Unfortunately for me I never received a copy of the A Cross The Universe film. Whoever was supposed to send me the DVD decided not to send it. This was a bit disappointing. However, I had high hopes that the accompanying live album for A Cross The Universe would not disappoint me. While it wasn't a complete failure, it wasn't anything to rave about (pun intended). Before we dive into the album lets discuss the concept of the live album itself. Live albums are a tricky task. Artists have nowhere to hide any imperfections, and have the pressure of delivering fan favorites perfectly. Even though the live crowd may not notice any flaws with all the adrenaline that comes with a live show, a listener at home will notice any imperfections
Most bands cannot recreate the magic of their music live. It takes a really special band to take songs to the next level. Even better, it takes a truly special band to take the songs to the next level. Some artists may do this by altering songs around adding to their live impact, without taking anything away from the songs. Justice does this so effortlessly live it is scary to hear the monster that is a Justice live performance.
The album is a recording of one of their live shows in San Francisco from earlier in 2008. The French masterminds of Justice (Gaspard AugÃ© and Xavier de Rosnay) enjoyed a lot of success in 2007 thanks to the love that blogs gave their single D.A.N.C.E. and the rest of their debut album Cross. It also helped that their live shows had a reputation of being in a league of their own thanks to strong word of mouth. A year later and they already have a live album under their belts.
There is no doubt that Justice can put on one hell of a live show. No one is questioning that seeing Justice live would be an experience. What I am not sure about is how well it translates on a live album. Sure there are some song changes. Songs are longer, with some sampling of artists like Franz Ferdinand and Klaxons added to give the songs a new sound. With the genre of dance/electronic music Justice add some new sounds and textures to the songs to give it some extra oomph. It sounds nice, and the crowd always responds accordingly with cheers.
Their setlist was all of "Cross" with a few bonus live tracks (Soulwax's 'NY Excuse' and 'We Are Your Friends'). Some of these additions to the songs weren't enough to make the live versions stand out for me. Maybe it was just the lack of new songs that let me down. I don't know what was missing. Possibly it was seeing the dark atmosphere of their live shows, with them hiding alongside their speakers and the glowing Cross. You do hear the crowd plenty throughout the album but sometimes the contrast between the crowd and the music is a bit off. I love Justice's music but just didn't feel like I got the complete Justice experience from this album. Isn't the point of a live album to pretend like you are at the show? I did not get that feeling at all throughout A Cross The Universe.
After only one album a year ago, it is amazing to see that Justice would follow up the release with a live album. I did enjoy their debut album but it honestly felt a bit unnecessary for a live album to be released so quickly. At points it just felt like a longer version of Cross with crowd cheers every time the French duo adding something new to the songs. To the diehard fan that has witnessed Justice live, this will bring back warm fuzzy memories. To the regular fan such as myself who has yet to experience them live, it comes off as a good live performance, but not too distinctly different from the one studio album they have put out.