Eight Stunning Live Musical Performances
A friend on Facebook has been counting down his favorite new music of the last decade, one per day. And while it's a very personal list, as all lists like this might be, and while his list is heavy, in my opinion, with rap and hip-hop because he's quite a bit younger than I am, it got me to thinking.
Like everyone else on the planet, over the years, I've created a fairly extensive list of "Favorites" on YouTube. Going through them last night, I realized that my favs are heavy with live performances that just blow me away with talent, both in the instrumental musicianship and vocal power, but also in the composition of the music.
So I've created a radically diverse list of My Favorite Live Musical Performances collected over the years, and will share eight of them with you now (with ten "alternate links"), in no particular order. I have only one criteria: That each video showcase the best live performance of a most talented musician. All choices are based on my limited experience and judgment, of course. YMMV.
David Gilmour, Live in Royal Albert Hall -- Coming Back to Life: While Gilmour and Roger Waters were the spectacular composition duo of Pink Floyd, Gilmour's musicianship shone even brighter after the split. While I would highly recommend that you buy the DVD, here he is in total mastery of the guitar and of his voice:
(Alternate Link with David Bowie singing the Roger Waters part of "Comfortably Numb".)
Fargenbastich -- Even in the Quietest Moments: Anyone can cover a song written by someone else and post it to YouTube. And while most of these are amateurish at best, I found one fellow, Rick aka Fargenbastich, who is not a professional... but could be. The one flaw here: He doesn't write and perform his own music. Still, he has posted a couple dozen of his performances to YouTube, with this one my personal favorite, and he is an exceptional guitarist and singer. This is a beautiful song written and recorded in the late 70s by Supertramp, and Fargenbastich plays it perfectly on one of my most favorite instruments -- the 12-string guitar:
(Alternate Link, Fargenbastich covering the Beatles' "Dear Prudence", a very haunting and complex song.)
David Bowie -- Heroes: This song, written by Bowie three decades ago and performed thousands of times, still endures for me. This particular performance, with talented bassist Gail Ann Dorsey keeping things moving, is the best of the lot. Building slowly and surely until it reaches a crescendo with the audience bounding wildly out of their seats, this is about the butchest look you'll ever see the androgynous yet meaty-voiced Bowie sport:
(Alternate Link, music video "I'm Afraid of Americans" with NIN's Trent Reznor as The Stalker)
Nine Inch Nails w/ Gary Numan -- Metal: Since Bowie once toured with Nine Inch Nails, whose talent lies squarely on the shoulders of Trent Reznor, let's go here next. I recently came across this live performance of NIN at what almost appears to me to also be Royal Albert Hall. The camera swoops and dives around the stage through an other-worldly musical performance. Gary Numan sings and Reznor, who introduces Numan at the start, plays piano and some of the synth rhythms. Perhaps not NIN's best live performance available on YouTube, but as a concert video, it's one of the most hypnotic and mesmerizing I've come across:
(I'll give you two choices: Alternate Link #1 of "Cars" by NIN w/ Gary Numan or Alternate Link #2 of brilliant music-video AND the live version of "ONLY")
Paul Simon -- American Tune: Taking things in a completely different direction, here's a wonderful performance of my most favorite song by this American musical icon. Please disregard Dick Cavett, and for Godsake, stop it when the singing is through!
(Alternate Link of Marilyn Manson. Sorry, but his song and video are kick-ass.) (Didn't like it? Okay then, try this one, "Integral" by Pet Shop Boys)
George Winston -- Rain: I love the piano and wish I had learned to play. No contemporary musician has performed such moving and accessible music for the piano with satisfying melodies and mature, complex performances as George Winston. While I don't like all the "production values" that this video offers, the music just reaches into my soul and blows me away:
(Alternate Link of "Thanksgiving")
Bat for Lashes (Natasha Khan) -- Pearl's Dream: Here's a musician who is young and still obscure. But you'll be hearing a lot more from her in the future. She writes all her own music, and she performed a number of songs for KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic studio show. This is the best of the lot for me because I love me some rhythm. At 1:45, the drummer is left holding it all up with bass pedal backbeats, at which point the whole thing could have collapsed. But she takes charge and carries it through. Then at 3:05, everything just takes off and it's hard not to move with the rhythms:
(Alternate Link of "Siren Song" -- equally awesome, quite different, and perhaps more indicative of Khan's talent)
Thom Yorke on the Henry Rollins Show -- Cymbal Rush: This singer for Radiohead is utterly brilliant, of course. But here he does something that I've not seen too often. In a live performance, he stops and starts over. And it works wonderfully:
(Alternate Link to the music-video of Radiohead's monster hit "Creep"... when they were so very young)
There are a couple other live performances that have stunned me and left me speechless -- U2's performance at President Obama's Inauguration is one. Marvin Gaye singing the national anthem at the NBA All-Star game in the early 80's is another. And of course the Eric Clapton et al "Concert for George" DVD. But I don't know if they are available on YouTube, and this is enough for now.
I would love to listen to any personal favorites you have. Just post the links in comments... and if I love them as much as you do, I'll include them here!