If more blues and boogie bands had the discipline of Gossip's two instrumentalists, they'd actually be worth a listen. Although even then they still might be playing beer bars. On the other hand, if they had a joyous, self-assured, in-your-face force of nature like Beth Ditto fronting the band, that surely wouldn't be the case.
Over the years, Arkansas transplant Ditto has become off-stream rock 'n' roll's most convincing soul singer as well as a chart-topping star in the U.K. And this gutsy live set, recorded in front of an adoring audience of adenoidal Brits, demonstrates why. It's not that Ditto's vocal equipment is miraculous or her phrasing completely original. Even Gossip's most impressive original, the clock-rockin' dance anthem "Standing in the Way of Control," has roots in both the aggressive androgynous disco of Grace Jones and the ecstatic, punk-fueled R&B of the Bellrays. What sets Ditto apart is her commitment to performance. On these tracks, whether she's playing a cajoling, hip-grinding disco queen or channeling Big Mama Thornton and Janis Joplin on a viscous blues shout, she always means it.
Forget all that arid indie attitudinizing. Like all tough, adventurous performances, Live in Liverpool (which also includes a full-length DVD) is soaked in buckets of sweat. The minimal cover art consists of two images of soiled (and presumably stinky) white T-shirts, which pretty much says it all about this crude, rude, exuberant adrenaline rush of an album.