Volume 92, Issue 85
Wednesday, March 10, 1999
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Holly gets narly - live
Live albums are typically marketed towards fans of the artist, with the purpose of adding a live show's spontaneity to all their favourite songs. Holly McNarland's new release Live Stuff offers something more.
Recorded at The Phoenix in Toronto and Rockabillys in Las Vegas, this seven track EP delivers some candid versions of songs off McNarland's second album, Stuff. But what's more valuable is the insight into the heart of McNarland's performance.
Within a live venue, her audience is taken beyond her trademark "tough-chick" exterior and allowed a peek into her emotional side. Though she still maintains a raw and powerful sound, there are moments of honest inflection, hesitation and sentiment brought from the emotional calibre of her lyrics, not just a cue from a sound booth.
A particularly haunting version of "Water" begins the EP, saturated with exasperation and a sense of helplessness. It's within this first track where one catches a sense of desperation in McNarland's voice, which may have first been mistaken for what is now an emblem of her strength.
The album continues with a power driven version of "Numb" and a fantastically energetic account of "Elmo." McNarland demands "Where the fuck have you been?" so fiercely, the listener feels compelled to answer her accusation out of pure fear.
"Stormy" and a remake of the Phil Collins' '80s anthem "In the Air Tonight" are the two tracks not included on Stuff. The first is a little abrasive, even for McNarland. She approaches the Collins remake with a more laid back, introspective purpose than the original. The result is an interesting venture, but it remains the most uninspired track on the album.
Her stand out accomplishment is the performance of "I Want To Stay." It provides a dose of melodic relief, placed in the middle of her more hard-core efforts and is layered with a rich background which McNarland capitalizes on. The result is a stimulating, gut wrenching number which allows McNarland to be forceful and vulnerable at the same time.
Live Stuff confirms that although McNarland is powerful in the studio, she truly shines in a live venue.
Copyright © The Gazette 1999