There are moments in time, musical moments, when things come together perfectly. No amount of enticement, planning, or force of will can make them happen.
For me there are a pile of these things, some recorded and some experienced directly. Seeing Bruce Springsteen on The River tour might have qualified, but the night was thrown over the top when Southside Johnny walked onto that Richfield Coliseum stage to perform "I Don't Want To Go Home" with Bruce and the E-Street Band. Phew! All these years later and the chills still occur when that memory surfaces. Recorded documents of fantastic performances include Cheap Trick's Live at Budokan, The Who's Live at Leeds, and the Stones' Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out.
Add to that the late Warren Zevon's Stand In The Fire. Released just last week on CD (and let's not even start to get into the why's and wherefore's of that crazy fact), this album is proof that Zevon was not only a great songwriter but quite the amazing performer. Recorded on what was termed "The dog ate the part we didn't like" tour, Zevon and his backing band of hired guns (an actual Warren Zevon cover band from Boulder, Colorado) blew the roof off the joint. Add guitar gunslinger David Landau and you have one potent mix.
Some folks might be a little surprised to hear Zevon in such a rocking context. His biggest hit, "Werewolves Of London," had a catchy hook that was mostly piano-driven. On Stand In The Fire, the song is transformed into a ball-out raver with Zevon giving himself up to the passion for the music. With a little twist of the lyrics, "I'd like to meet his Taylor" becomes "He's looking for James Taylorrrrrr!" Later on, with a nod to both his newfound sobriety and his friendship with Jackson Browne, he sings: "I saw Jackson Browne walking slow down the avenue/You know his heart is perfect," and then completely loses it with "I saw a werewolf drinking a Perrier at Trader Vic's/And his hair was perrrrrrffeeeeeeecttt!!!!!!" It's one of the moments that a friend of mine described as "forgetting who you are".
So sure, check out this album for the many examples of terrific songwriting ("Mohammed's Radio," "Poor Poor Pitiful Me") or even the previously unreleased songs (Excitable Boy's "Johnny Strikes Up The Band," the gothic "Play It All Night Long," "Frank and Jesse James," "Hasten Down The Wind"). But above all of that, listen to this document of one incredible performer giving his all. It doesn't get any better than this.