Hothouse Flowers

Live: Take a Last Look at the Sun

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When Hothouse Flowers were first exported to the US, they were billed as "the new U2." As it turned out, that wasn't fair to either U2 or the Flowers, considering that the former weren't quite ready to be succeeded as the world's most popular Irish band, and the latter never had the sound of a superstar rock band to begin with. Their lightly Celtic-flavored guitar, piano, and sax act with Liam O'Manlai's rumbling vocals, and their folk/soul roots are more of an acquired taste than standard Top 40 fare. That said, the hype might be a little easier to understand for some American fans upon viewing Take a Last Look at the Sun, the 1990 concert video released in support of their second internationally distributed album Home. The video does not divulge the location of the concert, but judging from the enormous size of the audience and their obvious familiarity with the music, it's probably safe to assume that it was taped in Ireland. Clearly, the band had the ability to fill stadiums back home even if they weren't cut out to be international superstars. The video starts somewhat slowly, with the flower children (all five sporting shaggy hair and roomy, collared shirts open to the third button) turning out several songs from Home and People in renditions that vary little from the album cuts. With the gospel-tinged "I'm Sorry" the band begins to heat up. On "If You're Happy" they kick into high gear, breaking into an extended jam with saxophonist Leo Barnes, joining guitarist Fiachna O'Braonain on a jaunt around the circumference of the stage, instruments wailing. The song is followed by a sensational fiddle solo by a whirling Steve Wickham on "Dance to the Storm." For "Feet on the Ground" and the smoldering encore "Hydroman," O'Manlai finally gets out from behind his piano and goes leaping across the stage, whipping the arena crowd into a frenzy. Video director Crescenzo Notarile does a reasonable job of condensing a two-hour concert into 60 minutes, but his excessive enthusiasm for gimmicks like freeze framing and slow motion call attention to the difficulty of making a concert video -- something a superior concert video wouldn't do.

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