To celebrate Labor Day weekend and the 'ERS Labor Day Live program, our music team put together a carefully curated list of their favorite live albums. From Beyoncé to Bruce Springsteen, this playlist is the perfect soundtrack for a fun, yet relaxing, Labor Day weekend!
FLEETWOOD MAC — THE DANCE
Eleven years after the release of their landmark album Rumors, the quintessential quintet of Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie, John McVie, Lindsey Buckingham, and Mick Fleetwood released The Dance. The live album was a compilation of new songs and classics. The old classics are expertly reimagined and new tunes reflect the group’s growth.
The Dance went on to receive three Grammy Award nominations and was the push the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame needed to induct Fleetwood Mac.
Favorite Songs: “Tusk,” “Say That You Love Me,” “Rhiannon,” and “The Chain”
- Cate Cianci, Staff Writer
BEYONCÉ — HOMECOMING: THE LIVE ALBUM
After her culture-shocking 2016 album Lemonade, Beyoncé took some time off to give birth to a surprise set of twins. Returning to the stage in 2018 as the first black female headliner of the Coachella Music Festival, Beyoncé’s performance delivered nothing short of history, and a year later the live album of her performance was released alongside a Netflix documentary chronicling her struggle to get back on the stage.
The performance features a range of songs from her decades-long career, reimagined through the lens of HBCU bandstand arrangements. Starting from the very beginning of her career with Destiny's Child, the album features the songs “Soldier” and “Say My Name.” She also performs all her biggest hits, “Crazy In Love,” “Formation,” and “Countdown,” then ends the performance with her brand-new rendition of Maze’s “Before I Let Go.”
The performance not only solidified Beyoncé's place as a legend in the music industry, it also brought vibrant HBCU culture to the forefront of pop culture giving them the credit and recognition they deserve.
Favorite Songs: “Diva,” “I Care,” “Party,” and “Drunk In Love”
- Sidnie Paisley Thomas, Staff Writer
TALKING HEADS — STOP MAKING SENSE (LIVE)
I refuse to listen to the Talking Heads’ studio version of “Take Me To the River” because the live version is, to me, that much more elevated. I have fond memories of singing along to it in the back of my dad’s car growing up. Singing not just the main lyrics, but the contagious, soulful background vocals—the perfect cross between rock and gospel.
The rest of Stop Making Sense (Live), is just as much of a treat. Starting with an acoustic version of “Psycho Killer,” the Talking Heads take you through a sampling of arguably their strongest works, all performed with a confectious energy.
Released in 1984 and the soundtrack to a film of the same name, this live album made a splash on the charts back then and is worthy of just as much attention today.
Favorite Songs: “Take Me To the River,” “This Must Be the Place,” and “Life During Wartime”
- Nora Onanian, Web Services Coordinator
COLDPLAY — LIVE 2003
This is the sound of the biggest rock band in the world, who didn't know it yet. In 2003, the band had just amassed millions of new fans thanks to "Clocks" taking over radio and "The Scientist" taking over mix CDs. Coldplay were just getting used to playing to thousands every night, and they weren't taking any of it for granted. On the album, they play like they have a lot to prove, because they do!
The mix leaves something to be desired; Johnny Buckland's beautiful lead lines are often buried under a mountain of synth organ. What cuts through is the urgency in Martin's need to connect and give every fan the very best night of their lives.
Some arrangements in particular, like "A Rush of Blood to the Head," lift deep album cuts to the level of Coldplay essentials. From a scorching "Politik," to a vulnerable rarity in “See You Soon,” to a heartbreaking "Amsterdam," this early capture of a band on the verge of domination has no cockiness. It's all gratitude, and a lot of talent.
Favorite Songs: “One I Love,” "Politik,” and "Everything's Not Lost"
- Phil Jones, Afternoon Host
NIRVANA — MTV UNPLUGGED IN NEW YORK
In 1993, Nirvana enchanted fans at Sony Music Studios in New York with a stripped-down set of fan-favorite songs and reimagined covers of classic tunes. Although the entire trio sounds stellar on this album, Kurt Cobain’s voice shines through. His raw and guttural vocals, accompanied by acoustic guitars and drums, echo beautifully on every track!
There is a common misconception that this was the band’s final performance before Cobain’s death. Even though this is untrue, and it wasn’t their last show, it was still a monumental release. Today, the live album serves as a posthumous reminder of Cobain’s unparalleled talent and musical legacy.
Favorite Songs: “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For A Sunbeam,” “Dumb,” and “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”
- Claire Dunham, Music Coordinator
LITTLE FEAT — WAITING FOR COLUMBUS
It seems like everyone released a live album in the 70s. Some were legendary and career-defining (like Frampton Comes Alive! and Allman Brothers at Fillmore East) and some were just pure musical fun.
I consider Little Feat’s 1978 double album Waiting for Columbus to be one of these “fun” albums. It features most of Little Feat’s best songs (glaring omission: “Easy to Slip”) supercharged by six musicians performing with more momentum, layered vocal harmonies, and in-the-pocket grooves than on any of their studio albums.
What could possibly make this musical explosion better? Horns. The Tower of Power Horns. With 11 people onstage creating an audio smorgasbord of rock, boogie, funk, blues, New Orleans style gumbo, and a little synth (just a little), the arrangements toggle between airtight (“Oh Atlanta!”) to completely loose and jamming (“Tripe Face Boogie”). And don’t forget the anthemic Americana classic “Willin'," a song so respected that Bob Dylan included it in his live sets for years.
Whether you’re a Little Feat fan or just want an album that will get your head boppin’, Waiting for Columbus is the live album for you!
Favorite songs: “Fat Man In the Bathtub,” “Spanish Moon,” and “All That You Dream”
- Ken West, Brand Manager
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN AND THE E STREET BAND — LIVE 1975-85
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band just finished two amazing nights playing live at Gillette Stadium. If you could not afford upwards of thousand of dollars for seats, you can enjoy a three and a half hour long retrospective of the music of Springsteen with his 1986 live album.
This massive five-vinyl box set represents a 40-song career summary. Rather than take a single complete show and present it beginning-to-end, Springsteen put together 10 years of music from his early career.
Live 1975-85 opens with “Thunder Road,” recorded at the small Roxy nightclub in LA and closes with “Jersey Girl,” recorded live at a hockey arena in Long Island. In between, you can follow Springsteen's career from clubs to arenas to stadiums.
The album debuted at the top of the Billboard album chart, and became the first five-record set to reach the Top 10, and the first to sell over a million copies. Live 1975-85 is almost 40 years old, yet when you listen to the tracks today the music is still strong and there’s hardly a dud in the bunch.
Favorite songs: “Born to Run,” “Hungry Heart,” and “Cadillac Ranch”
- Jersey Hal Slifer, Weekend Host