In honor of Record Store Day 2016, we encourage you to head to an indie record store (the city still has a bunch!) and grab some new tunes. If you aren’t sure what to pick up, consider a live album recorded here. New York City is truly the center of the music world, and even the greats step up their game when playing the Big Apple. You only need to listen to some of the classic live albums recorded here to see how the electricity of the crowds and the history of some of these venues seep into the essence of the music, creating a memory that will endure. These recordings highlight some of the legends of music at the city’s hallowed grounds:
1. The Allman Brothers- At Fillmore East
Recorded 1971 at the Fillmore East
The Fillmore East is no more, having closed down just months after this concert, but Bill Graham staged a number of classic shows at this venue on 2nd avenue at 6th street. This is widely considered to be one of the greatest of all live rock albums. While the original double album only contained 7 songs. Recent reissues have made many more tracks available. The version of “Whipping Post” is filled with blistering guitar, but at 23 minutes requires some commitment! For a shorter jam, blast the opening “Statesboro Blues.”
2. Lou Reed- Live Take No Prisoners
Recorded in 1978 at the Bottom Line
This album allows the Velvet Underground singer to play his hits while also engaging with the audience. Bruce Springsteen was in attendance, and even gets a mention during “Walk on the Wild Side”- Lou talks him up during the intro to the song, and then lets loose with an incredible version of the classic NYC tune. Rock out with the set opening “Sweet Jane”
3. Simon and Garfunkel- the Concert in Central Park
Recorded 1981 in Central Park
Reuniting years after they broke up, Simon and Garfunkel found themselves performing before 500,000 fans on an August night in the park- almost double the amount of fans that were expected to attend. Despite a rain that fell throughout the concert, the audience was treated to a collection of the duo’s greatest hits. Proceeds from the concert went to help restore the park, and led to a number of other benefit shows that helped to make the park the tourist attraction and favorite of locals that it is today.
4. Nirvana- MTV Unplugged in New York
Recorded at Sony Music Studios 1993
The biggest grunge band in the world sat down for an evening of (mostly) acoustic music and stunned everyone. Without their characteristic volume and feedback, the music really connected with the audience. The album was a huge success, and created some of their most iconic performances. Kurt Cobain’s suicide just month after the show aired lent gravity to the performance. Eschewing their biggest hits, Nirvana mixed in deep album cuts with obscure covers to create the greatest of all of the Unplugged performances that MTV was so famous for at the time. The cover of David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World” is worth another listen.
5. James Brown- Live at the Apollo
Recorded 1963 at the Apollo
Rolling Stone ranked this the 25th greatest album on their all-time 500 album list. This was the first of four albums that he recorded at the legendary Harlem music hall. Check out his version of “Think”- it may be impossible to stay seated throughout!
6. Elvis Presley- As Recorded at Madison Square Garden
Recorded 1972 at MSG
Released just a week after the performance, this album commemorates the King’s first New York concerts since the 1950s. This is the evening concert (the afternoon show was released in 1990!) and features many of Presley’s legendary songs. He could still melt the hearts of all of the females in attendance- just listen for the screams throughout the show. “Suspicious Minds” captures the playful side of Elvis, and the slowed down section allows him to really connect with the audience.
7. Billy Joel- 12 Gardens Live
Recorded in 2006 at Madison Square Garden
This compilation of songs recorded during a record run of 12 sold-out shows served as a precursor to Joel’s current monthly residence at MSG. This record marks the first time that “Piano Man” appeared on a live album, despite it being his signature song. For the true NYC experience, listen to “Miami 2017,” Billy’s look at post-apocalyptic NYC- which always gets a big cheer when he mentions the Yankees!
8. The Rolling Stones- Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!
Recorded 1969 at Madison Square Garden
The first live album to reach number 1 in the UK. The Stones hadn’t toured for two years before embarking on their seminal 1969 tour that would later become legendary for the documentary Gimme Shelter and their tragic performance at Altamont just a week after their shows at the Garden. Check out their version of “Midnight Rambler” as well as a blistering “Sympathy for the Devil”
9. Bruce Springsteen – Live in New York City
Recorded at Madison Square Garden 2000
Throughout his storied live career, Bruce has become legendary for his marathon performances. This double album captured Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band on their reunion tour. This tour saw Bruce re-work some of his classics, and also introduce 2 new songs that would become staples of his live repertoire, “41 Shots” and “Land of Hope and Dreams.” Listen to “10th Avenue Freeze-Out” to hear a great performance mixed in with band introductions told through a classic Bruce monologue.