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The 30 Best Live Versions of Songs

on July 08, 2011, 2:15pm
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Joy Division – “Transmission”

On record, they were clean. On stage, they were clean. So, what’s the difference? With “Transmission”, Curtis doesn’t spit out the lyrics so much as he threads together a fragile yet magnificent rope, from which he swings around and around. No one will ever dismiss Martin Hannett’s timeless and unorthodox mixing on Unknown Pleasures, it’s an indefectible example of diamond production work. But in hindsight, the radical producer simply trapped the group’s carnal tendencies. Inside the album existed what only a few knew at the time: This Manchester quartet was working with something otherworldly, and watching “Transmission” live proves this. It’s just a tad spooky, that’s all.  –Michael Roffman

The Flaming Lips – “Race For the Prize”

Balloons, smoke machines, confetti, 40-foot projection screens, colored lights, and background dancers wearing plush animal costumes – “Race for the Prize” not only marked a turning point in the band’s recording career, but the transformation of their live performances into the sensory-overloading grand spectacle they’re known for being today. After The Soft Bulletin, it no longer seemed as if we were just watching a band perform on acid, but as if the entire audience were tripping along with them. Now a staple on their setlists, there isn’t a song in The Flaming Lips’ catalog better-suited for setting the tone for their loony live shows than the soaring acid-pop of “Race for the Prize”.  –Austin Trunick

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