Live and on your TV
Finally, we have to look at the live releases. I must admit as this point that the biggest issue I’ve had with this band over the years is that many of the live shows I’ve attended have been less-than-brilliant. It’s an issue with this whole style of music – there’s no getting away from needing significant amounts of playback to reproduce many of their songs live, so their live recordings often end up being slightly lo-fi versions of the album with some extra guitar riffs and synthy bits grafted on. And whilst I’ve only seen a small proportion of their live shows, they seem to a band more prone than most to off-days, especially at large music festivals, as if they suffer most whenever they can’t get a full soundcheck in. Still, I’m a big enough fan to have picked up most, but not quite all, of their live releases, so here’s a run through.
APBL98 was the first, covering the first two albums, with Stephan accompanied by long-serving keyboard player Geir Bratland (who occasionally appears on the albums) and on-off guitarist Anders Odden. It’s probably the most ‘classic’ setlist, encompassing their whole darkwave era, though the sound quality is only passable, and the between-song interludes, whilst clearly having seemed funny at the time, now strike me as something best left for the DVD release. Not that DVDs were widely available in Europe back then. There are some CD-ROM clips, though, but these look grainy and sound dated on modern equipment. A pity, as it’s the only way to get their live cover of “Enjoy The Silence” (they were always going to cover the ‘Mode eventually).
DVD’s were a thing by the time of APBL2000, and hence you have two different disc formats to choose from, with the line-up now bolstered by live drummer Ted Skogmann. Both have a strong setlist, though for space reasons the CD cuts a few songs from the full touring setlist, which wouldn’t matter if they’d kept the critical “Love Never Dies” in, but they didn’t. Still, extra points for the Lise Myhre comic included in the insert (complete with a cameo from Nemi and Cyan). The DVD is the way to enjoy this one – now up to at least standard resolution (and the coloured lights blur any artefacts), alternating the tunes with bits of backstage and tour footage. Plenty of bonus clips too, including an archival of Burning Heretic live in Lund in 1994, nice to see if you’re into their early stuff as much as I am.
Next came The Harmonizer DVD, to my knowledge only sold as part of the Unicorn EP covered earlier. The live clip here is shorter – all but one of the setlist on offer (Kathy’s Song the exception) originating from the then-recent ‘Harmonizer’ album. The live show has been enhanced with some background projections, but we never get to see much of them. There’s also a half-hour documentary about the recent tour and music video production – and said videos are featured here too. Despite being Norwegian, two of the clips (Until The End and Suffer In Silence) are filmed in deserts, only “Unicorn” is set in a snowstorm! As the band were becoming quite a ‘big thing’ at the time, the quality of the clips are quite good, but you’ll have to grab them this way or resort to YouTube as I doubt any of the zillion music channels on modern TV will ever air them.
There was a final live DVD and CD from the ‘Rocket Science’ tour, entitled Imagine There’s No Lennon, but I’ve never been able to obtain it at anything approximating to a reasonable price from a reliable seller. I’d like to pick it up eventually, being the last performance of the 00s-line up plus offering the video clips from the previous couple of albums. But I’m going to have to leave a hole in the story for now.