It rarely happens that I judge a live album with the highest score of five stars, but all the same it happens once in a while. Live In The US by the Swedish band Karmakanic is such an album; a real winner! The first official live album by Karmakanic is a double album, leaving Karmakanic & Agents of Mercy Live USA (2010, see review) recorded by The Power Of Two out of account.
As the title already indicates these are recordings made in the USA, to be precise: at the Rites Of Spring Festival in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on the 4th of May 2012. It was the second time that Karmakanic hit the stage at this festival as they also performed there in 2006. In a way this concert was done to promote their latest studio album In A Perfect World (2011, see review) of which they played When The World Is Caving In, Turn It Up and 1969. It was exactly the same gig with the same line-up I had witnessed a week earlier in the Netherlands at Cultuurpodium Boerderij in Zoetermeer (see review). The line-up included Lalle Larsson (keyboards, backing vocals), Nils Erikson (keyboard, percussion, lead and backing vocals), Jonas Reingold (fretted and fretless bass, backing vocals), Göran Edman (lead and backing vocals), Krister Jonsson (guitars) and Morgan Ågren (drums).
The first CD starts with Nils Erikson sitting alone on stage behind his keyboard. He starts to sing The World Is Caving In, part 1, before the other band members enter the stage to join him. Thereafter a lot of great performances are done just as during the Zoetermeer gig! Karmakanic perform wonderful progressive rock songs influenced by jazz-rock and fusion. These songs contain dynamic contrasts, complex time signatures and long instrumental parts with lots of improvisations. Moreover, many solos are performed on the electric guitars, bass, keyboards and drums. Listen for example to Where The Earth Meets The Sky and Do U Tango. However, great vocal performances can be enjoyed as well! Summarizing you can say that the band took the time to play the music very tight and relaxed during the sometimes complex compositions.
Another important issue concerning Live In The US is the absolute superb sound quality on both discs. It's just as if you're present at the festival. Of course you'll never know how much have been tinkered at the recordings afterwards, but in this case I'm almost sure that no improvements were made during the final mix because the band sounded the same as during their performance in our country. Since this concert was exactly the same as the one I witnessed a week before, it means that I could enjoy the same encores on the second disc, namely Send A Message From The Heart and a wonderful rendition of Undertow, a cover from And Then There Were Three (1978) by Genesis. Karmakanic finished the concert the way they started: with The World Is Caving In, part 2.
Live In The US is a fantastic double live album that will be enjoyed and recognized by the fans of the band, especially those who saw them perform at the time this album was recorded. For others it's just sad that they missed a band in great shape during the world tour in 2012! However, they might heave a sigh of relief and say: we still have the live recordings, anyway! And these recordings are of an outstanding quality. Or did I mention that already?
***** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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