Top 10 Live Performances
Out of the many millions of truly breath taking musical performances that have occurred over the decades, or even centuries- picking a mere 10 as highlights is, I can assure- not straight forward. Of course any list constructed by a mere mortal such as myself will always bare the brand of their personal musical preferences, this one is no exception.
10. Queen – Wembley Stadium (1986)
Following their triumphant (there is no other word to describe Queen in my opinion) performance at Wembley a year previously as part of ‘Live Aid’- the band announced their own headline show as part of the ‘Magic’ tour in July 86’. The events that occurred that day fastened Queen onto their pedestal as a major force in rock and roll history. Performing a mammoth 28 song set, you can witness it in all of its glory now on DVD. INXS, The Alarm and Status Quo opened the show- and tickets were a mere £14.50 ($23).
9. Sex Pistols – Lesser Free Trade Hall, Manchester (1976)
Commonly known as the gig that changed the direction of UK guitar music, the Sex Pistols debut gig in Manchester was only attended by around 40 people- but almost every one of them would go on to great things. 1976 was an unstable time for British society, unrest was in the air and there were more and more angry young men joining the ranks of the punk daily. At this gig alone there was Morrisey, who of course went on to form seminal group The Smiths, The Buzzcocks (who actually organised the show) and two of the members of Joy Division!
8. James Brown – Harlem Apollo Theatre (1962)
Hailing from this particular area of New York City himself, James Brown funded and recorded this show at his own expense, much to the dismay of his record company- who could not see the eventual live album profiting as it did not feature any new material. The show, of course, was an absolute screamer- the album even more so. It spent 66 consecutive weeks in the Billboard chart- peaking at no.2.
7. Rolling Stones – Altamont (1969)
The Stones were at the height of their ridiculous amounts of fame and popularity by 1969, and to make amends for increasing criticism that ticket prices for that years North American tour were too costly- the band decided to round it off with this free event. A reported 300,000 people attended, including lots of hippies and also quite a few Hells Angels- who provided security for the proceedings. Yes, you read that correctly. The day soon descending into complete chaos with several people dying and scores being injured, still- what a performance.
6. The Beatles – Shea Stadium (1965)
Beatlemania spread Stateside with this legendary performance at New York’s Shea Stadium in the summer of 65’. The accompanying film released the following year documents the sheer hysteria which was all too familiar with the fab-four translating from their native England to the US. Although the band only played a 30 minute set, around 55,000 people were in attendance- making it the biggest show they had ever played up to that date. They crammed an incredible 12 songs into their set- creating an enthralling medley and securing their place on this list- I imagine they’re overjoyed…
5. Nirvana – Reading Festival (1992)
This concert, quite conveniently for someone my age, is available in all its painfully seminal glory on DVD nowadays. I advise that you get hold of it, as it shows quite possibly the most influential band of the past 20 years at their absolute best. Appearing at the festival in 1991, they returned as headliners a year later- much to the joy of British adolescents. Although sceptical about their abilities to carry out the historic task in question, the trio smashed the place apart with a fruitful and relentless set list.
4. The Who – Isle of Wight Festival (1970)
Whilst on tour in support of their acclaimed rock opera ‘Tommy’, The Who made a legendary appearance at the Isle of Wight. On a bill that included the likes of Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis and The Doors- the cockney power foursome brought the sonic drive needed to put the cherry on the cake. Performing aforementioned classic work in its entirety, as well as a host of classic tracks- the Keith Moon inclusive line-up had the huge crowd eating of their hands by the time they reached eccentric closer ‘Magic Bus’.
3. Led Zeppelin – Royal Albert Hall (1970)
It is my opinion that Led Zeppelin absolutely dominated 70’s rock music, and this gig was a warning for each and every one of their peers. Forming only 2 years previous to this iconic show, the band was playing as though they had been together for a decade. Displaying that characteristic open shirted charisma they became famous for and supplementing it with an awesome display of rock, blues and even at times folk influenced musicianship, this gig is a milestone. Of the 8 dates which constituted this UK tour, they only filmed this one (as far as I know anyway). Had they all been filmed, I’m sure either of them could be on this list.
2. Johnny Cash – Folsom Prison (1968)
Since releasing early hit ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ in 1955, JC had maintained an interest in the subject- never ceasing on his ambition to one day play a gig for the inmates incarcerated there. In 1968 he was just emerging from a particularly destructive bout of substance abuse, and was ready to retake his place among an ever modernising group of prime songwriters and musicians. Performing alongside June Carter, Carl Perkins and his famous Tennessee Three- Johnny proved he still had it at a time most important. The eventual album was a hit in his native US, reaching number one in the country charts and re-establishing Cash’s previously tarnished popularity and credit within the industry.
1. Jimi Hendrix – Woodstock (1969)
This concert may just have epitomised a generation. Not just any generation either, but the generation that pushed and twisted music into something unrecognisable to its former self, the 60’s. Commonly referenced towards as marking the true end of the 1960’s, Woodstock was in itself a historic event. Whilst Jimi was far from being the exclusive highlight of a festival I can barely comprehend- he did close out the event. Due to go on at 3am, various logistical errors kept him from the stage until around 8am. This was on a Monday morning, the morning after the final day of the festival. As a result, many of the hundreds of thousands of revellers had already made their journey home, but those who stayed- were treated to an era defining performance. An astonishing excerpt of footage, the show is plentifully available to marvel over.
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