David Cassidy: Live!

A multitalented teen-idol tears it up live in 1974

In 1974, David Cassidy was on top of the world commercially, but near the end of his run of mainstream fame. He was a talented musician trapped in the body – and career – of a teen idol. His aspirations were starting to exceed what his fans and critics would freely allow him to grasp, and unlike the Beatles, who successfully retreated from the stage to studio, Cassidy’s attempts to grow beyond the confines of his Partridge Family-launched solo career led to artistic accomplishment, but not broader commercial success. 1974 marked the tail end of his pop-idol ride, and the frenzy surrounding his live appearances, as evidenced by the crowd’s non-stop hysteria, was as highly-charged as ever. Cassidy didn’t know it at the time, but it would come crashing down at tour’s end, when hundreds of fans were injured and one, Bernadette Whelan, was killed by the crush of a concert crowd. Cassidy retired from touring at the end of that year, and after a three-album stint on RCA, he put his public music career on a decade-long hiatus.

What’s truly impressive about his live album is that with the craziness still running full tilt, Cassidy was able to deliver a live performance that was both exciting to his youngest fans and artistically satisfying to those able to listen past the pre-teen pandemonium. He was (and remains to this day), a fetching singer and dynamic showman. He had a terrific ear for material that fit his voice, that played well on stage and with which he could do something interesting. His raucous cover of Leon Russell’s “Delta Lady” is worth hearing, and he leads the band in stretching Stephen Stills’ “For What It’s Worth” into a soul groove. Even better is a Beatlemania-worth cover of “Please Please Me” and the rock ‘n’ roll medleys that close the set. Cassidy whips the crowd into a lather with covers of Mitch Ryder’s mash-up of “C.C. Rider” and “Jenny Jenny,” and rips through five early rock classics capped with his own his hit single, “Rock Me Baby.”

Cassidy comes across as truly enthused to be performing, and though the rising tide of fame may have drown some of his artistic dreams, he maintained enough control to craft a live set in which he could invest himself as a performer. The band is hot, and though the fans scream throughout the entire show, the music isn’t compromised. There’s real chemistry between Cassidy and the musicians, each feeding off the other’s energy, and both feeding off the crowd. The recording quality is good, though by no means state-of-the-art for 1974; no doubt the original producers thought of this as something to market, rather than something to preserve. Still, Cassidy’s magnetism, artistry and showmanship, and the high quality of the band’s playing come through louder and clearer than anyone might have expected in 1974.  [©2012 Hyperbolium]

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