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Thursday, 14 June 2018

The last songs played live by famous musicians (part two)

It seems I'm not the only one with a morbid curiosity about which songs proved to be the final encores of famed musicians.

Here's the first one in case you missed it.

And here is part two, filled with more sad stories about more great artists who are sadly no longer with us.

Thanks to everyone who made suggestions.

(And apologies again - some of the audio in this is shitty.)

Musician: Jim Morrison (The Doors)
Last song played live: The End
Date: December 12, 1970
Location: The Warehouse, New Orleans, USA

As far as I can tell, very little audio and no footage exists of The Doors' final gig with Morrison, but that's possibly a good thing. All reports (and the above mini-doco) suggest The Lizard King "spent the day drinking and casually indulging in a cornucopia of drugs, including a strong dose of psychedelics", leaving him in no shape to perform. As a result, The Doors' last show (in the renowned New Orleans venue The Warehouse) was a debacle. Morrison was barely able to stand and spent much of the gig laying on the stage. He forgot lyrics, missed cues, implored the band to play St James Infirmary Blues, told bad jokes that fell flat, and may or may not have had a puke bucket with him. Eventually he passed out on stage, and the rest of band walked off. When Morrison woke up, he encouraged the crowd to clap for an encore ... and his bandmates came back out. One Warehouse employee described Morrison as the most loaded person they'd seen on their stage ever. According to Setlist.fm, the band still managed a 22-song set, the last track of which was, fittingly, The End (although I can't find any other source confirming that, nor can I find one denying it). But everyone agrees Morrison ended the show by smashing his mic stand to pieces, hitting the stage so hard it made a hole in the floor. Keyboardist Ray Manzarek later claimed in his biography that he saw Morrison's spirit leave his body that night. Somehow, the band reunited to finish the album LA Woman, before Morrison left for Paris. He died there in July, 1971, aged 27.

Below is audio from their second last gig.

Musician: Freddie Mercury (Queen)
Last song played live: It's In Every One Of Us
Date: April 14, 1988
Location: Dominion Theatre, London, UK

The final performance of Freddie Mercury was not with Queen, but as a special guest at a charity gig. The occasion was a performance of Dave Clark's musical Time, which was staged as a fundraiser for AIDS charities. Clark was a close friend of Mercury's - he was sitting by Mercury's bed when the Queen singer finally succumbed to AIDS on November 24, 1991. So it's possible Clark knew Mercury had the disease when Clark asked Mercury to join Cliff Richard on stage for a trio of songs from Time, the final of which was It's In Every One Of Us. Mercury found out he had AIDS almost exactly a year earlier, but didn't announce it to the world until the day before he died.

He would continue to record with Queen up until June 1991 - six months before his death - but his final performance with the band was on August 9, 1986 at Knebworth Park in the UK. The last song he sang with the group that made him a legend was We Are The Champions. Then, with Mercury adorned in a crown and a royal robe, the band launched into God Save The Queen as their singer bowed to his fans for what would sadly prove to be the last time.


Musician: Amy Winehouse
Last song played live: You're Wondering Now
Date: June 18, 2011
Location: Kalemegdan Park, Belgrade, Serbia

The demise of Winehouse is a tragedy best explained by Asif Kapadia's stunning 2015 doco Amy. Out of context, this final drink-and-drug-addled performance just seems pathetic, when really it's an incredibly sad end to a short-but-talented career. Struggling to deal with her fame and addictions, Winehouse was effectively strong-armed into a European tour she was not able or ready to do. The result was one trainwreck show in Belgrade and the cancellation of the remaining 11 shows. Contrary to some reports, Winehouse did sing during the gig (setlist.fm lists it as entirely instrumental, which isn't true - check out this performance of Back To Black from the ill-fated show). But she can barely be heard (or even seem to bother) in the final number, a cover of The Skatellites' You're Wondering Now. A month later, she appeared on stage at London's Roundhouse, dancing along as her goddaughter Dionne Bromfield sang Mama Said. Three days later, on July 23, 2011, she died, joining the infamous "27 Club".

Musician: Tupac Shakur
Last song played live: 2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted
Date: July 4, 1996
Location: House of Blues, West Hollywood, USA

Tupac Shakur was just 25 when he was gunned down in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas on September 7, 1996 (he actually died from his injuries six days later). His final gig was two months earlier, and was released on CD and DVD in full nine years after his death - it's one of the 20-or-so Tupac albums released posthumously. However that release, titled Tupac: Live At The House Of Blues, is a bit misleading. The two-hour long concert features Tupac for about 25 minutes - he delivers a nine-song set at the start before making way for the headliners Snoop Dogg, Tha Dogg Pound and Nate Dogg. Tupac then returns for the all-star encore of 2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted alongside Snoop, Nate and about a dozen others. During his time on stage, Tupac dissed Biggie Smalls and Nas, and claimed "I ain't even trying to make peace". Ironically, when Tupac died, his death was announced during a Nas concert. The show was stopped and respect was paid. It took the death of Tupac and Smalls to bring the East Coast-West Coast rap war to come to an end - something it seemed Tupac didn't want in his lifetime.

You can watch most of the concert here, but hit the settings button and turn the speed down to 0.75 before you do.

Musician: Jeff Buckley
Last song played live: ????
Date: May 26, 1997
Location: Barrister's Bar, Memphis, USA

One of the many sad things about Jeff Buckley's passing is that his final gigs have been lost into the ether - no recordings, no photos, not much in the way of setlists. In February 1997, Buckley and his band were recording in Memphis with producer Tom Verlaine (of the band Television) for the follow-up to Grace. On February 12 and 13, they played some of the new material (and some older tunes) at a little hole-in-the-wall bar called Barrister's, located under a parking garage in an alleyway in Memphis. After that, the band returned to New York while Buckley stayed in Memphis to keep writing and demoing. He returned to Barrister's on February 20 and began an irregular (mostly Monday-night) residency to road-test more material. His final show there - indeed his final ever show - was on May 26. He drowned three days later. But as to what he played at that final show, only four or five songs are known and none are specified as the set-closer. We know he played Hallelujah that night, as well as Corpus Christi Carol, Your Flesh Is So Nice, a cover of Edgar Winter's Frankenstein and The Sky Is A Landfill, but frustratingly (especially for the person who requested Buckley for this blog) we don't know what he played last.

The best I can offer is this full band show at Arlene's Grocery in New York (the first with new drummer Parker Kindred), recorded about three and a half months before his death. It finishes, fittingly, with Last Goodbye.

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