Well fuck me, I’m probably going to sound like a grumpy old man throughout this rant, the first half at least, longing for the days when bands would put almost as much effort into releasing a live album as their actual studio releases. There’s a beauty to the live album, capturing a band at their rawest and, in my opinion, purest form. You can hear the crowd roar just behind the music. It’s peaks and valleys. You get the between-song banter of the front person, and the songs don’t fall in line perfectly to a studio click. And that can be mother fucking refreshing sometimes! Kiss made a small fortune off their live albums Alive! and Alive II. I can’t remember how many they did, I wanna say four, but you get the point.
Cheap Trick released the single “I Want You To Want Me” from At Budokan and it fucking rips harder than any other version I’ve ever heard. Give it a spin. You’ll never listen to the studio version again. Rush may have overdone it, releasing about as many live albums as studio ones over their illustrious career, but good Christ that crowd chanting on “2112 – Live” from Rush in Rio! I get goosebumps every time. Alright, enough gushing. Somewhere along the line, as we shifted to a singles based society and bands often opt for releasing EP’s over full lengths, the live album has fallen off hard. But the magic of hearing a band live is still one of the most beautiful things you can experience on this dumb planet! So why should that take a back seat because of a silly format shift? It should not. You just need to work a little harder and guess what you sexy beasts! I’m here to help you along the way with a few suggestions.
In this horse shit year, I took it upon myself to listen to lots of bands live albums. And I honestly feel like they are starting to make a little comeback…maybe it’s just my over-exuberant perspective, but I feel a shift yo! Japandroids have always been a band that I’ve told people you have to see live. Their studio work is great, they write incredibly catchy songs, but man, something happens when you see them live; a different energy to where the songs take on a new life. You can get a taste of it on their 2020 release Massey Fucking Hall (Live). Bloc Party are actually a band I have never seen live, to my utter regret. I’ll make it happen one day but I got a little taste of their brand on Silent Alarm Live the complete performance of said album and damn if it doesn’t bestow those songs with a brand new sheen. I’ll hit you with one more Incubus HQ Live because, well, I love Incubus, but also they are incredible musicians and you can hear all the nuance and precision of their craft on this live album!
Go forth, my readers and find yourself a live album. Chances are your favourite band has one. Feel your favourite song get a burst of fresh energy. Savour that precious crowd noise that we all long for in this pandemic. And above all, tell me about it! I need more killer live albums to listen to.
Written by Lee Ferguson
*Edited by Dominic Abate