The one drawback of live albums is that the listener is left on their own to visualize what is happening on the stage. For most pop/rock recordings this is not a serious detriment. But for a highly stylized and theatrical show such as Sarah Brightman's Harem World Tour: Live From Las Vegas, the music and visuals go hand-in-hand and this edited CD version of the program lacks the impact felt by the enthusiastic live audience. With applause heard within instrumental passages, including the elongated opening, it leaves a listener puzzled as to what is happening. Without any visuals all that is left is the music, which is immaculately performed yet devoid of any spontaneity. The music and Brightman's performance are as finely tuned and timed as the many costume and set changes seen in the CD booklet. This does not mean the music is substandard, but when the studio versions are comparable, why should a casual fan bother with this disc? Brightman has never been known as a forceful singer and her thin operatic voice rarely has the power to raise goose bumps, but she has a certain frailty that is alluring and it transfers well to the stage. A good example is her rendition of "Nessun Dorma" in which she quietly garners attention -- almost too quietly -- leaving one to wonder if she has the stamina to finish. Of course, there is no question she can hit the highs, but by the last note it feels as if she might faint from the sheer effort. She may not be an explosive singer, but her accomplished performance rallies the audience in her favor. There are grand moments like this throughout Live From Las Vegas, however it is her subtle readings of contemporary pop songs that work best. "It's a Beautiful Day" is a new age dance tune custom made for her wide range while the ballads "The War Is Over" and "Free" contain some of her most heartfelt vocals. With the exception of a pedestrian studio remake of Anggun's "Snow on the Sahara," Live From Las Vegas offers nothing new and feels rather empty at times. It's like not having a ticket to the show and being forced to hear it from the theater's lobby. A better option would be to view the full-length DVD version of the show where Sarah Brightman's performance and her Harem vision come to life as originally intended -- a feast for the ears and eyes.
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AllMusic Review by Aaron Latham
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