We at LxL believe that a live performance is by far the best way to experience music, but if you can’t make it out to a show, why not try to experience it through a live album? In honor of the release of the Sigur Rós’s live double album, Inni, here are our top ten favorite live albums that best capture the non-stop energy, raw emotion, and incredible skill utilized in the most unforgettable shows.
Quick note: We excluded live compilations from our list (i.e. Radiohead I Might Be Wrong, Talking Heads The Name of This Band is Talking Heads), but rather focused on albums from single concerts or one tour stints.
1. James Brown- Live at the Apollo (1963)
The most-rollicking, show-stopping performance ever recorded on tape and released to the masses. The Hardest Working Man In Showbiz works the crowd into such a frenzy that he makes the crowd for the Beatles at Shea Stadium seem bored by comparison, and somehow the crowd noise only adds to the experience, where ordinarily it muddles it.
2. The Who- Live At Leeds
The Who back in the day had a reputation for being the “loudest band in rock ‘n’ roll” and based off Live At Leeds, I wouldn’t doubt it. The Who bust through an all-star setlist with an especially notable performance from arguably the greatest rock rhythm section of all time, John Entwistle and Keith Moon.
3. Neil Young- Live Rust
Raw, rugged garage rock and some of the most earnest folk music ever heard combined in what is a great summary of the best of early Neil. Live Rust also is more proof of what a dynamo of a live band Crazy Horse was.
4. Talking Heads- Stop Making Sense
David Byrne is a born entertainer, and while you may not be able to see their wildly inventive and entertaining show when listening, you can hear the fun they are having, especially on “Slippery People” and “Life During Wartime”.
5. Nirvana- Unplugged in New York
Nirvana’s final release before Cobain’s passing, Unplugged is a sobering sit down that showed a more vulnerable, earnest side of Cobain that wasn’t always heard through the grungy guitar hooks and yelling and screaming. The band specifically gives cover nods to the The Vaselines, Bowie, and the Meat Puppets, and the album served as a truly chilling last look at the most influential band of the 90’s.
6. Johnny Cash-At Folsom Prison
An iconic image that was a truly controversial move at the time, Johnny Cash took his talents to Folsom Prison and put on a heck of a show for the inmates, not afraid to sing about the ugly sides of life from death, to drugs, to a dirty old egg sucking dog. Even with this being recorded in a prison, it only adds to the character of the sound of this release.
7. My Morning Jacket-Okonokos
Little by Listen holds a special place in their hearts for My Morning Jacket, who has put on some of the most unforgettable shows we have ever seen. The bearded, Kentucky-bred southern rockers have the ability of playing every genre known to man, and Okonokos is an excellent two disc collection, showcasing the best of their first four albums with thunderous guitars and a substantial amount of reverb.
8. White Stripes-Under Great White Northern Lights
Bluesy, noisy, and unrelenting: this is how a live album is supposed to sound. Guitar god Jack White and the extremely pedestrian Meg White made a trip to America’s hat, and Under Great White Northern Lights showcases the best of their 2007 Canadian tour.
9. The Clash- From Here to Eternity
Head-thrashing, politically-charged punk. I’m not sure if I would come out alive in these 70’s and 80’s punk shows, but the Clash put on as legendary as performance as anyone, and From Here to Eternity soundtracks just that.
10. Jeff Buckley- Live at Sin-E
A now often forgotten singer-songwriter, Jeff Buckley’s soaring croon and mad guitar skillz were wonderfully captured on Live at Sin-e including a wide range of great covers (Bob Dylan, Nina Simone, Van Morrison), something that is enjoyable at any live show.
In honor of the ultimate live band of our generation, The Dave Matthews Band, LxL decided to make all of our just misses this week DMB albums. Obviously, any of these albums could be number one on our actual list, but after hours of arguing vehemently, we decided we couldn’t include 3+ Dave Matthews’s albums on our list, thus all deciding to include this touring juggernaut in our just misses. With a whopping 10+ official live releases (some including more than one night of concerts), not to mention the Live Trax series or Dave and Tim releases, we had more than enough ammo with which to blow a Dave Matthews-sized hole straight through your sternum. By the way, this past summer is the first time Austin has failed to see DMB at least twice, and both Todd and Austin have seen the band 30+ times, so this is only tongue-in-cheek to an extent.
Wes: Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds-Live at Luther College
Stripped down to some mean guitar picking and some mean Dave Matthews scat, Live At Luther proves to be a good gateway drug for non-Dave fans and an acceptable listen for those fading away from Dave. Tim Reynolds guitar play is quite impressive on “Minarets” and “Stream”, which is why it should be no surprise with his furious fingerpicking, that he has Hispanic mariachi descent.
Todd: Dave Matthews Band-Weekend on the Rocks
Great anecdote here: Todd and Austin went out to Colorado with a few other friends to go to the entire weekend worth of shows at the scenic Red Rocks Amphitheatre. These shows later became this album, but if you look at the album cover, you can spot a little pig on top of the drum set. Todd and Austin brought a pig in honor of the song “Pig” and threw it up on stage and Dave and the crew proceeded in placing the pig on Carter Beauford’s kit, beginning to play the song of the same name.
Austin:Dave Matthews Band- The Central Park Concert
Probably Dave’s best known live album, The Central Park Concert includes their juiciest live jams as well as a nice rendition of Neil Young’s Indian epic, “Cortez the Killer”. Austin likes the heavy tracks on The Central Park Concert like “What You Are” and “Don’t Drink the Water” just fine, but the truth of the matter is Austin just likes to “Craaaaasshhhh” into peeps.
So there is the list. Let us know what we unforgivably missed, or got right, but still feel free to just rip on us in general.Also, check out next Thursday where we will be doing the “Top Ten Live Albums of O.A.R.”…just kidding?