January 27, 2023
Live albums can be a pretty divisive topic among music enthusiasts. Some people relish hearing the thrill and energy of a band's interaction with the crowd. Others find live sets grating because of the muddy sound quality and imperfections on stage, preferring the high fidelity of modern studio recordings.
On Friday, Green Day entered the fray with the release of a complete live set recorded at Philly's Electric Factory (now Franklin Music Hall) on Nov. 14, 1997. The live album is part of a 25th anniversary re-issue of "Nimrod," including previously unreleased demos and a mellow cover of Elvis Costello's "Alison" recorded during the making of that album.
What's nice about this Electric Factory show is that Green Day intentionally recorded it as a live album and then quietly sat on it for more than 25 years. The audience that night was informed during the set by a very excited Billie Joe Armstrong, who riffed on possible album names.
"It's called 'F***ed Up in Philadelphia," Armstrong told the crowd. "The Philly f*** ups!"
The whole live album has been posted on the band's YouTube page and is also available on streaming platforms. The YouTube videos feature photos from the show, and the band's ferocity in the recordings is more than enough to capture the aura that night.
The 20-song setlist from "Live at the Electric Factory" is an absolute gift to fans of that period of Green Day's discography. It's got a little bit of everything from 1991's "1039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours" up through songs from "Kerplunk," "Dookie," "Insomniac" and "Nimrod," with deeper cuts from that album including "The Grouch," "Scattered" and "Prosthetic Head."
The crowd at the Electric Factory heard a band that was arguably at its peak, still mostly performing as a three-piece and touring venues much smaller than the arenas they'd fill around the release of "Dookie" in 1994 and post-"American Idiot" in 2004. Outside of secret shows, you'd never see Green Day play a venue with a capacity of 3,000 people anymore.
The original Electric Factory and Flea Market was at 22nd and Arch streets until Larry Magid, the venue's longtime promoter, redeveloped the former General Electric Switchgear Plant at 7th and Willow streets in 1994. Magid held onto the naming rights after he sold the venue to Arts & Crafts Holdings for $20.1 million in 2017. The venue was purchased and renamed the following year by AEG and is now run by promotion company Bowery Presents. It still draws solid acts in a competitive landscape for venues in the city.
In the broader context of live albums recorded in Philly, it's worth taking pride in Green Day's choice of venue for this release, especially at that point in time. It's pure, homemade nostalgia.
In honor of the release, we took a look at some of the other notable live albums recorded at venues in the Philadelphia area over the years and released by the artists, as opposed to popular bootlegs that have enjoyed their own underground collectors' market. Transport yourself back to these shows through the albums below:
The Irish rockers were known for making direct transitions between songs during live shows, ending on notes that burst into their hits like "Jailbreak" and "The Boys Are Back in Town." This album is completely live — no overdubs — and was recorded during their tour in support of "Bad Reputation."
The Queen of Soul was in the midst of a second wave of fame in the early 1970s when she performed this nearly hour-long set for an annual convention held in Philly. The concert is remembered for Franklin's change in musical arrangements from those heard on her more well-known "Aretha Live at Fillmore West." The Philly performance was remastered in 2007.
The Spectrum was just three years old when The Doors recorded this double-album, then in the late stages of their career. It wasn't released until 2005, as part of the band's Bright Midnight Archives collection. The album got 3 1/2 out of 4 stars from Rolling Stone, which noted, "Jim Morrison sings like he's drunk on the fire behind him instead of cheap hooch."
The eclectic New Hope natives had their work cut out for them performing this show just three days after the 9/11 attacks. It must have been an incredibly unifying experience for those in attendance, both because of the context and because Ween played through their debut album, "WeenGodSatan: The Oneness." The show was released as a double-album in 2016, marking 25 years since the band's beginnings.
This concert had some added significance for Philadelphia, as it was the final event held at JFK Stadium in South Philly before the building was condemned by the city. It wouldn't be demolished until September 1992. The late-stage Grateful Dead powered through 19 songs, with a runtime of a little under three hours. It wasn't released until 2010. The full concert is available on YouTube, with "Box of Rain" below.
The University of Pennsylvania alum's 2008 performance encapsulates why Legend is such a popular live artist. He's a contemporary throwback to an earlier era of soulful entertainers, commanding rooms with a piano and vocals. This show happened shortly before Legend released his third album, "Evolver," and let the music world know he wanted to push the boundaries of his talent through experimentation with new sounds. There's a full-length video of the Tower Theater performance, but only a teaser is up on YouTube.
The soft rockers from Denver had a real moment in the mid-2000s, drawing comparisons to Coldplay and Keane for their piano-driven style of pop rock. Less than a year removed from their debut album "How To Save A Life," The Fray created a singalong scene at the Electric Factory.
We'll round this out with Zappa's posthumous release from his 1976 show at The Spectrum, which is considered unique because of its inclusion of vocalist Bianca Odin on vocals and keyboard. She only toured with the band for a few weeks and this is the only official Zappa release that features Odin. She's been credited with imbuing "Dirty Love" with a feminine power that softened some of the rougher, more controversial edges of Zappa's lyrics.