Sharpie’s Favourite Live Albums of 2020

Idiot Prayer – Nick Cave Live at Alexandra Palace 2020

2020 was not a great year for live music thanks to Covid-19 BUT it was a great year for streamed live performances and, in the case of Nick Cave, a concert event filmed live in June 2020 at Alexandra Palace in London and streamed live to ticket holders prior to a worldwide cinema release. It was the apotheosis of the streamed concert a phenomenon which saw ‘real’ live-music-deprived concert geeks attending streamed gigs all over the world on their TVs. So thoroughly, and intimately, did Cave reinterpret his broad cannon, that this performance stands with the best live albums ever made and certainly my highlight of the year.

Live at Canterbury House 1967 – Joni Mitchell

Canterbury House was a vibrant community centre set in an old converted print shop in the university district of Ann Arbour Michigan. Its community centre, part coffee house part counselling centre, part performance space. In addition to hosting intimate alcohol free musical performances (for which it acoustics and state of the art sound system were perfect), it was also used for film nights, plays and church services.

With a capacity of only 200, and due to its ‘60’s community spirit, it was a special place for musicians seeking an intimate connection with their audience. It’s that spirit which pervades the music on this wonderful release of Joni Mitchell’s early career performance here on 27 October 1967.

Recorded prior to the release of Joni’s debut Song of the Seagull, the set list included a number of tracks from that album as well as early Mitchell penned songs which has already been hits for others and which would be subsequently released by her on later albums like ‘Both Sides Now’, ‘Urge for Going’ and Little Green’.

For fans of Joni Mitchell this is an indispensable glimpse of her early genius as she started her journey which would be era diving and create a body of work the equal of any other artist from that time.

Live Drugs – War on Drugs

I had the pleasure of seeing War On Drugs live at Sydney’s Enmore Theatre in 2018. So warn, entrancing and insistent was the enveloping sound of Grandulciel’s band that it rendered the band’s name oxymoronic. The music enveloped us all in its warm narcotic grip. This live album can’t quite match that intensity but delivers the band’s sound and greatest compositions so naturally that it allows their beauty to shimmer in a way the wonderful studio version never quite do.

Live at the Forum – The Teskey Brothers

When Josh Teskey, part way through this live album, breaks into a cover of Jealous Guy and admits it is influenced more by the Donny Hathaway live version than the Lennon original, we are reminded that Melbourne’s Teskey Brothers are the real deal. They have lived and inhabited the music that they have grown up with and loved and coupled it with their own distinct songwriting and brother Sam’s excellent guitar work to win fans around the world festival circuit. While that is in hiatus, we can comfort ourselves on this live album which is redolent of the great live discs of sound music, Otis Redding, Bill Withers and Hathaway, without ever feeling like a mere tribute.

The Complete Inconserated Live – The Replacements

Recorded in Milwaukee in 1989, following the release of Don’t Tell A Soul (the 2019 release of the original mix of which – as Dead Mans Bop – was the highlight of of last year’s re-release schedule). This 2020 live RSD release contains all 29 songs from that performance (a shortened version was included with the Dead Man’s Bop set). The Replacements were a famously unpredictable live proposition but both this set and the previous Replacements For Sale catch them at their incendiary best – constantly courting the shambolic edge of oblivion but never descending into the chasm – an ability which made them, on their best nights, amongst the set live acts around (and got them banned for life from NBC shortly prior to this performance). As a huge fan during the late ‘80’s, it was a dream to catch them live at the Roundhouse in London at the tail of their 2015 live run. It’s great to now have two live albums available in full to remember them by.

Galaxie 500 – Live at Barbue Copenhagen Dec 1st 1990

Another RSD live release by one of my favourite bands. Hard to get a hold of – and, like many RSD releases, overpriced – but worth it. Galaxie 500 at their short lived peak. First time available on vinyl.

Kiss My Blood – Iggy Pop Live at The Olympia Paris France 1991

An RSD 3LP set recorded as part of the Brick To Brick Tour. Contains all the tracks you know and love him for performed with just the right mix of professionalism and intensity. Comes with a limited edition numbered tour poster too.

Live at Goose Lake August 8th, 1970 – The Stooges

Everything you’ve heard. About this gig is true. Raw, shambolic, incendiary, punk which pushes it all the way to the edge – and over. The soundboard recording only enhances the legend.

The Allman Brothers – Live a Fillmore West 1-31-71

Allman Brothers. 1971. No need to say more.

Live at the Hollywood Palladium December 15, 1988 – Keith Richards and the X-pensive Winos

An old favourite I’ve owned for years on CD finally re-issued on vinyl. The definition of swagger.

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