Liza Minnelli is primarily a stage performer, and her discography is dominated by live albums. Indeed, looking over the list is like taking a tour of the Manhattan theater district: Live at the Winter Garden, Live at Carnegie Hall, Live at Radio City Music Hall (and that's not counting the LPs recorded in London and Paris). Following her 2000 stage show, Minnelli on Minnelli, a tribute to her father, director Vincente Minnelli, she suffered a serious attack of encephalitis. Hence, the title of her 2002 show, Liza's Back, which is reproduced on this disc, recorded at Manhattan's Beacon Theatre. The theme, simply, is the 56-year-old singer's recovery, and thankfully her performance demonstrates that recovery amply. In fact, she sounds much better than she did on Minnelli on Minnelli, a recording that betrayed vocal deterioration in her breathiness and a wobbly vibrato. Liza's Back suggests that those flaws had more to do with her physical condition than her age. Her voice isn't as strong as it was when she first recorded the songs from Cabaret and New York, New York, reprised toward the end of this album. But she is in surprisingly good voice, especially given her health challenges. The first half of the show consists largely of songs new to her repertoire, featuring a couple of forgettable specially written tunes from her favorite songwriters, John Kander and Fred Ebb; a medley of "crying" songs, including an abbreviated version of "Don't Cry Out Loud," co-written by her first husband, Peter Allen; a terrific rendition of "Something Wonderful"; and an audience-pandering performance of "Never Never Land" with a chorus of her mother Judy Garland's signature song, "Over the Rainbow," appended. It all makes for a typically bravura Liza Minnelli show, which is more than one might have hoped for by now.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann