The live album is an often overlooked art, and it's time you get to know it better. Check these out and relive some epic shows.
All Time Low—Straight to DVD
Straight to DVD includes a documentary about All Time Low, along with a full concert at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom recorded both for DVD and as a live album. This was followed up by 2016’s Straight to DVD II: Past, Present and Future Hearts in the same format. But what the first live album really captured was the raw aspect of All Time Low’s live show; the tracks contain screams from the crowd and the band members’ witty (and at times, wildly inappropriate) onstage banter in between songs. It felt unpolished, uncensored and unedited—like you are getting a glimpse of the band as they really are, without any production or effects. But the show still sounded amazing, at times even better than their studio recordings. The resulting album is dynamic, energetic, and entertaining.
Bring Me the Horizon—Live at the Royal Albert Hall
In April 2016, Bring Me the Horizon played a concert to raise money for the Teenage Cancer Trust. They were approached to play at the Royal Albert Hall—a prestigious venue, but not the place you’d think to host a metalcore show. So Bring Me the Horizon ran with it: they assembled an orchestra and choir, reimagined all their songs with orchestral arrangements, and filmed the concert, resulting in this beautiful live album. What you get is the raw emotional intensity of Bring Me the Horizon’s work combined with the delicate and intricate soaring sounds of the orchestra—making it sound both powerful and vulnerable. It’s surprising, but successful, and all the songs are given more depth and weight, sounding absolutely incredible.
Grateful Dead—Europe 72, Vol. 13
While nearly all of the 22 recordings of the Grateful Dead’s 1972 tour of Europe are remarkable, the recording of the May 7 performance at the Bickershaw Festival in Wigan, England is particularly noteworthy. For every show of that tour, they played either “Dark Star” or “The Other One,” two songs known to Deadheads for their extended and mind–melting instrumental improvisations. However, for the Bickershaw performance, they played both songs back to back. After an abstract and sinisterly atonal “Dark Star,” Phil Lesh’s hard–hitting opening bass riff commences a blistering rendition of “The Other One.” The improvisational madness lasts nearly an hour, with an energizing drum solo sandwiched in between the two tracks. Needless to say, the Grateful Dead were feeling it that night.
Jack’s Mannequin—Live From The El Ray Theatre
In 2012, Andrew McMahon and his band Jack’s Mannequin broke the hearts of fans around the world with the announcement that they would be broken up for good by November. They also announced that their final two shows would take place at the esteemed El Rey Theatre in their hometown of Los Angeles, and that these two final shows would coincide with the 3rd annual Dear Jack Benefit—a charity concert that donates proceeds each year to McMahon’s Dear Jack Foundation to fight young adult cancer. These historic final shows were recorded in their entirety, and by summer of 2013, a selection of tracks had been compiled into a live album that reads as a Jack’s Mannequin greatest hits record. The album features some of guitarist Bobby Anderson’s most impressive riffs and solos, and you can feel McMahon’s energy and stage presence simply through his voice and wild piano playing. Four years after its release, Live From El Ray and its 14 powerhouse tracks sound like nostalgia in a time when McMahon, now performing as a solo artist under the moniker Andrew McMahon In the Wilderness, only throws in a song or two from his earlier days in Jack’s Mannequin. If we had to lose one of the coolest rock bands of the 2000s, at least they left us with a formidable parting gift.
LCD Soundsystem—The Long Goodbye: LCD Soundsystem Live at Madison Square Garden
This epic three–hour, seven–minute so–called goodbye from the greats is the epitome of what makes live music so good. LCD Soundsystem, fronted by mastermind James Murphy, decided to call it quits back in 2011, ask Spike Jonze to produce a documentary, and plan a blowout farewell tour across the country, culminating in their sold–out, biggest–ever show in New York City's iconic Madison Square Garden. Technically, this 2014 release of an album is no longer a goodbye, as the group controversially reunited and recently put out the highly anticipated American Dream, but it definitely serves a purpose. The album captures the whims and wonders of James Murphy and his group over 187 minutes of cacophonous beats, absurdist lyrics, ballads, and other beauties.
Sleeping with Sirens—Live and Unplugged
This live album was recorded over multiple dates of Sleeping With Sirens’ 2015 summer acoustic tour, the "We Like It Quiet" tour. Sleeping with Sirens has varied in its career, and the band was able to translate even their heavier songs into acoustic masterpieces, breathing new life into their existing set–list staples. Live and Unplugged, in addition to containing some interesting commentary from frontman Kellin Quinn (including songwriting advice that maintains that repetition is key), highlights both the vocal and instrumental talent of the band—the guitar riffs really shine through along with Quinn’s remarkable vocal ability. The acoustic and live arrangements lend the songs versatility, dimension, and delicacy that surpass those of the original versions, resulting in an astounding piece of art.