Capturing a live performance is always a challenge – for the techies, for the artist – and then for the mixer/masterer.
There have been some huge live albums (Frampton Comes Alive), and others where the artist has publicly disowned them (Queen Live Killers). Fortunately, this proudly falls into the former camp.
Showcasing just the right amount of enthusiastic audience ambience, the album kicks off with Wingman, and as on opener, it really delivers – setting the audience (and the listener at home) at ease with some tight riffing, tuneful vocals and appreciation for tuning in! Reality Suite can deliver live, without question.
The vocals cut through the mix well and the enunciation is good, they don’t sound like they’re floating on top of the rest of the band. There’s enough definition to hear the guitar work, and the slap and thud of the kit is reassuringly crisp, but with enough fizz to retain the live atmosphere. On Bury Me Alive, we get nicely-judged backing vocals for the main vocal hooks, while the lead gets to fly off and showcase endurance and power.
The drummer gets to use both his kick pedals (I’m assuming a technique here) and the riffing gives way to a furious, accomplished guitar solo, which comes to a dead stop. We get to hear the audience loving it in the tiny gap in the sound, and then the song drives home in a breathless shot of adrenalin that had me nodding along. Tut, tut, I’m supposed to retain an objective distance from what I review. This won’t do!
Cut, Burn, Bruise. More powerhouse harmonies, which I always appreciate, and some playful rhythms for them to glue onto. There’s a different flavour to this tune, and it’s good to hear a different tempo being flexed. Some tight syncopation for the band to latch onto, as well, which they do with some aplomb.
Good to hear some hard rocking guitar squeals get exorcised in Blame It On Angels. This song sports some properly angular melodies and I’m loving it. I often reference the band Furslide, as I feel they are a lost gem, and the melodic sensibility on this song is truly reminiscent of their songwriting nous. It’s really interesting and satisfying. And my favourite on the album because of it. And the guitar gets a dynamic workout, too – riffing, squalling and tastefully soloing over a suddenly spacious rhythm section.
Skinn has a different feel again, and the bass gets to shine at the top of this one, and throughout. There’s also a great unison singing section which gets the excitement pumping. And it features a nice indulgent protracted live ending for all you rockers out there. We get thanked again. What a grateful, polite bunch Reality Suite are!
Grave welcomes in a more pensive moment, and it suits the singer’s voice nicely. It’s good to experience that half-time feel in the pre-chorus, allowing the chorus to take off. ‘What do I do / Without you here / Without you near?’ Well, quite.
Familiar Taste of Poison is a slightly schizophrenic tune that allows the singer some headroom to showcase just how she good she is, showing some tender unvarnished falsetto and natural vibrato which is bang on. And then she rips it out again to emote in harsher tone. It’s properly impressive, and I’m glad there’s a song like this in the set.
And on we roll! We get some audience participation in Wrong With Me (as ever, they are told they can ‘do better than that’), and we groove anew in the playful Dead To Me. The vocal gets a little overdriven for Kiss The Ring and that creates a nice edge to latch onto. And so we end up at Die Dreaming… And we’re done! Phew.
What we have here is a confident band whose confidence is well-founded – as it understands that dynamics keep a show interesting. Rock solid songwriting has laid the foundation for a live album that offers some shining performances – so it seems like fate dictated a good show for them to capture. Better yet, the performances don’t dip as the gig progresses. However, they don’t play like machines, there are enough variations and slight moments of looseness to champion the very human. Live albums can be tough to review, but this was easy – easy to get and easy to recommend. So do check it out.
Hell’s teeth, I just thought of a really bad pun. Reality Suite have delivered a really sweet live experience in album form. Yeah, I went there!