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From a Distance: The Event
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New or Used: 3 copies from $6.68
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  • The 1989 From a Distance oldies festival at London's Wembley Stadium was (as its full title suggests) an incredible event, highlighted not only by Cliff Richard's performance, but also by appearances from the Searchers, Gerry & the Pacemakers, and more. For obvious reasons, the CD recaptures the headliner alone, but it nevertheless stands as one of the definitive live documents in Richard's entire catalog -- primarily because that is what it revisits. The show opened with a tribute to the 1950s TV show Oh Boy, Richard's own musical alma mater. With guest appearances from period peers the Dallas Boys, the Vernon Girls, and the Kalin Twins, all of whom were likewise regulars on the show, and the stage decked out to resemble the old television set, a full half-hour broadcast is reconstructed. Richard's performances of "Always," "The Girl Can't Help It," and "The Glory of Love," meanwhile, turn the clock back as expertly as the environment, and a fiery closing medley simply has to be heard (or, on DVD, seen) to be believed. That, however, is merely the appetizer. The bulk of the performance was turned over to an extraordinarily powerful 20-song set, aimed less at tugging the nostalgia strings than evidencing just how true Richard has remained to his earliest rocking instincts. Of course there's another clutch of rock & roll ("Shake, Rattle and Roll," "Good Golly Miss Molly") thrown in here, but the show is all the more remarkable for the thunderous rearrangements that grace even the most familiar of his later hits. "Wired for Sound" is implausibly rock-oriented; "We Don't Talk Anymore" is dramatically danceable; and material from his most recent album, Stronger, sounds a lot harder and heavier than the vinyl itself did. Add impassioned renderings of "The Best of Me" and "Dreaming" along with a handful of gospel numbers ("From a Distance" itself is the best of these) and there is not a facet of his career that is not touched upon as the concert rolls on. As the show finally ends, it's hard to believe that the man had just entered his fifth decade in rock & roll. Younger veterans should be so lucky. ~ Dave Thompson
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