Review Summary: Like any live album, good for dedicated fans only!
I'd like to start off by saying that in the past few years, very few bands have gained as much of my respect as I Am Ghost has. Despite the fact that I'm not really a fan of the whole post-hardcore scene, I have been with I Am Ghost since their beginning, and have grown very fond of them in the last five or so years. You might even say that I really, really love I Am Ghost - their first two albums, anyway, as their most recent release was a huge change for the worse and a major disappointment for many fans of their original works. Nevertheless, when I heard that I Am Ghost was releasing a live album, I was excited - I love live albums as they are really for the fans, and I'd only seen this band once before, so I bought it.
[To be honest, I've never reviewed a live album before - so given the nature of the album, I have to assume that the readers know a bit about I Am Ghost, because I would not recommend this to anybody who has never heard the band before. Care to know why? Read on.]
The first thing I noticed about this album was its track listing. The advertisements for this album stated that I Am Ghost's new Live in Orange County CD would feature songs from all three of their prior releases: the We Are Always Searching EP (my favorite, I think) the full-length Lover's Requiem (very close 2nd) and Those We Leave Behind (bad album. the band is almost completely different in this release.) Upon looking at the track listing, I noticed that there was only one - yes, one - song from the EP on this album. One song from the EP, and seven from the universally panned Those We Leave Behind. Not only that, but the EP song is Eulogies and Epitaphs, which leads to my second complaint: why this song? I like it, sure, but wouldn't a much more practical choice be the epic Civil War and Isolation Thirst? Everybody loves that song and it sounds like it would be crazy when played live. (Hey, my first choice would have been 'Lady Madeline In Her Coffin', but everyone knows that would never happen. Nobody listens to me anyways.) Plus, there are minimal violins/female vocals (which is good because the band had driven away their violinist/female member by this point in time). I Am Ghost even made a huge deal about it back in the day when they added it to their MySpace player. Why the hell is this nowhere on the album?
[Now - the whole EP thing, it's not exactly false advertising on their part, because there are actually two other songs that DID appear on the EP played live in this album (Pretty People Never Lie and We Are Always Searching). However, they were re-recorded, edited, and generally made better on I Am Ghost's sophomore release, Lover's Requiem, so nobody counts them as EP songs. What a disappointment.]
As far as sound quality goes, it isn't terrible. The bass is a lot heavier in the mix here than it is in the studio versions of these songs, which is fine with me (because I'm a bassist. I don't know what other people would think of it.) Another thing you'll notice as you listen to the album is that, thankfully, there IS a violinist playing with them! It's quieter than the other instruments, but it is definitely there. When I saw I Am Ghost live, after they'd lost their violinist, they had no replacement - they played without violin, and the result sounded generic and generally not that great, so the fact that they got a violin on board for their live show is refreshing. A female vocalist would have been good too, and I can't imagine one would be too hard to find; the songs sound noticeably different without a woman singer, and mostly for the worse.
My major gripe with the production is that THIS DOESN'T SOUND LIKE A LIVE ALBUM. If anything, it sounds like re-recordings of a bunch of songs that you already know. When I listen to a live album, I love to hear the audience screaming over the music, singing along, clapping, etc. I like to feel like I'm actually at the band's show, and that's not something you get here. The only time you ever hear the audience is before songs for a second or two (they mostly cheer for the Lover's Requiem songs, hahah) and that's about it. This causes the music to seem lacking in energy. To be fair, though, if any songs you like appear here, you will probably find that they grow on you after a while, and are good to hear after listening to the studio ones so much, just to switch it up.
The bonus track is a remix of a great song from Lover's Requiem, This Is Home, although since it's lacking a lot of female vocals and drums, it's very different. Those who liked the original won't neccessarily like this.
In conclusion, there's a lot wrong with this album, this release from a band that was once a radically different beast. And the thing is, most of the problems with this release could be fixed if the band would stick by their roots. It might be too late to get back the band members they lost, but it would have helped to place more of an emphasis on their much more appreciated first two releases here. It was good that they brought in a violinist for this show, but would it have been that much harder to bring in a female vocalist as well, if you're going to be bringing in session musicians anyway?
The only people I would recommend this live album to are the people who really enjoyed this band's last studio effort. If you're an old I Am Ghost fan however (meaning the Telestai era, which was like 3.5 years ago) don't expect to be taken by this release. It's cool to hear the couple of tracks from that time, but nothing special. It's a shame that I Am Ghost is broken up now, and it's a shame that they had to fall so hard before it reached that point - what they really should have done is dropped the I Am Ghost name after Lovers' Requiem, but ah well. In light of their recent breakup, maybe this would be good for fans to have. Just keep in mind all that I have said.