Back when I was a wee nipper, a concert ticket actually cost less than a live album. Those days are long gone, of course. Thankfully, live albums are still around. Here are four new offerings that are worth a listen (and won’t set you back a mortgage payment):
Blue Öyster Cult
Hard Rock Live Cleveland 2014
No, it can’t hold a candle to their legendary 1975 outing On Your Feet Or On Your Knees — or even 1982’s Extraterrestrial Live, for that matter. And no, frontman Eric Bloom’s voice isn’t quite as sinister as it used to be. But guitar hero Buck Dharma can (and does) still bring it, and the oldsters are capably backed by their latest solid if somewhat sedate bandmates. This double-live set includes all the expected hits (Don’t Fear The Reaper, Burnin’ For You, Career of Evil, Godzilla, Black Blade), along with plenty of of crowd-pleasing deep cuts (OD’d On Life Itself, Hot Rails to Hell, Harvester of Eyes, Cities On Flame With Rock-And-Roll) and even some numbers (Golden Age of Leather, The Vigil, Shooting Shark, I Love the Night) that haven’t appeared on any previous live releases. And yeah, there’s plenty of damn cowbell. Bottom line: You could do worse. At the very least, it oughta hold you until that long-awaited new studio finally arrives later this year (if you can believe what you read online).
The dynamic, daring and dangerous duo of Rosie Bones and Carmen Vandenberg — whose self-titled debut album delivered a wicked mix of low-slung electronica and swaggering industrial rock, smartly decorated with incongruously infectious pop hooks — were quite rightly up for Best Rock Performance at this year’s Grammys, only to see their song Pretty Waste lose out to Gary Clark Jr.’s anti-racist barnburner This Land. Which is basically like an apple beating an orange if you ask me, but nobody did, so whatever. In any case: If you loved their album as much as I did, treat yourself to this live acoustic EP, which showcases a slightly softer but no less menacing side of their musical personality. Not to mention that of their audience, based on the video below.
Elton John With Ray Cooper
Live From Moscow 1979
The good news: After being released in limited quantities for Record Store Day in 2019, this document of Elton John’s historic performance from behind the Iron Curtain is finally being made available to the proletariat masses. The better news: It’s an outstanding, stripped-down performance loaded with chart-toppers and flecked with album cuts like Funeral For a Friend, Better Off Dead and Skyline Pigeon, along with one-of-a-kind performances like the freewheeling 12-minute version of I Heard It Through The Grapevine and a closing medley of Crocodile Rock, Get Back and Back in the U.S.S.R. The extremely bad news: For some asinine reason, about half the set (including the opener Your Song and covers of He’ll Have to Go and Pinball Wizard) is MIA. Sigh.
Live in Memphis
For the newbies: Ida Mae is a they, not a she. The husband-and-wife alt-roots duo of Chris Turpin and Stephanie Jean — formerly of the British blues-rock band Kill it Kid — named themselves after an old Blind Willie McTell number. If that doesn’t tell you what you need to know about their southern-fried 2019 debut album Chasing Lights, this starker live EP — which toggles from rawboned, rollicking rockers to starkly haunting duets — should help. I hear bits of White Stripes, Dead Weather, The Kills and Steve Marriott, though maybe that’s just me.