Bands will always have great performances but there's a special place in my heart for perfect live performances of amazing tunes which were captured on film. Here are a few songs with multiple versions, each one of which is totally killer, which have been stuck on repeat for me recently.
San Fermin - Sonsick
Rae Cassidy only had a brief period as vocalist for San Fermin but she absolutely owns this track, be it behind a tiny desk concert, in the studio or even walking about! This is is my personal fave - the brass production is on point and the vocals are sublime:
MEUTE - You & Me
Not many bands perform remixes... but then not many marching bands are "techno" marching bands.
Frightened Rabbit - Poke
Painful as it is I've had the Belle Angele and Queens Hall FR gigs in my head a lot lately - both were awe-inspiring but sadly one that seemingly wasn't captured at all and one that was captured terribly! Home crowds, sweaty and insanely loud. Sure there are better recordings of Scott's performances... but...
Foo Fighters - Times Like These
I have so much love for Dave and the gang. This song has been part of my life since it came out. The Foos were amazing when they played the (crappy but much missed) Meadowbank Stadium and they've been fab every time I've seen them. I'm still gutted that I didn't make the effort to get to Wembley and as much as they sound unbelievable live there's something special about this recording.
In 2022 the story of the Foos came to a sudden stop with the death of Taylor Hawkins. The full tribute concert is well worth a listen (note how many septuagenarians and older were on the bill). The standout tracks for me were Violet Grohl singing Last Goodbye, Grace & Valerie, Monkey Wrench (with Travis Barker), My Hero (with Shane Hawkins) and, of course, Times Like These (this time with with Josh Freese on drums). Highlights were definitely not the absolute murdering of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.
Nine Inch Nails - Hurt
Whilst I'm actually more into the much heavier stuff there's something so raw about this performance of Hurt... and my love of the Johnny Cash version and the story that goes with that is similarly emotive.
The Buggles - Video Killed The Radio Star
I associate this song with MTV and S5 at highschool - I didn't really know the history of the band, nor the fact that after it came out the band hardly performed. This recording seems pretty special and is somehow full and bursting with the original energy.
Queen - Radio Ga Ga
I was too young to remember Live Aid and I never got to see Freddie perform live but the power of Queen is always amazing. This performance is stunning... and almost as amazing and all-out heart-wrenching are the many performances from the 1992 Freddie Mercury tribute concert - from Metallica opening with Enter Sandman to collaborations with George Michael on Somebody To Love, Elton John & Axl Rose on Bohemian Rhapsody and Annie Lennox & David Bowie on Under Pressure.
Bon Iver - Heavenly Father
And then there's Bon Iver. Justin Vernon, The Staves and Sydney Opera House. So much love for this. There's no denying that this is a song with multiple amazing versions, including a one-to-one that's full of passion and nervous energy, but this one is my favourite:
Taylor Swift & Bon Iver - exile
And then there's this Bon Iver performance along with Taylor Swift. Creating, writing and performing during lockdown makes it all the more special.
Tim Minchin - Hallelujah
Tim's a legend. Karaoke in the Fringe in Teviot was a laugh on the few times I did it and there were often some amazing singers - like this little session:
Hugh Jackman - From Now On
The Greatest Showman soundtrack was played so often in our house that it seeped into my subconscious - we even had a memorable car journey up from Norfolk where we sang the whole thing through twice to keep the back-seat passenger entertained. Although I knew Hugh Jackman could sing, and although the setting of this video is super cheesy, he shows why he was picked for the part and the surprise of him starting to sing clearly gives the whole room shivers.
Chvrches - The Mother We Share
So much love for Chvrches. I've seen them a couple of times and they never fail to give amazing performances. I love this one as it's the first high-quality recording of this track and it shows 100% what the band were all about.
OK Go - This Too Shall Pass
No band does brain-bending videos in the way that OK Go do but something they do even better than that is their skill at doing seamless, one-takes. The high-register instruments at 2:30 sends shivers every single time!
Eddie Vedder - Rise
I love the album version but there's something so raw about Eddie performing this unaccompanied and passionately.
Twin Atlantic - Heart & Soul
I love this track so much - the band were still to release the album The Great Divide when they performed this at Glastonbury 2014 but it already had a huge place in their audience's hearts.
Sweet Sweet Moon - Psalm For The Elks Lodge Last Call (originally by The Weakerthans)
This is one of those rabbit holes of obscure bands playing covers of songs I don't know... but since I first heard it in 2011 I've loved this version of this song. Playing violin and singing at the same time is a heroic skill always.
Bleachers ft. Bruce Springsteen - chinatown
I think Jack Antonoff is probably going to be remembered as one of the best songwriters - his creative spark with other artists is just beautiful. The Bleachers' Tiny Desk is a five-star listen.
Fear Factory - Final Exit
Honestly did not expect this to ever be played live. <Chef's kiss>
Phosphorescent - Song For Zula
This performance is off the scale slick - the drummer looks like he's been replaced by a robot he's so tight. So much love for this band and they absolutely nail this performance.
Stars - One More Night
This song is so angsty and this version is out of control with emotions that aren't in the recorded version - it seems like this song ends a big night for them.
James - Sit Down
The rerelease was an anthem of my high school French exchange - especially my friend Craig and I sharing an earphone each of my AA battery devouring portable CD player. This special version to support homelessness gives the chills because it's got so much weight to it.
Battles - Atlas
The absolute precision of this recording is nuts - absolute mastery of instruments and tech.
The Mountain Goats - This Year
This is one of those songs that I listened to ages ago but it came into it's own in the pandemic. There are several fun versions where others are very much behind the song, but this one is just pure fun energy.
Mazzy Star - Fade Into You
This is a truly dreamy performance.
They Might Be Giants - Birdhouse In Your Soul
What a tune - defined my teenage music years and the band were a wonder to (eventually) see live as an adult. This performance is golden.
Wolf Alice - The Last Man On Earth
I've loved Wolf Alice' music for a while but I have to say that I've not listened to them recently. Their Glastonbury set was fab and had a wonderful version of The Last Man On Earth... that led me down the rabbit hole and I've found this gem of a performance from the Jimmy Fallon show. The choir is pure goosebumps! (There's no end to wonderful performances by Wolf Alice - the Mercury Prize performance is another gem).
The kid got me in to Hamilton, so much so that I've seen it live. There's no questioning that the songwriting is top notch - seeing it in it's rawest form is magnificent. (See also)
Christine and the Queens - Tilted / I Feel For You
This song! With this dance performance! Wow. Jools Holland really brings out the best in acts.
Meat Loaf - Paradise by the Dashboard Light
Kitch, drama, emotion, wraught performance. Love it!
Lorde - Royals
Another Later... performance - and it's Lorde at their very best
There are of course others... and so I'll inevitably return to this to add a few more.
Bonus one that I failed to capture
Hope & Social
We had the immense pleasure of being inside the tent at Underneath The Stars when one of the biggest thunderstorm downpours I've ever seen hit. Hope & Social had their set royally screwed over with stop-starts but they were finally allowed to return to the stage to conclude their set once the lightning passed and the possibility of us all being frazzled had faded. I missed recording it as my phone didn't work, but thanks to the power of the internet a short clip exists:
worst 23 second clip ever... I was in flip flops trying to stay upright in that epic monsoon! (And yes, they were bloomin awesome!) pic.twitter.com/2m0el5eUNF— Sharon Maguire (@ShyRetiringType) September 25, 2020