For over a century, the naturally formed amphitheatre at Red Rocks has been providing a spectacular backdrop to concerts and performances. Over the years, the stage at Red Rocks – 15 miles outside of Denver, Colorado – has hosted prominent acts such as The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, U2, and Neil Young, among countless others and, in recent years, it seems that every other live album that has been released was recorded at Red Rocks, no doubt a reflection of the venue’s legendary status. Given all this, it isn’t surprising that for their first solo live release, Chicago based hard-rock outfit, Disturbed, have decided to use their August 15th 2016 performance from Red Rocks.
With all the variables involved in their recording, it seems self-explanatory why a good – to say nothing of great – live album is a rare thing. With Live at Red Rocks, Disturbed get as many things wrong as they get right; the Introduction – essentially 83 seconds of crowd noise – is far too long for what it is, and the first track proper, Ten Thousand Fists, is hollow sounding – something for which the band and engineers share equal blame. As is expected from a live performance, it takes the band a little while to warm-up on stage, but by the time they get three or four songs in with The Vengeful One and Prayer, Disturbed are about as good as they are going to get.
Once the band is in their groove the problems with the mix/production become apparent. Crowd noise, when it is used, is laid on too heavily, detracting from the overall recording, and when crowd noise isn’t used the music sounds like it was recorded in a studio. It is difficult to hear too many dud notes throughout, and while it seems strange to basically criticise a band for performing too well live, the record lacks a vibe that marks it as an actual, live, performance. An extended outro to Stupify leads to Disturbed’s god-awful rendition of The Sound of Silence, with David Draiman swallowing the words in his distinctive manner.
Live albums are almost always a product for a band’s faithful fan-base only, and this is certainly the case with Disturbed’s Live at Red Rocks, as it’s difficult to imagine a non-fan being converted to the cause with the songs selected here. The set ends reasonably strongly with Stricken, Indestructible, Voices, and Down With the Sickness, but the punch and energy of a live show is never truly conveyed to the listener. Live at Red Rocks is adequate enough, but it is by no means a must own recording except, perhaps, for the most ardent Disturbed fans.