September 26th, 2020


live albums

"Quarantine activities" - that's the label I give to low-stress activities that occupy time when one is stuck at home. Organizing my stationary collection, sewing black flowers for a halloween garland, painting rocks, baking muffins, dusting more often than I have ever dusted. They need a soundtrack. Podcasts are nice, but lately my kick has been listening to live concert albums from various artists because they remind me of a happier time. I've learned that there are SO MANY live albums that I never noticed! Everybody who's anybody puts one out, they must be easier, you're touring anyway why not record it for the masses?

A live album has a nice flow of a wide array of an artist's best songs over the years. Sometimes you hear them mentioned something interesting, a backstory or comment that adds context. And the best part, you hear the world before we had covid-19. A cheering, happy crowd... and singing. so much singing together. I have been to concerts like that. I've yelled HEY HEY while karate chopping to "yoshimi battles the pink robots" at a flaming lips concert - wayne actually stops everyone and makes the crowd do it better after our first attempt. I've been up close to the stage backing up Ben Folds with soaring "ahs" on "Not the same" (this one took some pre-direction choral training from Ben... it was worth it!). And some nine million years ago I pressed up against who knows what sweaty people to sing "Tonight Tonight" on the floor in front of the Smashing Pumpkins.

There are no more gatherings of 5000 people singing together.

So what is there? Dar Williams has a live album that I found so charming and happy! Coldplay live from Brazil has SO many Portuguese-speakers singing in English, what must that be like? Last year a bunch of artists got together for Joni Mitchell's 75th birthday, and Seal did such a beautiful version of Both Sides Now that it more than makes up for the fact that Kris Kristofferson shouldn't have tried "Case of You". There's Pearl Jam live from Wrigley Field, Sleater-Kinney live from Paris, Aimee Man's live album is from a repurposed warehouse in Brooklyn. And since I was a teenager, I've loved the Barenaked Ladies' Rock Spectacle that did better than many of their studio albums.

I am by myself in my room, but mentally transported to all these places and better times and thinking of all the concerts that happened around me on the planet. It reminds me that we have been brought together many, many times.