It’s as if you were there: 10 Essential Live Albums

317 days have passed since I last went to a concert. I haven’t experienced a drought this extensive since I was 13 and that number could easily double by the time our local stages are open for business again.

While nothing can ever replace the spine-tingling sensation of actually being there, I’ve assembled a list of 10 albums that I consider to be among the finest attempts at capturing that lightning in a bottle for the at-home audience.

If you’ve heard them before, hopefully you’ll agree, and, if you haven’t, hopefully you’ll be open-minded enough to at least give them a listen.

Stand in the Fire - Wikipedia

Warren Zevon – “Stand in the Fire” – This release just turned 40 last week, but its resonance has never waned. Zevon goes all in on versions of “Jeannie Needs a Shooter,” “Mohammed’s Radio,” and “Poor Poor Pitiful Me.”

Seconds Out - Wikipedia

Genesis – “Seconds Out” – Whether you’re partial to Gabriel or Collins shouldn’t matter, because the execution of every track here is as tight as could be.

Unleashed in the East - Wikipedia

Judas Priest – “Unleashed in the East” – The debate surrounding just how much of this album is live has persisted for years and Halford himself has admitted that, while the music is live, his vocals had to be re-recorded after being ruined during the original mix. Despite that, it remains a blistering collection.


Chris Cornell – “Songbook” – Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog, and Audioslave are all covered here, but Cornell’s devastation on his 2009 solo cut “As Hope and Promise Fade” is what really sets the tone.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse-Live Rust (album cover).jpg

Neil Young and Crazy Horse – “Live Rust” – There’s something combustible about Neil’s collaboration with Crazy Horse that keeps him coming back.


UFO – “Strangers in the Night” – They remain one of the unsung bands of the era, but this release shows why they always deserved more respect.

Mixed-media stencil portrait of Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin – “How the West Was Won” – “The Song Remains the Same” had the ’70s self-indulgence and mountainside mysticism, but this release cements the band as the raucous rock ‘n’ roll machine they were.

Etta James Rocks the House.jpeg

Etta James – “Etta James Rocks the House” – The fact that she’s wearing a bandage on her arm to cover up the track marks sums up how raw this performance is.


The Allman Brothers Band – “At Fillmore East” – A 22-minute version of “Whipping Post” is the centerpiece, but every second of this album is transcendent.

Bruce Springsteen Live 75-85.jpg

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band – “Live 1975-85” – Recreating the euphoria of a Springsteen show is essentially an impossibility, but this collection comes pretty close.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s