I’ve never really been much into live albums. For some reason they just don’t do much for me. They never seem to truly capture the magic of that moment. You know the moment I’m referring to. It’s that moment when you’re in a sweaty room or overcrowded theater and as sweat is dripping down your back and your legs feel like they’re going to buckle you hear the opening notes of a song and things click. The dude to the right of you feels it, and that chick standing in front of you feels it, too. The guy behind you is screaming his head off so you know he’s feeling it. It’s that moment when the band on stage hit the opening notes of the battle cry. The tune that takes a room full of sweaty strangers and turns them into one beautiful creature that sings along to every word. Sometimes in tune, sometimes not. It doesn’t matter. A “thing” occurred in the lives of both those in attendance and those strumming the chords and beating the beats. A song turns bystanders into a rock ‘n roll Voltron.
It’s a beautiful feeling, man.
It’s happened to me a few times at shows. One that sticks out is Indianapolis back in the summer of 2008. Dr. Dog was playing at Radio Radio and my wife and I headed down with one of our best friends to see them. The show was stellar. The room small and intimate, and by the time we’d gotten half way through Dr. Dog’s set the room was boiling, man. It was like a Turkish bathhouse. I could see steam coming off my friend. My shirt was wet as if I’d jumped into a pool. As the sweat rolled down the side of my face the band went into “The Bat, The Rabbit, & The Reindeer” and everyone roared. The song built and built and the crowd buzzed and frenzied. Dr. Dog jumped in unison on Radio Radio’s small stage and it looked as if the band was going to fall through the floor. Amps, keyboards, drums, and PAs jerked inward with every manic jump the band made, yet nothing crashed. The song built and built and we jumped along with every downbeat. It was a beautiful feeling. It was magic that sprayed off ourselves along with sweat(and in one case vomit.)
Those are the moments at a show where the band locks in with the crowd. With the fans. It’s a communal experience. You can’t get that experience sitting on your couch drinking a beer listening to a live album. Try as you might, that magic isn’t canned. It’s not pressed on the vinyl. There may be other magic in those grooves, but strangers’ blood, sweat, and tears sadly are not. The magic of a live show is in that room with the band, fellow fans, and the tingle you get at the base of your spine when those opening notes are hit and your wife squeals like a banshee in your ear and begins to jump wildly. That’s the magic of live music.
Still, having said all that there are a few exceptions to my live album shunning. Cheap Trick at Budokan, Rush All The World’s A Stage, Television Live at the Old Waldorf, and Wilco Kicking Television: Live In Chicago, and even Tame Impala’s Live Versions do a nice job of bottling some of that live mojo magic. Dr. Dog’s Live At At Flamingo Hotel can be added to that list. The 19-song set is a great cross section of the band’s decade of music making and a testament to Dr. Dog’s stage prowess and skill at holding a crowd in complete awe.
Is it as good as actually seeing them live? No, but it’s the next best thing. And when “The Bat, The Rabbit, & The Reindeer” came on it was all I could do to not jump around like a sweaty idiot.
8.1 out of 10