Ten brilliant live albums from the 1980s

How did the1980s compare to the 1970s for live music albums? This list of ten great live records released in the 1980s will help you decide.
What are some great live albums from the 1980s?
What are some great live albums from the 1980s? / United Archives/GettyImages
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A double touch of live jazz genius

Joni Mitchell - Shadows And Light

Having said before that you'd ideally want a great crowd atmosphere to come across on a live record, here’s one that breaks that theory. Joni Mitchell doesn't jump out as an obvious live performer for that sort of gig. But her Shadows And Light album released in 1980 provides an excellent insight into Mitchell’s music as she gives a superb live performance.

The album benefits hugely from the backing band of jazz-based musicians playing with Mitchell. Their interplay with Mitchell’s voice and lyrics is also much enhanced by an amazing recording sound quality. The songs are jazzy, folky and sparkling throughout. Mitchell is very much at her best too. There surprisingly wasn't huge commercial success for Shadows And Light, it’s hard to work out why not when it's such a great live album.

Sting - Bring On The Night

While we are on the jazz theme, here’s another live album that dips into that category. Sting had already made his name in The Police and earned the right to release his first solo album The Dream Of The Blue Turtles in 1985.  On that album, he started to explore jazz themes in several songs. Sting took that a stage further with Bring On The Night, a live album with his jazz musicians band recorded over several nights in 1985 and released in 1986. At that time, it was only for imports in North America. 

With the live-in-concert approach, the jazz elements Sting touched on in his debut album had more space and time to develop. There was more freedom to explore those further and adjust, improvise, and expand on songs from that album. And then to have some lesser-known Police songs added into the mix. I loved this exploration into jazz based on my liking of the music of The Police and then Sting, and it took me to new sounds and styles. It was so refreshing to have a live album not intending to have songs sounding just like their studio versions.