The last time I saw them perform, which was at least two years ago, if not longer, the Gossip put on one of the most exhilarating live shows around. Listening to their second live album, Live in Liverpool, this still seems to be the case.
The set list is practically perfect, featuring the stand out tracks from each of the Gossip’s three studio albums: two from their debut, That’s Not What I Heard, three from their sophomore album, Movement, and six from their last release, Standing in the Way of Control. The agonized, guttural ballad “Coal to Diamonds” aside, each track is an all-out, arms flying, legs kicking garage rock dance-fest. The tracks come barreling out immediately, and a couple are cut short or a little too rushed through, which is a bit disappointing, but better for the adherence to the hysteria that envelops them.
Most songs benefit from the adrenaline rush, such as “Don’t Make Waves,” a confident kiss-off that sounds even more powerful with the increase in immediacy. All of the material from Standing in the Way of Control shines here, particularly the danciest numbers, “Keeping You Alive” and “Yr Mangled Heart.”
In addition to the original material, there are two covers: Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody?” and George Michael’s “Careless Whisper.” Though “Are You That Somebody?” is the more compelling choice, it’s unfortunately the weaker of the two. Frontwoman Beth Ditto changes the song from a quiet, smooth sensuality to a panting, hyperactive one. Instead of keying the sexiness up to its hottest point, it drops it cold. On the other hand, Ditto brings a forceful desperation to Michael’s “Careless Whisper” and rescues it from its own cheesiness.
Live in Liverpool would be stronger without the cheesy audience sing-alongs (especially since you can’t even hear the audience singing half the time), but then again, wouldn’t most concerts? If there’s one upside to hearing a live performance on a CD instead of in person, it’s that the people singing out loud aren’t standing 5 inches from your ears. Like most live albums, Live in Liverpool doesn’t serve as a replacement for seeing the Gossip perform live, but when that’s not a choice, listening to this (and watching! It comes with a DVD corresponding to the album) is second best .