In Concert


J-Bird Records, 2001

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


If you've been reading this site for any length of time, you'll remember what I, along with other reviewers, have said about live albums. Sometimes, they're the most difficult things for a performer to attempt; how does one try to recreate a visual and audio experience into an edited version that one can only hear?

In the case of Rockapella, I find it actually to be a disadvantage that I've seen them live. Their latest release, In Concert, tries to capture the magic of a typical live show from this a capella quintet, but it falls short, despite many enjoyable moments.

The biggest thing missing from this disc is the interplay between the band and the audience, ranging from between-song banter (which shows how much Scott Leonard and crew enjoy what they do) to pulling someone out of the audience for their rendition of "Pretty Woman". my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 In Concert pretty much is a rapid-fire delivery of vocal music without those brief but necessary breaks. (I have yet to discover if the corresponding home video includes any of these moments.)

If I had any complaint about In Concert, it would be the way that some of the group's material doesn't sparkle like fans know it can during this performance (taped for a PBS special - something Leonard notes in an ad-lib during "Dancin' In The Streets"). Songs like "That's The Way" and "Blah Blah Blah" (the latter of which features bass vocalist Barry Clark getting a dig in on music critics - thanks, Barry) literally crackle with energy on their studio versions - and having seen Rockapella perform, I know they can make these songs come to life on stage. On this disc, though, something is missing; they don't have the same kind of energy one might have expected. Also, a personal gripe - where is "Doorman Of My Heart"? Yeah, I know the boys couldn't have gotten away with using the phrase "kick the ass" on PBS, but I still miss this song.

The other aspect of In Concert that can't be translated from the live show is the way Rockapella can project themselves without the use of microphones. Since this was being recorded, the group is forced to use them during the medley of "Up On The Roof / Wonderful World," but there is nothing more powerful than seeing the band take the stage and perform this selection without any type of amplification - and hearing every word.

If one thinks that In Concert is substandard for Rockapella, there are moments on the disc which are sure to please. Crowd-pleasers like "Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?" and "Zombie Jamboree" are pulled off well, and Carl's solo on "16 Tons" is always guaranteed to put a smile on one's face.

If you are unable to see Rockapella when they come to your town, In Concert will suffice, but it doesn't quite match up to being there and hearing the show unfold in front of you. Rockapella is an incredible group to see live; In Concert only captures a portion of the whole picture.

Rating: B-

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© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of J-Bird Records, and is used for informational purposes only.