For the past few weeks — and because of my job managing a promotions department at a radio station — I’ve been inundated with Woodstock. The film Taking Woodstock, the director’s cut of Woodstock, TV specials, and special radio programming dedicated to Woodstock have all, in one way or another, crossed my desk this month. From the way Woodstock is marketed, it’s as if 1969 was the beginning and end of live music festivals. But we all know better. Where I live (the San Francisco Bay Area), the Outside Lands Music and Arts festival just wrapped up. It was a lower key event this year — owing in no small part to The Great Recession– but still, a crush of people descended on Golden Gate Park to enjoy band after band, substance after substance, and being with friends who love live music. Now we all know (or at least I hope most of those who read the music section of Popdose know) that some bands are just sublime live. Other bands, alas, suffer from ProTools-itis. That is to say, their limited musical abilities are masked by the plug-ins and other bells and whistles that come with digital multi-track recording. I’m happy to report that the bands and performers featured here have probably all used Pro Tools, but not for the reasons stated above. One disclaimer: before you get started sampling this mix, the song by Westbound Train is not a live recording, but I have seen crappy You Tube videos of them, and they are a tight, talented group.
Viva la live!
The Raconteurs, “Old Enough” (download)
I’ve read enough on the Internets about Jack White being a giant D bag, but let’s bracket the personal stuff for a moment and just focus on the music. The studio version of “Old Enough” is, to me, just okay. I wasn’t really blown away by it until I heard (and saw — since this is taken from the DVD) this version from the Bonnaroo Festival in 2008. The song just comes alive (in a Peter Frampton kind of way) that reveals a level of playing that for some reason doesn’t come through in the studio version.
Elvis Costello, “All You Need Is Love”(download)
I just bought this DVD a couple of weeks ago because I was thinking about Live Aid and how that concert was, for me, one of those magical moments when music, as the cliche goes, can make a difference. The documentary that’s on the four disc set takes the viewer from the initial BBC documentary about famine in Africa, to the recording of “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” to Live Aid, and then to post-glow of the concert where the political reality of distributing the food had more than a few bumps.
Not all the performers are on this disc (most notably Led Zeppelin and Santana), and the song order on some of the performances are out of whack, but what a concert it was. Reading the liner notes, there’s an interesting bit of trivia about how Bob Geldof didn’t want the tapes of the concert saved. MTV and the BBC ignored his request, but other companies complied and erased the copies of the tapes. It was only because so many performances surfaced on the Internet that Geldof decided to put together an official DVD — and I’m glad he did. The sound and picture quality are really quite excellent, and having most of the concert in one complete package is a great memento of an amazing day. I had forgotten about Elvis Costello’s version of “All You Need Is Love” until I saw it on the DVD and thought it was a wonderful display of sincerity from a guy whose lyrics are certainly sincere, but often bitter.
The Rolling Stones with AC/DC, “Rock Me Baby” (download)
Before the Great H1N1 scare, 2003 was the year SARS got everyone all panicked. So much so, the city of Toronto suffered a “vote with their feet” economic downturn after an outbreak of SARS among 257 people and a number of deaths (over 40). To essentially say “Hey, we’re back and this SARS thing is mostly hysteria” the Rolling Stones, Rush, AC/DC, and a number of other acts got together and put on a huge concert in Toronto. Almost 500,000 people gathered to see this daylong event. The DVD features some great performances from The Isley Brothers, the Guess Who, Rush, and AC/DC. But, for me, the best part was seeing fans of the Stones throw bottles on the stage during “Miss You” (featuring Justin Timberlake). Just seeing Keith Richards lose his temper was worth the price of the DVD. However, the Stones with AC/DC doing the B.B. King tune “Rock Me Baby” was pretty damn impressive.
Candlebox, “Arrow” (download)
It’s hard to believe that the 25th anniversary of Woodstock was in 1994, but there ’tis! This celebration, however, was anything but a reunion. Instead, the 1994 Woodstock — which wasn’t held on the site of the 1969 event — was marked by branding it with a Gen X stamp. Sure, some of the alums of 1969 concert were there, but really the mud-soaked field, the mud fight the audience had with Green Day, the sheer loudness of the performances on the second and third day of the event carried on the spirit of Woodstock (i.e., a musical event that marked a generation). And Candlebox — while not really the music of a generation — certainly reflected the power of the gathering with a blistering performance.
Westbound Train, “Come and Get It” (download)
I dropped the ball on the live performance here — mostly because I couldn’t get my hands on a good live recording of this song. Nevertheless, the Warped Tour may be a concert that tries too hard to be hardcore — and falls very short. But lurking among the throng of emo bands and “Mommy never hugged me” screamer groups, there’s Westbound Train. Their ska sound added a much needed counterpoint to the plethora of soundalikes at this year’s Warped Tour.
Bjork, “Aeroplane” (Download)
Because of a recent trip to Rasputin Records, I can now say that I am the proud owner of all three 120 Minutes CDs produced by MTV. This one has the moniker “Live,” and what that means is that the performers featured here played in the 120 Minutes studio. And because I’m a semi-prisoner to the Sugarcubes and Bjork, I had to have this one for Bjork’s live performance of “Aeroplane” –with has a kind of Indian lounge feel. So, sorry for cheating on this song and Westbound Train because the recordings were not captured at large outdoor music events … but hey, no one got hurt, right?