If the advent of internet video sites such as Youtube has done anything for me, it has provided me with a wealth of great, easily accessible live music performances. I don't know if most people use Youtube for this - maybe they just use it for high-tech vlogging or finding ways to play Super Ghouls 'N Ghosts on a PSP. But it is really surprising how many great live rock performances I have found, at random, on Youtube.
I don't know. Maybe it is because I am obsessed with rock music and the moment I hear a band I really like, I become immediately curious as to how they function as a live band. And now, in the crazy high-tech future year of 2008, I just type in a band and a song into Youtube's search bar and voila! Live performances and music videos! This is Web 2.0 people!!!
But really, Youtube a fantastic resource for my obsession with live rock music. Why don't I share some of my favorite videos with you. I know you would just love that.
(Note: If you don't like or don't care about any of the bands I post videos of here, you will not enjoy this post. I apologize in advance.)
One of the first videos I stumbled upon that showed me the true prowess of Youtube was a clip of R.E.M.'s first ever performance on television, doing Letterman way back in 1983. I'd heard about this performance somewhere on allmusic.com or something, so out of curiosity I searched for it on Youtube - and they, there it was.
And it's a real cool video (unless you hate R.E.M. or something)! Michael Stipe has curly hair! Mike Mills looks like a child! David Letterman!!
The next video you could call an oddity - Nirvana, Top Of The Pops, '91, doing "Smells Like Teen Spirit". Here's the thing about Top Of The Pops - most of the time, the band will mime playing their instruments to a backing track, and only the vocalist will actually sing live. And once in a blue moon, some particularly prickish bands will blatantly call attention to this by flailing around, not bothering to even look like they're playing their instruments, and singing in a voice that sounds nothing like the actual recording.
Guess what Nirvana did.
Think whatever you like about the band - overrated, blah blah blah - but this is still pretty cool.
Next up is the Talking Heads. Now, I wouldn't call this performance rare or exclusive, since it's part of the movie Stop Making Sense which is pretty well known. But hey, it's a great movie, and the Heads' performance of "Life During Wartime" is one of the most energetic videos I have ever watched.
Why? Well, EVERYONE IS FUCKING JOGGING WHILE THEY PLAY. HOLY SHIT. Not only that, but David Byrne takes things even further by dancing around like a madman, falling on his back and twitching about, and - best of all - taking some time near the end of the song to run a few laps around the stage. No wonder that motherfucker looks like a stick with limbs. (Then again, he might have been doing cocaine.)
It's funny - the stereotype of David Byrne is that he is a semi-awkward, quirky introvert, but shit brah, I ain't seein' that in this video! That guy is fucking OWNING the stage!!
The rest of the band is pretty great too though.
So I guess I'll save the best couple videos for last. The next one is the Who, performing Baba O'Riley in 1978 as part of The Kids Are Alright film. Considering that the Who are one of my favorite bands ever and practically every live performance I've seen of them has sent chills down my spine, I could probably make an entire post of Who performances (hell, maybe I will someday). I also know that, despite the greatness of this particular performance, they have better ones.
This one, though, really resonates with me. This was in '78, when the Who were becoming less and less relevant by the minute due to the advent of punk rock (and Keith Moon's failing health to boot). So in my eyes, what we have here is a band fighting for relevance, doing what they do best - ripping the shit out of every song they ever performed onstage.
What always gets me though, is the moment where Pete Townshend throws his tambourine to the side and jumps into full-out rock mode. It's only further proof to me that, when Townshend got onstage, he became the living breathing embodiment of all that was great in rock 'n roll.
I mean, look at him. Jesus Christ!
The Who are pretty tough to beat when it comes to live performances, but I'd say there's one band that comes pretty fucking close - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. This video shows Springsteen performing way back in '76, when the band was still young and he was getting his first taste of fame. The song is "Thunder Road," an already great song turned even better by one of the most exuberant, fun, all-out joyous musical performances I've ever seen.
I mean, ok, the video quality sucks. But honestly, I have never seen any performer happier to be doing what he's doing than Springsteen is right here - I mean, look at that smile! You can't deny that smile. The guy loves rock music, loves his bandmates, and loves the audience - there's so much pure love in this one performance alone, it melts my cold icy heart 'till there's icewater dripping out my fingernails. There's something to be said for rock musicians who don't want to be slaves to their audience - Bob Dylan, for example - but Springsteen proves here that you can give your audience everything they want without compromising your values.
Seriously, if you can't at least crack a smile at this video, then man, we are not going to be great friends.
"WE'RE JUST GETTIN' WARMED UP HERE!" Oh my Lord. Does anybody perform like this anymore? Do the Killers perform like this?? I FUCKING THINK NOT.
I'll post one more - just for laffs. It's the Byrds performing "I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better" on the popular teenybopper show Shindig back in '65. Now, this is not a great performance - they're being drowned out by screaming teenagers, after all - but I think it's notable because the band is not miming their instruments, like most videos of the song I've found. Also, this is undoubtedly my favorite Byrds song, and Roger McGuinn (not singing, but playing lead guitar) has this really creepy smile throughout the whole thing that I just can't not acknowledge.
There are more videos I could post but I'll save them for another time. My only regret a this point is that I can't find this amazing Van Morrison performance anywhere - a video of him doing "Cyprus Avenue" in 1970 in what has to be one of the most badass rock performance's I've ever seen. But it's gone! Alack. Maybe I'll be able to find it next time.