Last week, some footage of what would prove to be Nirvana’s final show in Los Angeles, at the Great Western Forum in December 1993, surfaced on the web. One of the great joys of the internet is that it’s way, way easier than it used to be to get hold of (and watch!) bootlegs, live performances and other records of shows that might otherwise have never seen the light of day. YouTube, in particular, is a rich resource for this stuff — so here’s a selection of Flavorwire’s favorite performances, encompassing both some famous shows and some lesser-known events.
Janis Joplin — “Ball and Chain,” Monterey Pop, 1967
Joplin’s Woodstock performance tends to get all the plaudits, but honestly, this footage from her famous performance at the Monterey Pop Festival a couple of years earlier absolutely blows away that show (and pretty much any other show you can think of, really).
David Bowie — “Ziggy Stardust,” Hammersmith Odeon, London, 1973
The night that Bowie killed Ziggy. The bootleg of this show was something of a Holy Grail for Bowie fans until it was officially released in 1983 as Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture .
Joy Division — “Transmission,” British TV, late 1970s
I know it’s a cliché to talk about getting shivers down your spine — but you do, don’t you? (Also, it’s awesome to see a young John Cooper Clarke at the start of the video.)
James Brown — “It’s a Man’s World,” Chastain Park, Atlanta, 1985
The great man in his great red jumpsuit, as immortalized on the Live at Chastain Park album. And if you’re in the mood for even more James Brown, check out this entire show at Boston Garden in 1968, the night after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.
Manic Street Preachers — “Motown Junk” and “You Love Us,” London Astoria, 1994
Famously, the last footage of Richey Edwards playing with the Manics, from his penultimate show (there’s no video of the next night’s performance, but you can find the audio if you Google judiciously). Watching it is a poignant experience, both because of the knowledge of what was coming, and because the performance is so damn good. And Edwards — a notoriously useless guitarist, bless him — even takes on lead guitar duties here for a minute or so when James Dean Bradfield breaks a string during “Motown Junk.”
Nas — “One Love,” “NY State of Mind,” and “Life’s a Bitch,” Fever, NYC, 1994
Oh, it’s just a super-rare video of Nas performing three of his best songs around the time Illmatic came out. You’re welcome. (He takes the stage around 3:10, if you’re feeling impatient.)
Radiohead — “Street Spirit (Fade Out),” Glastonbury, 1997
At the height of their OK Computer-era powers, headlining the Glastonbury Festival. If you watch Jonny Greenwood carefully, you’ll see that toward the end of the song he’s playing the piano with the headstock of his guitar. (And, if you liked this, you can watch the entire performance.)
My Morning Jacket — “Mahgeetah,” Bonnaroo, 2008
AKA the set where they played for four hours or something insane like that. This killer version of what’s still, in your correspondent’s opinion, their best song came toward the end of the marathon set. Footage of the whole thing is hard to find, but you can still listen to it all here.
of Montreal — “St. Exquisite’s Confessions,” New York, 2008
The audio isn’t great, but c’mon, it’s Kevin Barnes on a horse, for Chrissakes. What more could you want?
Janelle Monáe — “Tightrope,” The Late Show with David Letterman, 2010
As Letterman notes at the start of the song, this was Monáe’s network TV debut. It’s fair to say that a decent proportion of Letterman’s audience wouldn’t have been familiar with Monáe before this performance, and also fair to say they wouldn’t be forgetting her in a hurry.