robert Plant was joined by Jimmy Page.