To a certain extent, retro-swing is always at its best in a live setting, whether it's in a packed club or a concert hall. There it's possible to get swept in the energy of a performance, feeding off the performance of the band and the vibe of the crowd. During the live show, it's all about having a good time, and it's possible not to care about whether the music is derivative if the attitude is smirky and if the musicians are more flash than skilled. And that's why even if retro-swing makes for a good live experience, it doesn't necessarily make for a great live album, because it can fall apart under the scrutiny of a close listen, as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
's 2004 double-disc Live
illustrates. Containing one 17-track CD and one 17-track DVD, it captures a full set from May 15, 2003. Live
finds the band in solid form, running through songs from their three albums. On-stage, they're a little looser than they are in the studio, which means to a certain extent they come across a little bit better, since they sound livelier, but at home, the listener is as removed from the band as he would be with a studio platter. The kinetic energy of the live show falls away, and it reveals that while the musicians can pull of their big-band pastiche they have limited chops as musicians and that their persona is too silly and kitschy to play outside of their fan base. Those fans, however, will likely enjoy this disc since it's crisply produced and professionally performed -- plus, the DVD has a 5.1 Sound mix and a 15-minute documentary chronicling their "Early Years," complete with lots of home video footage -- but this is strictly a release for the fans and the fans alone.