11 SONGS WHERE THE LIVE VERSION IS THE DEFINITIVE VERSION
There's nothing quite like the energy of seeing a great band play live. The roar of the crowd. The lights. The raw sonic rush.
Unfortunately, that feeling, and more importantly, that sound almost never translates on a recording. With all due respect to the Phish and Grateful Dead fans out there, live recordings and albums are nearly universally inferior to the finished and polished sound of a studio recording.
That being said, every once in awhile, the stars align, the rock gods have a moment of weakness, and a live recording eclipses it's more refined studio twin. This overshadowing is so complete, that even radio must acquiesce and the live version becomes the definitive one.
Here are ten times that's happened.
1. I WANT YOU TO WANT ME - CHEAP TRICK
"I want you...
What a delivery. What an intro. This recording is what made Cheap Trick famous. Recorded during a performance at the Budokan temple in Tokyo in April of 1978, it became their first hit in the United States.
2. DO YOU FEEL LIKE WE DO - PETER FRAMPTON
An obvious exception to the rule, Peter Frampton's 1976 double album Frampton Comes Alive was his greatest success. Far better than anything he'd done before, or would ever to again, Do You Feel Like We Do was the album's crowning achievement. Peter's too.
3. TURN THE PAGE - BOB SEGER
A song that captures the loneliness of the road is even more emotive when performed live. Proving that he's better when backed by his Silver Bullet band, this live version that came four years after the studio release proved superior and ditched it's older sibling at the nearest rest stop.
4. DON'T LET THE SUN GO DOWN ON ME - GEORGE MICHAEL & ELTON JOHN
George Michael makes everything better. Just ask Andrew Ridgeley. Sir Elton John rarely needs help, but pairing up on this song more than a decade after its original release proved the right call for everyone involved.
5. ROCK & ROLL ALL NIGHT - KISS
Everything about Kiss is painfully manufactured. This live recording is no exception, but something about it elevates it past the usual schlock this band puts out.
6. ALL APOLOGIES - NIRVANA
Nothing snarky to say here. Kurt Cobain took his life not long after recording the MTV Unplugged performance that included this version of All Apologies, making all the songs from this live album all the more haunting. It's still beautifully painful to listen to over two decades later.
7. HAVE I TOLD YOU LATELY THAT I LOVE YOU - ROD STEWART
MTV Unplugged strikes again. Rod Stewart's raspy voice, coupled with the stripped down sounds of this live performance, manage to make this saccharine song actually sound beautiful instead of boring.
8. TEARS IN HEAVEN - ERIC CLAPTON
Rounding out the MTV Unplugged trifecta, and adding to our collective depression, Eric Clapton's ode to his son who died tragically has so much more feeling in this live version. A gorgeous song, and Clapton's opus by any account, it's tone and meaning is heightened in this intimate live performance.
9. NO WOMAN NO CRY - BOB MARLEY
Be honest. Have you even ever heard the studio version? If so, you're a true Marley fan. Also, you have to admit the live recording is so much better. The feedback from the microphone, the chanting of the crowd, the interaction between the band members. It's intoxicating. It's like taking a big spliff hit without any of the paranoia.
10. SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY - U2
"This song is not a rebel song," the always theatrical Bono proclaims. And thus, the rebellion is born. When mullets were still cool, and Britain and Ireland were still at war, this live version resonated with fans around the world. It's still more poignant than its studio counterpart, if for no other reason than that intro alone.
11. FREEBIRD - LYNYRD SKYNYRD
Although the live version didn't chart higher than the studio version, it gained a place on this list by launching the identifying call-out of a million idiots at live shows, embarrassing themselves by shouting "play freebird." It probably wasn't funny for anyone the first time it was done. It's most certainly not remotely amusing now. Stop it.