In my last post, I commented that MJ's Motown 25 performance of "Billy Jean" was my favorite non-Pearl Jam live performance of all time. Much to my delight, that comment has sparked much discussion. So, in true WAD fashion, I decided it was time for a Top 7. We, however, have a wrinkle. After watching dozens and dozens of clips on Youtube for more hours than I care to admit, I could only narrow the list to 8. So, ladies and gentlemen, you are receiving a bonus clip! Don't ever say I didn't do anything for you. With that said, here's my top 8 live musical performances of all time:
8) George Straight - A couple of remarkable things about this performance at the 1996 CMA Awards: (1) Vince Gill's mullet; (2) The band interrupting Vince's introduction; and (3) George actually plays the guitar in this performance, sort of. Honestly, there is actually nothing remarkable about this performance, but George is my favorite country artist and this is one of my favorite country songs. Done and done. Let's move on.
7) Marvin Gaye - Can we all just agree to play this version of the Anthem on the Jumbo Tron before every sporting event? I mean, it has never and will never get any better than this. Apologies to Carl Lewis.
6) Guns N' Roses - Can you believe this was 20 years ago? I mean, other than the grainy image and awful curtains behind the stage, its hard to believe two decades have past since GNR was in their prime, right? If you watch nothing else, you need to go to the 3:30 mark and marvel at Slash's chops, and then move ahead to the 5:24 mark when Axl goes all Axl. I think people forget that these guys were possibly the biggest band in the world back in '89. "Appetite for Destruction" has sold around 30 million copies, which places it in the Top 30 albums of all time. Shockingly, they fell victim to drugs, booze, and egos, and they weren't able to sustain their success, but it was fun while it lasted. Just think, if they had kept it together, Axl could be making country albums today, and Slash could be hooking up with Denise Richards. That's right, Bon Jovi stole GNR's career arch. They were the Matt Damon to GNR's Chris O'Donnell.
5) U2 - This is the rarest of rare performances: a Super Bowl halftime performance that actually delivered. Listen to the crowd going nuts in the background. That's not just the high school marching bands the NFL armed with matching t-shirts and glow sticks going nuts. That's the entire stadium going ape sh*t for Bono and the boys, including all the corporate stiffs. I remember watching this live in a friend's apartment in NYC and realizing at the time that I was watching a transcendent performance by one of the most important bands of my lifetime. I enjoyed it so much I almost forgot that Kurt Warner and the Rams were half way to making my first year of law school much more expensive than anticipated...almost.
4) Mariah Carey and Trey Lorenz - Not even their disastrous reunion at MJ's funeral can tarnish the greatness of this performance. Mariah was at her absolute apex in all respects. And, this is just an amazing song. How Trey Lorenz didn't parlay this into some level of stardom is beyond me. If this performance happened today, Lorenz would be on the cover of US Weekly with one of the stars of "Twilight" in less than a week, right?
3) Nirvana - I honestly don't know anybody currently between the ages of 30 and 36 that doesn't own the "Unplugged" album. You could choose any song from the show and put it in this spot, and I would be fine with it. I ultimately settled on "Man Who Sold the World" because I feel like it's the most connected Cobain is with the audience through the course of the show. He, of course, killed himself only a few months after putting in this performance. It still bums me out.
2) MJ - Simply incredible. It's the musical equivalent of Jordan's first half of Game 1 of the '92 Finals against the Blazers. It's greatness that defies explanation.
1) Pearl Jam - My favorite band of all time performing my favorite song of all time. If that's not enough, at about the 4:50 mark, Eddie completely loses his mind, tries to eat the microphone, and clearly enters an alternate universe. Any time you can pull off all three of these things at one time, you are going to find yourself at the top of a WAD Top 7 (or 8) list.