Throughout Roy Orbison’s life, his stunning, operatic, angelic voice was admired not only by millions of fans, but by his peers as well, with artists such as The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Bruce Springsteen, and Bono singing his praises. Recorded December 4, 1988, in Highland Heights, Ohio just two days before his death at age 52, The Last Concert shows Orbison’s incredible voice stayed with him right until the end of his life.
In 1988, Orbison was in the midst of a major comeback. His song, “In Dreams,” was featured in the film Blue Velvet; he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; he had a successful album with the super group The Traveling Wilburys; his concerts were doing well and he had just completed the soon-to-be hit album, Mystery Girl, with fellow Wilbury Jeff Lynne at the production helm. Tour dates were booked into 1989 and things were looking up when tragedy struck.
Originally released in limited form via iTunes, The Last Concert makes its CD debut here. The show is undoctored and appears to be from the soundboard so occasionally, backup singers might be louder or song volumes may fluctuate. Obviously no one knew at the time this would be his last show and the sound quality is still excellent, with Orbison fans still having a fine document of his last performance.
And what a performance it is. From the opening “Only the Lonely,” Orbison delivers one hit after another, his vocals nothing short of jaw-dropping on classics such as “Leah” and “Crying.” Fans are treated to the first song Orbison ever recorded in “Ooby Dooby” as well as the first song he ever wrote with “Go, Go, Go (Down the Line),” the latter featuring some excellent jamming by Orbison and his band. Being the last concert adds a touch of poignancy to “It’s Over” while “Oh, Pretty Woman” brings the set to a dramatic close.
Roy Orbison was back on top of the music world and still on top of his game at the time of his death. Mystery Girl would go on to become a big hit and it seems unfair Orbison was cheated out of seeing this success. For Orbison fans or for fans wondering why he was loved by so many, The Last Concert is a must-own CD.
Article first published as Music Review: Roy Orbison – The Last Concert on Blogcritics.