*Incorrect spelling courtesy of the fine folks at Spinal Tap, Inc.
The “Live” album is a curious thing, no? Some bands have made their reputation on them (The Grateful Dead springs to mind), others have had their career given a much needed boost by ‘em (At Budokan, anyone?), and others have become a bit of a joke (Frampton Comes Alive).
I know some people that absolutely hate the live album, but this comes from a person who cherishes studio trickery and production values over the emotional punch a live document can offer. Of course it helps if you have seen the band in concert because it will transport you back to that time almost instantly, conjuring up memories of standing shoulder to shoulder with your friends when the lights dim and the overwhelming smell of a thousand joints being lit at the same time. Magical.
For me the tracks on a live album should sound little like the studio versions or really, what’s the point? The Cars were infamous for putting on one hell of an awful show. Technically speaking they were superb, their live renditions an exact replica of the albums…boring boring boring.
A live rock show should be dangerously unpredictable, or unpredictably dangerous, depending on your point of view. I remember seeing the Clash at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto for the Combat Rock tour I believe. The RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police for all you Yanks out there) were out front in riot gear and the air was foul with the possibility danger.
Inside, about 4 or 5 songs in, the Clash started pounding out a hardcore version of London Calling and we all went wild slamming our Doc Martins into the plastic stadium seats, eventually dislodging them from their hinges and tossing them into the rows of punks below. My friend even hit a cop with his.
This is not to say that a live show must be dangerous to be enjoyable. Seeing The Kinks was a life changing experience and I never once thought that I was in any danger. It just depends.
I enjoy live albums, but I don’t listen to them as much as I should. Maybe it’s because a live album needs to be taken as a whole and I don’t have a long enough commute or the time at home to just sit…and absorb.
So what’re your views on live albums? What are some of your favorites? I’m partial to Kicking Television by Wilco, The Name Of This Band Is…by Talking Heads, OKONOKOS by My Morning Jacket, James Browns Live At The Apollo and (insert laughter here) Exit Stage Left by RUSH and LIVE KILLERS by Queen. So sue me.
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