ABC: LEXICON OF LIVE (1999)
1) Poison Arrow; 2) Stranger Things; 3) When Smokey Sings; 4) How To Be A Millionnaire; 5) Be Near Me; 6) Who Can I Turn To; 7) Show Me; 8) Skyscraping; 9) Rolling Sevens; 10) One Better World; 11) Tears Are Not Enough; 12) All Of My Heart; 13) The Look Of Love.
There is obviously so not much to say about this record that the current Wikipedia entry on it is marvelously laconic, and very much up to the point: «The Lexicon Of Live is a live album released by pop group ABC. Although Martin Fry was the only member left, he had a backing band, and came out in his trademark gold suit». I guess that pretty much says everything a layman needs to know, but just for the sake of I-don't-know-what, let's add a few extra details.
Apparently, ABC never toured all that much while they were still all together, which makes this Skyscraping-era «coming out» with a live album even more of an odd cash-in. On a video, at least, you could enjoy the gold suit in proper lighting, but as it is, all you have to do is sit through a bunch of ABC classics, interspersed with a few selections from Skyscraping, as they are faithfully and professionally reproduced on stage by Martin and his then-current backing band. It's not as if Fry sounded too disinterested or anything — he gets all of those songs' original strengths through without any problems — but neither is he interested in letting the people experience anything above and beyond these original strengths.
The setlist is respectable, predictably concentrating on Lexicon Of Love material and the most popular hits that followed (ʽWhen Smokey Singsʼ, etc.), and the disappointing Up/Abracadabra period is represented only by ʽOne Better Worldʼ, which at least sounds a little better with real drums, and is also shortened by about a minute and a half. They also take the best material from Skyscraping, so, on the whole, no complaints in that direction. But ABC were so much of a studio band in all possible ways and manners that, paradoxically, only their bad songs would benefit from a live rearrangement — all the good songs inevitably suffer from poor mixing and lack of studio gloss that defines the ABC sound.
For reasons of politeness, we do have to thank the band for being tight, and Fry's backup vocalists for being appropriately sexy, but a live ABC album simply does not compute, let alone a live ABC album that only pretends to be an ABC album (at least it might have been vaguely interesting to witness original member Mark White play some guitar on stage). I guess you really have to be into gold suits in order to convince yourself to own it.