Originally Posted by Toe
It seems live recordings/mixes are VERY subjective as far as what each person thinks is good.
I generally look for an even spread across a broad range of frequencies (flat frequency response), separation between instruments so I can focus on each and pull them out of the mix, a clear soundstage so I can pinpoint locations of individual instruments and well managed dynamics. The Petty concert had a fairly shrill sound with weak low end (a big hump in the midrange) and the instruments and vocals all blended together into a compressed wall of sound that was dense and opaque. It wasn't bad, but it sounded like a record mix compressed for radio broadcast, not a live performance.
The best live recording I've ever heard are Little Feat's Waiting For Columbus. That is just two channel, but it sounds more transparent and placed in a soundstage than most rock 5.1 recordings I have. That said, live recordings are compromises from the very start, so you have to cut them some slack. Roy Orbison's Black and White Night is pretty good, but the rear channels are abused by breaking off stuff that should have been up front. The Rolling Stones Live at the Max was quite good considering the size of the venue too.
For 5.1, the best recordings I've ever heard are the Elton John SACDs. They are really perfect. The same goes for the SACD of Donald Fagen's The Nightfly and Steely Dan's Gaucho. The Beatles Love album is pretty spectacular too. For videos, the best I've heard are the Lee Ridenour Overtime disk I mentioned before, which shouldn't be surprising because it was recorded live in a large studio by a lot of the same engineers who used to record the Sheffield Lab audiophile direct to disks.
For movies, the opening of Billy Rose's Jumbo on Warner Archive where the speaker walks across the screen maintaining absolutely perfect placement of the voice with the character the whole way is uncanny and raises the hairs on the back of your neck, the incredible multitrack sound and 30fps imagery of the dream ballet in the ToddAO version shows off my system to its absolute limits, the ballet at the end of American In Paris is absolutely beautiful, any of Flicker Alley's Cinerama Titles are incredibly immersive, and for lush gorgeous three strip Technicolor in all its glory, Meet Me in St Louis can't be beat. The Beatles Yellow Submarine has a pretty amazing sound mix too.
Aside from those, just about any HD BBC nature show has moments that take your breath away, and opera is consistently well served on blu-ray. The ones that immediately spring to mind are Mehta's Valencia Ring, the Royal Ballet's Prokofiev Romeo and Juliet, and Muti's eye popping Mozart Magic Flute on Decca.
Edit: I had to come back and mention Joseph Losey's Don Giovanni. It was the very first wide release movie to have surround sound, but they hadn't figured out how to make it work in theaters because the technology was so new. Recently, they went back and remixed the multi-track masters for 5.1 blu-ray and the results are spectacular. What a great film! If they did a restoration of Zeffirelli's La Traviata with Domingo this good, I could die happy.