It’s been a while since I wrote about a musical subject and as all non-essential travel is out of the question at the moment, I’ve turned to thinking about those bands from the genre of music that I listen to, namely rock n’ roll, that have a reputation for being brilliant to see live. I don’t have to have seen them personally, I’m just going off of their reputation. These are the bands that deliver an explosive, jaw-dropping show and have been for many years.
Every modern concert has some of Kiss’s DNA in it. They pioneered the modern live show, with pryotechnics, flash pots, even the characters they come on stage as. They are evocative characters as well, The Demon, The Starchild, The Catman and the Spaceman. Say what you will about the people in the band not exactly being charitable towards each other and former members, or the fact that Paul Stanley may have been using vocal tracks on their last tour, but Kiss have always known how to deliver a show. They may have been guilty of chasing trends a little in the 80s and early 90s but modern concerts would look a lot different without them.
The Who held the record for a long time for the loudest concert ever, reaching 126 db at Charlton Athletic’s Valley stadium on the 31st May 1976. Incidentally, my dad was at that show. Anyway, The Who have always been a band of four incredible musicians, all masters of their craft. And that was plain to see live. John Entwhistle was one of the finest bassists ever to pick up the instrument, Pete Townsend was always able to write the songs that quite literally spoke to a generation and Roger Daltrey gave them the voice needed. I think all that can be said about Keith Moon has been said about Keith Moon, but his unorthodox but wonderfully rhythmic drumming gave The Who a slightly different style and feel. Even now with two of those original members passed on, they still pack a punch and are still one of the loudest bands around.
Guns ‘n’ Roses
Now, all those who have been in Guns n’ Roses and performed live with them have been at least competent. But when they had the right people at the right time, there could one of two outcomes. The show would be cut short, be it by technical difficulties or by Axl Rose storming off stage, or they would deliver some of the most incredible musical experiences ever. They’ve recaptured that recently with their partial reformation of the original lineup, as Slash has said on multiple occasions that he actually prefers playing in a live setting rather than the studio, as he weirdly feels more pressure there than in front of 60,000 people. The pure stamina needed to do a three hour show, sometimes three and a half speaks to their abilities as well. With the influence they have had on the rock genre and their continuing to knock it out of the park live, GNR is deserving of a place on this list.
All you need to do to see that I am right to include Queen on this list is watch their Live at Wembley DVD. Yes, everyone points to Live Aid, but that is a 20 minute distillation. Live at Wembley shows the full majesty ( I thank you!) of Queen in the live arena. My only regret is that Freddie started to focus much more on his interaction with the crowd and running about endlessly that he played the piano on stage less and less till by the end of his live career with the band, he really didn’t do it much at all. Mind you, that really is a nitpick because Freddie Mercury is undoubtedly one of the finest performers in rock music. And the rest of the band are absolutely brilliant as well. A quick shout out for Brian May and Roger Taylor’s team up with Paul Rodgers. Rodgers is a completely different singer, but I really enjoyed the results.
The Rolling Stones
I think the Stones set the template for the band that keeps on going. In the era they were spawned, not many bands actually lasted that long. Cream only lasted about 18 months. Musicians would come together, record three or four albums stupidly quickly, fall out with each other and split up. The Stones didn’t properly hit their stride as a rock band until they had been going for a decade, when the legend of Jagger and Richards took off. Mick is brilliant. He’s enthralling to watch, even after 55 years and heart surgery. He seriously has stolen the keys to the fountain of youth because he still performs to the levels he’s been hitting from day one. The rest of the band are some of the best at what they do. They aren’t virtuoso musicians, they know what works for them. They’re a blues band that kickstarted the stadium rock band trend that is still going to this day. But, they are the originators.
So, there you have it. My personal list of the best live bands ever. You will probably disagree and that’s cool, we all have different opinions. And The Beatles were never going to be on this list. Never.