A strangers light comes on slowly
A strangers heart without a home
You put your hands into your head
And then smiles cover your heart
When I first started buying cds and collecting music I felt that the obligatory “live” album was worthless and not even worth a listen. I would typically buy said live album last out of all the studio albums and would listen only when I first bought the disk and that was to justify disliking it.
I think it was that first Pearl Jam concert where things started to change. It was unlike anything I’ve seen before. They changed their setlist, they didn’t say the stupid placation phrases, and they didn’t swear for the sake of swearing (I really hate that). It was music and there was an electricity in the place.
It was after that where I started to listen for other things in the live albums like the difference in the songs and the improvisation involved along with the backup musicians. Now live albums are my favorite and I feel you get the best of a performer during these shows. One of the major qualities I look for is whether or not I believe the singer or not. It seems that there are way too many concerts where you can see the performer rolling their eyes because they’re sick of playing the same songs for 200 days straight. The audience is just another audience and they simply not into the performance at all. Whereas when a performer is believable it’s when the song truly comes out. It’s as if the singers interpretation is coming out and they’re exerting all their emotion into singing that one song.
One of my favorite live albums is Sarah McLachlan’s Mirrorball which features some fantastic work from her previous albums. It was before she decided to subtract the music for the “doesn’t my hair look pretty” factor that her latest live album seems to have. She had a DVD of the performance out and it contains the whole performance, not the “best 13 songs” in her opinion either. This DVD has some real gems from Fumbling Toward Ecstasy and Surfacing including some older gems that were all missing from the 13 track album.
Yesterday they finally wised up and released Mirrorball: the complete concert. It contains a lot of the songs that I have loved which I had to set up my DVD player for.
With that, I figure I would list (in no particular order) my top 5 live cds of all time…so far.
-Mirrorball-The complete concert
Her voice is amazing and the performance is outstanding. She sings songs about depression about past failed relationships and she sings them as if they’re happening right now. Songs like ‘I will not forget you’ and ‘elsewhere’ demonstrate such emotions of sadness and happiness that she went through.
One of the best performances I’ve heard is her live version of “I love You”. It’s breathtaking. The kind of song you would do anything to witness live.
-Roger Water’s In the Flesh
I will admit that I went to his concert just to hear the Pink Floyd songs. What I didn’t know was his solo stuff was way more interesting than the 40th different version of Money that I’ve heard before. Songs like “The Bravery of Being out of Range” and “The Perfect Sense” were complete eye openers.
After the first set of all pink floyd songs, the audience was actually going to buy that next beer and totally ignoring his solo stuff and they missed the magic of “Pros and Cons” and “Amused to Death”.
What I really like about this is that Waters has a real message in this and he seems to subtly try to state his case for why war is terrible. He also sounds as good as ever.
-Neko Case, The Tigers Have Spoken
This live album doesn’t have all the depression that McLachlan has or the depth that Roger’s has but it does contain a cool “fun” factor. In this album she explores some classic country songs and sings some famous songs we’ve grown up with in “This Little Light” and “Wayfaring Stranger”. It sounds like so much fun to be an audience member at one of those shows. Songs like “Rated X” and “Loretta” give the album some very interesting diversity and I wish, oh do I wish I was able to see this show when she was here.
Led Zeppelin-How the West Was Won
I know this is a compilation of three shows but it’s not like these were the best shows though. These were the shows that Jimmy Page found lying around in his basement and he decided to cash in on the whole “live” thing. These shows, however, are awesome. Simply put their medleys are phenomenal. In twenty minutes they’ll sing Ramble On, Blue Suede Shoes, Peggy Sue, Ramble On, Livin Lovin Maid, and something else. Everytime I listen to this cd I get blown away and then set the cd down for a year until I rediscover it again.
Pearl Jam- Basically any Bootleg
This is what I really respect out of Pearl Jam; they change their setlist completely everyday. I’ve always wondered how a band or artist can go up on stage and play the same songs, the same way, over and over again without completely hating themselves. Pearl Jam has the same feelings and they even change their planned setlist on the fly a lot of nights which says a lot about their live show.
I also believe them when they play and when Vedder sings.
I guess my personal favorites are East Troy 2003 and Seattle 2000. Those shows were simply amazing. The kind of shows where no one (audience or band) want to leave.