Released almost simultaneously with the Screaming Headless Torsos' first new studio album in a decade, Live!! In New York & Paris is a double-DVD set featuring two concerts: one at the Knitting Factory (New York City) in 1996, the other at New Morning (Paris) in 2004. The running time for each disc is about 75 minutes and there are no extras. The 1996 concert was captured up close -- a bit too close actually, as it seriously lacks some group shots. Then again, viewers should consider themselves lucky that the group was filmed that early in its career and, besides, the sound quality is excellent. And it is a very fine performance, although maybe not as wild as the SHT could get at times in the mid-'90s. Dean Bowman, dressed as a referee, his eyes glued to his lyric sheets, manages to steal most of the attention, his possessed singing, thousand voices, and towering stage presence focusing the energy of the band. Percussionist Daniel Sadownick is the other eye-catcher, constantly on the move, fabulously dressing up David Fiuczynski's riffs. The set list draws heavily from the group's self-titled debut and the extra repertoire that was later released on the Live!! CD. "Jazz Is the Teacher," "Graffiti Cemetery," "Just for Now," and "Vinnie" are standout tracks. "Woe to the Conquered" lacks some of the punch of the studio version recorded for 2005, but is nevertheless a nice surprise. So is "Panic 178," later reshaped into "Pattern 178" and recorded by the singer-less Headless Torsos. Disc two features the same lineup (Bowman having rejoined the group after a hiatus). The show is much better captured, with good balance between wide group shots and close-ups, and with creative framing. Bowman looks more relaxed on-stage without losing any of his unique charisma. The nine years in between have barely affected his impressive vocal range. The set list still relies mostly on the first album, although renditions have mutated considerably, particularly "Graffiti Cemetery" and "Cult of the Rising Sun," both amazing numbers here extended and rearranged to great effect. From 2005, "Mind Is a River" and "No Survivors" get larger-than-life readings -- Bowman puts extra soul in the latter, turning that ballad into one of the set's highlights. The concert also includes a couple of instrumental numbers, "Sakura" and "Phoenix Rising." Sadly, the phenomenal "Blue in Green" is conspicuously absent from both concerts, which is a small shame but a minor quibble in the end, as this double set has everything to satisfy the SHT fan and all it takes to convert a few more listeners.
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