7 live gigs to watch from home

Tara Hepburn 21 June 2021

Check out these seven freely available full gigs you can watch online to get ready for a return to live music

Concert for Bangladesh (1971)

George Harrison managed to rustle up some of the biggest names in music for this 1971 fundraising show. A line-up including Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Leon Russell and a fairly reclusive Bob Dylan would have made for entertaining viewing regardless of how it was set-up but much of its charm exists in the casual revue-like nature of proceedings.

A unique opportunity to watch talent of this level perform side by side, hopping on each other’s songs, playing the role of session musician or backing singer as and when required. A well-considered benefit concert that treads a different path from the charitable super-shows that would come to define the genre.

Dolly Parton: Concert at her old high school (1979) 

This fairly low-fi recording shows Dolly Parton in 1979 when she performed a full concert at her former high school in East Tennessee. A true hidden gem of the archives, the concert is a blissful way to spend an evening. Dolly’s light as a performer is impossible to ignore. The upbeat 80-minute set includes “Jolene”, “Here You Come Again” and finally closes with “I Will Always Love You.”

Her stage presence is chatty and warm, covering such topics as spitting tobacco, school bullies and owning 3000 wigs. “I love you too, Daddy, but I told you to wait in the truck” she quips when an audience member calls out that he loves her between songs.

Talking Heads Live in Rome (1980) 

This grainy Talking Heads gig from 1980 was recorded during the band’s Remain In Light era. The group seem a little less prepared for the limelight (and woefully deficit in the Big Suit department) than they would be four years later on their terrific film Stop Making Sense. But there is lots to enjoy in catching them at an earlier juncture. A great opportunity to catch Adrian Belew before King Crimson. The pulsating beats and irrepressible nervous energy remain and almost ring truer in this more traditional rock-concert setting. “This is THE BEST CONCERT EVER” someone screams in the comments section, and it would be hard to argue.

Britney Live in London (2000) 

There has never been a better time to look back and reflect on the pure pop stardom of Britney Jean Spears. This gig, a gloriously early-Noughties mix of bizarre techy visuals (think: the “Oops I Did It Again” video), audience participation and high energy dance routines, reminds you just how much star quality an 18-year-old Britney possessed all those years ago. During one of the costume changes, Britney’s dancers host an entertaining segment entitled “What would you do to meet Britney?” wherein a lucky selection of audience members are set challenges via video message from NSYNC (flap on the floor like a fish, sing “Oops I did it again”, run like a chicken) to compete for a chance to meet the woman herself.

Taylor Swift “Reputation” Tour (2018) 

Taylor Swift’s Reputation album received mixed reviews at the time—considered in part to be a petty rehashing of the old Kanye drama over 15 tracks. The album failed to get a Grammy nomination, which made for a sombre moment in Swift’s recent Miss Americana documentary. “I just need to make a better record” she says. If this is a bad record, there no sign of that here—her high concept and expensive stadium show seems the perfect outlet for the drama of the record.

Animatronic snakes, tilted rotating stages and special guest appearances from Camila Cabello and Charli XCX keep you on the edge of your seat throughout. Marvel as Taylor Swift moves between hits as varied and accomplished as state-of-the-union dramatic ballad “All Too Well” to the comic and self-aware pop perfection that is “Blank Space”. Is she… the greatest songwriter around right now? Maybe.

Chet Baker’s 1964 concert

There are so few recorded performances of Chet Baker in his younger years, which makes this 1964 footage particularly exciting. Saddled with a long list of drug offences by this point, Baker decided to duck out of the States for a while. A fact that was Europe's gain, performance-wise (this one was recorded in Brussels) although the European authorities might disagree. This one hour set is a dreamy reminder of the man's talent and stage presence. 

Beyonce “Homecoming” (2019) 

Not strictly a straight-up start to finish concert recording but it would be remiss to overlook Beyonce! This terrific concert-documentary follows Beyonce as she prepares to headline Coachella 2018 a year after giving birth to twins. The film offers unprecedented window into Beyonce’s vision for the triumphant set (the first time a Black woman has ever headlined the Californian festival) a meticulously planned nod to the historically Black colleges of the US.

The live footage which follows shows a stage heaving with unique and vibrant performers with Beyonce as their (and all of our) marching band leader. A masterful edit smash-cuts the performance between footage of both nights, shifting from bright yellows and loud pinks of each night. She is dizzyingly gifted. A joyful spectacle.

Read more: A guide to fashion's colourwashing problem

Read more: The East End club that hosted Jimi Hendrix

Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter