Best I've Ever Seen

Talking with artists about concerts and albums they'll never forget

Gary Stoller is an award-winning editor, author, and journalist. He's written for USA TODAY and loves Bob Dylan and Blue Rodeo.

Best I've Ever Seen

Talking with artists about concerts and albums they'll never forget

Gary Stoller is an award-winning editor, author, and journalist. He's written for USA TODAY and loves Bob Dylan and Blue Rodeo.

What's the Best Concert Album of All Time?

The best live album for me is: "Running on empty" - Jackson Browne

Fabulous. Start to finish. My fave: The Load Out/Stay.

It is a great record, made all the better by the fact that it is a live record of mostly original material written by Jackson (and some co-writers like Lowell George, Valerie Carter, Bryan Garafalo), and some covers of great songs by Danny O'Keefe, Danny Kortchmar, Maurice Williams, Rev. Gary it is different from most of the live concert records we talk about, it doesn't rehash any old songs from Jackson's catalog...and then the band...Russ Kunkel, Leland Sklar, Craig Doerge, Kortchmar, David Lindley, Rosemary Butler, Doug Haywood...nuff said...great record...

There are many great live albums, but most live albums are not great records...most of the best ones are completely under the radar...Gary's contention that Van Morrison's is one of the best is certainly true...some of his friend's selections, like the Allman's and Humble Pie, Johnny Cash...great is the J. Geils Band live one "Full House", it's easily the best record that band ever made...their original songs bordered on novelty (Centerfold, Love Stinks)...some of the other records noted...REO Speedwagon did have a great guitar player, and Rush are great musicians, but that doesn't make their songs great, IMO...the Beach Boys record noted is a good one as well.  And "Waiting for Columbus"...phenomenal...

Jimmy LaFave's original double record/CD "Trail" (which is available as "Trail One" on Music Road Records and at Amazon...unfortunately, while the music is all there, there were extensive liner notes with the original record that are no longer available) is every bit as good as any of the records mentioned...I'd put it up there with the very best of all live records...Eric Taylor's "Live at the Red Shack", which Terry Roland recently wrote about, is a wonder, guest spots from Lyle Lovett and Nancy Griffith...there are so many...most of the best ones are completely off the beaten path, and not well known...David Wilcox's "Live Songs and Stories"...Radney Foster's "Are You Ready For the Big Show"...Ellis Paul "Live"...tons of others... 

Stop Making Sense becasue I was there; Monk Live at the the Five Spot becasue I wasn't.

So glad you added the Johnny Cash concert. I was thinking Folsom, but San Quentin is great -- the release you mention has a bit more to it than the original album. I'd have to also add the 1966 Bob Dylan concert at the Manchester Free Trade Hall (released as Royal Albert Concert Hall in the 90s). Every time I listen to that show, I think what it must have been like for the people who were there, hearing those songs for possibly the first time.

It was a really tough call. I only chose SQ over F because at 7 years old, "A Boy Named Sue" was the first song I ever heard by Johnny Cash (starting my life-long obsession with 'The Man in Black'). I don't think you can wrong with either, and I wouldn't disagree with your choosing "Folsom", as this, his first 'prison recording', is truly spectacular!

I got to see him in concert right when Folsom had just come out. I was a kid at the time, and I've been to thousands of live shows, but him doing that song, during that time, really ranks in my top 5 greatest performances I've seen. He was electric. Real skinny, and like a caged animal. Voice in great form. 

Live at San Quenton was the first album I ever bought--sixth grade.  Abby Road was my second.  Both released in 1969.  

Jerry Lee Lewis~The Greatest Live Show On Earth

Jerry Lee Lewis~The Greatest Live Show On Earth

A couple of MAJOR albums not on this list are: The Who, Live at Leeds and Jefferson Airplane, Bless It's Pointed Little Head.

I agree! I intentionally did not include Live at Leeds or Allman's live at Fillmore East because they are just so obviously great and found on almost every list. I was trying to be a little different.


I've owned "Waiting For Columbus" in more formats and reissues than any other title live or studio. I never get tired of any song on it. Even the campy "Don't Bogart That Joint", and the often copied "Willin" are joy to the ears. I'm so glad I saw that band once when Lowell was alive. I still enjoy hearing them today because the other band members are so talented.

Good list Gary and friends. I agree with the Isbell comments and his live album is one of my favorites. I'd put Dylan's Bootleg series from the Rolling Thunder Review on my list. I know you're a fan Gary. The problem with the Last Waltz for me is I can't get past the acrimony thats bubbling near the surface of the show, at least if you believe Levon's if Robbie as the villain. I love the band and enjoy watching it when it comes on but that's always in the back of my mind. Marley Live In London from the mid 1970s is a favorite of mine as well.

Bob Seger - Silver Bullet Live

Since someone already mentioned the Who Live at Leeds, I'll add Wilco's Kicking Television.

Love that Wilco album too. Seeing them live for the first time a few years back (an opening band for Neil Young & Crazy Horse at MSG) performing "Via Chicago" was a mind-altering experience for me.  I've been a big fan ever since then!

I was at that Neil and Wilco show at MSG. Great concert. Wilco is arguably one of the best live bands touring today and Kicking Television is one I forgot to mention but is certainly deserving. Wilco's Solid Sound Festival is a must.

There was actually a third band, one that opened, playing immediately prior to Wilco. Do you recall who that was?

Yeah, I've seen Wilco half a dozen times or so, and they're one of the best live acts out there.  I remember reading a Jeff Tweedy interview in which he said that the only bad show he remembers Wilco playing was at a music festival.  Arcade Fire was just starting to go big, and Tweedy said their show was transendant—they blew the crowd away.  Wilco had to follow, and according to Tweedy, they bombed.  

I had seen Wilco follow Arcade Fire at Austin City Limits festival years before, and I've always wondered if he was referring to that show.  Wilco didn't bomb—far from it, they were great—but I do remember Tweedy telling the crowd a few songs in, "Wilco doesn't usually have to beg, and I know it's hot, and I know you're worn out by the last band, but help us out here."

I had never seen or listened much to Arcade Fire.  They looked to me like a bunch of young art school kids who had decided to form a band and were still learning to play their instruments.  But holy hell they were energetic and enthusiastic—what was happening on stage resembled a frenzied tent revival, at times damned near orgiastic—and the wall of sound they made was hard to deny.  

The 5 LP edition of Kicking Television is still the best Record Store Day purchase I've ever made. 

All good choices how about.


1. My Morning Jacket - OKONOKOS

2. CSNY 4 Way Street

3. Love Forever Changess  LIVE  2003

4. Drive By Truckers Its Grat To Be Alive

4-Way Street was another I considered but similar to some others (aka The Who Live at Leeds) I just thought it might be too obvious. Love Forever Changes is an interesting choice. I wish some of the original members (i.e. Johnny Echols or Bryan Maclean) had been able to be included (Bryan couldn't for obvious reasons). That may have elevated that release for me. No doubt the original studio release is amazing and Arthur Lee (although he still seemed a bit in another world) did an amazing job bringing the album to life at that live 2003 UK performance.

I saw Van Morrison and the Mad Dogs & Englishmen play on the same bill at the Fillmore West, and while it was a dynamite show, it paled in comparison to how well the Grateful Dead were playing in the winter of 1968/69. Live Dead, which was assembled from a series of shows at the Avalon Ballroom and the Fillmore West that winter, remains my favourite live album by a "rock" band -- I put quotes around "rock" because, to quote Bill Graham, the Dead were not the best at what they did, they were the only ones who did what they did. All of the other albums mentioned were wonderful, and if I were to add live albums by jazz artists I might have come up with a different favourite -- I love the MJQ's Live in Europe, Monk's Live at the It Club, Brubeck's Live at Carnegie Hall,  Miles' Friday and Saturday Night at the Blackhawk, and so on. I also love James Brown's Live at the Apollo and Ray Charles Live, recorded at Herndon Field in Atlanta -- both albums are only flawed by being too short, and both capture artists who were incredibly powerful live.

Well if we're going to expand the genre into Jazz them John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy Live at the Village Vanguard from 1961 belongs on every list.

I’m surprised no one has mentioned “Rock of Ages” yet.   As a snapshot of The Band, it’s arguably better than “The Last Waltz”.  

I'll second many of the nominees already here but three of my favorite live acts have also released great live albums.  

If I were to rank my top live shows Midnight Oil would have 2 in the top 5 and all 6 in my top 20.  Their “Scream in Blue Live” gives you a good idea why. 

If you have a soft spot for the Replacements, “The Sh*t hits the Fans” captures them in all their drunken glory.   Most of the songs are covers – or muggings if you will – but only the Mats would do the Jackson Five, the Carter Family and Black Sabbath in the same show…..and pull it off.        

I can’t wait for the day after Thanksgiving when I go to Toronto to see Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, one of the best live bands around today.   They had a live album a few years ago “Jesus Let Me Down” but their last album had a bonus DVD of a live show in Denver that is incredible.     

Midnight Oil - very good call!

Has anybody mentioned Dave Alvin 'Out In California'?


Rock of Ages. Forgot about that one snd agree it's a better snapshot of the Band.

Agree with you about "Rock of Ages." Wish they would give an official release to the Midway or Forest Hills shows from The Replacements reunion tour. I was at the latter show, and it is without question my favorite concert of all time.

Absolutely..."Rock of Ages" is wonderful, Allen Toussaint's horm arrangements....another...Commander Cody "We've Got a Live One Here"...playing on that is unbelievable...Bill Kirchen, Andy Stein on fiddle, Norton Buffalo on harp...amazing record...

Jim, I got into Commander Cody live stuff a few years ago and was surprised how many live albums he had.   My favorite is Live at Armadillo World Headquarters.  A good mix of country, jump blues, and country boogie.  Many decades ago these and other ingredients led to rock and roll. 

I've got that one to is wonderful as well...they do have a bunch of live reccords...I'm not sure why I like the one I mentioned the best, but I think it is mostly Andy Stein's playing and the way it is in the mix...ghost of Joe Venuti...there's some Western Swing here too, although all the styles you mention are part of that stew...

Another live record that is so great is the Amazing Rhythm Aces..."Full House, Aces High"...It's the original band save Duncan Cameron is on guitar instead of Byrd Burton by then...I'm not sure if you can buy it anymore...the best version ever of Charlie Rich's "Who Will the Next Fool Be?"...

Jim, your comments remind me of how much I love the song you mentioned:  "Who Will The Next Fool Be".  It is one of those classic songs that has been done by a lot of folks in many different genres.  Two of my favorite versions are those by Bobby Blue Bland and 90's country hat act Mark Chesnutt (Longnecks CD).  In addition, Holli Mosley channels the Charlie Rich late-night piano version on the recent Rich tribute album "Feel Like Going Home".  Rich is another of my "Mr. Americana" nominees because of his diversity, especially before he got tangled up with the Nashville Sound crap of the 60's. 

Charlie Rich was a great and sorely underappreciated artist who likely was a bit too versatile for his own good, blues, gospel, country, rock and roll, R&B., all in there..while "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World" was a giant hit (as was "Behind Closed Doors"), anyone who thinks that is the real Charlie Rich is quite misinformed (I hope he got paid well at least)...I've not heard Bobby Blue Bland's (that would have to be great) nor Mark Chestnutt's version (that surprises me a bit I guess, but I know with your recommend it would have to be the rest of that record good?) but I have the tribute record and Holli's version is excellent...the Rhythm Aces version features a terrific vocal from H. Russell Smith, and their typical stellar playing, it's at about the same pace as the original, and it just builds steam as it goes...the live record I am speaking of was a double live record that I purchased mail order after seeing an ad for it in the back of Rolling Stone Magazine...most of my musician friends, some of whom are still playing bars in their 60's, would tell you it's the best live record they've ever heard, or right there with Allman's Live at Fillmore East and a couple of others...all of the Aces great originals, a few covers, and truly inspired playing that was very well recorded...magic night...still have the vinyl copy (double record)...doubt you can buy it...I've not looked in while but I had no luck finding it...the Aces have some other live records and they are all quite good, but that one is a home of the best ever...

Charlie Rich only made one good record after Billy Sherill got hold of him...Pictures and Paintings...jazz flavored, great playing and Tom Waits once sang, "radio spittin' out Charlie Rich, he sure can sing, that son of a bitch"

I love the Amazing Rhythm Aces and thought I had most of their stuff but I never got the live album which sounds great but probably unavailable. Another good cover of "Who Will the Next Fool Be" was by Alex Taylor--James Taylor's brother--who made an excellent blues/r&b record in the early 70s which is probably unavailable too. I bought a used Charlie Rich Cd (with "Behind Closed Doors") which was a big disappointment as it was one of those over-produced with sickening strings releases. Can anyone recommend a Charlie Rich release that isn't like that?

The Sun Sessions...great stuff...truthfully, everything before Billy Sherill started producing him, plus his last record "Pictures and Paintings" is great...amazing artist...

Dennis...I was can buy "Full House Aces High" used or new on Amazon, vinyl (used only) or CD...they have a link on their FB page to a place where you can buy music, but I couldn't get it to work...maybe you can...

I know you aren't an Amazon guy, but you may have to break down on this one...

Thanks Jim. I've been "breaking down" a lot lately and ordering through Amazon because even the mega CD store I go to often doesn't have the CDs I'm looking for. But they still have a lot of stuff I just run across (which is what's so fun about an actual store) like yesterday when I found a live Ry Cooder CD from a radio broadcast in 1972--a solo gig which includes his between song raps--which is really good what I've heard so far.

I have seen that Alex Taylor record a couple of times, but not recently...guess I should have bought it back in the day...Sister Kate had a record too as I recall.

Jim, the Mark Chesnutt album was one of many, many CD's I started buying for a buck or so at flea markets and thrift shops a few years ago, mainly to replace my 70's rock vinyl at bargain basement prices.  I was a big fan of the "hat-act" New Traditional country of the 80's and early 90's that was pioneered by Skaggs, Strait, and early-Reba and made irrelevant by Garth and the arena shows in the 90's.   Like outlaw music it was an anecdote for the syrupy Nashville Sound of the 60's.  The Chesnutt album is a typical 10-song outing with a couple of interesting songs (Bubba Shot The Jukebox, My Old Flames Have New Names) as well as a western swing beat on some songs and a Ray Price shuffle on a couple.  For a buck, yes.  Now 39 cents at your local Goodwill.  

Interestingly, my streaming service has a Mark Chesnutt live CD (Live From The Big D) that includes a Billy Joel song, a famous Louie Prima jump blues/swing song called Jump Jive & Wail, and a couple of cajun-sounding songs.  

I made the statement without even really hearing Mark Chestnutt, so I obviously pre-judged and shouldn't have, most of the hat acts were talented people, just formulaic...I've got a few of those artists you mention, though I'm not sure some of them weren't after Garth...Pat Green, Michael Peterson (who apparently was, and still is, a motivational speaker or all things), Clint Black...I always thought Travis Tritt had a decent song or two, but then CMT did one of those things where they pair a country artist with another not-country artist (Crossroads and Cross-Country were the shows, I think...), his show was with Ray Charles...and that show was great...hell, Tritt's an R&B artist that sang country (which I guess Ray Charles did too now that I think about it)...I've noticed a few "hat-act" guys lately that are good too...Sam Outlaw...

Hey Jim, what Tom Waits song is it where he mentions Charlie Rich? I think I have nearly every Tom Waits release but I don't recall that lyric. Also--below I mentioned finding a Ry Cooder live CD but I had the wrong year. It is called "Down At The Field" and was recorded in 1974 (released in 2014) in Colorado with some bonus cuts recorded the same year at the Bitter End in N.Y.C. This was when Ry did a lot of blues so there are a bunch of Sleepy John Estes songs with Ry playing mandolin and telling Sleepy John stories about the songs. Pretty cool CD but it's on some weird label so probably not an official Ry Cooder release but I don't really know.

(I said "below" but where this comment ended up my Ry Cooder comment is actually above.) you go..."Putnam County" from Nighthawks at the Diner"

I guess things were always kind of quiet around Putnam County

Kind of shy and sleepy as it clung to the skirts of the two-lane

That was stretched out just like an asphalt dance floor

Where all the old-timers in bib jeans and store bought boots Were hunkering down in the dirt

To lie about their lives and the places that they'd been

And they'd suck on Coca Colas, yeah, and be spitting Day's Work

Until the moon was a stray dog on the ridge and And the taverns would be swollen until the naked eye of two a.m.

And the Stratocasters slung over the burgermeister beer guts

And swizzle-stick legs jackknifed over naugahyde stools... yeah

And the witch hazel spread out over the linoleum floors

And pedal-pushers stretched out over a midriff bulge

And the coiffed brunette curls over Maybelline eyes Wearing Prince Machiavelli, or something yeah Estee Lauder, smells so sweet

And I elbowed up at the counter with mixed feelings over mixed drinks

As Bubba and the Roadmasters moaned in pool hall concentration

And knit their brows to cover the entire Hank Williams songbook

Whether you like it or not

And the old National register was singing to the tune of fifty-seven dollars and fifty- seven cents yeah

And then it's last call, one more game of eight-ball

Berniece'd be putting the chairs on the tables

And someone come in and say, 'Hey man, anyone got any jumper cables?'

'Is that a 6 or a 12 volt, man?

I don't know...' Yeah, and all the studs in town would toss 'em down

And claim to fame as they stomped their feet Yeah, boasting about being able to get more ass than a toilet seat

And the GMC's and the Straight-8 Fords were coughing and wheezing

And they percolated as they tossed the gravel underneath the fenders

To weave home a wet slick anaconda of a two-lane With tire irons and crowbars a-rattling

With a tool box and a pony saddle You're grinding gears and you're shifting into first Yeah,

and that goddamned tranny's just getting worse, man

With the melody of see-ya-laters and screwdrivers on carburetors

Talking shop about money to loan And palominos and strawberry roans yeah

See ya tomorrow, hello to the Missus With money to borrow and goodnight kisses

As the radio spit out Charlie Rich, man, He sure can sing that son of a bitch

And you weave home, yeah, weaving home Leaving the little joint winking in the dark warm narcotic American night

Beneath a pin cushion sky

And it's home to toast and honey, gotta start up the Ford, man

Yeah, and your lunch money's right over there on the draining board

And the toilet's running Christ, shake the handle

And the telephone is ringing, it's Mrs. Randall

And where the hell are my goddamned sandals?

What you mean, the dog chewed up my left foot?

With the porcelain poodles and the glass swans Staring down from the knickknack shelf.

And the parent's permission slips for the kids' field trips

Yeah, and a pair of mukluks scraping across the shag carpet yeah

And the impending squint of first light

And it lurked behind a weeping marquee in downtown Putnam Yeah, and it'd be pulling up any minute now

Just like a bastard amber Velveeta yellow cab on a rainy corner

And be blowing its horn in every window in town...

Wow! Thanks Jim. I asked for a song title and got the whole damn lyrics which reminds me just what a brilliant beat poet Waits was/is for this works well without the music which can't be said for most lyrics. I have that vinyl L.P. but haven't listened to it in a long while and can't even remember if I've got it on CD but I should since that was a fine release. I'll have to check tonight and remedy that if I don't. Thanks again (and here I thought you lost my question in this long thread).

Yes...that record is full of those...for some reason I couldn't rememeber the title of it, but I was pretty sure it was on Nighthawks...beat poet indeed...that works just as well reading it off of the paper as it does set to many great lines and vivid images...that's why I just posted the whole thing...

And I did forget to answer the question originally too...long thread it is...


Oh, man.  How did I forget Cody's "We've Got a Live One Here"?  That live double album was the last hurrah for the Western swing big band version of the Lost Planet Airmen, including Bill Kirchen, Billy C. Farlow, Andy Stein, Norton Buffalo, Bobby Black, and others.  I saw that incarnation of the band play pretty much the same show at Red Rocks outside of Denver.  Recorded in London, as I recall.        

Man, I would have loved to see that version of the band...killer playing...some people feel that the band was about tapped out when they made this one, but I think the song selection alone makes it really special..."My Window Faces the South" has some fiddle playing by Stein that sounds like Joe Venuti's ghost...Norton Buffalo has some crazy harp solos too, the one on 'Lost in the Ozone" is nuts...Bill Kirchen has several wonderful breaks too, like was recorded in London...terrific stuff...their other live ones are great too...I think I personally like this one the best...

Another similar band, Asleep At the Wheel, has some great live stuff as well...I saw them live about a year ago, and they work a lot of the same territory...they did "San Antonio Rose" and "Milk Cow Blues", plus jump boogie style versions of things like "Route 66"...they had Merle Haggard's piano player playing with them, Merle had passed away not long before that...

My favorite Asleep at the Wheel live album is Live From Austin, Tx, which must be the Austin City Limits show.  It has a lot of boogie and jump blues standards.  A long, long time ago I taped a public radio broadcast of one of the band's anniversary shows in Austin that included Willie Nelson, Delbert McClinton, George Strait, a young Brad Paisley as well as some of the Bob Wills and AATW alumnae.  I do not have the tape and have not been able to find it online. It must have been their 15th or 20th annniversary. 

For Blasters fans, I recently discovered a great video of a 1982 TV special hosted by the band with Carl Perkins and Willie Dixon as guests.  The show included some interesting discussions about the roots of rock and rockabilly.  You can google Blasters 1982 TV Special as uploaded by Steve M. 

My vote is for Donny Hathaway Live for its passion and musicanship.

Meanwhile can somebody tell me what it means that the energy level of the ABB album is "off the hook"? Does that mean it sounds like a land line dial tone? Or has it just been exonerated from something? Inquiring minds need to know.

According to the Urban dictionary: "Off the hook is actually a modernization of a series of slang words. Closely related to off the chain, there referring to something being so "fresh" and "new" that its literally right off the store shelf." 

I always loved live albums & there are lots of great live albums listed here . . . here are a few more that I still listen to pretty frequently  . . . Roadwork by Edgar Winter's White Trash (with Johnny . . . people keep asking, where's your brother? hey Johnny . . . & Rick Derringer), Absolutely Live by the Doors, One More From the Road by Lynyrd Skynyrd & Get Your Ya Ya's Out by the Stones (was that not mentioned? gotta be there for Midnight Rambler & the classic crowd comments - paint it black, you devil . . . you don;t want me trousers to fall down now do ya???)

I have a ton of live shows, but in the officially released category, my favorite is "Hot August Night," one of the shows from Elvis Presley's 1969 Las Vegas engagement. The show, released on the Follow That Dream label, absolutely smokes. 

Honorable mentions: Dave Alvin's "Out in California" and Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros' "Acton Concert," one of his last shows.

Otis Redding - Live In Europe

My list

  1. Blues Brothers - Briefcase Full of Blues 
  2. The Blasters - Trouble Bound
  3. Walter Trout - Live
  4. Muddy Waters - Muddy 'Mississippi' Waters Live [Deluxe Edition]
  5. Alejandro Excovedo - More Miles Than Money.

I'm sure I'll think of more as soon as I hit the submit button.

Absolutely dig the Escovedo record and their lightning-strike cover of "I Wanna Be Your Dog".

Love the J. Geils pick, as the others are more in the mainstream. Waiting for Columbus is a joyous record, start to finish.  Really surprised that you let this dude include REO, but, hey, there's no accounting for taste.  My offering:  Bob Seger's "Live Bullet" -- features his pre-Night Moves brand of rockin' soul music: Heavy Music, I've Been Workin' (a Van number), Katmandu, Beautiful Loser, Travelin' Man...I could go on.  We were young in the 70s and I believe that partially accounts for the good times that are associated with many of these records.  I dig the Isbell record (for a taste of the present), but I'm hard-pressed to think of a contemporary artist (Joseph Arthur?) who's produced anything close to the records cited herein.  Thanks for the memories.

I had quite a discussion with Gary to convince him to include REO because, just like you (apparently) Gary was not aware of this once great band.  I had our other partner in crime for this article (Dan), who had the great fortune of seeing REO in the early 70's, confirm they were a tremendous live band.  That was enough to convince Gary to include.  I later had a discussion about REO with someone I think is well-qualified to judge good "taste" in music.  I don't know if you know who Joe Vitale is.  He was drummer/member of Joe Walsh's "Barnstorm" band.  He's also played with CSNY, Neil Young and Buffalo Springfield (among a few other classic bands).  I'd say he's a fairly well-qualified judge of 'taste'.  See what he had to say about REO below: 

The original band was great....I knew Gary (Richrath, guitarist) very well but after he got so strung out on drugs, we all kinda lost contact with him....very sad....he was really talented !!   Chat Conversation End      

I am actually a bit surprised too that you would include Bob Seger in your list, but bash REO.  I actually agree with the choice ("Turn The Page" is such a great song even the heavy metal band Metallica has covered it!), but would argue the two artists (Seger and REO) are actually very similar. Both mid-western (REO from Illinois, Seger Michigan).  Both artists started out as great live acts with loyal followings. Both artists that later (unfortunately) succumbed to industry pressures and became commercially-focused singles-pumping machines (leading to pretty much their demise).  Yes, (thankfully) Seger, in his twilight, has recently somewhat revived his career.  Had REO guitarist Gary Richrath not fallen victim to drugs, the original Cronin-Richrath REO might too have reunited (beyond the one recent appearance of Gary at the Illiniois Tornado benefit in 2013).  Unfortunately we'll never see that happen...

Regarding your comment on contemporary artists, I personally don't buy into the notion that some older folks do where they say "today's music is just not as good as when we were younger".  I think many people for some reason are afraid to change and just stop listening to new music. I think there's a TON of great new (live and studio) albums out there.  I also think it's just a factor of time.  Most of the albums we're discussing are 30, 40 and some close to 50 years old (!).  I think 30 years from now, folks will be looking back at many of the great new acts and some of the live recordings from today's contemporary artists (like Jack White, Wilco, My Morning Jacket, Arcade Fire, Jason Isbell, The Flaming Lips, Radiohead, etc...) and saying how great these albums and artists were.  With that all said, I have to admit I have not heard of Joseph Arthur before so thanks for sharing that.  I will look forward to checking him out!

Many of my picks are already included but some others include

Bill Withers  Live at Carnegie Hall.  Plays his classic songs with a cooking band and great crowd rapport.  A heck of a nice guy to boot. 

B. B. King's Live At The Regal is included on many lists.  Short but intense with a lot of audience involvement.

Muddy Waters had some great live albums in the late-70's when Johnny Winter was in the band.  One is Muddy "Mississippi" Waters Live.  Another one is Hoochie Coochie Man, recorded at a club in Montreal.  A live album called Breakin' It Up, Breakin' It Down included Winter, James Cotton, Calvin Jones, Pinetop Perkins, Bob Margolin, and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith.  What a band!  Finally, Live at Newport from around 1964 ain't bad.  Blues critics could spend all day arguing about which of Muddy's bands was the best.

The Texas Tornados had a Live At Austin City Limits album that the producers allowed to run 75 minutes instead of the usual one hour because they were having so much fun.  

In the zydeco arena, Clifton Chenier's Live on Grant Street is a favorite.  

For a rocking good cajun collection, try Live at Whiskey Landing by Balfa Toujours. 

k.d. lang's Live By Request.

Springsteen had fire in the belly on 1975's Hammersmith Odean London as he was trying to impress a dubious London press. 

Joe Ely's Live Shots with Lloyd Maines on steel guitar. 

Robert Earl Keen's #2 Live Dinner with some of his best songs and a killer honky tonk band at a great Texas venue.  Lloyd Maines's steel work is unreal.  REK recently put out a two-CD recording of the anniversary of this event with a lot of guest artists but it does not have steel guitar. Good stuff but not on my "best of" list.

The "West Side" electric blues sound (slow "she done me wrong" ballads, scorching tremelo guitar, no harmonica, no shuffle beat) pioneered by Otis Rush is lovingly displayed on Live at Montreux: Otis Rush and Friends.  Clapton joins him for 4 classic songs and another West Side pathbreaker, Luther Allison, adds his talents on one of those songs.  The DVD has additional cuts and is worth the price to see the guitar interplay.  Otis has more live CD's than almost any other musician but this is his best backing band and Clapton is in heaven playing a support role for one of his many mentors.

Agree with others on Redding's Europe, Alvin's Out in California and Blasters' Trouble Bound, Allmans' Fillmore, Last Waltz, Ya-Ya's, Stop Making Sense, Mad Dogs, Van Morrison, and DBT's recent 3-CD set from Frisco.

Other late entries are

James Brown  Live at Apollo

Jerry Lee Lewis Star Club Live CD

Tom Petty Live Anthology is a good compilation of his hits played live as well as some other interesting songs from blues, soul (Green Onions), Brit rock, and folk.  His Soundstage DVD was done in Chicago and has some good blues songs to celebrate the Windy City heritage.  Somewhere in the past he recorded a version of Charlie Rich's Lonely Weekends (VHS maybe?). 

On the musical comedy side, try the boogie piano man Rev. Billy C. Wirtz on Sermon from Bethlehem.  There is a great online video of him doing "Female Problems".

Many thanks Gary for setting this discussion up.  It uncovered a lot of good live albums I was not aware of. 

We should be ashamed for not mentioning the James Brown and Jerry Lee before now, those are both great...I just discovered Rev. Wertz very was in response to a recent release of his that was reviewed here on ND...that dude is nuts...hilarious, and a fine player too...

In addition to the boogie woogie piano and humor of Rev. Billy, you might also want to try one of the live CD's by the Chapel Hill, NC band Southern Culture on the Skids.  Nothing compares to their amazing live show but the albums will give you a feel for their warped trailer trash rock humor.  Double Wide and Live is easy to find and you may be able to find Live at Maxwell's or Live at Cashbah's.  Their leader, Rick Miller, is one of the most underrated surf and roots rock guitarists around.  There are loads of online videos from their shows on the net.  Watch out for the flying pieces of fried chicken or bananna pudding!

A hard to find album of sick Southern humor by a really good country electric guitarist and songwriter is Unknown Hinson:  Live and Undead. Check out what Wiki has to say about this Charlotte-based musician and artist.  There are online videos of such songs as "I Cleaned Out A Room (In My Trailer for You)", "Poly Urethane", and "Alkyholl Withdrawal".

I'm a big SCOTS fan...I got onstage with them once...they went through a spell where they invited people up onstage to eat chicken during "8 Piece Box", so I found myself feeding chicken to a kneeling goth girl and singing harmony with Mary (who eyed me a bit dubiously but all in all was a good sport...guess I should've sung with Rick...especially on the "grabbed me a leg, then I got me a breast, my mouf got so full I had to save the rest" line)...this was the tour after the "Plastic Seat Sweat" release..."Banana Puddin' was a staple of some of my friend's bands for years, you could mix it in with better known stuff and no one even realized it was an unfamiliar song...the SCOTS concert in question featured a stripper and a masked wrestler/luciador (a nod to Santo I assume)...Rick Miller is a great guitarist...Link Wray and Dick Dale rolled into one, with his  collection of Danelectro guitars...

Unknown Hinson is a delight as well...I don't have the record, but I have seen him live once...funny dude...North Carolina must have something in the water...

Jason and the Scorchers' "Midnight Roads and Stages Seen" is an underrated gem. And if Exit... Stage Left doesn't fit in, I don't wanna.

I guess my personal all time favoritr was "Get Your Ya Ya's out by the Stones. The other would be Europe  '72 by the Dead

Three that come to mind:

Poco - DeLIVEerin'
Flatt & Scruggs - At Carnegie Hall
Lydia Mendoza - Alondra De La Frontera: Live

Great choice with Poco's DeLIVEerin'!  Too often (sadly) forgotten band. They also have another great live album "Last Roundup" recorded after, with later version of band after Richie left (although he appears as a special guest). I think you may have just sparked a Poco party in my car CD player!

Lots of good ones listed. Gotta add Gov't Mule Live...With A Little Help From Our Friends as one of my favorites.

Waiting for Columbus by Little Feat.  I wore out that album, had never seen them live, and was holding tickets for a Lowell George concert in Denver when he died.

Live from Alabama by Isbell and Alabama Ass Kicking by Drive-By Truckers are other favorites.  Hood/Cooley/Isbell-era DBT was the soundtrack to my mid-life crisis.  DBT is also responsible for the two best live shows I've ever seen—at The Filmore in SF and La Zona Rosa in Austin.  

A guilty pleasure is Just Another Band from L.A. by Zappa and the Mothers (with Flo and Eddy), because it was so goofy. 

Love your first three choices. I love (much of) Zappa too, but admit I am still yet a bit of a novice on his tremendous discography (so many unturned stones).  He is so varied you never know what you're gonna get from one album to another. I may just have to check out Just Another Band from L.A. though!

Love your first three choices. I love (much of) Zappa too, but admit I am still yet a bit of a novice on his tremendous discography (so many unturned stones).  He is so varied you never know what you're gonna get from one album to another. I may just have to check out Just Another Band from L.A. though!

Thanks Chris Aug for your inclusion of 'You Get What You Play For' on your list. Nice to see some kudos given to a band that never seems to get any and to an incredibly underrated guitar player.

Thanks Ryan! I knew I'd catch some flack with that choice from the "uninitiated" but my goal was to steer a little clear of the obvious and choose records that may not be as well known.  So glad to find others out there who share a passion for this 'once great' band. I'm really hoping someone who never heard this era of them before gave it a fresh listen.  The band's story is pretty interesting too, and I always thought it would make a great documentary. I'm not sure how many people are aware of the revolving door they had with singers and the fact that Kevin Cronin came in (replacing singer on first album) to record their second album, then left and was replaced by another singer for a couple of albums before coming back again! Funny to hear how a few of the classic songs from the live album that were not originally sung by KC, actually BECAME his.  Too bad as they say, "Only the Strong Survive".  Many thanks to Gary (Stoller, not Richrath) asked me to participate in this exercise as it triggered for me a two week splurge of listening to some great REO music!

Willie Nelson & Wynton Marsalis "Two Men With The Blues" .... getting under my skin


Lot of great live records already mentioned.

Dave Alvin's Out In California is a terrific live record, but so are Interstate City and The Great American Music Galaxy. The quality of the sound on these three live records is excellent, which especially years ago was not usually the case with many live records.

Probably because I was a teenager at the time and definitely out of nostalgia, I'll mention Foghat Live. Even now I enjoy hearing a cut or two on the radio, it was a really good live record in its time, which was around the same time of Bob Seger's Live Bullet, also terrific. 

Chris Smither's Live As I'll Ever Be captures his concert sound really well.

Marshall Tucker Band's Where We All Belong was a double album, the second being what to me was a great, great live recording of that band at its peak.  The live version of 24 Hours At A Time in particular.


I agree with almost all of the live albums mentioned here with the exception of REO Speedwagon since I'm no fan and have never even heard them because I've always pegged them as one of those arena rock bands which I can't stand.

The live album I've loved since its release in 1986 that hasn't been mentioned is a two album release by Etta James and Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson called "Blues in the Night: Volume one: The Early Show" and "The Late Show." It was recorded at Marla's Memory Lane Supper Club in Los Angeles  May 30-31, 1986. It featured those two great blues artists performing solo with the same back-up band and then also joining for a few duets. The back-up band was terrific with Red Holloway on sax, Jack McDuff on the Hammond B-3, Shuggie Otis on guitar and Richard Reid & Paul Humphrey on bass & drums. The artists were at the top of their game (even though Mr. Vinson died just 2 years later) and the audience was really into the performances reacting with much enthusiastic appreciation. It's just a great blues-jazz album. When released on two CDs they contained 3 bonus cuts not on the vinyl LPs.

Thanks to all the readers who gave so many great suggestions after my initial column. Would you also provide your thoughts about the best one-night concert of all time with multiple artists, or just one artist, on record or unrecorded? I use the term “one night” to disqualify festivals like Woodstock, Live Aid and Bonnaroo. Please add your reasons why at the following url:

I had the very good fortune to move to Sausalito in the mid-50's and was thus priviledged to attend many, many remarkable concerts in the late 1950's and 1960's around the Bay Area. I saw Monk, Miles, Mingus, the MJQ, Brubeck and many more thanks to the SF jazz clubs that had special sections for students, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan (after an earlier diet of the Kingston Trio and the Limelighters), Bobby Blue Bland, Clifton Chenier, Ray Charles..... I can't even remember them all. Then in the mid to late 60's we had the feast of the Fillmore and Avalon Ballrooms, Winterland, The Carousel / Fillmore West, where on any given night you could see three bands play two sets of transcendent music. I remember one Sunday night show in 1966 or 67, the first time Bill Graham managed to book B.B. King -- the Steve Miller Band opened, followed by Otis Rush, and then B.B, and then they all  played again, each much better than their first set. I remember John Handy and Ali Akbar Khan playing at San Francisco State around the same time -- they started late, around midnight, and after an hour or more of sounding each other out moved into one of the most remarkable improvisational performances I ever saw, and they went on until dawn. I remember driving overnight from Vancouver and dropping some hitchhikers off at the Panhandle in SF, just in time for Jimi Hendrix to begin playing a free concert. And I remember countless nights with the Dead, Quicksilver and the Sons of Champlin, bands that on any given night could be either transcendent or absolutely awful. But of all of the shows I saw back then, I think James Brown at Winterland in 1964 or 1965 (I know it was before Bill Graham started promoting shows there) topped them all -- James and his band played for close to three hours without letting up, the crowd dancing the entire time -- I had simply never seen or felt anything like it, and while I've seen many wonderful shows over the last 50 years, I haven't had an experience to match it since.



so many great albums everybody has listed.  some i know, some i don't, some are now on a new list to check out!!!  thanks!!  

but one of my favorites that hasn't been listed yet is Santana LOTUS.  whenit came out originally, it was only a japanese import.  3 lps.  it has since been released on cd....

also, weather report LIVE IN TOKYO.  another import.