Zoo 1995 / Deadline 2020
Dealing with the devil while searching for love, veteran heavy rockers uncover their rarely seen facets.
Strange as it may seem, in their classic timeline none of this ensemble’s live records reflected the American quintet’s actual concert show and none ran across their entire catalogue, yet that’s not the reason why the two performance sequences comprising the conceptually disjointed “Stage” are so special. It’s the duality of what the L.A. artists were capable of: whereas the 1993 Anaheim numbers, housed on the double album’s second CD, evoke the hard rock juggernaut the band used to be on a regular day, the House of Blues tracks from the following year, gathered on the first disc, reveal GW’s soft underbelly – befitting the group’s homecoming gig in support of anti-handgun cause. Reissued now and expanded to include the magnificent “Gone With The Wind” as bonus, it highlights their deep cuts without shying away from shedding a new light on popular tracks.
The epic “Rock Me” and “House Of Broken Love” may sway the public in quite an expected manner, but the audience members eagerly embrace fresh songs, too, which can hardly be surprising, given how enchanting the acoustic reading of “Sail Away” is, when Audie Desbrow’s drums and Teddy Cook’s bass lead the way before electric licks are rolled out to bring home the blues and take ballads such as the exquisite “Love Is Lie” to celestial heights. While “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” retains its original swagger and “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” remains just as romantic as the close-to-the-source approach ever dictated, the other couple of covers – “Afterglow” and “Train To Nowhere” that sets things in motion – is where the band’s vibrancy and propensity for groove come to the fore, Mark Kendall and Michael Lardie’s guitars providing a trampoline for Jack Russell’s voice to bounce off of.
As “Face The Day” rages on, riffs pile up but subtleties that mark the likes of “Old Rose Motel” get evaporated in the noise, although “Can’t Shake It” balances arena rock with nuanced tunefulness. This duality, not canceled out by equilibrium, is what’s behind the “Stage” allure: not a spent force yet, GW are caught at their finest here.