As I did with the recent re-issues of Big Star’s #1 Record and Radio City, I went into listening and watching Live In Memphis with open mind and fresh ears, especially since I’ve never seen a full-length performance of the band.  The 1993 release, Columbia – Live At Missouri University 4/25/93 is almost a table setter for this, but that was their first show with the new line-up (Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow of The Posies – who would be with the band until Chilton’s death in 2010), so I discount it.  This show, filmed and recorded at the New Daisy Theatre in the band’s hometown of Memphis, is a different affair – over a year later; they’re much tighter, confident and conveying a power in their playing and singing, especially those glorious harmonies.

Filmed by a friend of Chilton’s, Danny Graflund, the 20-song (19 songs on the DVD) set is a joy.  Even if you’re not a great fan of Big Star, you have to appreciate the guitar mastery of Chilton and the interplay between him and Jon Auer; Ken Stringfellow’s bass is solid and totally on-the-one – most wonderfully, Jody Stephens, aside from his rock-solid powerhouse drumming, delivers the sweetest vocal performances of the night with a chillingly perfect “Way Out West” and an emotional “For You”.  Auer’s lead vocals on “Back Of A Car” and Stringfellow’s reading of “Daisy Glaze” sound amazingly close to the recorded versions (both originally sung by Chilton) – this kind of sharing made it so much more of a “band” show.  Chilton was of great voice and guitar skill for this night; there’s no lack of enthusiasm and yet, there are flubs and flaws, which makes it all the more enjoyable because it is a real, human band performing live.

Other highlights include the pure-rawkin’ of the old T. Rex stomper, “Baby Strange”; a surprising performance of “Big Black Car”, the usual goosebump-inducing “I Am The Cosmos” and a balls-out closing version of Todd Rundgren’s “Slut”.  With the 2-lp vinyl edition, you get a download card; this DVD and audio package is well worth purchasing.  If you love Big Star as much as I do, you will appreciate what the people at Omnivore Recordings have delivered.  This is essential Big Star live; it’s the only known full-length Big Star concert on film/video – and you can’t ask for more than that.


Live In Memphis is available now




About the Author

Rob Ross

Rob Ross has been, for good, bad or indifferent, involved in the music industry for over 30 years - first as guitarist/singer/songwriter with The Punch Line, then as freelance journalist, producer and manager to working for independent and major record labels. He resides in Staten Island, New York with his wife and cats; he works out a lot, reads voraciously, loves Big Star and his orange Gretsch. Doesn't that make him neat?

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