These are my favourite Live Albums, the ones that I listen to regularly, that I connect with. Certainly not a definitive collection of ‘Greatest Live Albums EVAH’. More a collection that brightens my day and hopefully contains one or two that are new to you, inspiring you to investigate ‘em further. Also, they’re not ranked, ‘cos I like ‘em all!
Pearl Jam – Live At Benaroya Hall (2004)
Ahhh, yeah…. full disclosure; I’ve been a mega fan of Pearl Jam ever since I first heard Ten in my teenage years. Their back catalogue overflows with live material, mainly because they decided to release every gig they play as an official bootleg. However, Live At Benaroya Hall was released by their record company as a full 2 CD release.
As it’s 2004 it doesn’t contain their latest material. But it does contain the classics, some rarities and some covers. All played pretty much acoustically. Beautifully recorded and rare for a live album – the audience actually adds to the ambience. But the greatest thing about it is it’s warts ’n all; the mistakes are left in and talked about, the in-between ramblings from Eddie, the interplay between band members.
If I feel like some Pearl Jam but can’t decided which album, this is a no-brainer for instant gratification. A corker. On headphones or a good hi-fi you feel like you are there.
Highlights for me are, erm, all of it! But especially “Man Of The Hour” written for Tim Burton’s Big Fish movie, the Ten epic “Black” and Victoria Williams cover and set staple “Crazy Mary”.
If you enjoy this but want the band fully electrified try the Live At The Gorge boxset (7 CD’s!). For more acoustic awesomeness look for their Unplugged session (it also came as a bonus DVD with the Ten Redux release). Continue reading Live Albums: My Top Picks→
Ah, back again. This time seated on the opposite side of the circle to the previous evening. The ushers offering to upgrade circle ticket holders to the stalls below – if they so wish – due to spare seating. I am in possession of a row 1 ticket for the circle, enabling me a birds eye view of the stage. I opt to stick with my lot. All the while thinking how foolish the general public are, for missing the opportunity to witness one of the best British artists around today.
The stage appears set for a support act. Indeed, they take the stage. It doesn’t take long to realise that the front man is comedy actor Matt Berry, of The Mighty Boosh, I.T. Crowd and Toast of London fame. I’d recognise that baritone bluster anywhere, “Fossil!”. And what a nice surprise he and his band are. I was completely unaware of his musical prowess, but they are a talented bunch that take in folk, funk, jazz, prog and a few other genres that i’m not sure have been fully identified yet. They dripped fun and enthusiasm, it was a shame they couldn’t have a little more stage time.
An earlier interlude than the previous evening allows the roadies to do their work. Preparing the stage, including a quick vacuum with a Henry, to ready the stage for the inevitable bare feet. The lights dim, the lighting engineer receiving rapturous applause for his fine work with the fader. Craig Blundell ambles on and gets comfortable at his kit. The initial hits of ‘No Twilight Within The Courts Of The Sun’ strike out into the hall. We know where this is going. Sure enough, Nick is on next. The familiar concert opening bassline locking in with the established drum pattern. One by one the rest of the band take their places and lock in. Mr Wilson arrives accompanied by expectant applause, the band launches into the number with commitment.
The evening of Thursday 8th of November 2007 at the Oxford Academy, my first live exposure to the musical force that is Mr. Steven. Wilson. Introduced to his work via some very good friends of mine. Like many of you they were already long term fans back then – I was quickly educated by them on his existing body of work, in particular Porcupine Tree.
I now found myself standing a couple of paces back from the stage, and having familiarised myself with their then recent release; ‘’Fear of a Blank Planet’, I pondered, between slugs of warm lager gulped from a plastic cup, on what I might expect.
I came away from that evening having been hugely impressed by the intricate and expertly crafted music. Performed by an immensely talented line-up of rhythmically tight band members and wonderful melodic guitar interplay, framed between huge chugging riffs. Initially at least, I struggled with Steven’s awkward stage presence and sometimes clunky lyrics. But, they had done enough to hook me…
Fast forward Ooo, I don’t know, 8 years, and I find myself seated in the Circle at the Royal Albert Hall. Strapped in for two evenings with the very same man, now sans the ‘Tree. Having forged a very successful career all on his lonesome. Well, not quite. He has some very talented gunslingers at his side…
As I’m sure many of you are aware; in those intervening years Steven has worked incredibly hard at his career. And boy does it show. I have been lucky to attend many, many Porcupine Tree, Blackfield, and solo gigs in that time. Mainly thanks to my afore mentioned friends being unwilling to miss a single event. Until tonight that is. With the gigs clashing with their holiday plans, they very kindly bought me tickets to both evenings as a very generous birthday gift. Hence this article being a thank you of sorts, to try to give them a flavour as to what went down at RAH! Continue reading Steven Wilson: Night 1 – Royal Albert Hall 29th September 2015 – Concert Review→
A true original. Here he is being stalked by another of my Heroes:
Update 10/2/16: I was lucky enough to be present at Steven Wilsons recent Hammersmith gig at which he performed a touching tribute to Mr Bowie. Here is the official video featuring a wonderful duet with Ninet Tayeb on Space Oddity:
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