Best Live Albums

The other day, my boss Dante and I got into a discussion about the first albums we had ever bought. I can’t remember how it started but I said that my first 5 albums were Kiss – “Love Gun” and “Hotter than Hell”, Styx “Kilroy was Here”, Journey “Escape” and Def Leppard “Pyromania”, to which he replied his first album was The Who “Live at Leeds”, which he said he thought was still one of the best live albums ever done. I wasn’t sure but it spurred a debate about what was the best live album out there. So, here are my choices:

Best live album

1. Widespread Panic – “Light Fuse, Get Away”
Simply an amazing performance start to finish – they jam, they rock and they have a really good time and pull the crowd in, too. Of course, this might be my most biased pick.

2. Dire Straits – “Alchemy”
An album that doesn’t get nearly the attention it should, it fits a LOT of music into a few tracks on those 2CD. Features the brilliant live version of “Sultans of Swing”, but “Romeo and Juliet”, “Tunnel of Love” and “Telegraph Road”

3. Led Zeppelin – “The Song Remains the Same”
There was Led Zep, and then there was Led Zep LIVE. The movie was cool, but they really took their songs to a new level in this live version of the movie.

4. Dave Matthews Band – “Live at Red Rocks”
If Dave Matthews Band was on the way up when this album came out, this catapulted them to the top. Great sound and a really tight band that takes chances and gives great live versions of their own stuff and some great covers.

5. Iron Maiden – “Live After Death”
Definitely for the heavy metal fan, this album nevertheless showed off Maiden’s skills at live performance – a place that they were more comfortable than in the studio. Great vocals and roaring guitars give a hell of a show (I should know – I saw this tour, and it was fantastic).

6. Black Sabbath – “Live Evil”
Black Sabbath = Ozzy, at least until Ronnie James Dio took the reigns to create this hard rock masterpiece. Taking songs from the two albums Dio and Sabbath did together and piecing in some off Ozzy’s great ones, it’s a wonderfully moody piece.

7. Kiss – “Alive”
The Granddaddy of live rock albums, you can almost imagine them up on stage doing these songs. Wonderfully under-produced, they capture the energy of the show really well.

8. U2 – “Live at Red Rocks”
Another classic album that put both Red Rocks AND U2 into the notice of a lot of people. Their rendition of “MLK” here is one of the best live songs ever (in my opinion).

9. Ella Fitzgerald – “Live in Rome”
Ella is never bad, but there are times – like this show – when she was very, very good. Perhaps more than her studio recordings, this shows off her range and her personality and gives a view into her soul. Stunning performance.

10. Bruce Springsteen – “Live in Dublin”

This is a recent addition. Recorded and broadcast on PBS, this is a great album that gives little of Bruce’s standards but a lot of classic and traditional songs that he powers with his brand of rock. I was astounded by how good it was.

Other Contenders

Van Morrison – “A Night in San Francisco”
The Who – “Live at Leeds”
Cheap Trick – “Live at Buddakhan”
Neil Young – “Love Rust”
The Allman Brothers – “Live at the Fillmore East”
Peter Frampton – “Frampton Comes Alive!”
Elton John – “Live in Australia”
Talking Heads – “Stop Making Sense”


5 Responses to “Best Live Albums

  • I would actually go with Alive II instead of Alive, but no shame in either one

  • Live Baby Live, INXS was a fave when I was younger and RUSH had a few great live albums that I played numerous times!

  • I really love the Alice In Chains “unplugged” record. That one really sticks with me, and I’m not even a huge fan of live albums. It has some great, different takes on their songs, and has a much more intimate sound than usual from them.

  • Van – I think I have a place in my heart for Alive I because of when I got it. And it was much more classic Kiss in my opinion.

    Tom– Don’t know the INXS one, but you’re right – older Live Rush was good stuff. Neil Peart was a heck of a drummer.

    Michael – Never heard that one either. Alice in Chains was always good in small doses, so it might be worth checking out. My wife is also not a live album fan – she hates the degradation in sound quality. Me – being a jam band fan – take it as a part of the experience; and jam bands need to be heard live to really enjoy. Seeing Widespread Panic live at Red Rocks is a fantastic thing to do – although it’s impossible to truly capture it on tape.

Trackbacks & Pings

Leave a Reply