Stellar Concert Performances on DVD
December 1, 2009 1:46 PM   Subscribe

What are the live performance concert DVDs that stun you with their excellence and excitement?

I recently purchased The Way Up concert DVD by the Pat Metheny Group and found it mesmerizing. The combined talent, the cohesiveness and preparation of PMG on this particular tour is astounding. Surely there is other contemporary live concert footage on DVD that is equally inspiring.

While I am a big fan of jazz, I'm an even bigger fan of music in general. Just about anything that is stellar from a tight, talented individual or group is what I'm looking for.

Please suggest your favorite live concert performances.
posted by netbros to Media & Arts (65 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
The Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense is widely considered to be one of the best concert videos ever.
posted by ripple at 1:47 PM on December 1, 2009 [8 favorites]

Ripple beat me to it. Can't recommend Stop Making Sense enough.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:50 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus. Originally meant to be broadcast on the BBC and then supposedly withheld by the Stones.

Excellent performances by The Who, Taj Mahal and The Dirty Mac (John Lennon and Yoko Ono).
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:50 PM on December 1, 2009

Madonna - Blonde Ambition (the tour that Truth Or Dare was made during)
Madonna - The Girly Show

Yeah, yeah, I know. But they're good.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:51 PM on December 1, 2009

Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Live at the Quick.

Where else are you going to see a banjo player jam with a Tuvan throat singer and a sax player make a reference to Richard Feynman? Plus, it'll leave you wondering whether FutureMan is brilliant, crazy, or both.
posted by bondcliff at 1:51 PM on December 1, 2009

Led Zeppelin. Specifically the Royal Albert Hall concert
posted by Midnight Rambler at 1:55 PM on December 1, 2009

Tom Waits - Elephant Beer Blues
posted by past at 1:58 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

Underworld - Everything, Everything

I'm consistently amazed by how great this album / live DVD is. On the DVD, you can view the performance edited together, or just view the background visualwork by Tomato, if you want to throw it on during a party or something and have crazy stuff on your TV. Highly recommended!
posted by FatherDagon at 2:02 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Gorillaz' Demon Days.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 2:02 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

Well, the YT I linked to is also a performance DVD, but it's pretty impossible to find. Here's a link to what you'd have to do to get it, that is, search around a lot.
posted by past at 2:04 PM on December 1, 2009

Nth-ing Stop Making Sense and The Last Waltz.
posted by elmer benson at 2:05 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

Elvis Presley - That's the Way It Is

That link is to the first nine minutes, it appears the rest of it is all there as well.
posted by paperzach at 2:11 PM on December 1, 2009

Fourthing Stop Making Sense
posted by Elsie at 2:13 PM on December 1, 2009

Bruce Springsteen Live at Hammersmith Odeon London '75
the concert is available on cd, a dvd was included in the Born To Run 30th anniversary box set
Recorded one week after Bruce made the cover of Time magazine as the future of rock and roll, and the whole band is ecstatic. Crazy, heady, playful, fun. I watch this when I really need a boost.
posted by gijsvs at 2:17 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

under the blackpool lights by the white stripies is awesome and content and presentation. as a lover of old technology, it's all shot in 8mm.
posted by nadawi at 2:17 PM on December 1, 2009

Any list that doesn't include The Last Waltz doesn't know what music is.

posted by dfriedman at 2:23 PM on December 1, 2009 [3 favorites]

Shadows and Light by Joni Mitchell. Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays are in the band!! Plus, you get Jaco and Michael Brecker.

posted by Mr.Me at 2:24 PM on December 1, 2009

This is an odd one, but I really love Robbie Williams' Live at the Albert DVD, where he performs from his album of mainly swing/Rat Pack covers. Great live band, and you cannot deny that the man has charisma and a lot of talent.
posted by sarahsynonymous at 2:27 PM on December 1, 2009

Oingo Boingo's Farewell is fantastic, though it might not have the same shine if you're not already a fan.
posted by lekvar at 2:28 PM on December 1, 2009

Coheed and Cambria's Neverender: Children of the Fence DVD set is very good if you like that sort of music (sort of a prog/metal sound).
posted by ralan at 2:29 PM on December 1, 2009

Lighting Bolt's The Power of Salad
posted by brundlefly at 2:45 PM on December 1, 2009

It seems too obvious to include, but both Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 are excellent animated concert DVDs.
posted by greekphilosophy at 2:49 PM on December 1, 2009

Slayer's Still Reigning DVD is a video of an extremely tight performance (even for them) with a stellar set list that includes Reign in Blood in its entirety as well as some rare surprises like Spill the Blood.
posted by ignignokt at 2:52 PM on December 1, 2009

I've always been impressed with Peter Gabriel's Secret World Live concert footage. Great musical talent, tight production and simple, but intriguing staging. It was filmed in 1994 in Italy and produced by Canadian screenwriter and director Fran├žois Girard.
posted by ericb at 2:58 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Google/YouTube videos of Secret World Live.
posted by ericb at 3:00 PM on December 1, 2009

Stop Making Sense.

Kraftwerk's Minimum Maximum is pretty cool looking, but, uh, you have to be in to them.
posted by phrontist at 3:03 PM on December 1, 2009

My big three are Stop Making Sense, The Last Waltz and a third concert film which seems -- so far as I can tell -- to be listed everywhere as a video release but I know I saw it in the rep cinema that I worked in: Eurythmics Live.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:13 PM on December 1, 2009

The film "Stop Making Sense" by the rock band The Talking Heads.
posted by Damn That Television at 3:14 PM on December 1, 2009

Pack Up the Plantation by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Great musicianship.

Also, Mad Dogs and Englishmen is not a concert film per se (it has a lot of documentary material), but the concert footage, while a bit ragged, has undeniable power.
posted by Danf at 3:23 PM on December 1, 2009

OK, call me a sucker, but I always think U2 live is a spiritual experience. Therefore, I recommend Zoo TV: Live from Sydney and U2 Go Home: Live from Slane Castle.

Watching the Zoo TV tour now is an interesting bit of retro science fiction. Recall that, like the early Lollapalooza tours, this was one of the last mega tours before the Internet took off. It's kind of interesting to see U2 "predict" the nature of global interconnectedness without ever having seen the Internet. Satellite television is the medium, not the PC.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:25 PM on December 1, 2009

Okay, check this out. It's a live performance of Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show - notable for their hit "Cover of the Rolling Stone". A bunch of their lyrics were written by Shel Silverstein.

This show is - well, it's something else. Everyone seems to be stoned, intoxicated, or on some cocktail of drugs. The songs lurch all over the place, but then come back together again. Dennis Locorriere stops the first song, insisting that the viewers have already heard it too much. You wonder how they're even going to tune their instruments. Band members wander off behind the amps, or take nips out of a flask. I've seen other footage from Der Musikladen where there's a crowd - Dr. Hook appears to be playing to an empty soundstage, although at one point, someone who i think is one of the roadies throws a towel at them. The symbolism is lost on them - or, at least, they keep playing.

Worth watching for the between-song banter alone. Plus the pedal steel player looks like Alan Moore.

Here's a clip:
posted by dubold at 3:25 PM on December 1, 2009

Doesn't get more _______ than Nina Simone at the 1976 Montreux Jazz Festival.

Simone was a notoriously erratic performer, and this is a gem. Moments of sheer musical genius as a pianist and vocalist emerge out of a set in which Simone bullies the audience, forgets the words, and rambles incoherently. It's like a horrible Amy-Winehouse-esque breakdown allowed to play out for a full hour. It's so bad that you can't believe they released it on DVD -- but simultaneously so good that you'll watch it over and over and push it at everyone you know. It helps that it's filmed with lavish attention to her face and hands -- very intimate.

Here's a sample.
posted by hermitosis at 3:31 PM on December 1, 2009

Seconding Peter Gabriel, Secret World Live. I normally do not like watching concerts, but I have watched this one probably over 30 times with different people over the years. Almost all of whom have been blown away.

It will convert you into a Gabriel fan if you are not one already. I saw this show live in Cleveland while in High School and immediately became a fan for life.
posted by travis08 at 3:45 PM on December 1, 2009

The Last Waltz (n-thing - you really need to see this movie.)
Stop Making Sense is great, but REALLY great if you can see it out and they let you dance on the stage to it.

Also - The Red Hot Chili Peppers Live at Slane Castle DVD is fantastic. Made me a livelong fan. One of the best American bands ever.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 3:46 PM on December 1, 2009

Prince's "Sign O' The Times" is every bit as strong as the Talking Heads film, and the two back-to-back make for a great evening.
posted by anildash at 3:51 PM on December 1, 2009 [3 favorites]

I can't speak specifically to the DVD, but the Blu-ray of Nine Inch Nails: Beside You In Time is incredible.

For Pink Floyd fans, David Gilmour Live at the Royal Albert Hall is worth it for the full-length performance of "Echoes", as well as "Comfortably Numb" with David Bowie on vocals.

Also--there's lots and lots of great opera on DVD (and Blu-ray opera releases are picking up steam now). Just to pull one out of a hat, there's the Met Opera's staging of Wagner's Ring Cycle, conducted by James Levine.
posted by Prospero at 3:52 PM on December 1, 2009

Check out Pearl Jam's Immagine in Cornice, shot in Italy. Fantastic show(s) only partly marred by bits with Eddie Vedder talking about "stuff." Notable, for me at least, for the extra that has Vedder singing A Quick One While He's Away by the Who, with My Morning Jacket.

Of course, the Rock and Roll Circus has the original, which is unstoppable in it's badassery.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:12 PM on December 1, 2009

Oooh! I forgot "Sign O' The Times" by Prince! That's totally worth checking out!
posted by elmer benson at 4:28 PM on December 1, 2009

David Gilmour In Concert
David Gilmour: Remember That Night - Live from the Royal Albert Hall

These are my favorite PF products these days...both with top-notch musicians. The first is a more acoustic and lush set with a vocal choir--especially check their renditions of Je Crois Entendre Encore, Dimming Of The Day, and Hushabye Mountain.
The second is a more colorful full-blown rock show with perhaps higher production values and I think, even better musicianship from Gilmour.

(I can't recommend it, as I have not seen it, but there is a movie for My Morning Jacket's Okonokos live album that many love & recommend highly. I can say, however, that the cd is stellar--when I happened to see them live on Austin City Limits, they got me excited about music again!)
posted by Thinkmontgolfier at 4:44 PM on December 1, 2009

I just wanted to add that "inspiring" is exactly how I would describe the three discs I mentioned...I just noticed the asker used that word in the question. (Not a quality I find in much modern music, live or otherwise, but I think it is easier to find it in live music than studio-recorded).
posted by Thinkmontgolfier at 4:50 PM on December 1, 2009

For the industrial set, There aren't much better ones for atmosphere than Ministry's In Case You Didn't Feel Like Showing Up (Live).
posted by Hardcore Poser at 4:54 PM on December 1, 2009 [3 favorites]

The Cramps - Live at Napa State Mental Hospital is really cool if you can get into them.
posted by Large Marge at 5:29 PM on December 1, 2009

Heart: Alive in Seattle.
posted by Neiltupper at 5:38 PM on December 1, 2009

One of the most outstanding concert DVDs is Chuck Berry's Hail, Hail, Rock 'n' Roll
posted by yclipse at 6:22 PM on December 1, 2009

Laurie Anderson's Home of the Brave.

(If it ever actually comes out on DVD.)
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:27 PM on December 1, 2009

"Jeff Beck Performing This Week...Live at Ronnie Scott's"
with guest appearances by Imogen Heap and Eric Clapton. Recorded in 2007.
Great performances all around.
posted by yewstano at 7:50 PM on December 1, 2009

Leonard Cohen - Live in London.
posted by edlundart at 8:07 PM on December 1, 2009 [3 favorites]

Oh, I recently saw This Is It in the theater. I'm not a big Michael Jackson fan, but those performances impressed me, nonetheless.
posted by ignignokt at 8:33 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I came to recommend that Cramps video too. Someone did a live re-enactment of it in London not too long ago. There's inspiration for you!
posted by galaksit at 8:45 PM on December 1, 2009

The Last Waltz is the most amazing concert film I've ever seen. It is the pinnacle. The music of The Band PLUS Martin Scorsese's direction, what more could anyone want?!

That being said, having seen Leonard Cohen in concert recently (An amazing show!), I recommend Leonard Cohen - Live in London, which was a beautiful show, and well worth a look and a listen...
posted by newfers at 8:57 PM on December 1, 2009

posted by silsurf at 10:09 PM on December 1, 2009

Rush: "A Show of Hands." A former friend of mine, who studied video production in college, pointed out that you cannot see any cameras in this video, and explained to me that this took some planning and deliberate effort. Sure, it was shot over a number of shows, but even so it is somewhat of a feat, and even more so because they don't make a point of it. The performance is good too.

I also really love Todd Rundgren's "Live In Japan," but for the performance, not the video, which is pretty lousy, really. (I think it was actually broadcast live on Japanese TV, so it is video, not film, and the crew misses several shots.)

Peter Gabriel's "P.O.V." is enjoyable if you can find it. I don't think it was ever released on DVD. The staging is not as elaborate as his later "Secret World Live" but it's a great deal more intimate.
posted by kindall at 10:12 PM on December 1, 2009

Thirding Leonard Cohen's Live in London!

Also, I really love Roy Orbison and Friends: A Black and White Night with Bruce Springsteen, k.d. lang, Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt, Tom Waits, T-Bone Burnett, Jackson Brown... it's beautiful and he sounds so wonderful.
posted by vespertine at 12:05 AM on December 2, 2009

Yes! I saw Leonard Cohen Live in London a couple of nights ago and it's brilliant! Check your PBS schedule for it if you're in the US.
posted by mareli at 4:00 AM on December 2, 2009

I came here to recommend Emmylou Harris and the Nash Ramblers Live at the Ryman, but the damn thing's not available on DVD. If you can get a copy somehow, highly recommended...
posted by marxchivist at 6:25 AM on December 2, 2009

Can't believe nobody suggested Queen! Freddie Mercury was one of the most dynamic performers ever, and while lots of people like the live performance from Wembley best, I prefer "We Will Rock You". It's got most of my favorite Queen songs, stellar performances, and not much extra junk. Performs as advertised - they did rock me.

Foo Fighters at Wembley also rocked me.
posted by Cheesoning at 7:00 AM on December 2, 2009

Frank Zappa's Roxy And Elsewhere is on of the greatest live recording performances I have ever listened to, albeit he did do some twaeking in the studio on certain cuts.

The entire series of concerts was captured for TV broadcast, but never made it out of the starting block. says of the DVD:

Unreleased DVD

There was a 3 minute trailer released in the new millennium advertising a Roxy DVD which could potentially contain the footage from all three nights. The trailer was later included on the Baby Snakes DVD as a bonus feature.

Joe Travers has stated that "It's sitting in the vault. Waiting for a budget to do it properly. Basically the film footage, the negatives were transferred by Frank in the '80s using '80s technology. What we want to do is go back to the original negatives and do it in High Definition and then create a 5.1 mix from the original masters so that we have surround sound as well as Frank's 2 channel stereo mix. Once we get all that together, then we need to cut the program. Edit the program together, camera angles, what shows, what we are going to include from what shows or include all the shows. I have no idea what Dweezil and Gail want to do. It's great stuff, but the process of just getting to that point is going to cost a lot of money and take a lot of time." [1] Two songs from the unreleased film ("Montana" and "Dupree's Paradise") were used as opener for the Zappa Plays Zappa concerts in 2006.

I could not find anything on currently, but have seen the Montana and the Dupress cuts and the quality is fantastic. There is a Youtube version of the trailer for the one day to be seen DVD here
posted by silsurf at 8:52 AM on December 2, 2009

nthing the Secret World Live Peter Gabriel dvd, and also the Madonna Blond Ambition tour (though I wish she could now travel back in time and tell that Madonna to take all the singing lessons she did for Evita, and redo it to make it even better : ) Uncertain if that is easily obtainable; she did it for an HBO special I think. I don't recall ever seeing anyone sing and dance that much back to back... I think she only takes a rest to lip sync a song that she specifically tells people she's going to lip-sync to.

It is an absolute crime that Trent Reznor was ultimately unable to get James Cameron to do his thing for the Lights In the Sky tour. (Not that it was his fault).
posted by bitterkitten at 9:05 AM on December 2, 2009

Porcupine Tree's Arriving Somewhere DVD is amazing. The drumming on this concert is phenomenal, and the whole band is very tight. Near the end, someone shouts out "Freebird!", and Steven Wilson jokes that they'll play that the next night, the "20 minute blowout version". He also breaks a guitar string during a song, has a new guitar brought on, then picks up right where he left off. Just a really cool concert DVD all around.
posted by CMcKinnon at 9:34 AM on December 2, 2009

just wanted to second Bruce Springsteen live in energetic and amazing. Also, not one straight concert, but fugazi's instrument is a classic rock doc.
posted by saul wright at 12:31 PM on December 2, 2009

I got blown right off my damn couch when I saw the Muse live at Wembley DVD
posted by msali at 2:00 PM on December 2, 2009

Not the most obvious place to find a wonderful inspired performance, but I watched this on TED a few weeks back and feel it fits the bill.
posted by silsurf at 2:01 PM on December 2, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your thoughtful answers. Lots of great choices here.
posted by netbros at 5:30 AM on December 3, 2009

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