Are these the best live albums ever released?
5 September 2021, 18:00
We love a live album - here are some of the very best gigs caught on vinyl.
The Smiths - Rank
Released a year after the legendary Mancunian band called it a day, this is a testament to their versatility on stage. Recorded at London’s Kilburn Ballroom on the Queen Is Dead tour, this LP opens with the title track, complete with Morrissey ad-libs and Johnny Marr and Mike Joyce going crazy. There’s a sweet medley of Rusholme Ruffians and the soundalike Elvis song His Latest Flame, expert renditions of Ask, Panic and The Boy With The Thorn In His Side and a rare outing for the instrumental Draize Train.
The Rolling Stones - Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!
Released in 1970, this official Stones album was seen as a response to the famous bootleg, Liv'r Than You'll Ever Be and charts their acclaimed return to the stage in the US after a few years on hiatus. Best bit: the lengthy take on Midnight Rambler. "Charlie's good tonight, innee?" says Mick - and he’s right.
Oasis - Familiar To Millions
Recorded on 21 July 2000 at Wembley Stadium, Familiar To Millions was the first live album from Oasis, and included huge performances of Champagne Supernova, Wonderwall and Don't Look Back In Anger. An immense sound.
U2 - Under A Blood Red Sky
The Irish band’s 1983 release features three shows from their War Tour in Boston, Germany and their famous show at Colorado's Red Rocks ampitheatre. The recording - which features a powerful performance of Sunday Bloody Sunday - cemented their status as a huge live act and put them in the big league.
Nirvana - MTV Unplugged In New York
Kurt Cobain's suicide in 1994 sent this recording into the stratosphere. His performance of David Bowie’s The Man Who Sold The World flashed around the world soon after his death, making this an essential purchase for mourning fans.
LCD Soundsystem - The Long Goodbye Live Album
The album, which charts LCD Soundsystem's last gig at Madison Square Garden accompanied their documentary film Shut Up And Play The Hits: The Very Loud Ending Of LCD Soundsystem. And then they got back together. Doh!
Talking Heads - Stop Making Sense
Accompanied by Jonathan "Silence Of The Lambs" Demme's concert film, this classic kicks off with a David Byrne solo version of Psycho Killer, then just gets better and better, The album featured on the Billboard 200 for over two years and rightly so.
The Who - Live At Leeds
The Who's first live album still remains their most famous yet, and a plaque at the University of Leeds commemorates the date it was recorded at the Refectory on 14 February 1970, calling it "the most celebrated live album of its generation". Pretty loud.
Muse - HAARP (Live at Wembley)
Muse's HAARP album documents the first sold-out show at the then all-new Wembley Stadium in 2007. HAARP stands for High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, a US government-funded ionospheric research program in Gakona, Alaska. What do you mean you’ve never heard of it? The band dressed their shows at Wembley to imitate the HAARP, suiting Matt Bellamy's interests in UFOs and and conspiracy theories.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Live At Monterey
The legendary rock guitarist plays the event that kick started the rock festival as we know it. Jimi smashes through the classics - Hey Joe, Foxy Lady, Purple Haze, Wild Thing - and sets his guitar on fire, literally, A ridiculously brilliant example of musicianship and showmanship.
Joy Division - Preston 28 February 1980
Either the best live album ever recorded… or the worst. Tony Wilson loved this live bootleg so much, he gave it an official release. A recording of bad night at a crappy Northern club where technical problems almost threaten to sink the whole gig, but once the amps are fixed, the band absolutely nail it. Interesting as a fly-on-the-wall document of one of Britain’s most enigmatic bands, and worth it for all the Ian Curtis chat.
David Bowie - Stage
Our man had a previous live album out in the early 70s (the wimpily-titled David Live), but this catches him in the classic, cool period of the Isolar World Tour of 1978. Originally available on fluorescent yellow vinyl, the two LP set kicks off with some hits, moves to the icy sounds of Station To Station on side 2, gets moody on Side 3 with some Low instrumentals and showcases the then-new “Heroes” album on side 4. So cool.
Motörhead - No Sleep Til Hammersmith
Ironically, the loudest band in the world aren’t featured in action from the famous London venues (Hammersmith Odeon, innit), but Leeds. Newcastle and a couple more shows on their Spring 1981 tour. It’s a monster of a record, and testament to Lemmy’s unstoppable rock machine. It starts with Ace Of Spades. Of course it does.