David Essex

On Stage

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Recorded on David Essex's fall 1975 U.K. tour, an ambitiously designed outing built around his newly released All the Fun of the Fair album, On Stage is a dynamic recapitulation of the hits so far, plus a handful of the harder album tracks. "Hold Me Close," a massive European hit even as the tour hit the road, is an early highlight; already, the entire audience seems to know both the words and the intonations. But fears that On Stage is about to degenerate into a good-time music hall singalong set dissolve instantly, as "Circles," "On and On," and "Streetfight," in particular, emerge as menacing on-stage as they are on vinyl. "Stardust," too, receives a workout that at least equals its studio counterpart, while the new album's "Won't Get Burned Again" and "Here It Comes Again" close the show with a hard rock flair that utterly belies the barrage of screams that Essex's every on-stage movement seemed to draw from an excitable crowd. There are a couple of weak moments -- neither "Gonna Make You a Star" nor "Oh Wee Baby Blues" really had any business trying to translate to the concert stage, while "Rock On" certainly misses the studio effects that made the single so memorable. Taken as a whole, however, On Stage is as dynamic a live album as any of its era, and one to play to anyone who doubts Essex's rock & roll credentials.