What are the greatest live albums of all time? A few rules first.
Only one title per artist, made more difficult for artists such as The Rolling Stones with multiple quality official live releases.
It must be an official release, not a bootleg. Although so many former classic bootlegs are now receiving archival release, that line constantly moves.
It can be a bonus disc or discs in a reissue or anthology. And then there are monumental live sets like Bob Dylan's 36 disc The 1966 Live Recordings or The Grateful Dead's 73 disc Europe '72: The Complete Recordings or Pearl Jam and other artists releasing soundboard recordings of entire tours. In those cases we'll limit ourselves to a single show.
It must consist of all live performances in front of an audience, even if some studio clean up was performed later. Yes, that's you Kiss and Thin Lizzy. But that means no Let It Be, Wheels of Fire or Goodbye, Fandango, or Cheap Thrills. It also means no Live at the BBC or Peel Sessions titles.
We also recognize that the mid-seventies was the heyday of the live album, often acting as a de facto greatest hits set for many artists without a lot of hits. We're also a little light on the Grand Funk Wishbone Ash type sets as well as the poppier side like Neil Diamond and Elton John.
We love these greatest of all time lists not to justify our already-existing opinions, but to find great music we may have missed. And to let the debate begin. Not a single person reading this list will agree on every entry here. Therein lies a beauty and truth of music. It is art and speaks to each of us differently.
So, yes, I have very likely considered the album you were hoping I had listed but didn't ("this list has no credibility if Live Bullet and Tokyo Tapes are both missing!"), and I might simply not like it as much as you do. Yet maybe you'll find a title or five that you may not have listened to and will come to enjoy.
Rolling Stones - The Brussels Affair
Pink Floyd – Live At Wembley Stadium 1974 (Dark Side of the Moon bonus disc)
Nirvana – MTV Unplugged
James Brown – Live and Lowdown at the Apollo
Bob Dylan – The Bootleg Series Volume 4 “Royal Albert Hall”
The Who - Live at Leeds
Elvis Presley - A Golden Celebration - 1956 Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show in Tupelo
U2 - Zoo TV Live
Bob Marley and the Wailers Live!
Jimi Hendrix – Jimi Plays Monterey
Velvet Underground - 1969 Live
Joy Division – Amsterdam (from Refractured box set)
Let's start with our unranked honorable mentions, alphabetically. Each of these titles is a great live album.
AC/DC - If You Want Blood
Cheap Trick - at Budokan
Delaney and Bonnie and Friends - On Tour with Eric Clapton
Dr. Feelgood - Stupidity
Peter Frampton - Comes Alive!
Humble Pie - Performance Rockin The Fillmore
J. Geils Band - "Live" Full House
My Morning Jacket - Okonokos
Tom Petty - Live Anthology