One of the great advantages of technology was allowing (from the early to mid-seventies) the recording of a band in concert. It was a way to give people that were there a souvenir and those who were not a feeling that they were.
The problem of giving people a feeling that they were there is that this sometimes is not that great when you’re lying on your bed or sitting on your couch and just want to listen to some music. When you’re in that position you don’t want to listen to endless instrumental jams, unless you’re listening to Jazz (yes, I’m talking to you Deep Purple – Made In Japan, Led Zeppelin – The Song Remains The Same, Allman Brothers – Live At Fillmore East, Rainbow – On Stage and many others). I don’t care if that shows that they are great musicians. It’s fucking boring. As simple as that.
And there’s another thing (and I’m ready to be crucified by what I’m going to say right now): I’m all for overdubs. Why would I buy a record to listen to the band playing bad and wrong? I might as well buy a bootleg.
Having said that I wanna make perfectly clear that it broke my heart to leave Accept – Staying a Live, Scorpions – World Wide Live, AC/DC – Live, Slayer – Decade Of Aggression and Ozzy Osbourne – Live & Loud out of the list, but there’s room only for five. Van Halen –Right Here, Right Now, would be a great contender if only there were more Dave Lee Roth-era songs.
As a final note, the closer you can get to a Beatles live album is Paul McCartney live albums, therefore, they are out.
Here we go.
#5: Rush – Snakes And Arrows Live
Yes, yes, I know that All The World’s Stage and Exit Stage Left are timeless classics and blah, blah, blah. But, first of all, Rush got so many live albums that is really hard to choose just one. Therefore my mindset was: the album with more songs that I love. And with that in mind, you can’t beat this one. I mean how can you argue with a concert that is opened with “Limelight” and has in the same set list “Entre Nous”, “Mission”, “Circumstances”, “A Passage To Bangkok” and “Subdivisions”? And even some obscure gems like “Witch Hunt”, “Natural Science” and “Between The Wheels”? Plus, the band was touring a great album (Snakes And Arrows).
#4: Paul Rodgers – Live In Glasgow
This one is a little out of left field, I know, but I felt deeply in love with it the first time I heard it while still working as a Rock journalist reviewing records. If you’re fan of Blues based Rock sang pristinely, you need to look no further than this album. The greatest combination of Free and Bad Company classics, Live In Glasgow is just perfect. Like a good wine, Paul Rodgers seems to get better with age and here he is just phenomenal. Add to that a killer band with ex-Heart six-stringer Howard Leese and you just can’t go wrong. “Fire And Water”, “Wishing Well”, the timeless “All Right Now”, “Cant’ Get Enough”, “Seagull”, “Feel Like Makin’ Love”, “Bad Company” and a marvelous rendition of Muddy Waters’ “Louisiana Blues” are all here for you.
#3: Queen – Live At Wembley’86
This album is so good that not even that unbearable “Impromptu” of Freddie Mercury bubbling at the mike and an even more unbearable Brian May solo can spoil it. And that’s because here we have one of the greatest bands ever knowing they were heading towards the end so they needed to enjoy every minute of it. Freddie is in total control of his game here (despite the flagrant scare of not going to the higher notes on “Is This The World We Created?”) and his control of the audience is so perfect that you can feel it from the speakers. And specially in the opening songs “One Vision” and “Tie Your Mother Down” you can hear how tight and heavy Queen was live. Other highlights are the Rock And Roll medley (specially “Hello, Mary Lou (Goodbye Hart) from Rick Nelson), “Hammer To Fall” and “Friends Will Be Friends”.
#2: Kiss – Alive II
This album deserves to be here just for the opening “You Wanted The Best…” coupled with “Detroit Rock City”. There’s only one way to open a show better than this and you’ll know what it is in a moment. Here we have Kiss at its apex. Maybe not musically (Kiss were never known for their virtuosity), but in terms of songwriting and energy, you can’t beat Alive II. With a set list based on Destroyer, Rock And Roll Over and Love Gun, it’s a downpour of Kiss at its best. “King Of The Night Time World”, “Love Gun”, “Makin’ Love”, “I Want You”, “God Of Thunder”, “Shout It Out Loud”, “Ladies Room”, “Hard Luck Woman” among others are here for you to throw a perfect party. But there’s more. The studio bonus songs are also wonderful: “All American Man”, “Rockin’ In The USA” (you can’t beat a lyric that says: “I’ve been to England too/ There wasn’t much to do”. It’s so dumb is great), “Rocket Ride”, “Larger Than Life” and even the Dave Clark Five cover “Any Way You Want It”.
#1: Iron Maiden – Live After Death
If nothing else, that’s the album responsible for changing my life completely. I couldn’t believe what I was listening to. And here is the greatest show opening of all time: “Churchill’s Speech/ Aces High”. You can’t beat that. Here is Iron Maiden when they became my all time favorite band (The Beatles are out, but you already know that). There’s not a flaw. A perfect set-list, a pristine execution and, as much as I am all for overdubs, this is how it went down on those four nights at Long Beach Arena. There’s no correction whatsoever. By the way, nothing is more iconic in the Metal realm than Bruce screaming: “Scream for me, Long Beach”. That was Rock history in the making. And how about the most British joke you can ever think of before the magnificent “Rime Of The Ancient Mariner”: “And the moral of this story is: This is what not to do if your bird shits on you.” Pure genius! I can safely say this is the album I listened the most in my life. It was almost like a ritual. I listened to Live After Death and stared at its cover practically everyday when I was about 13. Here’s a more than deserving number one spot.
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