There are plenty of ways to approach a subject, and always comparing and contrasting things to one another can get tricky at times. Pointing out the positives and negatives can get you into a bind and isn't always helpful either. More often than not, there is no textbook way to approach a subject you’re passionate about or have some type of opinion on. Most of the time it just ends up being a response that creates conversation in which people agree or disagree; that’s all we’re doing here. We're only human, so we find ways to spark debate.
The debate intensifies when you’ve actually experienced something firsthand and have a thing or two to say about it. This type of thing happens all the time in conversation about music — the opinion can sway heavily according to what a band brings live, to the stage versus what is laid down on tape. It’s just the way things work. Live music moves people differently than what we experience listening to a new record, and vice versa. The system always depends on the person who is experiencing the music him- or herself, and no one else matters.
I’m not breaking any ground here by addressing these types of things when it comes to critiquing albums or live shows. With a live bootleg or a soundboard recording of a show, connecting your experience as the audience member certainly matters. Comparing the excitement of a present-day rock show to the concert that's captured on this album, in the time in which it was performed, is difficult, and probably not fair. Even thinking about a show taking place at The Red Lion is laughable nowadays, just because of the brand of bar it has become, but some things change and some things stay the same (the name of the establishment returned a few years ago). The Red Lion is a bar where things tend to get rowdy, but this is an entirely different definition of rowdy.
I imagine that some of our readers might’ve been around for this particular show, so recreating the scene of the night would do no benefit for this kind of review. The night was there and this is what happened, and from the sound of it, the bar was filled with fans ready to see The Rave — fans who were perhaps a bit rowdier than we see very often in a normal bar show downtown in this day and age. We hear someone ask, “How many of you people are mentally ill?!” Someone proclaims, “You cannot escape the beat,” with the bassline to “Psycho Killer” thudding in the background (and putting me in a trance). If any were dozing off even the slightest bit midway through the set, a dedication to “all the crazy fuckers out there!” had to have gotten them going again. And for the record, The Rave's rendition of the Talking Heads classic is on par. Plus, they had the guts to cover a classic before it had truly lived long enough to become a classic, so I’ll take it at that.
Growing up, we all had music that we heard on the radio that will forever be ingrained into our minds. One of those bands that I was constantly reminded of while listening to Live at The Red Lion is Cheap Trick. Certainly, The Rave would draw comparisons to a band like Cheap Trick, but that’s not necessarily where I’m going with this. The band’s constant interaction with the crowd throughout the set is something we’ve seen before, but its effect is different because of the era it was produced in. The culture was different and so were the wardrobes, but this brand of classic rock was peaking around this time, so the sound of The Rave is not surprising in the least. Sure, I could highlight each track and talk about what it sounds like (“Mother” or “New York, NY” could’ve inspired Ted Leo to sound like he does, and “Pulled Up” fuses Ramones with a bit more funk), but that is probably a waste of time and space.
This release comes out on Parasol Records next week, a place where I think we all can feel a sense of nostalgia and inclusion within a larger entity. Regardless of when you grew up or what you grew up listening to, there’s a certain sense of nostalgia that accompanies a release like this one. The feeling isn’t necessarily positive or negative; it’s just a reminder that you’ve experienced something like this before.
You can preorder The Rave: Live At The Red Lion over at Parasol Label Group's website.