Live is Beautiful, from The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack, Deluxe Edition
November 25, 2008
In 2007, Nikki Sixx presented the world with a double-barreled shot of autobiographical excellence. In September of that year The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star hit the bookshelves, debuting at number 7 on the New York Times Bestseller list; a month earlier, the accompanying soundtrack to that book by Sixx A.M. (Sixx, plus vocalist James Michael and guitarist D.J. Ashba) debuted at #7 on the Billboard Indie chart, ultimately going on to sell over 200,000 copies. As befits any Hollywood story, The Heroin Diaries even has a preface of sorts, in the guise of the 1989 Motley Crue song "Kickstart My Heart," written by Sixx about his OD, clinical death, and the ensuing adrenaline shots he too straight to the heart.
Now, a year and some months after The Heroin Diaries' release, Sixx's story also has a coda (or perhaps an epilogue in this case?), with the reissue of The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack. This new Best Buy Exclusive Deluxe Edition includes an accompanying EP, Live Is Beautiful, which features live performances of 8 of the album's 13 tracks recorded during the 2008 Crue Fest tour. I am not personally a fan of live CDs; I generally prefer the more polished, produced sound of official releases to the often off-key, slightly sour notes that necessarily accompany live tracks. In this case, however, the live songs bring with them an energy that at times surpasses the recorded versions, giving them new life in much the same way as Sixx's heart got jolted with adrenaline.
Live is Beautiful opens (as does The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack) with "Xmas in Hell," a spoken word piece that sees Sixx reading from his book atop music equal parts Christmas, Carousel and Cirque du Soleil. The grim opening segues smoothly into the gritty, raw "Pray For Me," guitar and guttural vocals a cross between raw meat and an open wound, something like Chris Daughtry fronting the late Union Underground. "Heart Failure" angrily tells the story of Sixx's own heart failure some decades ago, the one that kickstarted "Kickstart my Heart" and all that came after, Michael's powerful vocals rising and falling, a soul adrift on a sea of Steinman-like sonics, something like Bat Out of Hell without the love story. Yet more Meat Loafishness (I mean that with the greatest respect) is evident in "Dead Man's Ballet," which also dips its toe into the sea of prog with some choppy Dream Theateresque licks surrounding a soaring, stirring, gospelesque chorus. "Tomorrow" and "Accidents Can Happen" are also amply covered before the band closes out the EP with their hit single, "Life is Beautiful." Whereas the recorded track comes across as a bit sterile after so many listens (with three capable producers in Sixx, Michael and Ashba, it's perhaps TOO perfect), the song here takes on an earnestness that only seems to arrive at the end of a show, the band somewhere between collapse and second wind, ready for their encore, one more go, audience singing and clapping along, not quite ready to let go. Not at all unlike Sixx's own second chance, come to think of it.
Favorite Track: "Life is Beautiful"
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