Live records are often a tricky sort of proposition; often considered a contract-filler or a way for a slow-working band to bide their time, they're often plagued with dodgy sound (either poor quality recordings or polished performances that don't sound live at all), retreads of old material and simply poor performances makes 'em difficult for reviewers to look forward to. There's the rare exception, though: historical value. If the band or artist in question didn't gain much in the way of acclaim during its lifetime or simply never made it into the studio--or if the band's at the top of their game--then live recordings are more easily accepted.
No Pain No Gain Live 1991 definitely falls into the latter category. This is a live document of New Order bassist Peter Hook's short-lived Revenge, and, frankly, it's a wonderfully stunning eye-opener. Though the band only released one album One True Passion, that was received fairly, the band never quite took off. Hook formed the band in part because he wanted a return to playing live, and it's obvious from these two sets that playing live was where Revenge shined brightest, and that Hook and company were a quite rewarding live act.
The first set, from an August 1991 performance at the Manchester Cities In The Park festival the band is red-hot. Their setlist is inspired; their performance is red-hot, Hook's in great spirits, and they sound like a band having fun on stage. "Jesus...I Love You" and "State of Shock" are fine numbers; "Slave" is a loud rocker, and the entire affair sounds not unlike New Order. The set ends with an excellent performance of New Order's "Dreams Never End," which they use to serve tribute to the then recently deceased Martin Hannett. The second set, from a January 1991 date in Japan, is shorter; the band's a little sloppier, but they're still in good spirits. The band reveal their rock roots with two surprising covers--The Rolling Stones' "Citadel" and Velvet Underground's "White Light/White Heat."
In the liner notes, Hook says his one regret with Revenge was that they didn't perform live before they entered into the studio, and it's easy to see his point; had the band worked this material on stage, One True Passion probably would have had much more spark. Still, this is a fine record as it is, and coupled with last year's excellent two-CD reissue and remastered One True Passion, it proves that Revenge is a band that deserves a better fate than to be considered a mediocre "side project."
Artist Website: http://www.ltmpub.freeserve.co.uk/revengecat.html
Label Website: http://www.ltmpub.freeserve.co.uk