Maria McKee

Live in Hamburg

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Recorded in May of 2003 in support of her High Dive album, Maria McKee and her uncredited backing band offer a show brimming with emotion, tight and crisp performances of songs from three of her four records, and stellar live sound. The lion's share of the material comes from the aforementioned recording and the still provocative Life Is Sweet. There is a beautiful version of "Breathe" from her self-titled debut in the set as well. McKee's performance is inspired, and these versions of songs from her catalog offer the best evidence yet that she is at her best in a live setting -- the readings of "Absolutely Barking Stars," "Be My Joy," "High Dive," "Scarlover," and the encore, "Life Is Sweet," may indeed be the definitive versions -- so far. While it would have been nice to get a live album of new material, this certainly has its place. The album does have one serious irritation, however. There are nearly three minutes of applause after "Something Similar," the set closer. As if this weren't enough, after a cloying introduction and an impassioned offering of "Life Is Sweet," the listener is burdened with another five minutes of thunderous applause before the disc fades into silence. Whether this is just a gag or a strange kind of evidence to prove that she is still loved despite her spectral presence on the recording scene is unclear, but the effect is nonetheless irritating. But everything that comes before it is a delight. ~ Thom Jurek, Rovi

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