Five Live Versions that are Better than the Album Versions

I don’t feel I need to set this article up too much. There’s not much of an intro necessary. I think the title of the article spells it out pretty neatly. Some songs just need a live setting to really come alive. Subsequent listens to the studio versions reveal that these neatly recorded songs lack the sense of presence that only live albums possess. Here is a list of such songs.

5. “Whipping Post” – Allman Brothers Band

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It’s a pretty cool song on record. Live, it turns into an explosive event that whips up an insane frenzy by the end of its 22-minute run time. The definitive version is the one from the Live At The Fillmore East album, and the group plays with a restlessness and edginess that only shows itself in this live setting. Worth the entire listen. At least once. You know, don’t do it every day. That’s weird.

4. “If I Had $1,000,000” – Barenaked Ladies

Scoff if you want, but the Canadian oddballs have proven themselves to be a reliably great live act despite lineup changes over the years. “If I Had $1,000,000,” while a winning song in studio form, needs an audience to bring out the band’s trademark live improvisation, both musical and comedic. BNL are great musicians who happen to be pretty funny as well, and by the end of each show, they manage to delight even the most jaded of rock writers.

3. “Touch My Tooter” – Ween

The studio version of this song, included on Ween’s pretty-good 1992 album Pure Guava, is borderline unlistenable. The live version manages to rock where the original just alienated. Good ol’ Ween.

2. “Burning Down the House” – Talking Heads

The original version is a rock classic, but nobody can deny that it’s wound a little tight. The Stop Making Sense version ups the funk percentage by 70% or so and manages to be an even better dance song than the studio track.

1. “Dark Star” – The Grateful Dead

On the group’s debut album, “Dark Star” is a nice, spacey track full of winning hippie energy. Live, it’s a behemoth that spans moods and movements as though the seasons are changing right there on record. Pick almost any live version of this frequently-played song. You’ll find Jerry Garcia experimenting with melodies and counter melodies just as any jazz or classical musician might. Garcia’s relationship with the instrument is akin to the sort of telepathy that identical twins reportedly feel.

Again, a nice song in the studio, but it makes me feel things live.

I’m sure there are other live versions of songs that you feel deserve to be on a list of some kind. Don’t be shy!

Photo credit: By Chris Stone [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

4 comments to “Five Live Versions that are Better than the Album Versions”
  1. Dave Matthews Band’s live at Red Rocks version of “Louisiana Bayou” with Robert Randolph rocks way more than the studio recording. Awesome Allman Brothers post above.

  2. ‘I still haven’t found what I’m looking for’ live by U 2 with the backing church choir is an amazing version.

  3. Wilco “A Shot In The Arm”
    Beatles “Don’t Let Me Down”
    Stones “Midnight Rambler”
    Who “See Me Feel Me”

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