Can – Live in Brighton 1975 (Mute\Spoon Records)

Can – Live in Brighton 1975 (Mute\Spoon Records)

Live albums don’t really do much for me. Of course, there are a few examples of exceptional live albums Neil Young’s Rust Never Sleeps, Tom Waits‘s Nighthawks at the Diner, Miles Davis‘s Live Evil, 65daysostatic‘s Escape from New York and Death Rosenstock‘s Thanks, Sorry! However most leave me cold. One album that can be added to that exceptional list, though, is Can‘s Live in Brighton 1975.

Part of the reason why the album works so well is because there is a slightly bootleg feel about it. The sound isn’t pristine. Sections sound muddy. You can’t really hear what each musician is doing.

There are errors, but they actually enhance the experience. What you have is a classic era Can just playing their hearts out for 91 minutes. The songs are verbose, but there is an enjoyment in that. You want Can to go through the motions and play standard 4/4 ‘rawk’? No. You want all the pomp and showboating. With Michel Karoli (guitar, vocals and violin), Irmin Schmidt (keyboard vocals), Holger Czukay (bass, electronics, vocals and french horn) and Jaki Liebezeit (drums and percussion) you get plenty of that.

On a first listen I thought it was Karoli’s album. His guitar work is incendiary. Either playing hypnotic riffs or massive chords. It’s a joy to hear. Here’s the thing though. Karoli only gets to be this flamboyant because of the engine behind him, allowing him the freedom to go off on these delightful tangents. Yes, that’s right. Liebezeit. His drumming is the real star of the show. He switches from breakneck breaks, almost d’n’b in style stuff, to abstract fills and then somewhere in between. Its awe inspiring. However, it’s when the band all come in together that things start to really kick off. A highlight is when between ’Brighton 75 Drei’ and ’Brighton 75 Vier’ the crowd start heckling and shouting out songs they want to hear. The band serenely take it, while creating an ethereal fug, then BAM they just unload on the crowd and deliver one of the most powerful performances on the album. Squeals of electronics, almost surf-rock guitar riffs, chugging drumming and wonky keyboards. It’s a proper delight and one I wish I could have witnessed live.

There is something about Live in Brighton 1975 that is, dare I say, fun. There is joyful bounce to the performances. On ’Brighton 75 Eins’, for example, the guitar starts to lean into noodling mode. Normally this is where I start to zone out, but because the rest of the band are playing in such an energetic way I welcome it, as it means I can just listen to a band locked in the groove. The songs just explode from the speakers like rays of sunshine on a pretty grey day. Their brief appearance just lifts your mood. If this is your first experience with Can what a treat. If you are an old head, mate, how great are these performances? What Live in Brighton 1975 really shows is a band at the peak of their powers. They could do no wrong and for a short period of time they were the best band in the world.

Live in Brighton 1975 is out now on Mute/Spoon Records.

9/10

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