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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Average White Band: Person To Person


1) Person To Person; 2) Cut The Cake; 3) If I Ever Lose This Heaven; 4) Cloudy; 5) T.L.C.; 6) I'm The One; 7) Pick Up The Pieces; 8) Love Your Life; 9) School Boy Crush; 10) I Heard It Through The Grapevine.

The Average White Band Live Experience is pretty much what you would expect it to be after gulping down the Studio Experience. Basically, everything is kept the same, with the addition of some major jam power. Naturally, in an era of double live LPs Person To Person could only be double, but that's understood — considering that ʽT.L.C.ʼ goes on for fourteen minutes and ʽPick Up The Piecesʼ is stretched to eighteen, only two LPs could have made this even the slightest bit representative of the band's actual shows.

Unfortunately, all of the things that confirm the «average» tag for the AWB in the studio do not seem to dissipate live, either. First and foremost, the band is still playing it cozy and safe. Stretch­ing the songs out into jam mode could give them a chance to go wild; but the individual solos that explain the length of ʽPick Up The Piecesʼ are still well-mannered and restrained, even Steve Fer­rone's drum solo, which is very pefunctory and boring in comparison to a John Bonham or a Ginger Baker or a Mi­chael Shrieve. And none of the other members are great soloists, either; in fact, there must have been a bery good reason why they always emphasized collective groove over individual showcases on their studio albums — none of the guitarists or brass players have anything even remotely approaching an individual style, preferring to blend into the surroundings. (Still wonder why Paul McCartney spent so much time recording and touring with Hamish Stuart in the late 1980s / early 1990s? This is the kind of sidekick that he appreciates the most).

Second, the setlist is good, but far from perfect. Everything is funky-midtempo or slow-balladry; a fast romp along the lines of ʽPut It Where You Want Itʼ would have made the experience far more convincing. Where, in a different context, I would bemoan the presence of disco, here I find its absence equally bemoan-ful: too much white-boy funk, even played with all due professiona­lism and inspiration, can eventually render the heart immune to its charms. It doesn't help matters, either, that the two new numbers, previewed from Soul Searching (ʽI'm The Oneʼ and ʽLove Your Lifeʼ) show that the formula, good for the first three years, was getting seriously stale and repetitive into its fourth. And finally, the cover of Marvin Gaye's ʽI Heard It Through The Grape­vineʼ is a genuine failure — it takes the guys a whole three or four minutes to set up the groove, and then the groove turns out to be rather limp compared to both the classic «black» and «white» versions (CCR's, for instance).

Overall, a huge disappointment — funk bands are supposed to give their best on stage, but this here is clearly not the case. I still like the fourteen-minute version of ʽT.L.C.ʼ (very few solos and some nice tension build-ups on the way), but if the boys place more emphasis on precision and cleanliness of playing than on letting their hair down, it should be obvious that studio records are the way to go. Hence, a logical thumbs down — avoid, unless one of those inexplicable forces of Nature happened to transform you into a major AWB fan.

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