I miss going to gigs.
In the scheme of things, there are more important things to worry about during a global pandemic. But, nonetheless, I pine for the shared experience of watching great musicians alongside other music lovers.
This week, to satisfy my yearning for live music, I’ve taken a deep dive into my record collection and rediscovered some live favourites. Given how much joy I’ve got out of these records, I thought I’d share them with you today.
Putting together this list, I’ve tried to take the road less travelled. I didn’t want to put together a list of classic live albums that everyone already knows like the back of their hand. Instead, my three picks serve as alternatives to some of those classic albums, offering a new look at some legendary bands.
So without further ado, turn those speakers up loud, crack open a cold one, and let’s dive in.
The Rolling Stones: The Brussels Affair
In the canon of live albums, “Get Yer Ya Yas Out” is an undisputed classic. But, “The Brussels Affair,” which captures the Stones in Brussels on their 1973 European tour, is arguably a better representation of the band in concert. It’s got a stronger setlist than “Ya-Yas”, thanks to the inclusion of a number of stone-cold Stones ‘70s classics from “Sticky Fingers,” “Exile on Main Street” and “Goat’s Head Soup.” And, the performance itself has a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants intensity that makes for an exhilarating listen. It’s loose, but never sloppy and captures the band at what was arguably the peak of their powers. As Guardian reviewer John Harris put it:
“[It is] unimpeachably great: a beautifully recorded, often unhinged 70 minutes during which the Stones manage to sound like the Platonic ideal of a rock band: simultaneously tight, unhinged, absolutely convincing, and gloriously ludicrous."
Deep Purple: Paris 1975
As far as I’m concerned, Deep Purple is a band that doesn’t get enough love. Along with Zep and Sabbath, they’re the trailblazers of hard rock and heavy metal, but, whether it’s because of their myriad line-up changes or back catalogue mismanagement, they never seem to get the same recognition. But, If you want proof of Purp’s prowess, you really need look no further than Paris 1975.
Yes, Deep Purple’s greatest live album is unquestionably “Made in Japan,” but “Paris 1975” comes tantalizingly close to those dizzying heights. It’s also a much better showcase of the Mark III line-up’s talents than the “official” Mark III live album – 1975’s “Made in Europe” – which is flat in comparison to this release. Between the combined vocal prowess of David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes and Ritchie Blackmore’s mean, scorching guitar runs, this one’s an absolute barnstormer.
Thin Lizzy: Still Dangerous
Thin Lizzy’s “Live and Dangerous” routinely tops “greatest live album of all time” polls with good reason. But, that record isn’t without controversy. According to producer Tony Visconti, very little of “Live and Dangerous” was actually live, with much of the performance recreated in the studio. That’s not to say that Thin Lizzy weren’t an incredible live act back in the day, though, and the aptly titled “Still Dangerous” – which presents an un-doctored alternative look at the band’s 1977 tour – is testament to this.
Taken from the band’s performance at the Tower Theater Philadelphia, “Still Dangerous” is an exhilarating listen which makes you wonder why the band bothered with overdubs on “Live and Dangerous” in the first place. As Dave Thompson of All Music states:
““Live and Dangerous” isstill one of the greatest live albums ever made. And “Still Dangerous” is one of the greatest concert recordings. It's as simple, and brilliant, as that.”
What are your favourite live recordings of all time. And which acts are you looking forward to see live once the circumstances allow it? Share your stories in the comments.
Cal Jam doesn’t get the same love as festivals like Monterey Pop or Woodstock. Maybe it’s because it doesn’t have the late ‘60s countercultural cred, happening a full five years after the summer of love reached its peak. Maybe it’s because it was staged to be filmed for television (as part of ABC’s legendary “In Concert” series). Why do I love California Jam so much? It is because it established the record for the largest concert sound system ever assembled? Was it because it featured the first ever appearance of the Good Year blimp at a music festival?
Guitar lessons eventually followed. But, classical guitar didn’t grab me in the same way that my own freeform compositions had. Firstly, I didn’t know any of the songs I was supposed to be learning. Secondly, it required the kind of co-ordination and finger dexterity that I was – at that time at least – far too impatient to master. “I read somewhere that there are these things you can use to hit the strings so you don’t have to use your fingers. I think they began with a P,” I once told my guitar teacher. “The thing that begins with a P is called practice,” he replied. He was right, of course, but that didn’t mean I wanted to hear it.