The live album is somewhat of a dying art. Whereas the 1970s, especially, saw every rock band worth its salt place a seminal gig on wax, a combination of bootlegging, internet coverage, and extended touring schedules have seen a drop off in the number of classic live records in the rock and roll canon.
The format, though, isn’t completely dead, and the past ten years have seen some superb efforts released in one form or another. With cam footage of your favourite bands so prevalent, it’s not enough just to put a gig on tape anymore. Many of the best live albums have a USP - playing an album in full, perhaps, or taking a massive stage show to a far flung land or incredibly intimate setting.
That’s not to say there’s no room for the traditional live album, though. With quality control and great musicianship, it’s possible to capture something that transforms a band or artist beyond the studio - lightning in a bottle on a record, if you will.
These modern live classics are a reminder that there’s a world of difference between watching smartphone footage of your favourite acts and experiencing the real thing. And if it’s not quite the same as being in the building, it remains the next best option.
10. The Rolling Stones - Havana Moon
While the Stones’ continued success as a live act is commendable, it’s not always totally dignified. Watching Jagger et al (mainly Jagger) cling desperately to their youth can be trying, even if they still sound remarkably good.
All that is washed away on Havana Moon, the official bootleg soundtrack album to their 2016 concert film of the same name. For the first time, the Stones play Cuba, and 500,000 attendees can’t believe their eyes.
It’s a beautiful scene, set during the thawing of Cuban-American tensions, and the Stones get themselves up for the occasion. The setlist is business as usual, but few can provide bigger hits, and they tear through the likes of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”, “Satisfaction”, and deeper cuts like “All Down The Line” with gusto.
Even for a band who have seen it all, the Stones look blown away by the reception they receive here. Playing to a crowd of half a million, it still manages to feel like a moment of genuine connection.