10 rock anthems only played live once

'90s rock singers
(Image credit: Neil Lupin/Redferns | Gie Knaeps | Sion Touhig/Newsmakers | Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

When it comes to live shows, there's a general expectation that bands will deliver a 'greatest hits' set wherever possible: it's called 'giving the audience what they want'. This, however, does mean that certain less-loved songs can find themselves out in the cold, fondly premiered, then scratched off set-lists forever, for reasons unknown. Here are 10 arena rock anthems which burned brightly under the spotlights on just one occasion, according to crowd-sourced live database setlist.fm.

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Rage Against The Machine - Voice Of The Voiceless

Rage Against The Machine took a lot of shit for their support of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the Philadelphia-born political activist and writer who was sentenced to death row in 1982 after being convicted of the 1981 murder of a policeman in the city, which he maintained he was innocent of. When the band joined forces with Beastie Boys, Bad Religion and Chumbawamba for a benefit concert for the prisoner in New Jersey in January 1999, they were accused of supporting a cop killer by right-wing media pundits, the Fraternal Order of Police, New Jersey state troopers and the state Governor. By then, the group had already recorded Voice of the Voiceless for their third album The Battle of Los Angeles, featuring lyrics such as "So long as tha rope is tight around Mumia's neck / Let there be no rich white life we bound to respect." Given all the heat they took for their stance, it's perhaps surprising that this incendiary protest anthem was played live only once, in Osaka, Japan on June 28, 2000.

Foo Fighters - Come Back

Making 2002's One By One album almost broke Foo Fighters, with Dave Grohl so fucked off by his bandmate's lack of enthusiasm that he considered pulling the plug. After enthusiastically promoting the album, Grohl admitted that he still didn't think much of it, stating, "four of the songs were good, and the other seven I've never played again in my life." It''s not hard to tell which four songs he's referring to - clue, it's the first four on the record, all of them singles - but album closer Come Back deserved more love. The song was played only once, at the House of Blues in Anaheim, California on February 7, 2002, and that performance was the original 'Million Dollar Demos' version of the song, not the seven-minute plus version which ends the album on an epic note.

Red Hot Chili Peppers - One Hot Minute

The only album the Red Hot Chili Peppers recorded with (then ex-) Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro, One Hot Minute is surely one of the most under-rated albums of the '90s. The period wasn't a happy one for the group, with more than one band member heavily using heroin, and critics and fans expressing disappointment with the album, which sold less than half of its predecessor, Blood Sugar Sex Majik, but their decision to play the album's title track live once, at the Kisstadion in Budapest, Hungary on June 15, 1996 and then bin it off forever seems more than a touch harsh.

The Prodigy - No Tourists

You don't get a well-deserved reputation as The Best Live Band In The World without having a fistfuls of killer songs in your arsenal, but it does seem a little perverse that Liam Howlett could only find space to accommodate the title track of The Prodigy's seventh studio album on just one setlist, that drawn up for their Frankfurt Festhalle show on December 4, 2018. To be fair, this may be partly due to the fact that the group pulled their entire touring plans following the tragic death of Keith Flint on March 4, 2019, so perhaps further performances lie ahead.

Nirvana - You Know You’re Right

As with The Prodigy's No Tourists, You Know You're Right would very likely have become a live staple for Nirvana, had Kurt Cobain not died by suicide just six months after its only live outing, at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago on October 23, 1993. The fact that on bootleg recordings of the gig, Dave Grohl can quite clearly be heard saying, "This is our last song, it's called All Apologies" suggests that You Know You're Right wasn't even on the set-list, with Cobain making a spontaneous executive decision to give it its live premiere before it had even been committed to tape in the studio, and before its lyrics were finished.

Soundgarden - Holy Water

Even by Frowngarden's standards, Holy Water is a pretty bleak song, its tone set by an opening verse in which Chris Cornell sings, "Holy bible on the night stand next to me / As I'm raped by another monkey circus freak". Granted its parent album, Badmotorfinger, isn't short of bangers, but one might reasonably have expected this to get more than one live airing by Soundgarden, rather than being premiered at the Off Ramp club in Seattle on September 5, 1991, and then packed away forever in mothballs. 

R.E.M. - Disappear

It's unlikely that Reveal, R.E.M.'s 12th studio album, is anyone's favourite R.E.M. album - bassist Mike Mill once described it as a "hidden gem" in the group's catalogue - but the band themselves were sufficiently proud of Disappear to include on the setlist for their second MTV Unplugged performance, taped in New York on May 21, 2001. Perhaps the fact that it then disappeared forever from R.E.M.'s setlists was some sort of clever meta joke by Michael Stipe, who knows?

Oasis - Part Of The Queue

Again, Oasis never struggled to fill out a crowd-pleasing setlist, and by the time their sixth album, Don't Believe The Truth, emerged in 2005 there wasn't a whole lot of room for deep cuts on the set-list, given how prolific Noel Gallagher was in penning hit singles. Don't Believe The Truth is the album on which the mouthy Mancunians rediscovered their mojo, and The Chief described it to Q magazine as "One of mine with a weird rhythm that's a bit Shack-doing-Love". If Oasis ever do reform, there won't be too many shouts from the crowd for this under-rated gem, 'performed' - or rather mimed - just once, on May 15, 2005, for a T4 Oasis special on Channel 4 in the UK. 

U2 - The Wanderer

A cult curio closing out U2's Zooroopa album, The Wanderer features lead vocals from country legend Johnny Cash, who the Dublin band sought out a good year before Rick Rubin began The Man In Black's late career resurgence with the American Recordings album. The group performed this striking song of faith in full just once, on a 2005 US TV special paying tribute to the country music legend, I Walk the Line: A Night for Johnny Cash, following Cash's 2003 death. 

Faith No More - Star A.D.

King For A Day... Fool For A Lifetime might be Faith No More's most fractured, genre-fluid record, for better for worse, and the late night lounge bar funk of Star A.D. is one of the album's most singular tracks, with a rather sweet trumpet solo and some typically unsettling lyrical observations from Mike Patton: "And when you die / You'll become something worse than dead / You'll become / A legend..." It's hardly the most accessible FNM track, but one might have expected it to feature more than once on a setlist, those in attendance at Club Hipico in Santiago, Chile in November 2011 being the only ones treated to a live rendition. 

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.