Be Bop Deluxe Live In The Air Age Deluxe Box Set Review

Be Bop Deluxe Live In The Air Age 

When Bill Nelson teased the release of Esoteric’s Live In The Air Age limited edition deluxe box set in the early part of 2021, he suggested fans would be pleased.

What he could have said was that they’d be ecstatic!

As details unfolded of this, the final Be Bop Deluxe release in Esoteric’s exceptionally well-received reissue programme, spanning over the past few years, anticipation rose to fever pitch among the Be Bop faithful.

And when the box set did arrive at the end of last summer, it more than lived up to expectations.

Esoteric delivered a staggering 16 discs, including every concert recorded on the Be Bop Deluxe UK Tour of February and March 1977, which I was fortunate enough to witness at Ipswich Gaumont on February 11th, the gig prior to the start of Rolling Stones Mobile live recordings the following night at Leicester’s De Montfort Hall. That concert, and six others on that tour, are featured in full here, comprising two nights at Hammersmith Odeon and Leeds’ Grand Theatre, plus the Bristol Colston Hall and Bournemouth Winter Gardens gigs.  

The celebrated live album itself is given its million-mile service, with a first disc dedicated to its remastering, plus three John Peel session tracks from January 1977. 

Not much video of this wonderful Be Bop era appears to have survived, but the set includes a very nice DVD featuring what’s called “Be Bop Deluxe – Star Rider In Concert”, recorded in America and which gives you a pretty good idea of the amazing live experience the band was offering at what many would consider their live peak. Unfortunately, there appears to be no footage at all of the amazing Fritz Lang Metropolis projections on this tour – one of the most spectacular and well-conceived effects I’ve ever witnessed in a live setting. 

While the less dedicated might question the repetition of an inflexible set across multiple concerts, this reckons without the fact that Be Bop improvised nightly on tracks like Shine and Blazing Apostles. Whatever one’s views on this, there can be no denying that this is maybe the most comprehensive ever release highlighting a single British tour in the rock era.

Esoteric’s research for this set unearthed all the 24-track tapes recorded in pursuit of the live album itself. Very simply, the decision was taken to let fans enjoy them all. This speaks volumes for Esoteric’s razor-sharp understanding of what floats the modern-day collector’s boat! 

Once again in this Be Bop series, there’s a very-well illustrated book with a great new essay by Bill Nelson, postcards and a nice replica poster. 

By any standards, this is a must-have for any Be Bop fan. Copies are already becoming less and less easy to track down, so you’d be well advised to act fast if you’ve not already taken the plunge.

More than anyone could have reasonably expected, this is a new high watermark for Esoteric. Truly remarkable.

Chris Wright | Now Spinning Magazine

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