SKINNIER, FASTER: LIVE AT THE BERKLEE PERFORMANCE CENTER
The first release on Melissa Ferrick’s own label may also be the first album ever released to compete with Napster, where a dodgy tape of the same show started circulating a few weeks after it took place last year. Ferrick’s version is an unedited, better-sounding official bootleg of the show, complete with tune-ups and stage patter (well, not quite unedited: the Napster version of " Everything I Need " has a funny improv section with bits of Jill Sobule’s " I Kissed a Girl " and Melissa Etheridge’s " Come to My Window, " both snipped here for copyright reasons). Her set list at Berklee was less freewheeling than at most of her smaller shows: all 11 songs from the then-current Freedom album, just one unreleased tune (a good-natured throwaway, " Welcome to My Life " ), and no surprise covers. Still, Ferrick’s songs tend to get scarier, edgier, and more beautiful when she’s in front of a large audience. And she’s more inclined to turn her voice loose: there’s a haunting moment on " Particular Place To Be " where she dispenses with words and begins shrieking in tongues. Performing solo, she plays acoustic guitar like Pete Townshend — in other words, throttling the hell out of it. It’s telling that the one political song here, " Gotta Go Now, " is one of the weaker cuts: she still gets her best material from relationships, and the Freedom songs chronicle a break-up in brave detail. As for the live version of the erotic " Drive, " the little shrieks that go up in the audience say it all.