Louis Tomlinson – LIVE

"A reckless celebration record, these live recordings deserve to live forever"

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Mere days after winning “Artist of the Year” at the inaugural Northern Music Awards, Louis Tomlinson is celebrating the only way he knows how – by giving back. Tomlinson just dropped a surprise album, which includes a curated list of live performances over the past years. It’s a risky move, as live albums are notoriously difficult to make worthwhile. But there’s no doubt about it: Tomlinson is deserving of that award, and the recordings on Louis Tomlinson: LIVE deserve to live forever.

After an initial stop-start to his solo career, Tomlinson has certainly flourished since finally getting to hit the stage. He’s been touring extensively over the past few years, performing a mix of tracks from his first two albums. Both were solid records that heavily referenced anthemic, rich sonic soundscapes. In fact, Tomlinson previously admitted that he wrote certain tracks with a live show in mind. Indeed, songs like “Face The Music,” “Out Of My System” and “The Greatest,” from his No. 1 selling album Faith in the Future, absolutely benefit from the live instrumentals compared to their studio versions.

It isn’t often that live performances consistently seem to not only live up to but objectively improve the perfectly engineered studio recordings. Perhaps it’s the love that the album so clearly captures for live music that does it. The singer-songwriter is an avid fan of his own fans and gets to share a collective experience of joy with them. Just listen to the crowds serenading Tomlinson in return during “Chicago,” recorded live in – you guessed it, Chicago. From Tomlinson’s perspective, audiences across the world have always been part of breathing life into these live recordings. Now, people get to live that same experience with him by listening to this record that is woven together with impeccably mixed joyful screaming in the background.

Tomlinson’s storytelling isn’t hindered by the crowd’s reaction. Rather, it is bolstered by it. In both power ballads like “Common People” as well as raucous tracks like “Silver Tongues.” The live setting seems to function almost akin to a prism – each song shining brighter, richer, fuller. Perhaps the only track that is tighter in the original version, is the seductive “Written All Over Your Face.” Nonetheless, the instrumental break and palpable, wild excitement make for an enjoyable listen.

Similarly, right in the middle of the highly addictive “All This Time/We Are Beauty” mash-up, a fan can be heard screaming “I love you” if you listen closely. The sheer adulation of the crowd is decidedly earned. Tomlinson has worked hard to prove himself, despite never having lacked the talent. Perhaps merely the confidence that he could do it, would do it, has done it. Nevertheless, he’s been open about the tension between his own love for music, and his at times debilitating need for perfection. As he’s settled into his career, a quiet undertone of determination and grit, of relief and fulfillment – of gratitude remains in every single show.

On “Saturdays,” you can actually hear Tomlinson mumble that the view’s never been better from where he’s stood on stage. It’s a high-maintenance track with all the right ingredients for a Tomlinson classic. There’s confessional lyricism, emotive delivery, and a gradual yet powerful crescendo in musical arrangement. It needs to be sung with conviction, and it’s clear that Tomlinson pulls power from the audience to deliver.

Notably, none of the covers that Tomlinson frequently incorporates in his concerts made it onto this live album. With that in mind, perhaps this release signals that Tomlinson has finally embraced his own artistry. Because if anything, Louis Tomlinson: LIVE is a reckless celebration record. An ode to joy, the synergy between artist and audience, and the impact of well-timed, flawlessly executed live guitar solos.