Thursday, August 07, 2008


To be perfectly honest, I'm not a tremendous fan of of the live stuff musically. Oh sure, I'll take in the occasional concert, and some of them have been quite good. But the stuff I fall in love with, the songs I listen to over and over, they're by and large the originals. If I see a video of a live performance, or hear one on the radio, it's usually time for me to channel-surf. Precious few ever make it into my iPod collection.

That's not to say that there aren't some, though, that blow me away.

For example, MTV went through that stretch in the 90's where artists were coming on and doing their "unplugged" sets. The most famous of these was the dramatic slowing-down of "Layla" by Eric Clapton. Far more interesting to me, however, was what would happen if a rapper came on without a DJ, with no sampling, but rather with an actual band behind them. A little eye candy for the ladies here with a bare-chested LL Cool J ripping off an impressive version of "Mama Said Knock You Out."

You can't really go wrong with Bono in anything live. It's not for nothing that U2 is arguably the greatest concert band of all-time. Here he steps out for a duet with The Corrs. If it weren't for the applause, I don't think I'd every know this was a live show, as polished as "When The Stars Go Blue" sounds.

I don't know if anything could have lived up to the advance hype, and this one probably fell a little short, but you've got to give Eminem and Elton John credit for giving it a shot.

So many good versions of "Sunday Bloody Sunday," but this one definitely stands out. I've posted it on here before, and as before, be warned that there is salty language during Bono's mid-song rant. All I can say is wow. Very different feel to it without the drums and bass guitar during the first half of the set.

Same with "Where The Streets Have No Name." Perhaps I'm partial to this version because this was from the tour that I finally got to see these guys in concert. No other song has given me goosebumps like this one live, although "Roxanne" and "Let's Go Crazy" came close.

For flat-out blowing my mind with the power and sincerity behind the vocals, it's got to be Whitney Houston singing at the 1989 Grammy Awards. That crowd is waiting to explode by the time she wraps things up. Ah, Whitney, we hardly knew thee...

And yet, I'm not so sure that I don't get a bigger charge out of another Grammy performance from nine years earlier. Back in college, I got dragged (almost literally kicking and screaming) to a Neil Diamond concert down in Evansville. Surprisingly to me, I actually wound up enjoyed it. I put U2, The Police, and Prince on one level of best concerts I've been to, but this would occupy the next tier...I even willingly saw him a second time in Indy. Evidently this duet with Barbra Streisand was a surprise at the award show. I've read that Barbra hated doing live songs at these types of events, but the chemistry between the two bursts off the screen. He may be goofy looking, but the man is a pimp.

But as far as duets go, this next one crackled with real and sincere energy. Any music fan knows the drama that surrounded the making of the album "Rumours." As highly regarded as the album is, there are still two or three songs I would happily leave off to make room for "Silver Springs," which wound up being left off the album and relegated to B-side status (paired with "Go Your Own Way). The irony is that this is very much Stevie Nicks' take of her relationship with Lindsey Buckingham, the same story that "Go Your Own Way" told but from her perspective. After Buckingham's soulful guitar solo at the bridge, you can see the blazing intensity on Stevie's face as she practically shouts the lyrics while intently staring him down. I can't imagine him having to sing support of the 1977 version of "You Outta Know" knowing it was directed at him. My only complaint is the biggest overacting by a drummer this side of Stewart Copeland.

In the end though, there's never been a more electrifying showman on stage than Freddie Mercury. I'd long heard about Queen and U2 being the highlights of 1985's Live Aid. About four years back, I broke down and bought the four disc DVD package (which sadly doesn't included Led Zeppelin's reunion set). Most groups did one or two songs, and some of the biggies were able to do three songs. Queen wound up doing six songs. If you haven't seen their whole run, do yourself a favor. Hey, he's not good looking. His dancing is campy and far from choreographed. But there's never been a singer who made the kind of connection with the crowd...not Jagger, not even Bono. Stick all the way through "Radio Ga-Ga" and watch the final minute of this clip. I'd have given anything to be at Wembley Stadium just for that!

Anything I'm clearly leaving out?