Over the past few weeks I have been working on a write up of my top 10 all-time favorite live albums, which will hopefully be published here in the next few weeks. While writing it, I have been reflecting a lot upon my favorite live music experiences. I’ve come to the conclusion that over the last 8 years that I’ve been going to live concerts, I’ve seen some pretty kick ass music.
1. Foo Fighters – “Let it Die”
I went to my first Rock concery during my sophomore year of high school. My dad told me not to make plans after practice, but wouldn’t tell me why. I knew we were going to see the Foo Fighters. I’d wanted to go see them for weeks, and my dad wasn’t that sly. Regardless, it was one of the most awesome experiences of my life to that point, and certainly the loudest. The Foo Fighters opened with this song.
2. Vampire Weekend – “I Think Ur a Contra”
During my freshman year of college I saw a few great concerts with my ex-girlfriend and her little brother. The first of which was Vampire Weekend. Beach house opened, but it was the first time that I had heard their music so that wasn’t a big deal for me. Vampire Weekend, however, blew my mind. Their show was fun, and the music was awesome. About two thirds of the way through the show, Ezra Koenig said, “This is the first time we’ve ever played this one live.” I had never liked this song before they played it. It’s been my favorite on the album ever since.
3. Arcade Fire – “We Used to Wait”
Later my freshman year I saw The National open for Arcade Fire. This was the best show I had ever seen. I was new to The National and their music and show were transformative. To this day they still go back and forth with Wilco for the title of my favorite band. Arcade Fire’s showmanship was vibrant, and the music rocked. At one point during this song Win Butler jumped off the stage and at one point was within about 10 feet from me. It was awesome.
4. Wilco – “Via Chicago”
The next several shows are from my excursion to Bonnaroo in 2013. I saw Wilco on Friday afternoon. I was alone because my friends and I had seperated earlier in the day when I wanted to see Passion Pit and they didn’t. I got up pretty close for Wilco and it was a great show. My favorite part came when they played Via Chicago. As you can hear in the live recording I’ve posted, there are points in the song where they just break everything down and it sounds like chaos. Then all of a sudden they are back on the rhythm and in key like nothing just happened. It’s like magic.
5. Paul McCartney – “Live and Let Die”
Seeing Paul McCartney tops my list of live concert moments. Even on a farm in Tennessee I felt like I was a screaming girl on the Johnny Carson show. He played a the perfect mix of Beatles songs and Paul McCartney songs. Listening to McCartney play “Let it Be” brought me close to tears. The best part of the show came, however, when he started playing “Live and Let Die” with a load of pyrotechnics to back him up.
6. Beach House – “Zebra”
As I said earlier, the first time I saw Beach House they were opening for Vampire Weekend. After that show I spent a considerable amount of time listening to Beach House. By the time I saw them on Saturday afternoon at Bonnaroo, I was at the point where I could sing along to every song. I started at the side of the pavilion and by the end of the show I somehow ended up in the second row. Victoria Legrand was mesmerizing.
7. R. Kelly – “I Believe I Can Fly”
I grew up in the 90’s. Thus, I love Space Jam. Now that might not be a universally true equation, but it’s true with everyone I know. When R. Kelly came out in the beginning of the show on a crane singing Ignition, it was amazing. Not half as jaw-dropping as when he brought a Black choir on stage to sing “I believe I Can Fly.” It was the second time in my life that an artist brought me close to tears during a performance.
8. Tame Impala – “Elephant”
Last year a friend and I drove all the way to Kansas City (from Champaign) just to see Tame Impala open for The National. Tame Impala rocks. It’s that simple. This was the most exciting song of their entire performance.
9. The National – “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks”
The Kansas City concert was the third time I had seen The National. By this point I wasn’t just a fan, I was a fanatic. I listened to the band constantly. I watched their Youtube videos. I was at a point where I really felt like I appreciated the band, not only for their music, but for their collective personality. At the end of the show, all the fans were out of their seats and pushed up against the stage. They came to the front of the stage and sang this song acoustic. The whole amphitheater was singing along. It was the third and last time in my life a concert almost brought me to tears.
10. Elsinore – “Life Inside an Elephant”
If you live in Champaign (or anywhere really) and you have not taken advantage of the wealth of local music and fantastic shows in town, you are committing a crime. Elsinore is one of my favorite local acts. They put on a hell of a show. One of my favorite parts of their shows is when they end the show with “Life Inside an Elephant.” It’s an epic song, and an epic way to end a show, and a mixtape.