Steveslist: My Top Five Favorite Live Songs

In honor of my mate Steve, who is in Phoenix as I write, getting ready to draft in the NL LABR auction Sunday, I conjured this list. For, tis Steve who started this little subset off.

I am listing my very five favorite live tunes. I am sure we all have favorites, and I tried to find the vinyl/CD version of each, which is where I first found them. The odd song out is Richard Thompson’s Shoot Out the Lights, from the album of the same name, and which is a great album cut, and even better live one.

Anyway, here we go, starting with my all-time favorite live Hendrix song, which is also my favorite Hendrix song period. Recorded with Band of Gypsys (featuring Buddy Miles on drums and Billy Cox on bass) who recorded one album–a live one–performed and recorded December 31, 1970, at the Fillmore East.

The entire album is great, but Hendrix’ playing on Message of Love–his ridiculous mixing of rock and blues and jazz chords and progressions–along with playing that sounds so casual and relaxed, and yet is so visceral with every note just perfect.

Tell me if you have ever heard a more beautiful and riveting live guitar performance, and I will be happy to listen.

Going next to the Fillmore West, Combination of the Two  kicks off Big Brother and the Holding Company’s phenomenal Cheap Thrills album. Killer James Gurley guitar, great percussion, and of course the great Janis Joplin. This song is different for a rocker, but it is so very right.

Maybe the best duel lead guitars trading licks on any song ever. Dickie Betts and Duane Allman cutting notes with razor blades, along with Berry Oakley bass that digs down into the earth’s magma. That song would be One Way Out.

This was tough, because I had to try and choose from Sweet Jane and Rock and Roll from Reed’s great Rock’n’Roll Animal album, and I guess just because the latter cranks through so perfectly–to me anyway–I picked it.

If you have never seen Richard Thompson play guitar live, you are missing out one of the great performers and players on earth. One of the wittiest songwriters, too. I have seen Thompson live nine times, and he always plays this song, sometimes with guests (I have seen him play it twice with Henry Kaiser). My fave part is his playing with his tuners with his fret hand, while crunching royal with his pick hand.



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