Sing Along with Albums Recorded on Stage in our City
If the Global Citizens’ One World: Together At Home special on Saturday night reminded us of anything it was the universal power of music. A message, the simplest or the most profound, conveyed through lyrics and melody touches us in a way that’s different from that of casual conversation.
Another poignant layer of the musical experience is the ability it has to bring us together, not only emotionally but physically. For anyone who has been to a show at any one of the storied NYC venues from the most intimate clubs to the most infamous arenas knows it’s an experience that can’t be imitated.
While many tours and appearances have been cancelled with unfortunately more to likely be announced, let’s choose to celebrate the shows that went on. Let’s celebrate across generations and genres, everyone from James Brown at The Apollo to Billy Joel at Shea Stadium, with these albums of live shows recorded right here in the many NYC hallowed halls of music.
1. James Brown – Live at the Apollo
Recorded in 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” – but make sure you have plenty of room, it may be impossible to stay seated!
2. Barbra Streisand – A Happening in Central Park
Recorded in 1967 in Central Park
For her first live album, Ms. Streisand decided to make it a homecoming. The Brooklyn native played to a crowd of 135,000 in Central Park in the June of 1967. The album was certified gold for sales of 500,000 copies. The final track, “Happy Days Are Here Again” is sure to be one we’ll be singing our loudest at the end of quarantine!
3. The Rolling Stones – Get Your Ya-Yas Out
Recored in 1969 at Madison Square Garden
This was the first live album to reach No.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.”
4. Jimi Hendrix – Band of Gypsys
Recorded in 1970 at Fillmore East
This album is a live recording of two shows for NYE and New Year’s Day and the first for Hendrix without his original group, The Jimi Hendrix Experience. This was the last full-length album Hendrix released before his death and its sound is what later was recognized as the basis for funk rock: funk and rhythm and blues elements with hard rock and jamming. Listen to “We Gotta Live Together,” it suits the times we’re in.
5. Elvis Presley – As Recored at Madison Square Garden
Recorded in 1972 at Madison Square Garden
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.
6. 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.
7. Billy Joel – Songs in the Attic
Recorded in 1980 at Madison Square Garden
Now in his sixth year of residency at The Garden, this album rewinds us 40 years into the past with Joel’s first live album ever recorded at the arena he’s come to call home. The opening track is “Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)” and is the one that he still opens many of his shows with today.
8. The Grateful Dead – Dead Set
Recored in 1980 at Radio City Music Hall
This is a compilation album which includes live material recorded at both Radio City Music Hall and Warfield Theater in San Francisco. A nod to the cities was made with the album art: an Uncle Sam skeleton looking across the SF Bay on the front and the same figure on the back gazing out at the views of Manhattan and Brooklyn. The longest song of the original release, at 7:31, is “Friend of the Devil” and never disappoints!
9. Robert Palmer – Live at The Apollo
Recorded in 1988 at The Apollo
This album was recorded on December 15, 1988, the final date of Palmer’s tour for the album Heavy Nova. It was a sold out show at The Apollo, talk about a way to end a tour! The up-tempo hit “Simply Irresistible” was the first single released for the supporting album and one that is sure to get you moving around the house.
10. Nirvana – MTV Unplugged in New York
Recorded in 1993 at Sony Music Studios
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.
11. The Counting Crows – Across a Wire: Live in New York
Recorded in 1998 at the Hammerstein Ballroom
Featuring the hits from their first two studio albums, August and Everything After (1993) and Recovering the Satellites (1996) this recorded live album includes many of the band’s biggest hits and reached No.19 on The Billboard 200 charts. If you’re giving this one a spin while in the car, roll down the windows, and turn up “Mr. Jones.”
12. Sheryl Crow: Sheryl Crow and Friends – Live from Central Park
Recorded in 1999 in Central Park
While this Central Park concert was headlined by Crow it included many of her musical friends: the Dixie Chicks, Stevie Nicks, Pretenders leader Chrissie Hynde, the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards, Sarah McLachlan, and Eric Clapton. Let’s also not forget, Bill Murray served as the evening’s emcee. Crow’s breakthrough hit “All I Wanna Do” will resonate now more than ever!
13. Bruce Springsteen – Live in New York City
Recorded in 2000 at Madison Square Garden
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 “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” to hear a great performance mixed in with band introductions told through a classic Bruce monologue.1
14. John Mellencamp – Performs Trouble No More Live at Town Hall
Recorded in 2003 at Town Hall
Trouble No More was Mellencamp’s covers album which he performed in completion at Town Hall in the July of 2003. In a New York Times review of that album is was said that “He was seeking the spirit of the music, not the original performance style.” And anyone in attendance that night July night would likely conquer, especially as he performed Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited.”
15. Billy Joel – Live at Shea Stadium
Recorded in 2008 at Shea Stadium
Yes, as the unofficial music franchise of New York, Billy Joel makes this list twice! He may have played more than 100 shows at MSG but as a Mets fan he was also a regular at Shea Stadium which is why it came as no surprise when he was chosen to be the last rock act to play the venue over two nights on July 16 & 18, 2008. Many guest appearances were made by friends that include Garth Brooks, Steven Tyler, and Paul McCartney. And in this farewell to a New York institution, “New York State of Mind” felt a little extra special on this evening, though Joel’s rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” was a close second!