As was tradition at my now defunct website and subsequent move to here, I will present a weekly pick of six songs or albums. Why six? I don’t know.
These YouTube videos link to the artistsYouTube feed, so they may not work in all regions.
Back in the Stoned Seventies, bands had a strict process. One or two years (but mostly one) in the studio, then tour in support. Bands still do this, but it is the era of the mega concert.
Bands releasing albums is in decline, too. I am as guilty as anybody of just streaming playlists. In fact, the only time I listen to albums is when I play vinyl, getting in touch with those bands from the analog age again
The seventies gave you a lot of opportunities to see your favorites and usually for not a lot of money. The arena rock of the decade played out in smoke filled coliseums around the country.
I spent many a night contributing to that smoke, jamming to some great band. I proudly subscribed to the sex, drugs, and rock & roll lifestyle.
Now, in fairness, the drugs part of that equation often drowned out memories of the rock & roll. Sometimes the sex, too. Fortunately, the live album was always out there, whether from the record companies or bootlegged.
It didn’t replace those nights when you saw a show that was perfect. It did conjure those memories. It does for me. I still attend a lot of concerts and I have seen shows that were amazing. However, nothing will ever replace those smoke filled arenas of my misspent youth.
Without further ado, here are six stellar examples of seventies arena rock presented in no particular order.
RUSH is one of those bands that is amazing live. 1976s ‘All The Worlds A Stage’ (along with 81’s ‘Exit Stage Left’) proves this.
I know the members of RUSH cringe a little at the audio from this album, being the perfectionists that they are. I have seen RUSH five times between the seventies and their final tour. Some might say ‘Exit Stage Left’ is a better album, but ‘All The World’s A Stage’ is when the band started achieving legendary arena rock status.
The album features the whole of 2112 as well as a slew of early RUSH classics. The cut that sticks out for me is ‘Fly By Night/In The Mood’. I know, I know, this is also Geddy Lee’s during his highest falsetto range period, but damn does Alex Lifeson shred on this one.
‘Lakeside Park’ is another standout, showcasing a band assured in their abilities. Of course, no RUSH concert is complete without a Neil Peart drum solo. ‘Working Man/Finding My Way’ is a fifteen minute rock jam topped with a heaping helping of The Professor banging the drums. It is brilliant
Seven months before the incomparable Duane Allman met a tragic end, The Allman’s released ‘At Fillmore East’. It captures the original Allman Brothers lineup in all their power with Duane Allman’s soaring guitar.
I have long loved The Allman Brothers. I have never seen them live. Certainly not with the original lineup
Featuring a blistering twenty minute plus version of ‘Whipping Post’, it remains a much loved classic of the seventies.
Like RUSH, Led Zeppelin was best enjoyed live. While there are better live albums from Zep, ‘The Song Remains The Same’ is a vital cultural artifact.
A mainstay of seventies laser shows (along with ‘Dark Side of the Moon’), I can’t tell you how many Friday nights were spent in a fog under the planetarium laser lights. While, ‘The Song Remains The Same’ wasn’t a great live album, the accompanying film of the same name was pretty awesome. If you are looking for a better example of Led Zeppelin live, check out ‘How The West Was Won’ which Jimmy Page put together in 2003.
There is a lot to choose from on this double LP (and even more on the 2007 reissue), but my personal favorite is ‘No Quarter’. A spacey and trippy version, clocking in at 12 minutes and 30 seconds, it was and is, the perfect live song for those more… introspective… moments.
On New Years Eve 1977, at the Rainbow Theater in London, The Ramones ripped through 28 songs in about an hour. This 1979 album shows one of punks premier bands at the height of their raw power.
Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy may not have been real family, but this blistering two platter set shows how tight the band was live.
It is considered by some to be one of the greatest punk albums, let alone live albums, to ever be pressed. Don’t believe me? Check out the following clip from the concert. If that doesn’t get you pogo-ing, well, then nothing will.
There are a lot of obvious choices when it comes to live albums from the ‘me decade’. You have ‘KISS Alive’, ”Frampton Comes Alive’ and this album.
Cheap Trick ‘At Budokan’ is a treasure. Like KISS and Frampton, Cheap Trick had never quite broken through in their home country. Sure, they had released three stellar studio albums, but failed to generate much of a following in the States.
But they were, as they say, big in Japan. It seemed like a lot of bands recorded live albums in Japan, with several at Budokan as well. Listening to this album, you can see why. The crowds are nearly apoplectic as the boys from Rockford, IL. wowed them. Many Japanese journalists described Cheap Tricks visit to the Land of the Rising Sun as Beatlemania-ish.
They played songs from their previous albums, but it’s the live versions of songs from the recently released ‘Heaven Tonight’ that put this album and them over stateside. ‘I Want You To Want Me’ and ‘Surrender’ live paved the way to their platinum success.
Like Cheap Trick, Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band weren’t huge when they released ‘Live Bullet’. Sure, they had toured relentlessly for most of the seventies and were AOR mainstays, but ‘Live Bullet’ introduced Bob to a whole new crowd.
I feel like this is the greatest live rock album from the decade. Perfectly recorded, produced and cut, it captures the essence of what the seventies arena rock experience was like.
i don’t say this lightly, but Bob Seger live is amazing. I was lucky enough to see him on his farewell tour in 2019 and it was really the best concert I saw that year. There really isn’t a bad song on the album. I know people would pick ‘Turn The Page’ as the go to track on this album, but if you really want to take a measure of Bob and his band, check out ‘Katmandu’
The seventies were the golden age for arena rock. A lot of bands took advantage of the crowds to create time capsules from the era. These six albums are some of the best. Put one on today and rock on!