Rockpalast 1979 [no label 2CD Torrent: 112855]
Live at WDR TV Studio L, Cologne, Germany, Jan 4, 1979. Ex FM stereo.

Kevin Coyne was arguably reaching his musical peak in the late 1970s… he was certainly approaching his cultural apex, as punk rock (and the vocal patronage of Johnny Rotten) gave final focus to what had hitherto been a voice in the wilderness, and a new deal with Virgin Records breathed fresh life into his songwriting. That year's Millionaires & Teddy Bears album remains one of his finest, and the accompanying tour - Coyne alone on stage to begin with, with Zoot Money arriving about midway through - saw him deliver some of his most powerful live performances in years. Certainly this recording of a "typical" show (as if anything Coyne ever did could be so described) ranks alongside any of his conventional releases, and knocks the then still-recent In Living Black and White live album out of contention altogether.

Flitting across his entire career-to-date, Coyne is spectacular. So what if his frequently self-deprecating between-songs chatter is all but lost on the German audience? The tone of his voice tells them what they need to know, while a set that opens with "Araby" and progresses on through "Right On Her Side" and "Amsterdam" is defiantly not setting out to merely entertain.

"Having A Party," however, is where the first blade slips in, as a curse upon the music industry in general is given scalpel-sharp acidity by the recent misadventures of Sid Vicious - freshly out on bail, Vicious was still living when this show was recorded. But Coyne's mid-song cry of "poor Sid" nevertheless reminds us of the real-life tragedy that lay beneath the Machiavellian drama that was playing out on the streets of Manhattan, and sets the scene for the remainder of the set, a seething, burning program that doesn't allow the audience to sit comfortably for a moment. When Coyne introduces "Brother Of Mine" with a dedication to Johnny Rotten, you can feel the audience's awkwardness. 

The arrival of Zoot Money (at the start of disc two) does introduce some levity to the proceedings, and also allows Coyne to stretch out a little - they execute a punchy "Dynamite Daze," a frothy "Pretty Park," a spectral "Don't Blame Mandy," and a positively futurist "Eastbourne Ladies," rendered all the more electric by the moody soundscapes with which Money prefaces it, and the staccato space-rock organ that drives it. But you simply cannot play favorites with this performance. Two CDs and not a wasted moment between them, the only thing that could be better than listening to it would be to catch the original television broadcast that spawned it. It's out there some place, after all. - Dave Thompson

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November 17 , 2006