The Chameleons UK

Live at the Academy

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Having successfully reunited in 2000 for a series of shows that eventually turned into a new album in Why Call It Anything, it was perhaps inevitable that there would be a live album to follow. Given how many live albums had emerged throughout the '90s showcasing various performances during the group's initial '80s-era existence, it's a logical question to ask what the necessity of a new one is for, especially given that a good three-quarters of the tracks are from that earlier time. The answer is a simple one, though -- not only is the sound quality distinctly better here than on just about every other concert disc, but, aside from a surprisingly middling "Swamp Thing," the bandmembers sound both refreshed and experienced all at once. In his typically direct and winning style in the liner notes, Burgess noted that initial plans to present one of the earlier reunion gigs fell through, so the concert the show records was in many ways done precisely to produce a live album, but rather than feeling forced the overall performance is a winner. What helps to vary the results is the appearance not merely of a few Why Call It Anything tracks, but also regular live and studio guest Kwasi Asante, who turns up not only on "Miracles and Wonders" but songs like "Caution" and "Splitting in Two" (here spiked with snippets from bands like Joy Division and the Fall). The enthusiastic crowd cheers help to seal the overall atmosphere of the disc, while the inclusion of a few semi-acoustic cuts from a separate German show makes for a fine bonus -- especially considering Burgess' claim that the Academy version of "Soul in Isolation" was scrapped because Fielding's guitar "went flying into the audience" during the performance. The version here has its own dark power, not least because of Burgess' contextually chilling use of references from everything from David Bowie to the Taliban.

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