Monday, July 02, 2007

Best And Worst Live Bands

First, the worst:

1. ZZ Top
They stand in one place for an entire show, fail to cater to the fact that they might be in a large arena, and have nothing visual to offer. The renditions of songs are unfortunately so faithful to the original studio recording, that nothing special comes through in the live performance. One could put a poster of them up on a wall and blast the stereo to replicate the live show.

2. Jefferson Airplane
Wow, constantly out of harmony, staring down at their guitars like they were teenagers in a garage somewhere. I'll never understand how they garnered a following in the late 1960s by performing live, as it was nothing to write home about. Sloppy, stoned, and impersonal.

3. Van Halen (1990s)
Wow, whatta disappointment. Eddie lost all his vigor and acrobatics due to his ever disintegrating hip, advanced age, and laurel resting. There was a time in the 1980s when, alcohol and related substances be damned, they were a beautiful train wreck in the making; Michael was drunk, Dave was drunk (at least when I saw them in 1984), and the brothers were just amped or wired or whatever. There was something special about seeing a live act be stupid on stage and still pull off fist pumping versions of "Everybody Wants Some". Once Sammy came along, everything became a Disneyworld attraction.

4. John Lee Hooker
Yeah yeah, God rest his soul, but come on; he sat down the whole time, was way too old to be still playing live shows, and just mumbling/phoning it in. You can't just put on the trademark hat, sit in a chair, and twang occasional minor chords and call it a performance - that it wasn't. I was rather annoyed by shelling out the 40 bucks just to see a museum piece.
Buddy Miles sat in on drums for that show, and he made so many oblique references to having known Jimi Hendrix, the name dropping alone made me sick.

5. Aerosmith
Speaking mostly of the 1970s, Tyler was a mess, hardly singing at all, falling over, keeping his back to the audience, and caring little of putting on a good show. As with the Van Halen reference, I mentioned a type of interesting train wreck, this was simply a sad train wreck.

And The Best:

1. The Who
Forget it - off the map. I saw many many concerts, featuring bands old and new, and in 2000, I saw the best ever. These people weren't kids anymore, but Pete was on fire, Roger was intimate with the crowd, and it felt like we were right next to them on the stage. Now I'm not even bothering to mention how they were between 1968 and 1973 - having seen the footage, absolutely the best live act ever during this period. The Who performed on a film called "Rock and Roll Circus" that was produced by the Rolling Stones and was meant to feature them as the headlining act. They literally kept that film in the can for years because the Who outplayed them beyond recognition. They are the only band that ever blew Led Zeppelin off the stage, as Zeppelin once opened for them in 1969. Everyone in Zep even admitted how they were outplayed that night, and they were used to crushing every other band in a particular bill.

2. Led Zeppelin
Well, of course they were bound to pop up on the list. Excepting 1977, they played great, long, unique shows, employed visuals, and otherwise tried to deliver something special to each crowd, each night. They were fined for playing too long at a particular venues, and didn't care - they truly loved the interaction and shared communication with the fans that they valued. Some cities (Seattle, Los Angeles) were treated to extra special shows with rare song performances and encores that sometimes lasted over an hour. Great stuff, and a band that truly saw the value of the live audience.

3. Guns n' Roses
In their day, fantastic stuff. Performances were unique, energetic, and forceful. After a while, surely it became annoying when they'd show up late, Axl would be an idiot, etc, but there was a punk ethos to those shows that made each one an event, rather than a mere show.

4. Motley Crue
Ranked as the loudest show I ever attended, and it was nasty loud. Loved it at the same time. They consistently poured everything out to the audience and occasionally did something special, at least when I was there. They filmed the video to "Same Old Situation" at a show I attended at Alpine Valley, and I am fairly certain my arm is in the video's final cut. Don't bother looking for it, but I had a black shirt (who didn't?) and my arm is outstretched. Fun stuff and just wacky rowdy.

5. AC/DC
Can't miss with these boys. Angus always works up a good sweat, they employ all types of visuals, and the set list is generally unplanned. That appeals to me - the uniqueness and specialness of any particular show. For a bunch of old farts, relatively speaking, they do a pure show and never disappoint.

Honorable Mention:
Jane's Addiction

I loved the desire and insanity of the shows I witnessed. One thing I'll never forget, when Perry Ferrell said "One thing I want you to all do some time soon - rage..." They were all rather messed up, but that was the beauty of it - the artistic element. The drumming was fantastic, the performance quality was oddly precise, and being a Dave Navarro fanatic, it was a moment to not be forgotten. They subsequently went a bit tame after 1991, but the original memories will always linger.


Fagedaboudit said...

1. Emeerson Lake & Palmer
Welcome Back Tour

2. Yes
Yessongs Tour

3.Pink Floyd
Dark Side Of The Moon Tour

Of course these were all in the early 70's and yes, I attended them all.

The Vapid Voice said...

So these were the worst bands, what about the best ones? Folks! I slay me. If someone else doesn't beat me to it.

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