Reconnected: Live

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In the early '80s, Vince Clarke quit Depeche Mode, allegedly dissatisfied with their move toward pop music. He soon hooked up with Alison Moyet, an R&B singer with a powerful deep alto, and started recording as Yazoo. (In the U.S., after the blues record label Yazoo sued them, they were known as Yaz.) The first Yazoo single, "Only You" b/w "Situation," was a double-sided smash, and their debut, Upstairs at Eric's (named after Mute Records' head Eric Radcliffe) went gold in the U.K. After they finished recording their second album, You and Me Both, Clarke opted out of the group. Yazoo was the template for Erasure, Clarke's long-running collaboration with diva Andy Bell, and numerous new bands that blended dance-pop and synthesizers. In 2008, Clarke and Moyet united for a tour of the U.K., Europe, and North America. The concerts were recorded and the result is this two-CD set. Clarke revamped and re-recorded the backing tracks for the two Yazoo albums, so these in-concert performances have a warmer, fuller instrumental sound. Clarke still plays and sequences the tunes live, but today's technology has smoothed out the brittle high end that made some of Yazoo's songs sound like video game soundtracks. For her part, Moyet's voice has aged well. It's richer and deeper; her vocals are even more affecting than they were 26 years ago. Both artists seem almost surprised by the crowd reactions and the power of their own performance. At the end of "State Farm," the funky white-girl rap from You and Me Both that kicks off side two of the set, Moyet laughs with almost girlish delight at the crowd's enthusiastic reaction. The duo did 27 dates, and the 20 selections here are taken from various concerts. There are no liner notes in the two-CD set (there is also a deluxe limited edition with a hardback book and download codes), so you don't know the origin of any of the performances, but that's a minor quibble. The set is arranged to play like a live show, and the music ebbs and flows to build up to smashing renditions of their big hits -- a thumping "Bring Your Love Down (Didn't I)," a bouncy "Don't Go" that still sounds a bit like early Depeche Mode and has the crowd singing along on the hook, a smoldering rendition of "Only You," and a rousing, extended take of "Situation" with Clarke adding distorted synth effects to push the tune along. The sound on the set is a bit muddy, but the duo's enthusiastic performance more than makes up for the sonic limitations.

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