Few that have seen the World/Inferno Friendship Society in concert would doubt their ability to put on one heck of a kickin' live show. How, with 8+ members on stage, more woodwinds than Belgium, and a frontman that blends vaudeville with anarchy, can a live show be anything less than explosive? But, the question remains, can this live energy be transferred to CD while still retaining its spontaneity and sharpness? On Hallomas Live at North Six, the band tackles the type of recording that either makes or breaks a band, and winds up making love to it.
Certainly, the setting for the recording fits the band's ethos. The recording comes from October 31, 2002, or Hallomas, which in the liner notes, lead singer Jack Terricloth refers to as the last holiday free from religion. Throughout the set, the band rallies against religion, opines on the benefit of a good drink, and laments getting funky with older chicks. The songs are drawn from the band's entire career, with about half of the recordings appearing on studio albums released after this recording, most notably "Peter Lorre" which recently appeared on their latest album Addicted to Bad Ideas.
As the band rumbles through the set, the sound is surprisingly clean. Those that have heard the band live would likely acknowledge that the multitude of instruments on stage tend to blend together creating a massive wall of sound. But, on this disc, almost every instrument is defined, which creates a rather more delicate sound for WIFS than one would expect -- at least, when they're not at the end of a crescendo. This decision is an interesting choice: either the band could have used a dirtier sounding mix to make the disc more representative of a WIFS concert, or, like they choose, they could carefully record each instrument to portray the sound they intend before speakers and sweaty bodies muddle the sounds together. There's no right answer to the question, only paths from which to choose.
With its gang of musicians, WIFS excels at bombast and, man, they sure utilize their skills here. On the opener, "Tattoos Fade," the live horns are louder than their studio counterparts and they simply pound with joy and excitement. On the closer, "Pumpkin Time," the band emulates both the Isley Brothers and the Misfits. And just like "Shout!," the song excels when played live with the quiet parts quieter than a feather drop and the loud parts just completely bouncing around the room.
And just like the live shows, lead singer Jack Terricloth steals the show with his banter only long enough for the rest of the band to steal it back. Luckily for us, this show seems to be unedited including Jack's audience baiting, goth baiting, and Paul Robeson tributes. These little snippets of wisdom dispensed by Jack are almost as important to the band as the music itself. Terricloth's stylings are equal parts Groucho Marx and Joan River's -- self-deprecating but completely devoid of regret.
The disc does its best to capture the live experience of the World Inferno. The sound may be cleaner than a live show, but the energy is as pure as ever. While nothing can make up for actually feeling the horn section hit you square in the chest or frenzied dancing with a cute partner, the disc binds Motown melodies, raw percussion and sweat to plastic the best it can. Highly recommended for both fans and as a starting place for newbies.