The 50 Greatest Live Albums Ever

20. Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band - Live Bullet

Recorded at the 12,000-seat Cobo Hall in Detroit at a time when Bob Seger was struggling to fill club venues in other towns, ‘Live’ Bullet brings together tracks from 1975’s Beautiful Loser with a smattering of earlier highlights, to devastating effect. Turn The Page, just one highlight, with its haunting sax, is stunning.

There may be slicker, better-recorded versions of these songs on other albums, but none capture the near-hysteria caused by a hometown show by the Silver Bullet Band at their intense, electrifying peak. This is the album that let the world outside Detroit know they were late to the party but was also forgiving enough to invite them in.

19. Queen - Live at Wembley '86

By mid 1986, it seemed there was no end to Queen’s omnipotence. Rallied by their show-stealing set at the previous year’s Live Aid, the band now saw promoter Harvey Goldsmith swamped with bookings for their twin shows at Wembley Stadium. 

Of course it didn't end as expected – the band's enormo-show at Knebworth later that summer would be their last with Freddie Mercury – and while the Live at Wembley '86 might not be the neatest bookend to Freddie's work with the band, it does feature him at his imperious, peacocking best. 

The setlist is ridiculous, of course, and while the shadow of Live Aid might mean that anything that puts the words "Queen"  and "Wembley" together is a guarantee of hyperbole, Live at Wembley '86 does showcase Queen doing what they do best: performing  their hits for an audience that's just as much a part of the show as the band are. Just listen to Love Of My Life

18. Yes – Yessongs

By 1973, Yes were massive. Big enough to release a triple live album and concert film (both titled Yessongs). And the applause that greets the band as Opening (Excerpt from 'Firebird Suite) fades is a reminder that even the stateliest of prog musicians was capable of inspiring near-hysteria, even in arena-sized crowds.  

"The first guy that my father singled out and said, ‘Listen to this guy play,’ was Chris Squire," Joe Bonamassa told us. "We listened to Yessongs over and over again.

“I’m a big Steve Howe fan, but I always found myself more drawn to the bassline. It was the first time I’d ever really noticed the power of a bass guitar to do things such as switch up the harmonic content of the music by dropping the root of third.

“You have to listen to Heart Of The Sunrise on Yessongs because of how he cascades down against the ascending sound of that riff. You have to listen to the 10-minute version of Starship Trooper on Yessongs when they go into that piece of music called Würm. Chris takes three simple chords and makes it almost symphonic." 

17. Lynyrd Skynyrd – One More From The Road

The surprise success story of 1976 was Peter Frampton’s Frampton Comes Alive! album.

Many rock artists would follow Frampton’s lead, but none acted quicker than Lynyrd Skynyrd. Three months after …Comes Alive! topped the US chart, Skynyrd recorded this double live album at the Fox Theater in Atlanta, Georgia, with new guitarist Steve Gaines coming in for Ed King.

One More From The Road became the band’s first million seller, and is now revered as one of the all-time great live albums, capped by an electrifying and emotionally charged 11-minute version of Free Bird.

16. Pink Floyd – Pulse

In the wake of The Division Bell Pink Floyd geared up for another, final, world tour but this time they planned ahead, especially when it came to staging and sound. They also took the decision to play Dark Side Of The Moon in its entirety.

Having released a live album from their previous tour they had not intended to record this one but the quality of the show proved irresistible. So another 2-CD package was born, again opening with Shine On You Crazy Diamond followed by tracks from The Division Bell and A Momentary Lapse Of Reason. It’s the second CD that hits the spot with the complete Dark Side Of The Moon and Wish You Were Here featuring the audience on lead vocals.

Some fans complained that the band stuck too closely to the originals. But not hi-fi buffs. If you want the stunning visual effects, get the DVD.

15. Cheap Trick – At Budokan

Like Kiss with Alive!, and Peter Frampton with Frampton Comes Alive, Cheap Trick’s career was effectively launched by an era-defining ‘best-of-the-band-so-far’ live album.

Recorded at the legendary Tokyo venue, the vitality and melodic might of the band were astonishing. The performance brought out the best in songs that had hitherto failed to make their mark; suddenly everyone wanted to know about Clock Strikes TenSurrenderI Want You To Want Me.

To this day, the combination of brilliant, simple tunes, confident musicianship and crowd hysteria on At Budokan is a reminder as to why Cheap Trick are among the elite artists in hard rock history.

“It was four guys from the Midwest doing what they do best, playing live,” Rick Nielsen told us. “The songs still stand up. We made the Budokan famous and the Budokan made us famous.”

14. Led Zeppelin – The Song Remains The Same

The soundtrack to the film. It’s Madison Square Garden 1973 and a certain amount of bloat has occurred since the 1972 Led Zeppelin tour captured on How The West Was Won. For sure, the version of Rock ‘N’ Roll that opens proceedings is nothing short of magnificent – a herd of stampeding Status Quos would be hard pressed to dent its hide – but Dazed And Confused goes on for 27 minutes. 

In the film, there’s a load of mad stuff with swords and a rampaging Peter Grant to take your mind off of how much of your life is slipping away as Page assaults his Les Paul with a violin bow, but without benefit of visuals, it tends to drag. Moby Dick? Ditto.

But. The album never lets up. John Bonham crams every last bit of Krupa/Rich bombast he can muster onto things like Dazed And Confused. He and John Paul Jones really are playing like one musician. Plant brings the coked-up, chick-magnet king-of-LA vibe right into the final night of the tour. And enough has been justifiably said about Page’s guitar genius so we’ll just add this: you’ll never find a better example of a rock’n’roll guitar sound as that #1 Les Paul plugged into his steroid-enhanced two hundred watt Marshall amp."

13. Kiss – Alive!

Let’s face it: the first three Kiss studio albums were clunky. The songwriting was there, of course, but the execution and production most certainly were not. So thank God – or Gene Simmons, as He is sometimes known – for the arrival of Alive!, which showcased Kiss in their element. Even today, the album sounds like World War III – and IV, and V, and VI – in your living room. It exudes authority and aggression, and is imbued with an all-consuming, all-American self-assurance.

When Alive! came out in autumn ’75, Kiss had yet to tour Britain. All we had was a crusty black and white photo of the Space Ace and his smokin’ guitar. But within 30 seconds of Deuce, you knew you were listening to the greatest live act in the world. Alive! elevated Kiss to the level of supreme beings. No wonder we used to have to drink a quart of Cold Gin every night, just to calm ourselves down

Anthrax (opens in new tab)'s Scott Ian speaks for a generation: "For me as a kid, Kiss was just the biggest influence on me as far as moving ahead in my life was concerned and knowing what I wanted to do with my life which was play guitar in a band. Because of that album that’s why anyone gives a shit about anything that I have to say or do because Kiss Alive! put me on that path of wanting to be a guy in a band."

12. Rush – All The World's A Stage

Rush released the first of their five live albums, All The World’s A Stage, in 1976. It was recorded over three nights in June the same year at Toronto’s Massey Hall at the end of the US 2112 tour.

"We hadn’t really thought about it that much at all,” says Geddy Lee. “The thing is that management and the record company wanted us to exploit the success of 2112 and keep it going, and live albums were kind of the thing du jour, do you know what I mean? Like a Humble Pie live album had come out and it had done really well, and you know, Kiss were doing a live album.

“All these people started dropping live albums, so they said, ‘You guys have to do a live album as well.’ We hadn’t really thought about it until that point, and then because we were playing three nights at Massey Hall, based on the success of 2112, we thought, ‘Okay, that makes sense – let’s record our homecoming,’ so to speak.”

And so they did, and All The World’s A Stage captures the band in all their early pomp. You can almost smell the pot smoke in the air.

11. Peter Frampton – Frampton Comes Alive!

In mid-1975, ex-Herd/Humble pie guitarist Peter Frampton was a moderately successful solo artist. Within a year, Frampton Comes Alive! had smashed all known sales records, transforming him into one of rock music’s biggest stars.

Until that point, most live records were little more than thumbprints of an artist performing their most popular songs. The laidback ...Comes Alive! went a stage further, as the band elongated their songs to capitalise upon their potential: Do You Feel Like We Do was stretched to twice its original length as Frampton serenaded the baying audience with his talk-box, an instrument also used to stunning effect on the enduring Show Me The Way.

"I love live albums, and this is one of the greatest of all time," Tesla's Frank Hannon told us. "A lot of live records sound like crap, but Frampton Comes Alive! was recorded and mixed beautifully. The sound of Peter’s guitar and his voice is so crisp and clear.

"You feel like you’re right there in front of the stage. The audience is going nuts, too – the whole thing is so exciting. I played air guitar to this one all the time before I actually started playing." 

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