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Live In Baltimore

Frontiers (2012)
Rating: 8/10

There was a magical time in my younger years when metal ruled the world. Fast guitars and loud drums poured from every speaker, and MTV even played music. This mythical age seemed perfect, until metal forgot its roots. The basics of rock were replaced by the need to play the fastest solo, have the biggest hair, and create the most expensive stage set. Rising from the bar scene of Baltimore, Maryland came Kix, the band that brought the rock back to metal.

Formed in 1977, Kix injected the grit and swagger of classic heavy rock bands like AC/DC into metal in the 80s. By mixing the best of rock gone by with the flair and attitude of the metal of the day, Kix created a sound that was ready for the masses. A string of releases brought the band increasing acclaim until their breakthrough album, Blow My Fuse, was released in 1988. Kix ruled MTV with ballad ‘Don’t Close Your Eyes’, and dominated rock radio with ‘Cold Blood’. Along the way, albums such as Midnite Dynamite (1985) showed a band on the rise, and won Kix a legion of loyal fans.

In 2012 Kix are still an active force and offers fans this live CD and DVD package recorded in their hometown. From the moment the band takes the stage it’s obvious the crowd loves them. Kix sounds as good as ever, kicking off the set with the rocker ‘No Ring Around Rosie’ from the highly successful Blow My Fuse album. The band is tight, and with the exception of a few extended versions to accommodate the stage banter of vocalist Steve Whiteman, most of the songs are note perfect to the album renditions. I was particularly impressed by the strong harmony vocals – something many bands can’t accomplish live.

Live In Baltimore isn’t just a string of hits, but encompasses songs from the band’s entire 35-year career. The opening track is followed by ‘Atomic Bomb’ from Kix’s 1981 self-titled debut, a track that is reminiscent of early Ratt. ‘Lie Like A Rug’, from the amazing Midnite Dynamite release, has a gritty blues boogie guitar riff through the verses that could make Angus and Malcolm Young stand up and take notice, and owing more than a little to the guitar attack of AC/DC’s classic Back In Black album (1980).

After some more stage banter, Kix move onto their 1989 hit ballad, ‘Don’t Close Your Eyes’, before returning to what they do best – testosterone soaked hard rock. ‘Girl Money’ boasts vocals that sound like a reincarnation of Bon Scott, making the track sound like 90s AC/DC, had their iconic early singer remained among the living. The title track from Blow My Fuse is similar, having a sleazy blues rock sound that was born in the 70s and perfected by some of the 80s best acts.

Overall, the Live In Baltimore CD, and accompanying DVD, show a band that’s still at its peak, offering a high energy set of dirty rock consisting of material from every studio Kix album, with the exception of the criminally overlooked $how Bu$ine$$ (1995). The musicianship is excellent, the songs are enjoyable, and both band and audience sound like they’re having a great time.

The only shortcomings on this release are those one would expect from a live recording. Occasional mix issues and room noise take away from a crystal clear sound at points, but you don’t expect perfection from a live release – you want the raw flavour of your favourite band pounding out the songs you love. Kix provides that on Live In Baltimore. The songs leave me wanting more, and that’s exactly what you want from a live performance.

Jim McDonald

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