Lifesigns – Live in the Netherlands (2023)
Live albums, almost all self-respecting bands have made at least one. Often a great opportunity to show that one is able to interpret all the studio material on stage and sometimes perhaps even better and more dynamic. If you were present at the concert in question and you still have active memories of it, it can sometimes just be that it suddenly sounds considerably better than in your memory. Not infrequently, a lot of work is done on live recordings and sometimes even entire parts are replaced by parts recorded again in the studio. This is often somewhat shady and that is perhaps understandable.
Is this a big deal? Yes and no, it is ultimately about the end product and the pleasure you experience as a listener but when it isn’t even close to the real thing one should question the integrity of the maker.
So why this long introduction?
The album by the British Lifesigns discussed here is an example of a very good sounding live recording. Since I unfortunately did not go to the concert in question at the Boerderij in Zoetermeer, I cannot say whether it sounded as good there, but given the qualities of the musicians and the many positive reactions, I fairly assume that we can speak of an honest top live album here. It sounds really great and you wish this would be the case more often with other bands. I know many reputable bands that don't reach this level.
The line-up in which they play is really top of the bill, John Young, the big man behind Lifesigns, has a fantastic rhythm section behind him in my opinion with Jon Poole on bass and Zoltan Csörsz on drums. These men make even prog a swinging genre but can also rock when asked. The unsurpassed Dave Bainbridge is the guitarist on duty and that is really a classy player who plays superfast solos just as easily as very sensitive ones. Of course, Young's keys are very clearly set at the front of the mix and vocally he does a great job too. His voice is not a bit less than on the studio albums, not often heard.
As a fan of the first hour, I dare to say that Lifesigns is getting better by the album and I consider their last studio album Altitude to be the highlight so far. It is therefore nice to hear that this album is played almost in its entirety, with the exception of a few short instrumental pieces, and fills disc two with the instrumental Kings as the closing track.
Cd one contains a number of songs from the first two albums, Lifesigns and Cardington and they are not substantially different but with an audible difference in guitar work. Not necessarily better but different. If we take the earlier live album, because there was already one, Live under the Bridge, you can hear that the band has grown and especially recording- technical leaps have been made. A number of songs were also featured on this album and date back to Young's solo days, something that happens more often (f.e. Open Skies). Opener N immediately pops out of the starting blocks and this dynamic does not go away. Different and Impossible, both on Cardington, flank the only song from the debut album, At the End of the World.
As already mentioned, the album Altitude is played completely without Arkhangelsk and Altitude Reprise, the short instrumentals, and that sounds really tight and yet frivolous. And yes, the guitar solo at the end of Last One Home is also a real tearjerker live. Bainbridge shows why he is the right guitarist for Lifesigns, what a feeling he puts into this.
Something that is striking is that the audience was very quiet or got lost a little in the mix. Now the average age at prog concerts is considerable, but still a bit more enthusiasm could have been shown because the offered is really of very high quality. As I said, I wasn't there because of a holiday and maybe that was true for more people.
None of this detracts from the fact that Live in the Netherlands has become a very good recording of a band at their best. I heard that there will be a Blu-ray of this concert in the fall (dvd’s are simply not good enough anymore) and in my case it will be purchased without thinking..