Recorded in 1980 on Any Trouble's support tour for their first record, Live at the Venue (originally released as a radio promo and issued in 1981) showcases the band at its spirited best. Their debut, Where Are All the Nice Girls?, which came out at the height of the British new wave, drew comparisons to Elvis Costello, thanks to Clive Gregson's writing style and vocal delivery, not to mention the band's association with Stiff Records. Also like Costello, or even Joe Jackson, the bespectacled Gregson was a singer/songwriter with a keen sense of melody, whose roots ran well beyond punk and new wave. There may be a punkish energy to Live at the Venue, but there's still an undeniable pop/rock and singer/songwriter bent to the songs. And while the band doesn't do anything radically different to the eight tunes taken from the studio record (nine if you count the single-only "Yesterday's Love," which was added to the reissue of Where Are All the Nice Girls?), there's something seemingly more natural about this material in a live setting that takes it to another level. Not to take anything away from Where Are All the Nice Girls?, which is a terrific record in its own right, but the sort of spark that is captured here can only come from playing in front of a live audience, and many of the tracks benefit from this. Live at the Venue also features three songs that had been previously unavailable on an album, including "Follow That Car," the kinetic rocker "Working on the Night Shift," and the (then) single-only "Yesterday's Love." Any Trouble went on to record three more albums that were occasionally brilliant yet uneven, but this document of one night in 1980 opening for the Searchers may be the group's crowning moment.
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AllMusic Review by Brett Hartenbach