By: Christine Granskog | 7 August, 2022
Do you ever find yourself lost in a song as it dives deeper and deeper into an instrumental? Or feeling like everything falls away around you when your headphones act as a time machine while listening to the live album, transporting you back to seeing your favorite artist in concert?
I find myself loving long instrumentals more and more lately. I get so excited hearing someone go all in on the instrument they’ve spent years mastering – Elton John on the piano, John Mayer on the guitar, or Clarence Clemons on the saxophone all come to mind.
These instrumental-focused songs tend to be more prevalent when played live. Live albums and live shows help form a stronger connection between the artist and the audience. They make a performer seem more real, more human. The beauty of an extended instrumental or a piece of a song that lets the musician shine provides a whole new perspective for the audience. Mitch Rowland’s guitar on Harry Styles’ She, John Mayer turning Gravity into a 10-minute encore, or Mick Fleetwood rocking out a 30-minute drum solo in the middle of a Fleetwood Mac show while the rest of the band takes a break gives a whole new depth to the songs as well as the musician performing. (I still wonder how Mick Fleetwood’s arms didn’t fall off after that solo.) There’s nothing like witnessing a person do what they’re really good at doing.
Unfortunately, we can’t zap Elton John into our living room for an on-demand show every time we want to listen to Tiny Dancer. The next best thing is listening to the live versions of those songs where the bands had the freedom to jam out and jam together.
During a music rut, I asked my dad to share some of his favorite songs that feature different instruments, live versions, and others that simply have incredible musicality. Since then, he’s created multiple playlists featuring the first songs he thought of when it came to a specific instrument. The first one he put together is for the piano – an instrument I regret not sticking with past 7th grade lessons every day of my life. These songs feature the best of the best, some live versions, that allow you the time and space to become fully immersed in the song. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do: