Regrets. I had only one opportunity to see Thomas Dolby play live – back in 1988 – and I blew it. He was playing one of only two UK gigs in support of the then newly released Aliens Ate My Buick album. I was sixteen years old, too scared to attend a gig a) on my own and b) in a part of town that my parents would have deemed less than safe.
Reading the local newspaper’s review of the gig a few days later twisted the knife further – they likened Dolby’s performance (and band) to Talking Heads. Talking Heads were (and still are) my number one favourite band of all time.
When Dolby returned from over a decade in Silicone Valley with The Sole Inhabitant live CD/DVD package in 2006, fans breathed a collective sigh of relief that he was both touring again AND playing old material in an ever-so-slightly updated style. Dolby had made it out of the Beatnik years with creative juices intact. He’d still got ‘it’ – no question.
A fresh live album drifted onto MOG a few weeks back. The plainly titled Live In Tokyo 2012 sees Dolby return to a more guitar-oriented sound than heard on its synth-driven predecessor. Great to see the likes of “Commercial Breakup”, “The Flat Earth“ and (especially for this fan) “Field Work” make it into the setlist for this new live show.
For a completely different take on a Thomas Dolby live performance, reach for the 5-track SxSW show with the Jazz Mafia Horns (download only, US$6). Here you’ll find scant evidence of the pioneering synthesizer work that propelled Dolby to prominence. Instead, the lively jazz-funk-isms that George Clinton injected into Dolby’s solo work (when the two met during the mid-80s) are in full force.
Lastly, there’s Forty. A live album recorded and released in limited quantities (on CD) to celebrate Dolby’s 40th birthday back in 2001. Not much to see/hear here – not a patch on the above releases. It’s just so darn tasteful. At US$22 for a lossless download (!) it’s probably best avoided.
One final thought: the less said about “Toad Lickers” the better.