THE LIVE album is very much a 1970s creature. In a time when your favourite band was unlikely to come to your town, it allowed you the vicarious thrill of 'almost being there' once the needle hit the vinyl.
The greatest, most essential, live albums generally come from the seventies/early eighties - Get Your Ya-Ya's Out, If You Want Blood You've Got It, Live In The Heart Of The City, No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith, Under A Blood Red Sky - while the 1990s gave us Nirvana's masterpiece, Unplugged In NY. Since then, with bands touring more widely, and with concerts regularly broadcast on streaming platforms or on BBC4 and Sky Arts, there surely is no need for the live album, yet the form persists, showing no signs of going away.
The Flaming Lips first live album recreates their 1999 breakthrough, The Soft Bulletin, with added dimension of choir and orchestra. A Lips show needs to be seen as well as heard, an experience for all the senses, so a live album will never quite capture what makes them so special. However, this often comes close, wisely leaving in Wayne Coyne's interactions with the audience, culminating in his request for them to make insect noises for 'Buggin'. The crowd's enthusiastic response adds genuine excitement to that wonderful song. Meanwhile the choral/orchestral arrangements give Cecil B DeMille like bombast to 'Race For The Prize' and 'The Gash', and sound all the better for it.
An album for die-hards mostly, but also an ideal listen to get you in the mood for their Galway concert next summer.