Top Cat’s Top 10: Live Versions of Songs

The concert going experience has and always will be amazing; but sometimes concertgoers get to experience something truly special. Whether its a band’s most popular song or just a special night; sometimes the live performance of a song surpass the album’s released version. Thankfully in our modern day and age, the unlucky ones that were not there to experience them live are sometimes blessed to have the performance recorded. I have put together a list of what I think are the top 10 live versions of songs that surpass their original version in all ways. I hope that this list can be a way to cause your uncompromising opinion on these songs to be altered. Please take the time to listen to both versions of the song (hint hint I suggest looking them up on YouTube); and then you be the judge. With that being said here are Top Cat’s Top 10: Live Versions of Songs.

Honorable Mentions: Nine Inch Nail’s “Terrible Lie” from Live: And All That Could Have Been and Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” Live in Moscow, 1989


10. Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” from 1976’s Wings Over America.

The Wings Over America triple album was released in December of 1976 and it hit number 1 on the US Billboard chart and number 8 on the UK chart. McCartney’s sound engineer listed to 800 hours of tape and selected the five best performances of each song from the 30-song set list. McCartney then chose and mixed the final set of recordings (most of them were from the infamous June 23rd, 1976 concert at The Forum in Los Angeles.

9. Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band’s “Turn the Page” from 1976’s ‘Live’ Bullet album.

The ‘Live’ Bullet album is credited as one of the motivating forces behind Seger’s mainstream popularity and since this album was recorded as the arena that in its heyday was the most important rock concert venue just pushed Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band to the top. When you hear “Turn the Page” on rock and classic rock radio, 9 times out of 10, it will be this perennial version.

8. Nirvana’s “All Apologies” from MTV Unplugged in New York album.

You will see a few selections on this list from MTV’s Unplugged series; but Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged album is definitely the most famous of the series. I remember watching the MTV Unplugged performance in December of 1993. I was at the zenith of my Nirvana love and I just remember sitting in front of the TV on my parent’s couch in awe. Fans had heard rumors that Cobain had just gotten out of rehab and he was suffering from drug withdrawal during the performance. The stage looked like a funeral as it was decorated with stargazer lilies, black candles and an overall dark stage. The album debuted number one on the Billboard 200 chart but was released after Kurt’s ‘suicide’. The 5x platinum certified album is by far one of the most beautiful live performances of all time and their live performance of “All Apologies” is better than the In Utero version.


7. Johnny Cash, “Folsom Prison Blues,” from 1968’s At Folsom Prison album.

Johnny Cash. Those words ring immortal in the realms of music and pop culture history but it was his infamous At Folsom Prison album that pushed Cash back into the national spotlight. He had recently gotten his drug abuse problems and personal issues under control, and was trying to turn his career around after having limited commercial successful fora number of years. Despite not receiving much support from Columbia records, his version of “Folsom Prison Blues” went on to become a top 40 hit and was his first number one since 1964’s “Understand Your Man”. Luckily the album revitalized Cash’s career; but we the fans are truly the lucky ones because we were left with a truly amazing track that surpasses the original version tenfold.

6. Alice in Chain’s “Nutshell” from Unplugged.

The other MTV Unplugged song that graces our list is from another infamous Seattle band: Alice in Chains. The certified platinum album debuted at number three on the Billboard 200. The all-acoustic set on April 10, 1996 concert was Alice in Chains first concert in over two and a half years. If you were not one of the lucky concert-goers at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Majestic Theatre that day; you pay close attention to the accompanied DVD of the concert that was certified gold by the RIAA and find a Sharpie inscribed phrase on Mike Inez’s bass. Inscribed was the phrase ‘Friends don’t let friends get Friends haircuts…” and was meant to be a jab at the members of Metallica (who had just controversially cut their hair before the release of their Load album) who were in the audience. The jab was laughed off and Inez and drummer Sean Kinney paid tribute to Metallica by playing the intro to “Enter Sandman” before Jerry Cantrell played the intro to “Battery” later in the set.

5. Metallica’s “Bleeding Me” from S&M.

Since we’re mentioning Metallica, now would be a good time to list a song from one of my favorite albums of all time. Metallica recorded a live album with The San Francisco Symphony (conducted by Michael Kamen) and it is just about as amazing as you can imagine. The idea had been floating around since (the time of Metallica’s second bass guitarist Cliff Burton) the early 1980s; due to Cliff Burton’s love of classical music (specifically Johann Sebastian Bach) and by influence of Deep Purple’s 1969 Concerto for Group and Orchestra album. The classical styling of Bach influenced the instrumental parts and melodic characteristics of some of Metallica’s greatest songs. The concert itself is amazing but when they performed the already emotional “Bleeding Me” from Metallica’s 1996 Load album…I literally cried the first time that I heard it.

4. Janes Addiction’s “Jane Says” from Kettle Whistle live/out-take compilation album.

Janes Addiction was one of the first alternative rock bands to gain both mainstream media attention and commercial success in the United States in the early 1990s. But in the late 1980s, Janes Addition was on tour and opening for Iggy Pop and The Ramones before headlining clubs and theaters themselves near the end of the 90s. They were riddled with break-ups, cursed by lead-singer Perry Farrell’s drug addition and the band’s members not being able to stand each other (mostly because Farrell’s admittance to being an “intolerable narcissist who can’t get along with anyone”); the band’s ‘initial’ farewell tour in 1991 launched the first Lollapalooza tour, which has since become a perennial alternative rock festival. Despite splitting and going their separate ways for a short while, they briefly reunited in 1997, with Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers (who replaced Eric Avery on bass) to tour and record their new/live/out-take compilation album Kettle Whistle. It is on this album that, in my opinion (and many others) is not only the bands best song but the best version of their song (being featured on both their debut self titled album in 1987 and a similar version on their follow-up album, Nothing’s Shocking): “Jane Says”. The Kettle Whistle version was beautifully redone and features steel drums and vocal arrangements that were not present on the cut from the self-titled album.


3. Bob Marley and the Wailers’s “No Woman, No Cry” from 1975’s Live! album.

The now infamous Bob Marley song was originally released on their 1974 studio album Natty Dread; but it was the live version from the 1975 album Live! almost which is definitely the most well known. The concert’s recording took place at the Lyceum Theatre in London on July 19th, 1975 as part of their Natty Dread Tour. The popular song was even ranked 37th on the Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list. The performance remains as Marley’s most famous performance and is not just one of my favorite live songs but definitely one of my favorite songs of all time.

2. Fleetwood Mac, “Landslide,” from 1997’s The Dance.

I remember the night very well. Fleetwood Mac’s The Dance Concert was airing on MTV. The group had not released an album together in a decade but we were still fans. Upon the album’s release, it debuted at No 1 on the Billboard 200 and stayed in the top 40 for more than seven months. It sold a million copies within the first eight weeks, and became the fifth best-selling live album of all time in the United States. The show was a profusion of their greatest hits and included a stripped down yet vehement version of “Landslide” which vastly flies above the already amazing original version.


1. Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” from the Pulse DVD.

Legendary rock group known as Pink Floyd is known for amazing shows but the 2006 DVD release of their concert that was performed on October 20, 1994 at the infamous Earls Court in London was and still is amazing. The 1995 album and DVD which appeared years later showcases a concert from their 1994 The Division Bell Tour. The concert showcased an overabundant arrangement of their greatest hits. One particular song from this concert was a single from their 1979 double album The Wall; and has been ranked one of the greatest songs of all time by Rolling Stones magazine and featured in many lists as having one of the greatest guitar solos of all time. The 1980/81 tour for The Wall album featured larger than life sets which included a giant wall constructed across the stage during performances to match the larger than life songs that they would perform. The 1994 tour was similar in spectacle and specifically the concert in Earl’s Court in London.  The Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre is located in Earl’s Court which is a district in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in central London. The Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre was one of the country’s largest indoor arenas and was one of the most popular concert venues in the country until it closed in 2014. The Exhibition Centre has since been demolished to make room for shopping centers and high rise, luxury apartments; concert-goers gasped again at the truly amazing spectacle on that faithful night in 1994. As David Gilmour’s beautiful guitar solo rang through the exhibition center, a massive disco ball-like orb slowly descended from the tall ceiling. Lights shown brightly on the reflective surfaces and beams of light danced around the space. As the amazingness of the guitar solo and accompanying musicians fall upon your ears that is matched by the pageantry of the show going on around you; the hair on the back of your neck stands up and tears begin to well up in your eyes. The song itself is one of my favorite songs and is always amazing live; but this specific performance could possibly be the best version that I have ever heard.


Paul and Linda McCartney 1973 image by and attributed to Wikipedia user I, Corwin, CC BY 2.5,

Folsom Prison Blues Single image by and attributed to Daniel Hartwig from New Haven, CT, USA – cash_0009Uploaded by Huggorm, CC BY 2.0,

Bob Marley live in concert in Dalymont Park on 6 July 1980 photo by and accredited to Eddie Mallin –, CC BY 2.0,

Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre photo by and attributed to Phillip Perry, CC BY-SA 2.0,



Hotel Windows


The passenger elevator ascended to the 18th story of the Harrah’s New Orleans Casino & Hotel. The doors opened and we shuffled out of the open doors. We walked to the end of the hallway; hearing the metal doors of the elevator shut behind us. We were all exhausted from the non-stop drive from my mother-in-law’s house in South Carolina; but we were ready to explore the historic city. We were mere footsteps away from the historic French Quarter, within view of the mighty Mississippi River, and in the heart of one of the nation’s oldest cities.

When you stare out of a window onto the world that lies below, you can only speculate at the things that are to come. Over the years we have related old stories to new friends and narrated our lives like autobiographies; but every journey starts with a glance. But there is a certain level of separation that you feel when you observe the world below you through panes of glass. Despite being able to see what lies beyond the glass; those realities look very different when you’re face to face with them. Sometimes you just have to pull back that curtain and take a deep breath before venturing out into the world and  showing up as just another speck from the view of someone else’s 18th story window.


What can you see through Broken Windows?

IMG_0760The second story windows of the old Johnson Cotton Company building in Wallace, NC have become weathered. Some panes have been broken by the rock of a rebellious child or pine branch thrown by the forceful breeze of a summer storm. The lower level windows were bricked years ago, while the building’s front entrance houses a set of decorative metal framed display windows that lead you to the entrance of the long been shut down store. The recessed entrance is still inviting because it is now used as storage but the hints of its history peak through.

The now Historic Commercial District sat formidably as the nucleus of a booming railroad and agricultural town. This small Southern town is situated in the coastal plains region of North Carolina and lies in the southern edge of Duplin County. Wallace was originally incorporated in 1873 as the settlement known as Duplin Roads; but was incorporated as the town of Wallace (named after railroad official Steven Wallace) in 1899. Like many Southern railroad towns, the small town’s orthogonal grid developed along the railroad tracks. The small town grew and grew because it was an important transportation link between the large port city of Wilmington to the South and Faison to the North.

Over the years, Wallace continued to expand. Fast food restaurants were built on Highway 117 and businesses extended passed the grid pattern that once hugged the railroad. The one and two story brick buildings in this historic area now house offices or maybe even modern stores. Buildings whose foundations were laid in the late 19th and early 20th centuries found themselves booming in a post World War II period. So these historic buildings, like the Johnson Cotton Company; whose second story windows still peer down upon the renovated Train Depot; still scintillates above a town that they help inaugurate.

Waiting for Fermentation

I live in Rose Hill, NC; which is home to the largest winery in the South. Seriously. In my small town, we have an award winning winery that produces one of Martha Stewart’s favorite wines. I think that we as residents take for granted the scope of how big that the winery actually is. I think that we as consumers and residents as a whole don’t think about the items that we use. Let’s just take for instance, the wine that is produced around the world (sparkling wine, table wine, vermouth, white wine, red wine, whatever)…I don’t really think any of us think about the steps that it takes to get the grape hanging on the vine to the bottle that sits on the grocery store shelf.

According to the Wine Institute’s Preliminary research, United States residents alone consume an average of 949 million gallons of wine per year which equates to a total of 2.94 gallons of wine per resident; and with an average of 3.3 pounds of grapes going in to the creation of one bottle of wine, I can understand why I see so many fields of grapevines. The Duplin Winery has a tank capacity of over 1.7 million gallons of wine and sells over 450,000 cases of wine per year. The sweet cloying of wine lies thick in the air and the ambrosial aroma sticks to your skin as you walk among the towering tanks that house the wine whose creators are waiting for the cold fermentation process to produce a proper result.

The grapevines that I pass on a daily basis yield grapes that are used in the creation of a luscious liquid that is delivered to thirsty patrons around the world. The grape’s juice is squeezed from the fruit and transferred to the tanks whose behemoth bellies house the sweet muscadine juice until a time that the aluminum leviathan creatures will entrust its created bestowal upon the bottlers. The wine-makers carefully monitor the process and from the ‘terminus a quo’ of the spheroidal fruits to the transfiguration of the a delicious wine. The journey of the berry’s menial genesis into something so complex amazes me but with science a little bit of love…anything can happen.



Sometimes the structure of a photo is naturally layered

IMG_2975Sometimes photos just come into being as if God himself shuffles things artistically into place for our enjoyment. Sometimes the different layers that compose the structure of a photo, through happenstance, we witness the perfect blend of foreground and background and use of negative space. Sometimes, its the background that God has painted. Sometimes its a freshly plowed field. Sometimes its a formation of geese flying over at the perfect time. Sometimes the cat-o-nine tails and over laying branches from a nearby tree fall perfectly in place. Sometimes its the summer’s sun setting behind low lying clouds. And sometimes, just sometimes, despite being critical of yourself for taking ‘random photos’ you just need to stop and take that picture because you know that what you are seeing is beautiful. Sometimes…

Time Machine Time: Top 10 Concerts

I have always been proud of my eclectic musical taste and the live performances that I have been blessed to see over the years is the proof in the pudding.  I’ve seen everyone from Metallica to B.B. King to the Celtic Women to the Wu Tang Clan to Big & Rich. To me, the live concert experience is like none other and therefore there are regretfully many concerts or live performances that I was not able to see (mostly because they happened before I was born or where in a different country). So if the Doctor just happened to visit me or Doc Brown and Marty McFly loaned me the Delorean there are many things that I would love to do or see. A big part of that list would be to go back and see certain human events like the Wright Brothers flying for the first time, to see Jesus perform miracles, to walk with Ghandi, or to hear the wisdom of the Buddha. Among the list of amazing human feats that I would love to see many things. How awesome would it be to see the Muhammad Ali vs George Foreman “Rumble in the Jungle” fight; see Gladiators fight in the Flavian Ampitheatre (aka the Roman Colosseum); or to have been one of the 93,173 attendees in the Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan back on March 29th, 1987 when Hulk Hogan body slammed Andre the Giant and when ‘The Macho Man’ Randy Savage and Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat had one of the greatest wrestling matches of all time.

But…we’re here for music. SO with that being said, here a joint blog representing both the Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10 and Time Machine TimeConcerts (representing the Top 10 concerts that I would love to be able to go back in time to see).


Honorable Mention: Rammstein – Parkbuhne Wuhlheide, Berlin (1998) – Despite their participation in the ever popular Family Values tour (with Korn, Limp Bizkit, etc) in 1998, the solo European tour in 1998 was Rammstein’s finest. The music paired with the wild pyrotechnics must have been a site to behold.


10. Bob Marley – Kingston, Jamaica (April 22, 1978) – After the Smile Jamaica concert; Bob and his band, the Wailers, exiled themselves in London for about a year. They wrote an album while in England and rightfully so named it Exodus. During their exodus in London, the turmoil in Jamaica was dying down and to prove that they needed Marley to come back to help unify the country; rival gang leaders flew to London to convince Marley to come back. He flew back and put on a free concert in Kingston. The beautiful music, paired with the political unification that Marley brought by bringing together both rival gang members, as well as the opposing governmental factions earned him a United Nations’ Peace Medal. What a completely amazing concert that that must have been.


9. Fleetwood Mac – Nashville Municipal Auditorium (5/21/1977) – The radio poured out the hits of Fleetwood Mac during the Summer of 1977. The Rumours world tour which took place in two parts went on for almost a year and a half. The tour celebrated the release of the band’s eleventh album (of the same name). The band went everywhere: from all over North America to Europe, their native UK, Japan and Oceania. I have always been a Fleetwood Mac fan after hearing the albums when I was a kid. I was not lucky enough to see them in their prime and the performance at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium would have been a fantastic place to catch the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees at their prime.


8. Beethoven – Theater an der Wien, Vienna (April 1803) – Before he went def, Beethoven had been appointed composer in residence at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna in the early 1800s. In the spring of 1803 Beethoven led the Symphony in a concert where the audience heard the First and Second Symphony, the Third Piano Concerto, and the oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives. To be able to experience some of Beethoven’s greatest works, live from the man himself…would be more than I could bear. Tears would definitely flow.


7. Led Zeppelin – Madison Square Garden, New York (July 27-29, 1973) – Led Zeppelin performed three-sold out shows at Madison Square Gardens to close out their 1973 North American tour. The filming of these live performances were filmed for a motion picture that was released in 1976. The on-stage theatrics, as described by Jimmy Page, were as far as they could make them and they most definitely took the audiences experience into account. The set-list consisted of songs that will go down as some of the greatest rock songs of all time. Years later, ‘the songs remain the same’ and the DVD allows us to experience, but I would count it an immense blessing to have been able to experience this spectacle in person.


6. Jimi Hendrix – Woodstock, Bethel, New York (August 18, 1969) – I would have braved the mud and the 400,000 potentially drugged out hippies to witness (who is in my opinion) one of the greatest performers of all time at the infamous festival. The Woodstock Festival is listed as one of the 50 moments that Changed the History of Rock and Roll and with Jimi Hendrix joining a lineup including Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Joan Baez, Santana, the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Who, and many others…who could imagine that it wouldn’t. Hendrix’s now infamous “Star Spangled Banner” performance was just a drop in the bucket compared to the over 60 minute set. I could definitely have dealt with the 3 days of peace and music as long as I got to hear Jimi Hendrix.


5. Metallica – Tushino Airfield, Moscow, Russia (Sept 28, 1991) – Despite seeing Metallica multiple times already, I regretfully have missed some amazing performances that I think could have been more epic than the concerts that I was blessed enough to witness. One specific concert was a specific concert on September 28th, 1991 in Moscow. The Monsters of Rock Festival was one of the biggest concerts in the history of the world. The attendance during the Metallica show was slated to have ranged anywhere from 500,000 to almost 2 million fans. This could easily be one of the most epic live performances of all time and to feel the feedback from over a million people would have just been breathtaking.


4. Queen – Wembley Stadium (11/07/1986) – As many of the concerts from this list, the moments were saved by releasing the video via VHS/DVD. In December of 1990, Queen at Wembley was produced and the DVD version has gone platinum five times in the US alone. Audience members have stated that the energy in the crowd was breathtaking and we as viewers of the DVD since then can attest that Freddie Mercury and Queen presented us with one of the best live performances ever.


3. Metallica with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra – Berkley Community Theatre (April 21-22, 1999) – Yes, I know what you’re thinking; “gosh Chris, two Metallica concerts on your top 10 list of concerts that you would go back in time to see?” The answer is unequivocally, yes! Metallica is my favorite musical group/band and I most definitely would want to see these two events. I have seen the DVD but was unable to fly to San Francisco in 1999 to experience this concert in person. Back in 1999, Metallica was trying to find themselves after so many years of being together. They were/are the biggest rock/heavy metal band of all time and taking a cue from their late guitarist Cliff Burton, intertwined classical music and heavy metal to bring about something truly magical. Taking clues from Deep Purple’s 1969 Concerto for Group and Orchestra (in which Deep Purple performed with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra), did a concert with the additional symphonic accompaniment of Michael Kamen and the San Francisco Symphony orchestra (hence the name of the album: Metallica: S&M). I am not afraid to admit that when I first watched the DVD of the concert, that I wept during the performances of “Bleeding Me” and “- Human”. These two songs, along with the 19 other tracks, brought a total of over 2 hours of complete melodic perfection.



2. Nirvana – Sony Music Studios, New York City (November 19, 1993) – The American Grunge band Nirvana changed music forever. Some people view it as a bad thing, and some people view it as something that set a pace for music. On December 16, 1993, I was viewed to the TV and it dared not be turned from MTV. As part of the infamous MTV Unplugged series, Nirvana performed an acoustic performance where they covered their lesser-known material and cover versions of many of their favorite bands. The album, which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, was certified 5x platinum in the US by 1997. The performance won a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album and posthumously it is Nirvana’s most successful album. The performance of many of the songs have gained notoriety throughout the years. The song “Where did you sleep last night?” (which was arranged by blues musician Lead Belly) is regarded by many as one of the greatest live performances of all time; whereas Nirvana’s rendition of David Bowie’s classic “The Man who sold the world” (specifically Kurt’s playing) is listed by MTV and Rolling Stones as one of the greatest acoustic performances of all time (despite his use of foot pedals and an amp). To have been one of the select fans that got to witness this concert first hand would have been an amazing adventure to behold.


pink floyd the wall

  1.  Pink Floyd – Earl’s Court Exhibition Hall, London (June 17, 1981) – Pink Floyd puts on an amazing show. The lights, the theatrics, the larger than life stage show, and the extra nuances that make them great are only shadows on the wall behind the amazing performers that they are. The Wall is one of my favorite albums of all time and to be able to hear David Gilmour’s “Comfortably Numb” guitar solo in person could quite possibly be one of the closest things to perfection that you can find. There isn’t much to say, except….a Pink Floyd live experience would be just that….a truly awesome experience. The Wall was not a traditional traveling tour. It was a complete theatrical experience. The experience is more than just music and emotion….it was a spectacle.

Images: Featured Image: Pink Floyd 1973 Retouched photo by and accredited to TimDuncanderivative work: Mr. Frank (talk) – PinkFloyd1973.jpg, CC BY 3.0,
Fleetwood Mac Trade ad for Rumours by and accredited to Warner Bros. Records – Billboard, page 86, 25 Jun 1977, Public Domain,
Beethoven in his home painting by and accredited to Carl Schloesser –
Engel by Rammstein image accredited to –, CC BY-SA 2.0,
James Hetfield concert image by and accredited to wonker from London, United Kingdom – James Hetfield, CC BY 2.0,
Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant image by and attributed to Dina Regine –, CC BY-SA 2.0,
Jimi Hendrix’s Guitar Strap photo by Sam Howzit – CC BY 2.0,
Queen’s Freddie Mercury image by and attributed to Carl Lender, CC BY-SA 3.0,
James Hetfield image by and attributed to I, Flowkey, CC BY-SA 2.5,
Nirvana Unplugged logo attributed to
Pink Floyd “The Wall” logo by and attributed to pink floyd –, Public Domain,