Since 2011, Blues Pills the Swedish hard rock band, have built an impressive career, releasing a well-received debut via Nuclear Blast and then following it up with 2016’s smoky delight, ‘Lady in Gold’. One of those bands that purrs on record, only to roar on stage, Blues Pills have a richly textured psychedelic sound that brings to mind the likes of Grace Slick (and Jefferson Airplane) and Janis Joplin, and it is a sound that provides the perfect base for extended jams in the live environment. Thus, ‘Lady in Gold, live in Paris’ is the perfect companion to the studio record, offering the best of the band’s material to date and in considerably rawer form. Available as a sensibly priced double CD / Blu ray package (£12.99 on Amazon at time of writing), ‘Live in Paris’ is a beautifully packaged treat for fans of the band.
Certainly, Nuclear Blast have pulled out the stops with this one. The album comes in a hard-backed book format, with plastic trays provided for all three discs (no slot in nonsense here) and a booklet with several pages of photos. The concert is spread across 2 CDs (41 & 35 mins respectively) and a blu ray for visual content, although it is a shame they did not include the ‘Lady in Gold’ video clips as a bonus. Sensibly, the band have not opted for a surround mix and the LCPM rendering of the concert is incredibly powerful, capturing the band in raucous form. The image is absolutely pristine (except at those points where digital effects have been used to ape the degraded visual style of a 70s concert), with incredible levels of detail on display. The bright lights of the stage are captured perfectly, whilst the dark interior of the venue, although flooded with shadow, is crisply rendered. If there are artefacts, they’re so rare as to be unnoticeable (at least on a smaller screen) and the overall impression is that this is a gorgeous-looking presentation. As the final piece of the puzzle, director Julia Robert captures the manic intensity of the band on stage without resorting to the irritating jump cutting style that impacts so many live shows and it is a pleasure to watch throughout. Overall, you have a winning package that will most certainly be a must-buy for fans of the band.
As for the concert itself, well, if you know the band, you’ll know that they deliver intense and charismatic performances. Blues Bills may not have a large back catalogue, but what they lack in quantity, they more than make up for in quality and, over the course of some seventy-minutes, they blow the audience’s collective mind, playing the majority of ‘Lady in Gold’ whilst throwing in the best of the debut album, not least a version of ‘Devil man’ so gloriously overblown, you can practically smell the burning tubes as it reaches its climax. Throughout, the attention inevitably turns to Ellen, whose ecstatic stage presence is entirely irresistible. She bounces, dances, smiles (a lot) and yet, through it all, she delivers that powerful, whiskey-worn voice with unerring strength. She is a revelation, and if the band are less visible, it’s no disrespect to their immense musical talent, she’s simply a natural focal point and her energy is infectious.
Highlights abound. The opening ‘Lady in gold’ gets things off to a wildly energetic start, Ellen bounding on stage with a smile that could illuminate the venue, whilst tracks like a high-voltage run through of ‘high class woman’ and the trippy beauty of ‘black smoke’, turn heads with ease. The venue is the perfect setting for the band with its crystal chandeliers and wildly enthusiastic audience, and by the time we get to the poignant ‘I felt a change’ (delivered solo), it’s clear that Blues Pills are on the form of their lives. The final encore of ‘rejection’ and ‘gone so long’ (not so much desired as demanded by the demonstrative crowd) feels like a celebration, and, there’s a feeling of genuine regret when the disc spins to a halt.
Some bands head out on stage to offer note-perfect renditions of their recorded material. Others allow the studio recordings to act as a reference point, expanding out their songs and letting them breathe as the band react to the audience. Blues Pills most certainly fall into the latter category, and where ‘Lady in Gold’ allowed the arrangements to shine in a dusky, after-hours setting, the live versions pulse with light and life. As such, this live album is not so much a record of the tour, as an essential companion piece to the ‘lady in gold’ album itself, and is all the more essential for it. 9