How many times have you gone to a concert and had the delight of seeing the headliner perform your favorite album from their discography in its entirety? I'm not just talking about any album from their discography, but the kind of album that exists to remind you of how you felt when you first played it, and the setting and people that came along with the moment when you did.
If you ask me, it's impossible to pick just 10 perfect albums I'd be over the moon to see performed in full—some of them a possibility (Kanye West), some of them not (Miles Davis). However, there are ten that definitely come to mind first (in no particular order), as the ones that helped shape my adolescence, in some way or another. Maybe it's the same for you too?
The album that defines me. The founding mythology for all music I currently enjoy. Brand New’s sophomore effort Deja Entendu discarded anything the band previously was, bringing legitimacy to the sounds of early '00s Long Island. I’ve only been lucky enough to hear bits and pieces of the record live—my one chance to hear it fully, ruined by my reluctance to drive solo through New Jersey. Deja Entendu shows a band striving to find both its emotional and its creative peaks. I’ve never heard songs like "I Will Play My Game Beneath the Spin Light" and "Guernica" in concert, and given Brand New’s announcement that 2018 will be their final year, I fear that I never will. In the fall of last year, the band gave us what we wanted, by spending their 10-year anniversary of The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me, performing the record in its entirety on tour. Anything's possible.
Confined to just 45 minutes, Kind of Blue traverses a full palette of human emotion. To do so without vocals requires a mastery of instruments unparalleled elsewhere in jazz—unparalleled really, across all genres in modern music. Though no record is perfect, Kind of Blue comes pretty close. To hear Miles Davis miss a note live would actually be welcome. It would be a reminder that there’s a human force behind such incredible beauty.
Loveless is an epic that cannot be confined to the speakers of my MacBook Air. The sound is gigantic; it deserves room to coalesce, and walls to reverberate off of. Kevin Shields defined a genre by staring at his shoes, and solidified its legacy by creating the sort of music you thought you only heard in your dreams. A notorious recluse, we would only be so lucky as to hear Loveless live.
To hear Erykah Badu's Y2K release, Mama’s Gun, in full would be to hear it at its fullest potential. The record plays more like a medley, with it’s songs defined less by rigid structure and more by how they slip seamlessly in and out of one another. The excitement of listening to Mama’s Gun is anticipating what’s coming up after each track ends—it's picking up on hints in every single song's outro about what could possibly be next. In concert, Erykah Badu has the type of stage presence that would make her performance of even "Happy Birthday" enthralling. But to really experience Mama’s Gun would be to hear it straight through.
Having trouble deciding which of the S&G albums I’d most desperately want to hear live, ultimately I settled on the one which comprised the best of them all. The Concert in Central Park was as famous for its world-renowned backdrop as it was for reuniting the duo. Certainly, fans couldn’t have imagined that songs like "Homeward Bound" or "The Sounds of Silence" would be played alongside "Kodachrome", but the two pulled it off, sharing vocals on their most important tracks and carrying each other on solo material. Although this already had life as a live concert, I wasn't lucky enough to be there in the early '80s, and would gladly visit Central Park for a redux.
As mentioned earlier, Brand New’s Deja Entendu is the record from which most of my current musical taste stems. Pixies’ Surfer Rosa, it seems, is the record from which all my favorite artists' tastes stem and is my personal favorite. This 1988 release marks the band's peak as it relates to the ‘soft, loud, soft’ style of songwriting which they pioneered. Hearing deep cuts like "Tony’s Theme", "Oh My Golly!", and "River Euphrates" alone would do it for me, and those, pressed up against some of their more popular hits from the record, would complete some sort of musical journey in my life.
For one of the biggest artists I’ve yet to see in concert, I would ultimately chose Voodoo over D’Angelo’s more recent (and my personal favorite), Black Messiah. There was just something undeniable about Voodoo—it is equally masterful and mystical. Each track holds you close, wrapping itself around a different part of your body. It’s hard for people now to understand just how big D’Angelo was in 2000—so big, in fact, that we saw nothing from the Virginia native for more than a decade, but with the 20th anniversary of this album coming up, I'll hold out hope for a live celebration.
My personal favorite band’s most intensely personal record. All of The National’s flaws are on display with their 2005 LP, Alligator, which you can feel in its mismatched songs, stopping and starting less fluidly than on anything Boxer and beyond. It would be fantastic to hear the band now, as confident as they are, power through a record they created on the earlier side of their career. It would also be a treat to hear Matt Berninger forgo baritone and scream his throat sore once again on "Abel".
A Tribe Called Quest’s recent resurgence has been a treat for those of us too young to remember the group’s cultural peak. Their return to the stage is exciting—a chance to see one of hip hop’s most esteemed groups live. A chance too, to watch a case study in longevity. Unfortunately without Phife Dawg, I don’t imagine I’ll ever get to hear The Low End Theory in its entirety (at least not as it was intended).
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is the most complete album I have been alive for. It’s one that’s meant to be heard from start to finish, rather than fragmented on the radio or on a playlist. Because of this, the few songs off My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy that I’ve been fortunate enough to hear live haven’t necessarily reached their fullest potential. Each track on the LP builds off its predecessor, setting the stage for what follows. For example, "Hell of a Life" drops punches significantly harder following the descending outro for "Runaway". Playing this 2010 album in its entirety would be Kanye West’s dominant return to stage—a reminder of West as creative powerhouse.