The end is in sight but for a little longer here we still are, staying home and staying safe, staying locked-down. The return of live music is finally glimmering in the not-too-distant future but there is still a couple of months to wait for venue doors to open and floors to become sticky again. Until then, if we can’t go to the gig, we can bring the gig to us by blasting out those favourite live albums and telling ourselves that at least this way the drinks are free (sort of), there’s no queue for the loo (probably) and the show starts whenever you like.
Here are five live albums I’ve got a front row seat to:
Midland: Live From The Palomino
One of the many (oh, let me count the ways …) frustrations of 2020 was watching the first, and then second, reminder for the Midland concert at The Roundhouse pop up in my calendar, and spending the evening watching television instead. So, to try and recreate some of the fun and guitar interludes we were expecting, I recommend this live album to remind you how thrilling it can be when the crowd cheers when the band starts playing a favourite song.
Eric Church: Mr Misunderstood Live & (Mostly) Unplugged
I love Eric Church. And I love Eric Church live. And grudgingly, I’ve had to accept that we won’t be seeing him headlining the C2C Festival this year. As a substitute, you could create your own Eric Church music festival by streaming the whole 61 Days in Church Volumes 1 – 5, a compilation of 61 of his live concerts. However, I’m recommending this short and heartfelt 2016 album for its hidden gems, including an extended medley of 70s singer/songwriter classics (with Billy Joel’s Piano Man, a personal non-country karaoke favourite of mine) and a raw cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. (An aside: Is it some sort of law that all artists must cover this song at some point?) (Another aside: Do yourself a favour and check out Joanna Cotten’s – she’s the back up singer on Mixed Drinks about Feelings – haunting 5 Crackers & An 8-Ball … another song that proves there is no topic good county music won’t cover.)
The Highwaymen: Live Battle Creek, Michigan ’93
Okay, clearly I didn’t miss out on this concert because of the ‘Rona. But seeing The Highwaymen perform live is definitely high on my ‘I wish I had been there’ list, so if we’re going to imagine a live concert then I pick this country supergroup of Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennigns and Willie Nelson (pictured below left to right). Other than the music, I particularly enjoy that only Johnny Cash introduces himself – like we’re not going to recognise the man in black or his voice! And pretty high only my ‘I want to be there’ list is seeing The Highwomen (the contemporary female country supergroup) perform live, somewhere, in the near future, with people around me, with a drink in my hand …
Ashley McBryde: Live from Nashville
This one is a little bit of a cheat as she doesn’t actually have a live album (yet) – but there are a few ‘Live from Nashville’ singles on Spotify (and elsewhere on the internet like her website). So, as Ashley is one of the best performers in an intimate setting I’ve seen, I suggest playing these songs with your eyes closed and pretending you’re at a table in front of the stage at the Bluebird (and you didn’t even have to queue to get in!).
Zac Brown Band: Pass the Jar Zac Brown Band and Friends Live from the Fabulous Fox Theatre in Atlanta
Finally, if you’re looking for something joyous and fun – and who isn’t these days – Zac Brown and his friends deliver with this album. With their usual collection of toe-tapping humorous songs like Sic ‘Em on a Chicken and Bar – with Sonia Leigh as one of the friends joining them on stage, and a few familiar covers including I Shall Be Released and The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (another cover everybody seems to do eventually …) this album evokes summer in a way I think we can all do with at this stage.
you could also be your own concert promoter and create a playlist of all your favourite songs live. I have a few artists sharing “a stage” you will likely never see on the same poster …
Please let us know your recommendations for live album listens.