*This is a review of just the album, not the DVD*
Ghost Stories Live 2014 is the first time Coldplay has released a completely live version of a single album. Their previous live efforts Coldplay Live 2003, LeftRightLeftRightLeft, and Coldplay Live 2012 featured songs from all of their previous albums. Ghost Stories Live is simply that — recordings of each song from their latest studio album, Ghost Stories. The band recorded the live version in several different places, like Royal Albert Hall in London, the Beacon Theatre in New York City, and Royce Hall in Los Angeles. This live album isn’t the band’s best, but it is solid nonetheless.
The biggest problem with Ghost Stories Live is just that Ghost Stories isn’t the type of album that works well live. Each of the songs has a very similar sound to it with little variety. Of course any concert, especially a Coldplay concert, is going to alternate between faster songs that sound great live (“Glass of Water,” “Clocks,” “Death and All His Friends”) and slower songs to add some variety to the show. Ghost Stories is almost entirely slow songs that wouldn’t make an exciting live album on their own. I’m fine with a bunch of slow songs on a studio album but with a live album I want the artist to change things up a bit and get the crowd involved.
Take for example “Oceans,” one of the best songs off of Ghost Stories. It’s sound is very slow and relaxed and similar to the band’s debut album, Parachutes. Its sounds great live, and would be great during a concert when the band wants to slow things down for a bit, but it just doesn’t work as well on a live album surrounded by several other slow songs like “Magic” and “O.” Don’t get me wrong: I really love “Oceans” (it’s a favorite of mine from Ghost Stories), but I just chose it to exemplify my point.
Also lacking form this album is a lack of it feeling alive. I want to hear Martin speaking with the crowd, the crowd cheering at the beginning and ending (and throughout), and the crowd singing along. With songs like “Always in My Head,” “Magic,” “Ink” (which has an annoying chirping sound that really stands out here), and “Another’s Arms,” Ghost Stories just doesn’t let the crowd do that. The albums sounds all too familiar to the studio version. Also, much to my disappointment, there’s no extended intros or outros, not allowing this live album to truly be a live album experience. Now, after getting these complaints out of the way, let’s move onto some of the songs that deserve the full attention of your ears.
“True Love” is a standout track from the album. Martin’s falsetto is spot on in this recording from Sydney, Australia. The song was one of my favorites from the studio album and definitely one of my favorites from this live recording. “Midnight” sounds the least like a live recording. Sure, you have some fans randomly screaming and then clapping, but the way the song is constructed doesn’t lend itself to being performed live. When the song was first released back in March I wasn’t too impressed by it. However, after repeated listenings, the song grew on me and I came to appreciate the minimalist electronic sound. The live version doesn’t sound too different from the studio recording, but the track is still very enjoyable.
The finale of Ghost Stories Live is really where the album shines. “Sky Full of Stars” is definitely one of the highlights of both Ghost Stories and the live album and provides a necessary change of pace to the album. It is a fun track to sing along with and I enjoyed how Christ Martin finally interacted with the London crowd towards the end.
The concluding track “O” is arguably the best song on both the studio release and live version of Ghost Stories (“O” consists of “Fly On” and “O (Reprise)”). Both “Fly On” and “O (Reprise)” sound wonderful, with the songs reminding you that there were actual live crowds present for the recording of this album. Martin and the rest of the band really are at the best during the “Fly On” and I would recommend this track the most.
There are certainly songs on Ghost Stories Live that are worth you listening to, as highlighted above. However, the album doesn’t do too much to differentiate itself from the studio album released back in May. If you haven’t listened to Ghost Stories yet then I would recommend listening to the studio version and if you enjoy that then check out Ghost Stories Live. If you’re a huge Coldplay fan, like myself, then this is definitely worth a listen, if only so you can choose a couple of tracks to download instead of the entire thing. And if you’re really like me you’ll just go back to blasting LeftRightLeftRightLeft. Now that is a live album.