Live in '99

by: George Thorogood & The Destroyers

Recorded almost two months after the release of Half a Boy/Half a Man, his first album for CMC International, and released five months later, Live in '99 is what you'd expect from an artist who has spent over 20 years playing the same blooze 'n' boogie. That's right -- a little more blooze 'n' boogie. Depending on your point of view, Thorogood has either kept it real or has recycled himself since the second song on his first album, but either way, Live in '99 offers no surprises in either camp. He keeps the same roadhouse grooves, the same thundering slide guitar, and the same songs ("Bad to the Bone," "Who Do You Love," "I Drink Alone," "Move It on Over," "Get a Haircut," and "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" all make another appearance). The only thing that's changed slightly is the banter -- thanking Budweiser and the Fox Theater, saying there will be no violence or guns tonight, only love and rock & roll. The performances probably sounded fine in concert, where there's a palpable dynamic between the artist and audience, but on record, they're flat. Not necessarily unenjoyable, but certainly flat, with no real spark from the band nor any exceptional solos or singing. In other words, this album is a bit predictable. That might not bother indiscriminate hardcore fans -- who, after all, haven't objected to hearing the same basic album for over two decades -- but some discerning diehards may question why he does the same songs the same way year after year, especially when he has more than enough rarities or covers to choose from. The answer? The hits are crowd-pleasers and the crowd wouldn't be happy if they didn't hear them. There's no rule, however, that a live album needs to be a replica of a concert (though those are occasionally nice), and given how the familiarity of the performances and material makes Live in '99 feel a little ordinary, perhaps Thorogood should take the opportunity with his next album to shake things up a little bit. Not that he would abandon blooze 'n' boogie -- but it would be enough to hear blooze 'n' boogie through different songs. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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