What about Thin Lizzy's Live and Dangerous? Brilliant brilliant album.
A mate of mine was in ecstasy, round about 1970, because he had found a bootleg Cream live album, on one side of which was a 20-minute version of "Toad". Speaking of instrumentals, at the Led Zep gig at Knebworth I bumped into a bloke wearing a "Spare the Whale" T-shirt on which he had inscribed, "Don't Play Moby Dick".
Different Stages by Rush is my favourite (the first two discs were recorded in the 90s, the third is from the late 70s). This band has released many live sets of their extensive catalogue and this is my pick of the best of these, from a band whose quality on stage is unrivaled. Pink Floyd they are not, but this band are still capable of dragging 80,000 to a football stadium in Brazil for a mass rock party.
When it ends with the "swing" finale it just leaves you with a "wow" moment. Awesome concert – I suspect that the Different Stages set and performances may be seen as the band's live peak. That said, any Rush concert reaches a standard far above that which most bands can manage. Second would be Vertigo by U2 – I wasn't a fan of this band until I saw the film on Channel 4. Bought it on DVD the next day.
Obvious choices for me:
The Rolling Stones: Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out This is the Stones at their absolute peak, before they added all the stupid horns, backup singers and "guest artists".
The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl Despite 120db noise levels at the concerts from 20,000 screaming girls, primitive 3-track recording technology and completely inadequate amps and PA system, we get some great performances from The Beatles. John Lennon's occasional smart-ass comments are the icing on the cake.
Cream at the Grande Ballroom A bootleg showcasing Clapton, Baker and Bruce in Detroit, October 1967, when they still enjoyed each other's company. The nearly 16-minute "N.S.U.", played at warp-speed, still boggles the mind. Nobody plays like this anymore.
If you're down – or want to be down – with the dance kids, Daft Punk's Alive 2007 is worth checking out. I'd have loved to have been there. Live at Leeds and the Neil Young recommendations go without saying, of course.
The Last Waltz by The Band.
Honourable mentions should go to:
Lou Reed: Rock'n'Roll Animal and Lou Reed Live (both albums were recorded at the same show).
Frank Sinatra/Count Basie: Sinatra at the Sands
King Crimson: USA
Jimi Hendrix: Band of Gypsys
Jefferson Airplane: Bless Its Pointed Little Head
The Doors: Absolutely Live
Genesis: Seconds Out
Wings: Wings over America
Peter Gabriel: Plays Live
Status Quo: Live! Miraculous atmosphere, even if the tunes are as dodgy as ever. Still totally magic.
UFO: Strangers in the Night (including the best guitar solo ever on "Rock Bottom")
Rush: Exit... Stage Left
AC/DC: If You Want Blood You've Got It
Rory Gallagher: Live in Europe
Humble Pie: Rockin' the Fillmore. Obviously helped by a great venue.
If a live album is about evoking the atmosphere of the event, you can't do better than these.
Hawkwind: Space Ritual – proto punk-rock heading for the stars with a headful.
I really like Shadows and Light by Joni Mitchell. Another great live recorded performance was The Police: Synchronicity Live.
The Ramones' It's Alive. It's the only live album to ever compare with Live at Leeds.
The three live sides of the three Joy Division Collector's Edition LPs (from The Factory, London ULU and High Wycombe Town Hall).
Humble Pie: Performance – Rockin' the Fillmore. More fun than the Allman Brothers, and heavier than James Brown. The roughest voice in rock'n'roll with the sweetest guitar. If Led Zeppelin had stuck to the blues, kept clear of fairies and not got too full of themselves, they would have been this good. A gas, really.
The Song Remains the Same by Led Zeppelin. Possibly the greatest live act ever. Compulsive Gamblers put out a great live album – Live & Deadly: Memphis-Chicago. Neil Young is always worth a listen. Rust Never Sleeps was mostly recorded live and is bookended by two great tracks. One glaring miss – Townes Van Zandt: Live at the Old Quarter. A great album.
Thin Lizzy, Van Morrison, Little Feat, Mad Dogs & Englishmen by Joe Cocker and the Grease band, Leon Russell.
Queen: Live in Budapest
Rush: Live in Rio
Jean Michel Jarre: Live in Houston
Rammstein: Live aus Berlin
Those concerts capture your imagination, even if you're not a fan of those bands.
Queen were the most amazing live band; seeing Geddy Lee of Rush singing, playing bass synth and bass guitar at the same time is beyond belief; Jarre in Houston is sheer magnificence and when it comes to pyro and theatrics, nothing beats Rammstein.
Not to mention that those acts define their genres.
I think that the late 60s and 70s was a classic period for music, of all genres. The ideas, the playing styles and production techniques gave it soul. Digital is the one for modern day electronica, but give me analogue for guitar-based music any day.
I think Thin Lizzy's Live and Dangerous (1978) is a classic; and Rory Gallagher's Irish Tour 1974 is a personal favourite of mine and definitely worth a listen.
I totally agree with the Neil Young suggestions made in the article; the man knows how to put his all into a live performance.
The Rezillos' Mission Accomplished... But the Beat Goes On stands pretty tall as a live album – a wicked pace throughout and some great covers, too. Everything you want from a live show.
The Grateful Dead's Live/Dead gives the listener a good insight into the intensity of their early live shows, too.
The Stones' Live at the Forest National '73 has to be on the list, even though it is only available as a bootleg.
At Fillmore East by the Allman Brothers Band is the most played music on my iPod by some margin, so not only the best live album – but also the best album ever. Many sublime musical moments.
Arnold Vere Ward
U2: Under a Blood Red Sky (1983). This album, that I bought back in 1983 and still have on vinyl, is about as raw an album as you can get. Consider this: U2 at that time were still fledgling – they hadn't done any of the stadium-rock that they're famous for now, but on this live album you can hear what's coming later and they delivered big time. It's a great album – I'll never part with my copy.
Nirvana: Unplugged in New York.