Soul Coughing

New York, NY 16.08.99

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On the fourth of five "authorized bootleg" live recordings released on the Kufala label, Soul Coughing are documented in an 85-minute set at an unidentified Manhattan location. You almost wonder if they were coming to the end of a long tour and were happy to be home, because frontman Mike Doughty sounds almost giddy -- the between-song banter is as whimsical and ironic as you'd expect, but there's something that sounds like an undercurrent of real joy beneath his patter, and several songs turn into whirlwinds of funky energy: on a brilliant version of "Idiot Kings" the band creates a groove that is denser and fuller than that on the studio version, and "Blue Eyed Devil" (one of their finest moments on disc) is given an equally powerful rendition. There's not much they can do to redeem the always tedious and plodding "Maybe I'll Come Down," but keyboardist/sampler Mark de Gli Antoni brings a new batch of found sounds to their performance of "Miss the Girl" and he wields them masterfully; the band barely stays earthbound on an intense and crazy version of "Super Bon Bon." Doughty also has the taste and graciousness to acknowledge the presence of Tony Maimone in the audience -- and on this excellent live album it sounds a bit like one whimsical pop genius saluting another. Excellent.

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