The best live concerts to watch on YouTube

Written by
Oliver Keens
The best live concerts to watch on YouTube
Prince photograph: Jeffrey Mayer/Getty Images

The incredible, all-consuming power of watching a brilliant gig may be a pleasure that we’ll have to wait a few months to enjoy again. But to keep the fire burning for live music, here are just a few of our Music editor’s favourite full-length concerts that you can watch on YouTube. Tell us your personal favourites in the comments.  

Prince working his tight buns off in 1985. 

Don’t make us pick a favourite Prince concert on YouTube. Is it this, or this, or even this? Well, okay, if we definitely have to pick one, it’s ‘Prince and the Revolution: Live’, just for the sheer cheek of marrying high-energy rock and endless supplies of ruffled clothing. 

Blur reaching the summit of Mount Indie in 1994. 

It’s easy to forget how utterly random really, really good indie used to be. Within the first four minutes of this triumphant Blur show from Ally Pally in 1994, you’ll see a massive mosh to a pastiche of lift music and a country-and-western pedal-steel guitar sounding like a squealing pig. It’s an absolute triumph, all ’90s novelty aside.  

Pink Floyd playing topless in a Roman amphitheatre.

I’ve converted so many Pink Floyd sceptics over the years with clips from ‘Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii’. It’s the band, filmed in exquisite intensity, playing a giant empty amphitheatre in Pompeii in 1972. You have to have a heart of stone not to dig the stoner-friendly, intricate downtempo splendour of the music (that first drum tap, jeeeeesus), the majesty of the location – and yeah, a topless David Gilmour is not an unappealing sight either. Just putting that out there.

Radiohead’s first Glastonbury headline slot. 

‘Live at Pompeii’ was a big influence on Radiohead, and here they are: headlining Glastonbury in 1997 a few months after ‘OK Computer’ dropped. Thom Yorke had a shocker that night, with bad sound and lights blinding the first-time headliners. Hence the sweet moment at 18.30 when Yorke asks for the audience to be illuminated, reassuring him that there was an actual crowd actually there in front of him! Coo-ee!

Talk Talk make rock divine and touch the face of God.

From 1986, Mark Hollis and his fellow celestial poppers in Talk Talk usher in a realm where popping basslines, beautifully introspective lyrics and mullets could somehow co-exist as one. A beautiful concert which became a beautiful album: ‘Live at Montreux 1986’.

Nina Simone enchants from behind her piano. 

Speaking of Montreux, the very excellent Nina Simone Netflix doc, ‘What Happened, Miss Simone?’, accents this 1976 performance as a total nadir and a career low. It’s not. Yes, the first lady of American song and soul is erratic, confrontational and – by the standards of most performers – odd. But the sheer weight of her talent makes this a must-enjoy, even before you realise you’re slowly watching a woman triumph over her own vulnerabilities.

Daft Punk inventing EDM. No no no, wait – this is still amazing!

Good-quality footage and audio of the Robots’s truly game-changing 2006 Coachella set. It’s become the American dance music version of The Beatles playing ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’, except with an absolute cavalcade of drops.

The Pixies making Brixton shake in 1991.

It’s possible I’ve watched the first minute of this about 433,000 times in my life. It took me about three years just to get beyond the second song, ‘Debaser’ and into ‘River Euphrates’. I wish you well as you gradually get to the end of this set from the squealing rulers of wow.

Abba making Wembley shine in '79. 

This is every bit as pearly, shimmering and flat-out amazing as you hope it is. The added bite of live, thumpy drums and crunchy guitars really adds another dimension to that well-stocked arsenal of hits, plus, unlike every bit of #relatable music coverage in 2020, you literally never see the crowd once. If you want to be featured in an Abba concert film, you must be as sparkly as Abba. NO exceptions.

Portishead with loads of strings attached. 

Possibly one of the classiest bands ever formed, captured here with the added class of a bloody great big orchestra accompanying them. Magic.

Aphex Twin giving a history lesson of UK rave. 

Recorded at Printworks, this masterful set weaves together a mercurial selection of tracks that tell the story of alternative rave culture, from past to present. 
What’s your go-to concert on YouTube? Comment with your favourites and we’ll add them to our next round-up. Need more sonics? Have a plunder of our Best Songs Ever page. 


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