Monday, December 6, 2010

if time machines are invented...

My most recent Facebook-status-music-question was "What's the best live show you've ever seen?", and it's received a whopping forty-four responses so far. This leads me to believe that my cyber-friends are interested in live music. In case I've inferred correctly, consider the following.

If time machines are invented within my lifetime and made safe and affordable for recreational use, I plan to attend the following shows (immediately after assassinating Hitler):

Ray Charles - Shrine Civic Auditorium - Los Angeles, CA - 1964

This is my favorite live recording of anything, ever. The final refrain just sews it up, wherein he can't even bring himself to say "Makin' Whoopee", because it's just so damned obvious to everyone what's been going with Ray, ever since he played his first gorgeous, evil sounding, sick-with-lust chord progression, sending every woman from miles around zombie-stumbling to his doorstep like so many rats after the pied piper. This peformance is just maddeningly, sickeningly, devilishly sexy.

Ella Fitzgerald - Deutschlandhalle - Berlin - 1960

This may be the most well-known flub-recovery of all time. After the first verse, Ella forgets almost all remaining words to "Mack the Knife", which is doubly cute because at the time it was a monstrously huge hit. Instead of getting all flushed and panicky, she keeps her cool, riffs on the humor of it, cracks up a few times, does some scatting in the style of Louis Armstrong, lampoons herself in a very endearing way, and keeps the crowd laughing and clapping and shouting through the end of the song.

Donny Hathaway - The Troubador - Hollywood, CA - 1972

Mindbogglingly groovy. Honestly, I never loved this song until I heard this version. What strikes me first is the incredible simpatico of this band. The pocket is, as my dear friend Alex Day might say, deeper than the pocket in a big man's overalls. Then there's Donny Hathaway's outstanding intonation and the gorgeousness of his whole vocal range. His low notes are smooth and sad and delicious, his high notes are all open and sweet like Sam Cooke, not a bit edgy.

It's worth noting for all of the above: the albums these tracks came from are all incredible in their own right, and give you a fuller experience of the performance. There is shouting and clapping and solos. I heartily recommend them.


  1. Oh Carsie Blanton, how I enjoy your writing!

    I love the nearly-nonsensical description you've given that live recording of Ray Charles--such an entirely believable train of words that both makes sense and doesn't, all at the same time!

  2. Ella is brilliant! I can't believe how long she kept that going.