Live albums always come with a certain amount of risk because you never know what you’re going to get in terms of sound quality. If the show was recorded through the sound board, or using professional equipment, the raw energy of live performance can be captured in a way that generally isn’t possible on studio releases. Perhaps it’s truer to say studio recordings lose some of their energy because people won’t let it out of the studio sounding raw, instead splicing, dicing, and otherwise “cleaning up” the sound, a trend that has only gotten worse as more powerful editing tools have become more widely available. Regardless, live albums are a dicey proposition, and live punk albums even more so since the quality tends to be even lower on average.
With that in mind, I passed by Live in Berlin as I flipped through the Miscellaneous I section at Hi-Voltage Records a few weeks ago, but I came back to it a few minutes later because I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I’m not entirely sure why, as I knew nothing about the Instigators and I have no particularly affinity to Berlin (I’ve never been to the city, but I am a big fan of the song “The Metro”…). The cover may have trigged some type of subliminal flashback, since it reminds me a little of the cover of Black Sabbath Volume 4 (work with me here, people) and I used to listen to a fair amount of Sabbath back in the day. Whatever the reason, the price was right, and it was on cool purple marbled vinyl, so into my stack it went.
The recording mix on Live in Berlin is low and the vocals sound tinny to me, and without an equalizer I pretty much have to take what comes out of the speakers. That being said, it’s far from terrible quality and the vocals are clean and clear, so as long as I can cut through Andrew Turner’s English accent I can follow along. One of the things I really like is that the album sounds like it is a linear recording of this show – it includes a bit of Turner talking to the audience between songs, and there aren’t any obvious cuts (other than at the very end of side B), so this really feels a lot more like a continuous live experience to me.
I found myself getting more and more into Live in Berlin as the album went on. I don’t think this was as much due to the songs on the second half of side A being better than the first, but more that I felt like I was part of an actual show (during some of the quiet moments, you can even here people talking in the crowd). It’s solid punk and worth a listen.