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Music over 40: 10 Great Live Performances you need to see

Updated on February 9, 2013

Gotta love it live!

Live rock and roll. Incendiary. Mind-blowing. Awe-inspiring. Most fans of my vintage were initially hooked on music through the power of live rock and roll. Maybe you stayed up late and saw the Stones or Bowie on Saturday Night Live. Maybe you went to the midnight show and caught The Song Remains The Same or The Last Waltz. Or perhaps you were addicted to the Saturday night concerts in the early days of MTV or Don Kirschner's Rock Concert before that. However you got there, a monumental live performance always had you talking to friends the next day about the spectacle you just saw.

I humbly submit a list of 10 essential live songs that you absolutely need to see. As to not leave anyone in a lurch, I have purposely submitted only songs that are readily available on the web for viewing. These are in no particular order

Santana - Soul Sacrifice - August 16, 1969 - From the Woodstock movie, this performance from day 2 was most peoples introduction to a 22 year old guitar hero from the Bay Area. The rumbling instrumental showcased latin infused percussion and guitar licks, but the show is really stolen by 20 year old drummer, Michael Shrieve, who's drum solo was the talk of the festival

Extreme - Queen Medley - April 20, 1992 - Extreme had been known for being a hair metal band and for the acoustic monster hit "More Than Words" until the Concert For Life: A Tribute to Freddie Mercury. At almost 13 minutes, their medley of Queen favorites steals the show. Comprised of everything from Bohemian Rhapsody to Bicycle Race to We Will Rock You, Gary, Nuno, Pat and Paul brought the crowd to its feet. The playing is incredibly tight, the vocal harmonizing otherworldly and the seques between bits are seamless.

The Who - Wont Get Fooled Again - May 25, 1978 - from the movie "The Kids Are Alright" this private fan club concert (precipitated by The Who archives containing no suitable live clips for this song and Babo O'Riley) was the last performance of the original band. Keith Moon, who would be dead four months later, was clearly on his last legs but had this last incredible performance in him. The power and fury of this version is amazing. With John Entwistle's bass thundering on the low end and Pete Townshend absolutely pounding the crap out his guitar, this is a sonic assault. Roger Daltrey's banshee wail closes out the proceedings and the requisite guitar smashing finale brings it all into focus.

Rage Against The Machine - Bulls On Parade - April 13, 1996 - An incendiary performance from an incendiary band on Saturday Night Live. The appearance was steeped in controversy as NBC removed upside down flags from the bands backdrop before they went to air. Oddly, this outspoken left wing band was paired with Republican presidential candidate and billionaire Steve Forbes as the host. Go figure. This was on the only song they performed as they were asked to leave the studio right after, but they made it count. An in your face rant about out of control government spending, taken to the next level by Zach De La Rocha.

U2 - Exit - November 7, 1987 - from the Rattle and Hum movie, this black and white footage really adds depth to a very emotional and earnest reading of this deep cut off The Joshua Tree. From the bass intro to the chiming guitars to the drums kicking in as the song takes off, Bono delivers an impassioned vocal.

Van Halen - Unchained - June 11, 1981 - Dave era Van Halen footage is rare, but this is one that exists, albeit a bit grainy. This performance, from the Fair Warning tour, was the band at the height of their live powers. Plenty of showboating by Roth, the band is in good form and a whirling dervish on stage. Michael Anthony's backing vocals are spot on and Alex Van Halen drums seem to be everywhere at once. Eddie is, well, Eddie. At the pinnacle of his guitar god status, he does not disappoint. Gloriously sloppy but full of energy as well.

Radiohead - Creep - July 14, 1993 - from the Arsenio Hall show, this performance is edgy and raw. Though they would go onto bigger things and become one of the most heralded bands of the last 20 years, this was one of America's first glimpses of them. A bleach blonde Thom Yorke yelps out an amazingly effective vocals over the steady beat.

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band - Rosalita - August 7, 1978 - As far as live performers go, they don't get much better than Bruce. This acclaimed performance from the Darkness On The Edge of Town tour has it all. Girls running out the crowd, the dancing keys of Danny Federici and Roy Bittan, Clarence's saxophone, the essence of great live rock and roll. The ebb of flow of the song carries you like a wave.

Metallica - Fade To Black - August 30, 1989 - filmed in Seattle for the Live Sh**: Bing & Purge album and DVD, this crowd pleaser does not disappoint. Starting slow and almost reflective with a plaintive vocal from James, the song builds to crescendo and all out explodes in the latter half of the song. The ultimate touring metal band was at the top of their game and the playing is both crisp and out of control in all the right places.

Warren Zevon - Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner - October 30, 2002 - This is a sentimental favorite of mine. Zevon was dying of lung cancer and David Letterman, a devout fan, gave him the whole show to say goodbye. With the backing of Paul Schaffer and the Late Show band, this is a killer performance by one the most under-rated songwriters of this generation. A dark, sardonic tale of a mercenary, delivered by a master troubadour. Sadly, Zevon would be dead within a year.

Seek these out. Start your own list. Great live music is for everyone!


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