Who says the most popular music artists are the most talented?
In the end it took one song from Robbie Williams to get me to finally sit down and write this post. British boy band Take That's biggest ever hit Back For Good always has been and was always meant to be a slow romantic number. Its just that somebody forgot to tell that to Robbie Williams (ironically a member of the same band) at one of his concerts when he performed the rock version of what is a ballad. Surely not the most gifted of vocalists, with that one song Robbie Williams showed what really makes a singer special - the ability to experiment with & perform songs differently at live performances.
Take for example a band as popular as the Black Eyed Peas. They have had their share of hits over the years & they have ventured into solo careers to a fair degree of success. On the airwaves, their songs are reasonably catchy & appeal to a broad base but try watching them perform live and you will be left sorely disappointed as they fall flat on their face without the assistance of technology to mask their true lack of talent.
Why do I like albums from concerts? For one, the cheering of the crowd makes you feel like you've been part of the whole experience even though you were nowhere close to the real thing. The intro to an AC/DC song from a live performance has the crowd chanting for Angus before he launches into one of his typical long solos. There are also times when you want to chant along with the crowd as the band goes into the chorus. The examples are too numerous to list.
Secondly, live performances afford musicians creative liberties which they cannot take when constrained by studio recordings. Garth Brooks has an additional verse for his monster hit Thunder Rolls that he performs only at concerts. Several musicians also use live events to showcase the talents of their band members usually the guitarists who often get overshadowed due to the world's unhealthy obsession with lead vocalists.
DMB: The Central Park Concert
One of my personal all time favourite albums is The Central Park Concert by the extremely talented Dave Mathews Band. The album has several fantastic songs but Cortez The Killer and All Along The Watchtower are two standouts for me. Not only are these extremely well done covers, the band has also used the platform to thrill the audience (and the listeners of the album) with lengthy (not a bad thing in this case) songs. Which means you have an extremely entertaining 2 hour 44 minute long album with just 20 songs.
Jack Johnson: En Concert
The album En Concert by Jack Johnson is probably my favourite live album with some lovely songs including What You Thought You Need, Country Road (with Paula Fuga) and Home. It helps that Jack Johnson is incredibly talented but the fact that it is a concert album makes it even more special. It also is a very good documentary, definitely a must see if you're a music fan. Other notable inclusions are Home: A live concert recording with the Atlanta symphony youth orchestra by Collective Soul and Live 1975 - 85 Disc 1 / 2 / 3 by the evergreen and ever enjoyable Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band.
As for my all time favourite live song, it has to be Bryan Adams' acoustic version of Heaven. Great lyrics, a distinct voice & a live version. Who says Summer of '69 is his best work?