Hear

What Beer Goes With What Live Album? A Guide

My dad kept an old Frigidaire in our Michigan basement and it was always stocked with Busch. After several decades of loyal service, the hulking, pale yellow beast had been carted downstairs where it served as a backup fridge. Occasionally it would hold a birthday cake or party platter, but mostly it held Busch. Cold, crisp Busch Bavarian. Did I ever sneak a sip? I did. And, like so many others my age,  I found it to be an acquired taste.

For many rock fans of the 1970s, the “live album” was the malt beverage equivalent of an acquired taste. America’s taste in beer has changed exponentially since the 70s. Many tried and true regional and national brands are long gone, replaced by micro-IPAs and seasonal concoctions. Similarly, Blu-Ray discs and YouTube videos have made live albums virtually obsolete. Too bad. Before those technological advancements, a live album was the closest way to experience your favorite band without buying a ticket. And like anything else, some did it better than others.

Initially, live records were a bit of a gamble. But production costs were relatively cheap for live releases and occasionally helped fill contractual obligations for road-weary artists. Up until then, rock radio usually served up pristine studio tracks, every note and lyric produced and delivered to fans as a perfect package. Consequently, most fans preferred their live music to “sound like the record.” But aficionados of live albums knew better. Perhaps they had been to more concerts or had better Hi-Fis. Bob Seger, Peter Frampton, and KISS probably moved the needle on live albums more than anyone. Their live tracks carried the band’s energy and stage presence through the speakers and created a totally different feel for the listener. So much so, the studio versions of songs like “Rock and Roll All Nite” and “Show Me the Way” sounded, well, a little off and were often swapped on air with their live counterpart.

Live albums, like 8-track tapes and bell-bottomed jeans, may have fallen out of favor over the years, not unlike the frothy cups of Ballantine and Schlitz that so many young rockers enjoyed back in the day. Heck, there’s no doubt that many fans enjoyed those old-school brews at the very shows heard on rock’s most beloved live records. And with that in mind (and just for fun), let’s crack open a six-pack of old-school suds and match each one with a live album from the Classic Rock Era

Foghat Live / Miller High Life

If you’re going to toast Foghat Live, it’s got to be with the “Champagne of Bottled Beer.” Despite Fool for the City boasting two of their biggest hits, the title track and “Slow Ride,” it’s their 1977 live album that went double platinum and became the group’s biggest seller. It’s rather short, coming in at a modest 38:31, but lead singer Dave Peverett’s enthusiasm is infectious. He closes the show by asking the crowd, “Are you ready for a Slow Ride?” Eight minutes later, as the audience noise crescendos with the music, everyone in Henrietta, New York’s Dome Arena was thoroughly living the high life.

Live Bullet / Stroh’s

Bob Seger’s 1976 benchmark album, Live Bullet is akin to the Mona Lisa hanging in the Louvre. Seger’s set is one for the ages, thanks in part to the fans packed inside Detroit’s Cobo Hall. The venue that lent its stage for other live albums including Alive! (KISS) and most of Captured (Journey), was an important stop for nearly every rock band touring North America. Detroit’s own Stroh Brewery, which brewed their beer in massive copper kettles directly over an open flame, must have lent some of that fire to the stage inside Cobo Hall. Both venues cooked up some fine refreshment. Any fan taking in a Seger concert in the Motor City absolutely wouldn’t mind a cold Stroh’s to go with it.

The Guess Who Live at the Paramount / Olympia

This 1972 release could be one of the most underrated live albums of the 70s. Interestingly, there are several tracks from the album that don’t appear on any of the band’s studio releases. But the real treat is a 16:52 version of “American Woman.” Compare that with the track released as a single (3:50) or the album version (5:07) and simple math would say that’s a whole lot more “American Woman” for the listener. Arranging a seventeen-minute version of a song is a huge mountain to climb, and the band goes for it full throttle. For scaling that peak, and since the recording took place in Seattle, Washington, Olympia is the perfect cold brew to pair with this record. “Perfection in the art of brewing” to go along with a near-perfect live album.

In Concert (Blood, Sweat & Tears) / Schaefer

In Concert contains tracks recorded over several nights during the summer of 1975. On July 5th, the band took the stage in Central Park as part of the Schaefer Music Festival. From 1967-1976, rock fans in the Big Apple were treated to a run of summer-long shows which featured most every band from the era. Mitch Ryder, Spirit, Frank Zappa, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Traffic, Jeff Beck, Led Zeppelin, The Band, and dozens more rocked New Yorkers, who presumably enjoyed all the Schafer they could handle. The recordings on the album are solidly entertaining and played to perfection. But the direct connection from the music to a regional brew is what matters here. Schafer might not be remembered by most people outside the northeast, or by folks who never got to see the Brooklyn Dodgers play in Ebbets Field. The park’s outfield held the most famous beer sign in baseball. It read: “A REAL HIT! Schaefer REAL BEER!” Blood, Sweat & Tears played their hits onstage with fans getting a taste of real beer in the stands. That’s a home run pairing.

Some Girls: Live in Texas ’78 / Pearl

Technically, this DVD/Blu-ray offering was released in 2011. But since 2017, the album has been available as a stand-alone CD. The recording is the last chance to hear (and see) The Stones in their 70s glory. Filmed in Ft. Worth’s historic Will Rogers Auditorium, the record showcases seven songs from Some Girls, plus ten other tracks including “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Brown Sugar,” “Tumbling Dice,” and “Honky Tonk Women.” North Texans know Ft. Worth is gritty, not glitzy like its polished neighbor to the east, a perfect venue for The Stones and their bit of nastiness. The beer pairing here has to be Pearl. Not Lone Star. Not Shiner. Pearl. Pearl Beer comes from “the country of 1100 springs.” Since Texas was once its own country, Pearl seems to fit the bill. Pearl, once brewed proudly in San Antonio, still survives. And what’s left of the brand is currently brewed in, that’s right, Ft. Worth, Texas.

Eagles Live / Lite Beer from Miller

Everything imaginable has been said about this record, so rehashing all the criticisms again seems pointless. The one thing this live album does, by design, is sound like the radio. That’s fine. It tastes great but is less filling. And if those old television commercials from the 70s taught us one thing, it’s that no one can agree on which is better. Although Miller Lite is the only beverage in our pairing that isn’t past its prime in terms of popularity, it’s too perfect to ignore. Bob Uecker’s seat may not be in the front row, but Eagles fans can always put on this record, close their eyes, and pretend they’re sitting in row A.

-Bill Flanigin

Photo by Engin Akyurt (Pexels.com)

Other Posts You Might Like

3 comments on “What Beer Goes With What Live Album? A Guide

  1. Mark Hudson

    Fun article Bill. If I may add a couple from a British perspective. Thin Lizzy “Live and Dangerous”/ Guinness. Because, well, obviously. Humble Pie “Performance: Rockin’ the Filmore”/ Watney’s Red Barrel. Working class band, working class beer. The Who “Live at Leeds”/ probably Brandy rather than suds. Cheers!

  2. Beer. Is there anything it CAN’T do?

Leave a Reply (and please be kind!)

Love the Beatles? Get this eBook FREE when you subscribe.

It turns out there's a lot to say. Just say "yes" to get yours.