I have had a deep love for live music (read: obsession) since I was 13, when I saw my first concert (Cheap Trick at the Calderone in Hempstead, NY). When I was in high school, I discovered bootleg records, yes records, in the small record shops in Greenwich Village. I remember the joy of discovering live Led Zeppelin (Bonzo’s Birthday Party and Destroyer), and live Pink Floyd and The Who. My introduction to the Grateful Dead ushered in a whole new world of live music collecting that is still alive and kicking to this day. Live music has always felt to me to be the place in which an artist can truly express themselves, laid naked by the present moment, their souls flowing in a stream of creative consciousness (like i said, obsession 😉 ). This is most evident for me with music of an improvisational nature, be it Jazz, Blues, Bluegrass, or Rock.
I must say, in my old age, I have become a bit of a snob, preferring clean, crisp soundboard recordings to their grittier sounding audience recorded alternatives. Recently however, I stumbled upon a site that extols the virtues of the audience recording, The Grateful Dead Listening Guide, which gave me a deeper respect for the art form of the audience recording, both in the abilities of the taper, and the nuances of the music itself, such as the energy of the crowd, and the depth of the actual sound if the music.
This brings me to a new top 5 list:
Top 5 Audience Recorded Live Recordings – The Rock and Roll Edition.
If there is a better known ‘bootleg’ of these shows out there, I will list the name, otherwise, I will just list the show.
1. Led Zeppelin – “Listen To This Eddie” recorded June 21, 1977 @ the LA Forum, Los Angeles, CA
From the opening notes of ‘The Song Remains The Same,’ there is an intensity that oozes from the band. For me, it required multiple initial listenings just because I couldn’t tear my ears away from the virtuoso of both Jimmy Page and John Bonham. Both musicians were ON FIRE!!!!! as was the rest of the band, both collectively and as individuals.
2. Pink Floyd – “Animal Instincts rev B” recorded May 9, 1977 @ the Oakland Coliseum, Oakland CA
A great Floyd show! We hear Animals performed to perfection, followed by a near perfect Wish You Were Here. They close with a couple from Dark Side, and Careful With That Axe. The sound quality is awesome for an audience recording, and, again, the band is so damn tight.
3. Grateful Dead – recorded November 8, 1970 @ the Capitol Theater
The Dead during one of their many peaks of live power, after a long year of touring and perfecting their skills, unleashed this mind-melting performance. Several one-time-only breakout, and jams that show why, to paraphrase the late Bill Graham they were not the best at what they did, they were the only ones who did it. A link to a download of this show can be found here.
4. The Jeff Beck Group – “The Fillmore Masters” recorded July 23, 24, or 25, 1968 @ the Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA
Early, raw, incendiary blues guitar from one of the masters, also showcasing a young blues singer named Rod Stewart.
5. The Jerry Garcia Band – recorded March 1, 1991 @ The Warfield Theater, SF, CA
This holds a special place in my heart for a number of reasons. First, I was there. Second, it was one of the most spirited, inspired and exciting shows I ever had the pleasure to witness. Third, if you turn up the volume just as he starts playing ‘Positively 4th Street,’ that’s yours truly screaming in pure delight at the top of his lungs (much to the chagrin of nearby tapers).
If any of you have any personal favorites to add, please do so!