Anberlin may be done, but their music will stay alive. That's an easy statement for an Anberlin fan to make, but when their former label keeps releasing albums, it's now an uncanny sentiment. In a somewhat surprise move, Tooth & Nail Records has packaged and released Never Take Friendship Personal: Live In New York City, and at this point in history, it serves as gravy for the Anberlin devotee.
Never Take Friendship Personal was Anberlin's sophomore release and was an important album in their run; it represented Anberlin's staying power in the Tooth & Nail circuit, as they moved on from the accomplished but less produced Blueprints for the Black Market to the future of rock possibilities. Fans may debate about this topic until their faces turn blue, but for the likely majority of fans, the band's third album Cities represented a turning point for Anberlin; as their most "epic" album at that time, it transitioned the band from being another pop punk outfit to being a multi-dimensional alternative rock icon. In this sense, then, Never Take Friendship Personal represents a more youthful and carefree band without sacrificing any dexterity, and hence, it holds a special place for many fans.
So listeners might wonder: "Is this album really just Never Take Friendship Personal played live all the way through?" Well, yes. Of course, being a live album, we get the occasional word from Stephen Christian and some audible crowd involvement throughout, but this is largely all twelve tracks of NTFP played from front to back at one of Anberlin's final shows. On Anberlin's last world tour in 2014, the group played a couple of shows in this album format, and releasing a recording of NTFP is an oddly inspired choice. Put shortly, Never Take Friendship Personal: Live In New York City includes every positive element of Anberlin's live shows, and that hasn't always been the case with previous live projects (see Live from House of Blues Anaheim).
And the best part is that these ten-year-old songs still sound great. With so many fan favorites like the title track, "Paperthin Hymn," "A Day Late," and the now ubiquitous hit "The Feel Good Drag," there's plenty for even the most casual of fans to get excited about. The rest of the album, which could easily be dubbed "deep cuts" ("The Runaways," "Time & Confusion," "Audrey, Start the Revolution!") are also unique entries, and the epic closer "Dance, Dance, Christa Paffgen" is an especially top-notch inclusion here, as the band tended to play the track live less and less as their career progressed. What's an interesting aspect of this release is having rhythm guitarist Christian McAlhaney (who joined the band shortly after the release of Cities) sing background vocals for several tracks, and that joins a modern element to the album's nostalgic nature. If there's anything that takes away from this release, the segue "A Heavy Hearted Work of Staggering Genius" feels off-beat and unpracticed, but the explosive intro to "Dance, Dance, Christa Paffgen" takes off all of the built-up pressure.
Cynics might dismiss Never Take Friendship Personal: Live In New York City as being the latest effort for T&N to keep bringing in cash with their former signees, but there's enough novelty involved here that keeps the album valuable. It represents just how captivating Anberlin was as a live band, and it's a project that fans of any variety can appreciate. Above all, Never Take Friendship Personal: Live In New York City might just be the best live project Anberlin has produced, and it's one everyone have rightly deserved for so long.- Review date: 5/3/15, written by Roger Gelwicks of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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