Recorded at the Paradise Theater in Boston on January 29th 1980, this bootleg album is from an interesting era, a time when XTC’s live set was still heavily laced with material from 1978, except Barry Andrew's dinky organ has been replaced with guitar.
With newbie Dave Gregory covering the leads, Partridge is free to indulge all his kinkiest rhythm guitar fantasies - slashing, skanking, and skittering all over the place. So although this fresh new XTC sound would soon slow down and chill out into popcraft, they came roaring out the gate here, blowing away the slightly dull finish on Drums and Wires
This is one of the very few live albums I’ve heard where I can honestly say most of the songs come off better than the studio takes. The band storms through “Making Plans for Nigel” and “Helicopter” with endless aplomb, and even relatively weak songs like “Ten Feet Tall”, “Battery Brides”, and “Dance Band” are given a new lease on life, the latter two becoming a pair of joyous bubbly jams.
Simply put then, this is the definitive document of early XTC. The album is a bootleg though, as there are no official XTC live albums available (though there are a few officially released fragments, and hours of BBC quasi-live tracks). But the recording (taken from a radio show) is mostly excellent, in spite of a few minor glitches.
The crowd noise is a bit high, and the mindless radio DJ chatter intermissions could've been edited out, but the only really bothersome part is the intro to “Complicated Game”, which is marred by drunken shouting and some sort of weird chiming effect which is mixed way higher than necessary, though the actual song is yet another fantastic performance.
As is so often the case with XTC, the weak link is the singing. Whilst Partridge and Moulding have a tendency to make unwise detours and inscrutable strangled noises, they do handle themselves pretty well here (especially whwn compared to the BBC studio concerts on the Transistor Blast
set). So - unless you have a heart of stone - you’ll be too busy dancing to care. You’d be damn hard-pressed to find an album with more sheer kinetic energy than this one. Rated:
by Reviewer: S M Hellebore