Francesca Beghe’s return to performing with a full band for the first time in over 20 years has been thankfully captured on a recording. Francesca Beghe Live sounds like it’s taken from three performances in 2019 and 2020 with a bevy of guest stars kicking off Beghe’s new direction with outstanding accompaniment.
They have their spotlight moments over the course of Francesca Beghe Live, without question, but they also know why they are here. Songs such as the opener “Enlightenment” and the second cut “No Use Talkin’” show two different sides of the band’s musical identity that, with some variation, set the album’s standard. The former is a fully fleshed-out Van Morrison cover depicting our lifelong journey in search of truth, and she dramatizes the lyrics without overstating them.
The second track, however, turns in a more aggressive and bluesy direction. An abiding virtue is Beghe’s commitment to striking the right note rather than pushing her personality too hard through the performances. I remember reading once that renowned actor Clark Gable remarked that movie cameras magnify physical action to such a degree that less is more; the same principle applies to Beghe’s music. The stage and performer/audience interaction has an amplifying effect and performers are careful to build on it, not bulldoze songs.
“LA Came to Me” is perhaps the album’s finest example of singer/songwriter excellence. It’s impossible to remain unimpressed by the perfectly modulated level of significant detail layered throughout the lyrics and her singing brings those details to vivid life. It’s placed in a great spot within the album’s track list as well. It’s an underappreciated skill these days, but the sequencing for this album is spot on. “Dreamworld” percolates with a steady pulse, never too forceful, and Beghe’s collaborators lace several colorful strands into the composition. The rhythm section carries the song with a light bounce and the lead guitar accentuates the song’s melodic excellence.
Percussion and keyboards are prominent during her cover of Talking Heads’ “Listening Wind”. It’s more “conventional” than its original, yes, but that’s a relatively meaningless distinction. The guitar additions to this song are potentially underrated; there’s an almost painterly quality to how it fills out the song. She ends the show and album on a redemptive note with tracks such as the gospel stunner “Let Your Spirit Fly” and its successor “One World”. The second of these two tracks share some similarities with the preceding track, but the keyboards burn with a hotter bluesy glow. The audience is clearly responsive throughout, but the final songs seem to bring them to a greater life than before, obviously appreciative of what they’ve heard.
They should be. Francesca Beghe Live is a powerhouse live release in an era when such outings may seem passe. If so, Beghe didn’t get the memo. She attacks these songs as if it’s her last shot to ever sing for an audience and she gives them every bit of herself and a little more. It’s a collection that you’ll have a hard time forgetting.