Kutless – Live From Portland
3 out of 5 stars
OK…its time for Music Education 101. Why do we go to concerts? Answer this one essay question and out comes the answer of why we have “live” albums. This is the question Kutless is trying to answer with their latest album due out December 12. The band offers up their first “live” album with “Live from Portland” and results in a solid yet average effort.
Kutless takes off with a fresh start to the album by opening with Hearts of the Innocent and then stringing that song straight into Treason. The irony of this tie-in alone makes the listener crack a grin. However, the transition is smooth and very well done. It is an example of what concerts should be. Kutless lets their rock chops fly on this album which is also fun and exciting. It is fun to hear the edgier, rougher version of Kutless that doesn’t exist in radio. This edgier version of Kutless is no more apparent than in their 2004 smash, Sea of Faces. The guys create a ramped up rock version of the song from purely a vocal standpoint. Hearing this version resurrects a two and a half year old song and makes it new again.
However, this orgininality is not enough to warrant an exciting album. Excitement is precisely what is missing from the album. Asking the audience, “Are you all ready to have some fun?” and “I want to see you go crazy” is a pathetic attempt to energize the audience when in actuality it only gains a 3 second scream. Kutless begs these types of questions repetitively on the album and it becomes both annoying and unentertaining. Add these lame efforts to unoriginal versions of some of their greatest songs and out comes “Live from Portland.” .
OK…maybe I am being hard on the guys. After all, they have only been performing for large audiences the past three and a half years (including a mainstage performance at last year’s GMA awards which are not easy for rock acts to obtain). The guys are successful singers and have great songs. There is no question about that. But in concert, these guys lack the ability energize the audience through their music. Hopefully this will come with more experience. Also, efforts to make their songs more original in concert would help. On the next “live” album, I would love to hear a piano-only version of Sea of Faces, completely bringing out a fresh new version of the song. .
Now back to the essay question. We go to concerts for one simple reason only…to see a show. We don’t go to get rehashed versions of the same old songs we love. Too many artists don’t understand this. We could sit at home and listen to our CDs if all we wanted was to hear the songs from the CD. What we want is a show. Concerts have to create energy and originality and that makes a great show. When this energy and originality transitions over to the audio only, a fantastic “live” album is created. Kutless had some great efforts with establishing these elements but ultimately missed the mark. One suggestion to the guys, your originality in rock has taken you this far….stick to that.