13 Beats: Live in Concert

Tess Dunkel, Staff Writer

Seeing your favorite artist perform live is often a transformative listening experience that creates lasting memories. We can’t always attend concerts, so artists provide the next best thing on streaming platforms: live recording albums. With these iconic live performances, it’s easy to close your eyes and pretend you were actually there.

“I Gotta Find Peace of Mind- Live”- Ms. Lauryn Hill (2002)

After a four-year absence, Ms. Lauryn Hill released a live album from her 2002 MTV Unplugged special performance. “I Gotta Find Peace of Mind-Live” is a nine-minute cathartic and poetical ode to the singer’s rebirth and newfound faith. Emotions overtake the piece, shining through as Hill’s voice breaks into a cry, singing “What a joy it is to be alive / To get another chance.”

“Half Full Glass of Wine- Live”- Tame Impala (2014)

Many videos of Tame Impala’s concerts have gone viral for stunning effects and stage concepts built into the performance. The live version of “Half Full Glass of Wine” includes the psychedelic drive from an improvised building interlude, while keeping a smooth beat and melody that grounds the listener.

“Mary Jane (All Night Long)- Live”- Mary J. Blige (1998)

In the late 1990s, many R&B artists refrained from releasing live albums due to the use of electronic beats which left little room for live variations. However, Mary J. Blige’s The Tour album features passionate vocals, a clear stage presence, and a background band that allows listeners to feel as though they’re experiencing the concert. One of her most famous songs, “Mary Jane (All Night Long),” has a particularly strong live performance, with a jumpy baseline and brass band additives.

“How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore- Live in Syracuse, March 30, 1985”- Prince (2022)

Prince’s 1985 concert was remastered and perfected before being released as “Prince and the Revolution: Live” in 2022, providing fans with new versions of their favorite songs. The sound quality on the album is amazing, transporting casual listeners into concert-goers. “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore” starts with jazz piano, muted crowd cheers and confidently spoken interludes between verses of bluesy vocals.

“Summer Breeze- Live”- The Isley Brothers (1999)

Originally by soft rock duo Seals and Croft, “Summer Breeze” is a classic song for warm weather playlists, no matter which version. But The Isley Brothers’ live recording of the song on “Wild in Woodstock: The Isley Brothers Live at Bearsville Sound Studio 1980” features melodic soulful vocals backed by a full band, including Ernie Isley’s guitar performances, and filled with improvisation, creating a funk rendition of a well-known rock song.

“Voodoo Child (Slight Return) – Live at The Woodstock Music & Art Fair, August 18, 1969”- Jimi Hendrix (1994)

Jimi Hendrix’s famous closing set at Woodstock can be experienced by all fans, thanks to the collection of highlights, “Jimi Hendrix: Woodstock.” “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” showcases his abilities as a guitar player, clocking in at over 10 minutes of psychedelic guitar solo jams. 

“Drunk in Love- Homecoming Live”- Beyoncé (2019)

“Homecoming Live, Beyoncé’s 2019 album, features a total of 40 live songs from her 2018 Coachella performance. “Drunk in Love” is transformed into a higher-energy collective performance as a drumline, an orchestra and claps from stage dancers can be heard in the polished mix. 

“Layla- Acoustic Live”- Eric Clapton (1992)

Guitarist and singer Eric Clapton compiled his MTV Unplugged performance into an hour-long live album, which was released in 1992. His reworking of “Layla” provides a more laidback, smooth listening experience with harmonizing background vocals, live piano and guitar, as well as dialogue from transitions between songs.

“Covered in Rain- Live at Tweeter Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, August 2004”- John Mayer (2004)

John Mayer is known for his guitar solos and live performances, whether it’s on a solo tour, with the John Mayer Trio, or, more recently, with Dead & Company. This 2004 performance of “Covered in Rain” includes vulnerable vocals and jazzy guitar solos, which were improvised for the show, and pitched down crowd feedback. 

“The Thrill is Gone”- BB King (1971)

Blues musician B.B. King recorded a live performance in Cook County Jail, playing his main hits and slow blues jams that are meant to unite a crowd. “The Thrill is Gone” was originally recorded and released with a string orchestra, but in his Cook County Jail performance, B.B. King made the decision to switch the backing band to brass horns, transforming the track into a funkier, more energetic piece. 

“Some Devil- Live at Radio City Music Hall, New York, NY, 2007”- Dave Matthews, Tim Reynolds

Dave Matthews is a mesmerizing performer, not only due to his poetic lyricism and on-stage presence but also because of his use of syncopation and playing on an off-beat. His 27-song live album with Tim Reynolds includes a reworking of one of his solo songs, “Some Devil,” which he highlights with an opening guitar solo, strung-out vocal notes and additional guitar picking from Reynolds.

“The Morning- Live”- The Weeknd (2023)

R&B superstar The Weeknd released a catalog of his live performance at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, California, on March 3rd. Known for conceptual performances and high-energy stage presence, his live album provides feelings of being in the concert without paying for a ticket. “The Morning” is the only song The Weeknd included from his early album “Trilogy,” and thanks his loyal fans at the beginning of the song.

“I’m on Fire- Live at Giants Stadium, E. Rutherford, NJ- August 1985”- Bruce Springsteen

Live/1975-85 carves an almost chronological set of tracks from Springsteen’s beginnings to the Born in the USA era. In his intimate song “I’m on Fire,” Springsteen’s raspy vocals and desperate pleas for his lover show through very clearly. A wavering crescendo on the chorus brings emotion to the performance, yet Springsteen’s ability to move a crowd shines through his included dialogue.