Big Star – Live In Memphis (2014)

Share this:

This isn’t Big Star at its zenith, but it’s also not the timid first steps of the group’s modern-era lineup, as we heard on 1993’s Columbia: Live At Missouri University. A year later, as founders Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens continued forward with Posies alums Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow, they gathered at the New Daisy Theatre on Big Star’s home turf — and they’d become a band.

Live in Memphis, a multi-media release issued this month by Omnivore, ends up making a far better case for the inclusion of two Seattle interlopers. Where they’d been careful before, too aware it seems of the loud footsteps echoing behind from Chris Bell and Andy Hummel, this October 29, 1994 show finds Auer and Stringfellow (and, thus, Big Star) playing with a brawny confidence.

The always-enigmatic Chilton’s symbiotic interplay with Auer is of special note, as a crowd of Big Star’s legacy friends and family warm to the proceedings. Stringfellow is also in lockstep with Stephens. Live in Memphis — a 19-song film made by Chilton’s friend Danny Graflund, or a 20-song LP/CD/download — also finds Auer and Stringfellow taking credible turns on songs originally voiced by Chilton, “Back of a Car” and “Daisy Glaze,” respectively.

Moreover, as the group’s only full-length concert film, there are treasured opportunities to hear nervy live takes on Big Star classics like “September Gurls,” “For You,” “Ballad of El Goodo” and “Big Black Car,” to say nothing of offbeat covers like T. Rex’s “Baby Strange” and the show-closing “Slut” by Todd Rundgren.

Best of all, Live in Memphis is not perfect. But those moments when things go wrong, when Big Star isn’t perfect, connect in the same way: They bully through these missteps, like the tight unit they were becoming, like the friends they were destined to be until Alex Chilton’s untimely 2010 passing.

This is the sound of Big Star being reborn, finally.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
Share this:
Close