Saturday, April 2, 2011

Top 5 Live Albums/Bootlegs.

Back again already. Slow day. I've been listening to the new live Green Day album and I can honestly say that I'm impressed with it. I was really excited for Bullet in a Bible back when it was first announced, but then it ended up being pretty much "American Idiot: Live" which would have been fine had that album not just come out. I've heard a lot of Green Day bootlegs from that era and they all suffer from the same problem: they pretty much play songs from American Idiot in the exact same order as they appear on the album, with select singles thrown in at the end with an extended version of either King for a Day or Minority (sometimes their cover of Knowledge) and top it all off with Good Riddance, or Boulevard of Broken Dreams if it hasn't been played yet.

Now, I know I defended American Idiot in an earlier post, but if I listen to a live performance (or go see a live show), I would really like it when there's some variety in the set list. Maybe it's just me, I don't know. Either way, listening to Awesome As Fuck and, like I said, I'm impressed. It starts off a bit 21st Century Breakdown-heavy and by that I mean out of the 17 tracks total (20 on the iTunes edition) there are five songs played from that album. The rest of the album is dedicated to the rest of their discography as well as a new, unreleased track. The variety of it makes it a whole lot more enjoyable than Bullet in a Bible was, even if every single track was taken from a different performance whereas the previous live release was all from two nights.

Anyway, this over-analyzation of this live Green Day album in particular got me thinking about other live albums that I've heard and enjoyed. And then I decided to write up a list of five of my favorite ones. After a lengthy intro, of course.

05. The Gaslight Anthem - Radio City Music Hall
I don't believe I've mentioned that The Gaslight Anthem ranks up with Green Day and the Descendents as one of my favorite bands. That probably comes as no surprise, but it's true. Seeing them at Radio City Music Hall was quite the treat (literally, it was a birthday gift from a very special someone) and the fact that someone recorded it makes it possible for me to re-live that memory. The set was just over 90 minutes long and they played material  from all three of their full lengths and their EP, focusing mostly on The '59 Sound and American Slang.  It was weird to see them in a seated venue and it wasn't quite as intimate the time I saw them at Valentine's or as energetic as when they played Roseland, but it was still an amazing time. And being able to listen to that bootleg whenever I want allows me to remember that moment, which is why it makes the list.

04. Green Day - Woodstock 1994
The only real difference between Green Day's live show today and their live show in 1994 is their set list, and that's only because they've written more songs since then. What's surprising is that they've still got this energy, but back when this bootleg was recorded it's what you would expect from a bunch of kids barely in their 20's.  It's a pretty short set but it's a fun piece of history to listen to, from Billie Joe insulting a kid in the audience to hearing the band start the infamous mud fight. A must have for any fan of Green Day or 90's punk.

03. Brian Fallon - Live at the Court Tavern
An hour long acoustic set with the front man of the Gaslight Anthem, what's not to like about it? In addition to Gaslight songs (this was pre-American Slang), there are some solo songs (Italian Lightning and The Blues, Mary) and a few of covers (including The Bouncing Souls, Bob Dylan and, of course, Bruce). Oh yeah, if that wasn't enough: one of the Gaslight songs that he plays is Boomboxes and Dictionaries. Yes.

02. Descendents - Liveage!/Hallraker/Live Plus One
I couldn't pick one over the other two. Liveage! and Hallraker both capture the Descendents in their prime, playing all the best songs from their (at the time) four albums without a single song being repeated (minus the four second "ALL"). They're both fine additions to any Descendents collection.
And then there's Live Plus One, the second disc to the split release with ALL. This collection is just as fast and fun to listen to, also adding songs from their fifth album to the tracklist. Hope, M-16, Silly Girl, Myage, Van, Cheer... even a cover of the ALL song Original Me are all found on this disc. It does miss a few, like I'm Not a Loser and Christmas Vacation, but that's what Liveage! and Hallraker are for.

01. Reel Big Fish - Our Live Album Is Better Than Your Live Album
In high school, I loved Reel Big Fish (doesn't every snot-nosed punk?). Their songs were so fun and catchy even though they were downright miserable. Then in 2005 I saw them live in NYC. I was worried because my friend said he saw them in 2003 and told me that it seemed as if they were kind of bored. I guess the line up change that they went through between those two years made a huge difference because the show I was at blew their studio recordings out of the water. It was single handedly the most fun I had ever had at a show. I saw them again that same summer in California. Then again the next summer in 2006. Again in 2007. And in 2008. In 2009 they actually played at my school. If I could afford it, I would've followed them around the country like a Deadhead (err... Fishhead?). I enjoy them live so much* I can't listen to their studio output anymore. That's why I'm glad they came out with their two disc live album. Whenever I want to listen to Reel Big Fish these days, this is the only album by them I'll put on. That's how much I love it. No, really.

*It should be noted that I am aware that Scott Klopfenstein has left the band and I am worried about how that affects their performances. Maybe I'll read some reviews or something before going to another show, or maybe I'll just wing it and see what happens. 

Well, that was fun. Makes me want to go to more shows though. I wish I had money.

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