Crowd-Pleasing, Club-Wrecking, Festival-Killing
August 1, 2013 4:48 PM   Subscribe

Rolling Stone's 50 Greatest Live Acts Right Now as voted by 'a panel of writers, industry figures and artists'.

The Voters:
Trey Anastasio, Phish; Irving Azoff, Azoff Music Mgmt.; Carrie Brownstein, Wild Flag; Cliff Burnstein, Q Prime Mgmt.; Coran Capshaw, Red Light Mgmt.; Jonathan Cohen, Music booker, Late Night With Jimmy Fallon; Alex Ebert, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros; Perry Farrell, Jane’s Addiction, Lollapalooza founder; Marc Geiger, William Morris Endeavor; Jim Glancy, The Bowery Presents; Christian Hoard, Rolling Stone; Brittany Howard, Alabama Shakes; Rick Krim, VH1; Jon Landau, Jon Landau Mgmt.; Alan Light, Author and journalist; Peter Mensch, Q Prime Mgmt.; John Moore, The Bowery Presents; Tom Morello, Rage Against the Machine; Sara Quin, Tegan and Sara; Tegan Quin, Tegan and Sara; Rob Sheffield, Rolling Stone; Patrick Stump, Fall Out Boy; Lars Ulrich, Metallica; Pete Wentz, Fall Out Boy
posted by mannequito (153 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
Needs more Architecture in Helsinki. Tried to find a YouTube video, but you kinda have to be there.
posted by eugenen at 4:58 PM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


No Skeletonwitch? This list has turned Metafilter into a HOUSE OF LIES!!
posted by NoMich at 4:59 PM on August 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's rare that I say this about Rolling Stone, but that's a pretty good list. Every one of those artists that I've seen live in person or on TV/video, even if their music is not my cup of tea, is electrifying in performance and seemingly incapable of phoning it in.

Also, The Hives, motherfucker.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:00 PM on August 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


The same 50 artist they always seem to talk about and the reason I don't read it anymore?
Okay.
posted by Seamus at 5:00 PM on August 1, 2013 [11 favorites]


Surprisingly, none of them are responsible for a terrorist bombing that killed several people (well, some people were killed at concerts by the Rolling Stones, the Who, and others, but nothing considered terrorist... at least by rock fans).

Yes, Rolling Stone magazine is never going to live that cover down (and I TRIED to buy a copy of the issue but found nobody selling it where I shopped).
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:01 PM on August 1, 2013


"industry figures" is right. I thought this list had to be old until I noticed they mentioned QOTSA's new album.

The problem with most of these artists is that your only choice is to see them in huge venues. I saw Prince perform at a TV taping a while back, and I was about ten feet away from him, and it blew any other performance I've ever seen out of the water. Stadium shows can't deliver that. I mean, I'm sure Springsteen is still great but can you imagine being crammed into a club and seeing this?
posted by Bookhouse at 5:02 PM on August 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also, I'm seeing Killer Mike tonight and word on the street is that he's one of the hottest live acts going right now. But I'm sure it wouldn't translate to the Rose Bowl.
posted by Bookhouse at 5:03 PM on August 1, 2013 [6 favorites]


It's rare that I say this about Rolling Stone, but that's a pretty good list. Every one of those artists that I've seen live in person or on TV/video, even if their music is not my cup of tea, is electrifying in performance and seemingly incapable of phoning it in.

Yeah I would generally stay away from posting lists but this one surprised me, especially for Rolling Stone. The only two I thought really deserved to be on the list that weren't, were Flaming Lips and Tortoise (and really, I wouldn't expect to find Tortoise on this kind of list).
posted by mannequito at 5:03 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


[Let's skip the kerfuffle about the recent cover; this post is about bands. Thanks.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 5:03 PM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, The Hives, motherfucker

A thousand times yes.
posted by thirtyeightdown at 5:06 PM on August 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


I know, I know, your favorite band sucks, but no Jucifer? The drummer doesn't play his drums so much as he stalks and murders them. And agreeing - Killer Mike and El-P's current tour is amazing, and The Hives are almost a religious experience live. I think I'll pay attention to this thread and try to follow some recommendations!
posted by Homeskillet Freshy Fresh at 5:08 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


This list is worthless without Matt & Kim.
posted by 2bucksplus at 5:11 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


They have people who lip synch on there and they don't have Gwar.

What do you expect from Rolling Stone?
posted by bukvich at 5:12 PM on August 1, 2013 [7 favorites]


Yeah, the arena problem is a problem. I mean the "Queen at Live Aid" phenomenon, where an artist can captivate a ginormous audience (especially outdoors) is a total outlier. I saw The Who in 1975 at the Chicago Stadium with earbleed seats, and it was only the adrenaline of my very first no-parents big venue show that kept that from being weirdly detached and remote. Cheap Trick at the same joint in 77-78 ---- now that was significantly better.

If the only way to really engage with the music is by looking at a giant screen, then I seriously find it more electrifying and thrilling to watch a show on DVD in my living room.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:13 PM on August 1, 2013


You know who is one of the best new bands out there building a name on their live show right now?
Making fans one by one on the strength of a blistering live set the way bands like REM used to back in the 80s?
Foals
Maybe it wont translate to video and maybe you really need to be present to experience it, but I have seen them 7 times and have never come away not just blown back. There are very few major artists of the last 30 years you could name that I havent seen play live and I can tell you plainly that these guys have it.
And just like R.E.M. they take songs that seem a bit flat on record and use the stage to explode them into life in all directions.
They are swinging back through America this month and I could not suggest checking them out more strongly.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 5:15 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


On the list: Taylor Swift
On the list: Dave Matthews Band
Not on the list: GOGOL FUCKING BORDELLO.

Demolish their building and salt the earth.
posted by delfin at 5:17 PM on August 1, 2013 [22 favorites]


Also, The Thom Yorke Project (featuring Thom Yorke) has been a crushing bore live for a decade now.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 5:18 PM on August 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


CTRL-F THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS NOT FOUND WTF
posted by JHarris at 5:19 PM on August 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


They obviously weren't at the Indigo Girls show I was at on Sunday night in Portland. Holy Fuck!!!
posted by hippybear at 5:20 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


This list is worthless without Matt & Kim.

What? Mel & Kim? I remember liking them once... are they still touring?
posted by hippybear at 5:23 PM on August 1, 2013


Are Los Lobos on this list? If not, it's crap.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:24 PM on August 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Nick Cave shoulda been higher.
posted by kaseijin at 5:25 PM on August 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


List fails without Mastodon, Nile, Napalm Death, and Slayer
posted by Renoroc at 5:25 PM on August 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


The Bannisters are the best live band I have ever seen, period. It's a shame they don't tour so much these days.
posted by thelonius at 5:29 PM on August 1, 2013


DC's MIA not here? Mourning.
posted by telstar at 5:30 PM on August 1, 2013


Of course, the moral of this whole story is: do not fucking pass up a chance to see a titanic or potentially legendary artist at a small venue. Call in sick, borrow a car, get an extension on that paper, skip a few meals to save cash, make all reasonable sacrifices.

Every time I think about being "too broke and busy" to catch Graham Parker and the Rumour in 1979, I feel like banging my head on my desk until I induce a brain bleed.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:34 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Of course, the moral of this whole story is: do not fucking pass up a chance to see a titanic or potentially legendary artist at a small venue. Call in sick, borrow a car, get an extension on that paper, skip a few meals to save cash, make all reasonable sacrifices.

I have a list of artists I feel this way about, some of them huge, some of them not that well known (but they need to be known better, IMO).

February of 2012 I got out of work on Friday and drove to Seattle to see The Polyphonic Spree at a club with a max occ. of 600. I was there ridiculously early, had drinks in the bar, was VERY early in line, was right AT the stage... it was intense and amazing and more full of joy than I knew a night could contain. It also ended after 1am.

I had no lodging plans. Well, I had a plan... the plan was "get in the car and drive back toward home until you get to the first rest area out of town and then pull over and sleep in your car for a while and then drive home". Yes, I was planning this as a 44 year old. Some things just have to be done.

What I hadn't realized, despite doing the drive a zillion times, was that the first rest area east on I-90 is 90 miles outside of town.

Yeah, make the sacrifices for your music. I've never been disappointed, no matter what twists and turns the adventure required to be at the show may require.
posted by hippybear at 5:41 PM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow, U2's stock has really crashed with Rolling Stone over the last few years, hasn't it? It used to be they'd get a mention every other page.
posted by Artw at 5:42 PM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


About ten years ago Tom Waits was in Vancouver playing at a theater when he found out that a club down the street was about to celebrate it's 75th anniversary. Apparently out of a love for old, potentially haunted buildings, he decided to play there the following night, and it was the smallest venue he'd played since the 70s. To this day I hate myself for choosing to pay that stupid thing called 'rent' over going to that show.

From this review:

What made the night a stunner was the way that performer and audience fed off each other's energy. The connection, which never quite happened at the Orpheum, was made early on, right around the middle of "Don't Go Into That Barn", a ramshackle, Faulknerian tale of ruin that's Real Gone's best song. Waits bellowed and spat his way through the story of Everett Lee, who's high on potato-and-tulip wine, and Saginaw Calinda, who lives in the shadow of a long-dead farm. It was at the end of the tune that performer and audience become one. Sounding like a crazy uncle who's been locked in the root cellar for too long, Waits hollered out the line "Did you cover your tracks?", at which point the crowd screamed back, "Yes, sir."

"Did you bring your knife?"

"Yes, sir."

"Did they see your face?"

"No, sir."

"Did the mom see you?"

"No, sir."

And so it went. "Don't Go Into That Barn" gave every fan in attendance a memory they'll never forget. Just as amazing was that the show never slowed down after that five-minute masterpiece. Yes, it was that magical.

posted by mannequito at 5:45 PM on August 1, 2013


Club-wrecking? Methinks very few of those bands have played in a club in years.

Anyway, without Swans and (the) Melvins, this list is crap.
posted by doublesix at 5:46 PM on August 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


Can't believe there's folks in here picking on Radiohead when the No. 3 spot on this list is occupied by the It's A Small World ride at Rock & Roll Disneyland.
posted by gompa at 5:50 PM on August 1, 2013 [3 favorites]



Needs more Architecture in Helsinki. Tried to find a YouTube video, but you kinda have to be there.


Depends on what you mean by 'there'. 'Cause I was there when they were playing Sydney University as a twee act and when they opened for Belle & Sebastian and when they dropped glowsticks on the crowds at festivals, and while they're fun I wouldn't call them the best.

Number 1 is Springsteen, as he should be. I've been to over 100 gigs, from big to small. I saw Springsteen in a huge arena this year. Twice. They were two of the greatest experiances of my life. The pure communion with the audience - the way he moved from rock to tearful soul - was incredible. I couldn't imagine a better show.

Arcade Fire and Jack White are also good live... didn't feel Wilco when I saw them at the Opera House, even they played some stuff from AM. Alabama Shakes at 16 is well deserved - almost died when I saw them at Big Day Out this year. Neil Young also killed at BDO a few years ago... rocked so, so, so hard.

Tom Waits is the only artist I've never seen that I want to see. Leonard Cohen I've seen once and it was like a prayer or a meditation; he's touring here again soon and I may see him again.

Nick Cave I've seen almost a dozen times in three different bands, and every time I'm struck by how dynamic and sexy he is... saw him once at BDO after a whole day of acts like Iggy Pop and Andrew WK and Jim Jones Revue and he still killed me.

Muse are boring, except for lasers. The National brought me to tears; Matt Berringer literally walked on the crowd like he was walking on water. I've either never seen Tame Impala or saw them when they were so small I don't remember it.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:50 PM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Holy shit, do I love Prince's new band.
posted by middleclasstool at 5:50 PM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]



Surprisingly, none of them are responsible for a terrorist bombing that killed several people (well, some people were killed at concerts by the Rolling Stones, the Who, and others, but nothing considered terrorist... at least by rock fans).


My friend claims that when Springsteen played Germany the fans jumped up and down so hard they cracked the stadium, and there's a story that the Foo Fighters caused an earthquake in NZ.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:51 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


The only two I thought really deserved to be on the list that weren't, were Flaming Lips and Tortoise (and really, I wouldn't expect to find Tortoise on this kind of list).

thing is if you see them ONCE, Flaming Lips are amazing with the confetti and the hamster balls and all that. if you see them TWICE, the show repeats and it seems a bit forced and boring. whereas Springsteen, Cohen, Cave... you can see them heaps of times and they're still powerful
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:52 PM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, I'm seeing Killer Mike tonight and word on the street is that he's one of the hottest live acts going right now. But I'm sure it wouldn't translate to the Rose Bowl.

Saw him last night. Great show, about twice as long as I thought it would be. Well, great except for Kool AD, that guy sucked worse than the crap he was doing as das racist.
You're right, though, it probably wouldn't be great in an arena.
posted by lkc at 5:53 PM on August 1, 2013


I saw The Cure two nights ago. 38 songs in 3 1/2 hours - every album was represented except Bloodflowers. Smith's voice is as strong as ever. The band sounds even better live than on album. A sold out stadium danced like mad for most of the concert and then went absolutely berserk for the last 30 minutes. Quite possibly the best concert I've ever seen in terms of enthusiasm of the band, sound quality, passion of the fans, length and content.

Not saying The Cure belongs on the list necessarily - because everyone's concert going experience is going to be different and one person's favorite band is another person's your favorite band sucks. Just that they were pretty amazing. I was surprised to find myself weeping during a couple of the songs from Disintegration and during "One Hundred Years."

So, yeah, there's that.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:55 PM on August 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


ALL OF THE LIGHTS! Street lights, flash lights, bud light, black light, night light, drug light.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:56 PM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


It really seems like their criteria for great live shows are audience volume and energy. Which explains why, with a few exceptions, I don't really like rock shows even though I love rock.
posted by graymouser at 5:56 PM on August 1, 2013


My friend claims that when Springsteen played Germany the fans jumped up and down so hard they cracked the stadium

Gothenburg, Sweden
, actually:

Vibrations can cause spectacular problems, such as when Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band played 'Because the Night' and 'Twist and Shout' towards the end of their concert at Nya Ullevi Stadium in Gothenburg in July 1985. The whole stadium started vibrating, large plates on the roof started moving and almost fell down, chairs and tables tipped over in the offices and those who were washing dishes on the other side of the street were splashed in the face by the moving dishwashing water. The Nya Ullevi stadium experienced structural damage for millions of € and was closed for rock concerts for years afterwards.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:56 PM on August 1, 2013 [4 favorites]



I saw The Cure two nights ago. 38 songs in 3 1/2 hours - every album was represented except Bloodflowers. Smith's voice is as strong as ever. The band sounds even better live than on album. A sold out stadium danced like mad for most of the concert and then went absolutely berserk for the last 30 minutes. Quite possibly the best concert I've ever seen in terms of enthusiasm of the band, sound quality, passion of the fans, length and content.


I found it a bit boring; I like the Cure but I don't like The Cure for 3 and a half hours.

There are bands I'd put on this list, but they're bands that mean things to me personally, or smaller shows, so I can't really claim that Rolling Stone should put them on the list. Of the live bands I've seen, they seem to have covered the best.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:00 PM on August 1, 2013


Charlemagne In Sweatpants: "thing is if you see them ONCE, Flaming Lips are amazing with the confetti and the hamster balls and all that. if you see them TWICE, the show repeats and it seems a bit forced and boring. whereas Springsteen, Cohen, Cave... you can see them heaps of times and they're still powerful"

I've seen them twice, stand by them deserving to be on the list. Granted there was about 8 years between the two performances, but they each had their own unique flavour. They are truly one of those bands that I can't stand listening to on album, but live they blow me away (I'd include Dave Matthews Band in that category, if only Dave would learn to shut the fuck up every now and then on stage. Seriously, dude has like some kind of compulsion to always be making sounds come out of his mouth).
posted by mannequito at 6:00 PM on August 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


2 words - Gov't Mule.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:02 PM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh god, yes, Tom Waits. Saw him on Mule Variations and it's one of the single greatest musical experiences of my life. I would sell my own nephews to see him live again. You haven't lived till you've been in a packed theater with people sobbing and laughing and hugging and crying during the fortieth chorus of "Innocent When You Dream."
posted by scody at 6:03 PM on August 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


The problem with most of these artists is that your only choice is to see them in huge venues.

Then go build yourselves an effin' time machine and go back to 1982 when you could see U2 perform at the Auburn College gymnasium in upstate New York with Robert Ellis Orrall as the opener for, like, $8.


Like I did, bitches (minus the time machine). :D
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:10 PM on August 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Very respectable showing by Leonard Cohen. My fandom notwithstanding, I am genuinely surprised they ranked him at 26th. Well deserved, however.
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:11 PM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


That is about 85% suck, that list.
posted by vrakatar at 6:15 PM on August 1, 2013


Was this list sponsored by AARP or something? I'm not interested in new music and don't know any bands from the last 10 years, but surely this shouldn't be so heavily populated by people older than my old ass.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:18 PM on August 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yes, even if you have to drive from Missouri to Kentucky like I did, GO SEE TOM WAITS. Wow, was that a special show.

The guy doesn't tour all that much and while he's only 63, he's surely smoked, drank and lived enough to kill much younger men. One day, this planet won't have a Tom Waits so if you ever get even within spitting distance of a chance, GO SEE TOM WAITS.
posted by saul wright at 6:18 PM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


This list is incomplete without Cafe Tacvba.
posted by pxe2000 at 6:20 PM on August 1, 2013



Was this list sponsored by AARP or something? I'm not interested in new music and don't know any bands from the last 10 years, but surely this shouldn't be so heavily populated by people older than my old ass.


trust me i've seen young bands old bands new bands whatever and Springsteen is still tops. besides, its rolling stones' audience. they did put new acts on it! they put rap, they put mumford & sons, they put jay-z, alabama shakes... pretty progressive for RS
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:20 PM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow, what a terrible list. The Red Hot Chili Peppers have been complete shit live since 1992 and Dave Grohl can not sing live to save his life. Awful. And no metal?
posted by playertobenamedlater at 6:21 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]




Very respectable showing by Leonard Cohen. My fandom notwithstanding, I am genuinely surprised they ranked him at 26th. Well deserved, however.


When he played at dusk at Coachella in 2009, they had him play basically unopposed.
80,000 people, mostly in their teens and twenties, many strictly hip-hop or EDM heads all stood and watched and I swear you could have heard a pin drop. I have never seen any crowd at any show that reverential, that respectful, that silent. Its cliche to describe these things as "religious" but sunset in the desert, things just cooling off, sun tucking behind the mountains, everything bathed in orange and purple while Leonard Cohen sings "Dance Me to the End of Love" to a rapt audience has to qualify. Was really transcendent for all of us.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 6:22 PM on August 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


oh fuck RHCP are on the list? i left Big Day Out 'cause they were so bad
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:22 PM on August 1, 2013


Rammstein doesn't make the top 50? Flaming Lips doesn't either? Bah.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 6:22 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Excellent point about Flaming Lips ... WTF?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:24 PM on August 1, 2013


I've seen a number of people on this list: some are very deserving of their spots, some are infuriatingly inconsistent, and some should definitely be ranked higher. Tom Waits is magic. I've seen Nick Cave several times and he's a dynamo, and during his last tour I saw him connect with the audience like never before. Patti Smith is a fire goddess when she's on, absolutely mesmerizing.

I guess this is what I would expect from Rolling Stone, but it would be nice to see a list of lesser known or less publicized performers who really put on an incredible show. I frequently find that experience more electrifying - seeing someone I know very little about and being blasted through the back wall, or throwing up my hands and saying "OK I GIVE UP ON EVER BEING GOOD AT ANYTHING AGAIN."
posted by louche mustachio at 6:25 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]



Rammstein doesn't make the top 50? Flaming Lips doesn't either? Bah.


again, Rammstein needs gimmicks to do a good show. Bruce, Neil Young, Cohen, Cave can do it with just voice and guitar
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:26 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


dead sara - their showstopper - weatherman - live of course
posted by pyramid termite at 6:27 PM on August 1, 2013


I can't really argue with the top 5, except maybe to switch Neil and Arcade Fire around.

At least they mentioned Tool.

I wouldn't pay money to see most of these bands, however.

I take it Bryan Ferry isn't currently touring?
posted by Max Power at 6:31 PM on August 1, 2013


Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers put on a great show when my dad took my brother and me to see them on the Hard Promises tour in 1980. Dad later said he was torn between wondering whether it was wise to bring an eight- and ten-year old to a rock concert (it was) and estimating the street value of the cloud of marijuana smoke that filled the rafters as soon as the lights went down. Back then Tom Petty wore the skinniest jeans in rock and roll. Tommy Tutone opened the show.

Then it seemed like every summer had an Elvis Costello & The Attractions show for the family to attend. My favorite was probably '83, the Punch the Clock tour, when he was still an angry young man but he played with a horn section now.

Those were good shows. A few years ago I attended a Bottlerockets concert in a small space with music guru jonmc. They're a great band, but they permanently fucked up the hearing in my right ear by periodically turning up their amps like a troupe of amateur clowns, fucking assholes, and now I've lost a lot of my joie de vivre and I don't much like attending concerts anymore because I'm terrified of losing the rest of my hearing, so fuck them to hell, those goddamn pricks.

I like outdoor venues because aside from all the friendly tokery that happens on the lawn, you can just walk away from the speakers when it becomes necessary, without having to ditch the whole scene.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 6:32 PM on August 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Christalive, is all of journalism going to become endless lists of bullshit?
posted by xmutex at 6:35 PM on August 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


To be fair, Rolling Stone has been doing endless lists of bullshit for decades.
posted by saul wright at 6:37 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]




Stuff I've seen in the last few years that blew me the hell away:

Dirty Projectors (in '10, when all the women were still in the band)
MGMT, oddly enough
The Damned
Boris
Russian Circles
Butthole Surfers
that band Craig Finn is in now whose name I can't recall
MOTORHEAD, duh
Slayer ditto
Roky Erickson b/w Okkervil River
Joanna Newsom
Monotonix (featuring the drummer, who crowdsurfs w/ some of his drumkit, way too fun)
Kool Keith (fuck yeah)
Del tha Funkee Homosapien
Meat Puppets (as a 3, then a 4-piece)
Jolie Holland in a club
Treme Brass Band (at their home club)
Devo

BOOTSY COLLINS oh my god

But it's just as well Rolling Stone doesn't know about any of that...
posted by hap_hazard at 6:42 PM on August 1, 2013



that band Craig Finn is in now whose name I can't recall


You either mean his solo work or you're an old LifterPuller fan who think of The Hold Steady as "Craig Finn's new band". Or I'm utterly out of the loop.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:43 PM on August 1, 2013


well mostly I really couldn't remember for a second but partly I was fuckin' w/ ya :)
posted by hap_hazard at 6:46 PM on August 1, 2013


The proper list:

0) Kraftwerk
1) Kraftwerk
10) Kraftwerk
11) Kraftwerk
101) Kraftwerk
110) Kraftwerk
111) Kraftwerk

Etc.
posted by graphnerd at 7:02 PM on August 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Nick Cave shoulda been higher.

Just read the list backwards.
posted by grog at 7:04 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, The Thom Yorke Project (featuring Thom Yorke) has been a crushing bore live for a decade now.
posted by Senor Cardgage


What is it like, not enjoying fun?
posted by Windigo at 7:04 PM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Actually, not "Etc.". More like:

for(i=o; i > 49; i++) {
print("Kraftwerk");
}
posted by graphnerd at 7:04 PM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]



Also, The Thom Yorke Project (featuring Thom Yorke) has been a crushing bore live for a decade now.
posted by Senor Cardgage

What is it like, not enjoying fun?


You're a Radiohead fan, so you should know.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 7:04 PM on August 1, 2013 [15 favorites]


What is it like, not enjoying fun?


"Fun" in this case being listening to dank soggy bloodless dirges moaned over with clicky noises?
Frankly, I dont miss it.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 7:05 PM on August 1, 2013


Oh snap, Charlemagne in Sweatpants beat me to it.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 7:06 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Half the best concerts I've seen were in venues that seat about 50-70 people. And Tom Waits...

Though a big act that absolutely needs to be on the list, along with Gogol: The Cat Empire. They're all about live.
posted by opsin at 7:13 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]



Though a big act that absolutely needs to be on the list, along with Gogol: The Cat Empire. They're all about live.


wait for Australian Rolling Stone to come out with their own list. then you'll see The Cat Empire and, um, The Living End
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 7:16 PM on August 1, 2013


Nick Cave shoulda been higher.

"I'm forever near a stereo saying, 'What the fuck is this GARBAGE?' And the answer is always the Red Hot Chili Peppers. -- Nick Cave
posted by felch at 7:17 PM on August 1, 2013 [14 favorites]


Fuck, I forgot about The Living End. They're still playing? In the late 90s my high school girlfriend talked me into going to see The Offspring, who I always hated. But it turned out to be totally worth it for introducing me to the two openers -The Living End and Ozomatli.
posted by mannequito at 7:19 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]



Fuck, I forgot about The Living End. They're still playing? In the late 90s my high school girlfriend talked me into going to see The Offspring, who I always hated. But it turned out to be totally worth it for introducing me to the two openers -The Living End and Ozomatli.


yeah they still do shows, festivals, and car races. they're pretty decent live, but there are better live Aussie punk bands - Smith Street Band, Royal Headache.

and though i don't listen to them, its great from a NATIONAL PRIDE perspective to see Tame Impala so high on the list
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 7:22 PM on August 1, 2013


Meh, too many huge stadium bands. All the most memorable concerts were in smaller venues, with bands that probably few people heard of, or before they became big. Legendary Pink Dots was my top, with Skinny Puppy right below. Both right up to the band, they put on a good show and performed great.

Shameless plug for an smaller club in LaCrosse Wisconsin that is having financial troubles, but has had bands play before they became big, and does more for bands than any stadium, The Warehouse. 22 years being a non-alcoholic club where all ages could go see live bands in a town that is pretty much all bars, far from other cities where other options exist. After being at shows in places like The Warehouse and Fist Avenue in the Twin Cities, stadium bands just seem boring, no matter how good they are. If i need a large screen to even see the performers, it's too big.
posted by usagizero at 7:27 PM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Its cliche to describe these things as "religious" but sunset in the desert, things just cooling off, sun tucking behind the mountains, everything bathed in orange and purple

Ha, that's definitely one of the Coachella sweet spots for excellent sets. I saw Sigur Ros when the sun was setting at Coachella, and it was similarly something close to a religious experience. People were just conked out on the grass or swaying slowly, completely blissed out listening to them. It was like you could feel their music in the air and in the ground.
posted by yasaman at 7:29 PM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


No Skeletonwitch? This list has turned Metafilter into a HOUSE OF LIES!!


I just heard "HA HA JERRY" from the other room and knew exactly what it was about.


But seriously Skeletonwitch are AWSOME live.


Also, we are now listening to Radio Birdman, who burned this list DOWN when we saw them. Tore it up, set it on fire, and rocked on the ashes. Yeah.
posted by louche mustachio at 7:39 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Of course, the moral of this whole story is: do not fucking pass up a chance to see a titanic or potentially legendary artist at a small venue. Call in sick, borrow a car, get an extension on that paper, skip a few meals to save cash, make all reasonable sacrifices.

Yeah, that. I just passed on a chance to see Prince at a small venue because the tickets were so fucking expensive. Still kicking myself. WTF was I thinking?
posted by wallabear at 7:46 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, that. I just passed on a chance to see Prince at a small venue because the tickets were so fucking expensive. Still kicking myself. WTF was I thinking?

As I've probably talked about before, I was at the Dakota Jazz Club show with 200 other Prince fans that shelled out absurd money to see him debut his new band this past January.

I've loved Prince since I was 9. My first road band was a Prince tribute band. I've seen him a half a dozen times in arenas and they've all rocked my world.

At the Dakota show, I stood 3 feet away from him and he HANDED ME HIS HARMONY TELECASTER at one point. The band killed and it was amazing to watch him work them like an additional instrument from that distance.

It was, easily, after the birth of my daughter and my wedding day, the best single experience of my life.

So I guess what I'm saying is I think Prince probably is due the #2 spot.

Also, I saw D'angelo earlier this year with Questlove at First Ave and am going back there to see him again next week. That is a show you should see, too.
posted by elmer benson at 8:06 PM on August 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


The Drones.

It's like watching an exorcism. Inside a car crash.
posted by tim_in_oz at 8:17 PM on August 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Useless without Screaming Females.
posted by NedKoppel at 8:19 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I'm forever near a stereo saying, 'What the fuck is this GARBAGE?' And the answer is always the Red Hot Chili Peppers. -- Nick Cave

I really have no idea what we were collectively thinking.
posted by Artw at 8:24 PM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Senor Cardgage, I saw that Leonard Cohen show too. My friend and I were really close up to the front, and Cohen was amazing. I've always kind of liked his recordings, but seeing him live made everything about him click for me.

While it sucks that it happened to him, I'm kind of glad that his accountant swindling him forced him back to the stage to perform again.
posted by malapropist at 8:26 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


BEST BEERS ON TAP:

1) BUDWEISER
2) MILLER GENUINE DRAFT
3) PBR
4) COORS
5) SAM ADAMS

posted by klangklangston at 8:32 PM on August 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Was this list sponsored by AARP or something? I'm not interested in new music and don't know any bands from the last 10 years, but surely this shouldn't be so heavily populated by people older than my old ass.

It's Darwin.
People who survive 20 - 30 years in the music business learn to put on a great show or die.

They also tend to have decided to take the whole thing seriously as a career and are professional and practiced.
posted by madajb at 8:37 PM on August 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


Not a terrible list (my WTF is Mountain Goats), but it should be called like, The Best Arena Live Acts or something. Probably has more to do with the people making the list because I can only imagine 3 or 4 of them seeing any live shows not in a major venue.

You know how every town has that one kid that goes to *every* concert. Seriously, they're at 5 shows a week minimum, regardless of venue or musical genre. I wanna see a list from a bunch of those kids.
posted by dogwalker at 8:47 PM on August 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


This list is completely missing Dillinger Four.

Biggest show missing regrets: Janelle Monae at Schubas (capacity 200), White Stripes at the Empty Bottle in 2001 (also probably capacity 200).
posted by bibliogrrl at 8:49 PM on August 1, 2013


The list omits this one awesome band I like a great deal, who, when I saw them perform live, memorably surpassed my expectations.

* tsk *
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 9:08 PM on August 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's weird to read Rolling Stone, and have them treat Rush with anything aside from complete and utter loathing and comtempt.
posted by spinifex23 at 9:13 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Tool?

After seeing them at the Bill Graham 6ish years ago, I swore off their live shows forever. Maynard stood behind a curtain the entire show and lectured SF for being too politically correct.

That said, I am a huge fan of their music.
posted by vaportrail at 9:22 PM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Such an odd list - Much of what's been written above I agree with (Oh my God the Hives! - NEVER miss the Hives if you have a chance to see them) but some of the bands? There are a couple I'd schedule a root canal to avoid, but whatever, I'm not naming them because it's cool whatever you like.... OK, I'm looking at you, Dave Matthews... Ok, sorry, I'll stop.

Also interesting: Bands you love that may be problematic live for whatever reason: I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for Rush (my first concert in fact, Grace Under Pressure tour in '84 at the Spectrum in Philly) but they were always so fanatical about recreating every note from the recordings I stopped seeing the point in going. I love The National, but their music is so dark and intimate to me I can't stand to hear them in a large venue with people [shudder] singing along.

I've also got this odd anti-nostalgia streak, which keeps me from seeing bands I truly, deeply love if there was no way for me to have seen them at their peak and/or with the original or optimum lineup (e.g. The Who, The Stones, The Police, etc.)

How about artists you love that just can't seem to put it together live? Liz Phair is, and will always be, a goddess to me, but the 3 times I've seen her live she just sucked.... nervous and scattered and off-key. Or you catch someone at a bad moment - Pavement in Boston on a night Malkmus clearly had the flu or something. I cut him slack for that, but not for making us endure US Maple as an opener...

Or: Great bands at shitty venues: The New Pornographers rendered nearly unlistenable by the crap sound system and acoustics at the House of Blues Boston...

And then sometimes you get lucky (or not) - a very shortlist of my own amazing (to me) and bizarre mainly because I hung out with people considerably cooler (and/or less cool) than myself:

The Stranglers at the old Ritz on 11th Street in NYC, 1987 - Notable as the infamous "Let's sodomize the heckler with the hors' devours platter" show later named SPIN magazine's 93rd of the "100 Sleaziest Moments In Rock".

Jane's Addiction at City Gardens in Trenton, NJ about 3 months after 'Nothing's Shocking' came out - I hung back against a wall in utter fear of the energy and crazy in front of me -

My life-long City Gardens regret: Telling my buddy I had no interest in seeing a pre-Dave Grohl Nirvana in '89 because he'd played me 'Bleach' and I thought it SUCKED (still do, frankly).

Midnight Oil at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, OR in '93 - More pure energy (especially during the 'Hercules' closer) than I think I've ever experienced at a show.

Fugazi at the WOW Hall in Eugene, OR ('91 or 2?) - Best $5 I ever spent.

The awesomeness of every Robin Hitchcock show.

The embarrassing pleasure of seeing the Grateful Dead return to my alma mater in '92 (Oregon) after a long ban on playing in Eugene.

The embarrassing pleasure of live ska (how many times does one need to see The Toasters?)

Weird moments unique to Boston: Trying not to bump into Natalie Portman (then at Harvard) during a Sleater-Kinney show at the Middle East...

Now I'm going to be up the rest of the night queueing songs and wallowing - Rolling Stone bastards!
posted by jalexei at 9:38 PM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


How about artists you love that just can't seem to put it together live?

there's a reason that despite him being a Boomer God, Bob Dylan isn't on this list. after 4 shows in various venues I realized that, as amazing as he is, he just isn't that good live anymore

of course, maybe the next time he tours he'll be amazing....
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 9:46 PM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


Drive-By Truckers, y'all. Drive. By. Truckers. If you've never seen 'em you're doing yourself a disservice.

I'd also like to second Gogol Bordello. I saw them start a set at Lollapalooza with about 2000-ish people in front of their stage. By the time they finished, they had maybe 5 times that many, as people kept coming over wanting desperately to know what is THAT?

If you're already a Gogol Bordello fan, try Firewater, who have a smaller commercial footprint, but are similarly world punk bhangra klezmer crazy and absolutely fantastic live.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:58 PM on August 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh and anyone who loves The Hives needs to go out of their fucking way to see Reigning Sound, who Pelle frequently calls his favorite band, and who The Hives sometimes cover.

They're ugly middle-aged Southern dudes in shabby clothes, so they don't have the same visual style, but Greg Cartwright's unbelievable songwriting and wounded animal wail will kick your ass. It's like everything good from a dive bar jukebox in 1969, all rolled into one rip-roaring package.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:03 PM on August 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


The best live act in the world is playing in your town right now at a tiny club in front of ten people. All that's missing is you and five stiff drinks.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:08 PM on August 1, 2013 [8 favorites]


can't believe i forgot DBTs or Hives. also add Jim Jones Revue and any band Jon Spencer is in. and Clutch
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 10:08 PM on August 1, 2013


Flaming Lips and Tortoise

Never saw Flaming Lips but I saw Tortoise twice and I love them and I'd go again but...they're not even close to the top 50 best live acts IMO.
posted by Hoopo at 10:12 PM on August 1, 2013


Tool?

After seeing them at the Bill Graham 6ish years ago, I swore off their live shows forever. Maynard stood behind a curtain the entire show and lectured SF for being too politically correct.


That sounds lame, but I can vouch for this much: in the 90s they were fantastic live. Absurdly loud though.
posted by Hoopo at 10:16 PM on August 1, 2013


Just wanted to put in and echo dogwalker that The Mountain Goats are a sad omission. And, although I wouldn't ever really expect them to be on a mainstream list, The Protomen put on arguably the best rock show I've ever been to.
posted by cthuljew at 10:53 PM on August 1, 2013


I've seen about 10 of the 50, but what surprised me is that there were a number of acts I've turned down as too likely to not be worth the fun. Also Lindsey Buckingham, man, wtf. You can see him in comparatively small venues when he's not touring with Fleetwood Mac, and he puts on a fantastic gig. How was he not on this list?

The biggest surprise for me on this list was Mumford & Sons, whom I really like (shut UP, I come by my love for folk naturally) but whom I saw at a big venue in June and found utterly lame live. They brought nothing to the show that wasn't on the album, which was a damned shame. Maybe they couldn't get worked up for the F1 racetrack crowd or the heat wilted them or something, but I was mildly shocked to see them on the list when some really classic folks I won't miss when they come through (Buckingham, Richard Thompson, etc.) weren't on the list.
posted by immlass at 11:06 PM on August 1, 2013



Just wanted to put in and echo dogwalker that The Mountain Goats are a sad omission. And, although I wouldn't ever really expect them to be on a mainstream list, The Protomen put on arguably the best rock show I've ever been to.


wow... they were playing across the street from my house last week... i even had dinner at the venue but didn't go in. turns out Gabe and/or Tycho was also in the crowd. thought they'd be too geeky
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 11:12 PM on August 1, 2013


I'm sorry, but the live shows at any random EDM festival blow all of these guys out of the water.
posted by empath at 11:47 PM on August 1, 2013



I'm sorry, but the live shows at any random EDM festival blow all of these guys out of the water.


Fireworks, lasers, light shows and all that are cheating (and yes, I do think Muse shouldn't be on the list for that reason). A great live performer can connect with the audience without ANY gimmicks. The most SFX Springsteen used was a tribute to his dead friend.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 11:55 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can't believe Drive By Truckers took so long to come up. Those guys are as musically tight as they come, and they just rocked the fuck out of the house for like two and a half hours. They go back stage for 10 minutes, then come out with dry shirts on and a bottle of whiskey. By the time the whiskey's half gone, Mike Cooley has sweated through his second shirt. And they keep playing till the bottle is empty. Who the fuck plays an 11 song encore?
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 11:57 PM on August 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


I saw them play after Booker T. THEY WERE BETTER.

And any individual member... man Jason Isbell can bring you to tears alone.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 11:58 PM on August 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


Willie Nelson, people. WILLIE NELSON. Still playing hundreds of dates a year at 80, still sounds amazing every night. (I am seeing him next week with Lyle Lovett performing Stardust in its entirety for its 35th anniversary, and I am incandescent with excitement.)

Though I personally refuse to believe it, some say he is mortal, so in the event that this is true I encourage everyone to see him while you still can.
posted by scody at 12:41 AM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I just dug back through piles of old blog posts to find one that I wrote in 2010. I got bored one night and went through my collection of ticket stubs and ranked my top ten, so here's my own mini-list:

10. Ween
9. Secret Chiefs / Sleepytime Gorilla Museum
8. Radiohead
7. Gogol Bordello
6. Daniel Lanois / Tortoise
5. Pearl Jam
4. Dillinger Escape Plan / Hella
3. Flaming Lips
2. Rage Against The Machine
1. Mr. Bungle

I might re-jig the order a bit but I think that still stands as my top ten, although the RS list reminds me that I left off Neil Young and The Roots, probably because I saw them both at festivals. Plus I wasn't going with the strict criteria of performance, it was more my general overall experience.
posted by mannequito at 1:14 AM on August 2, 2013


When [Leonard Cohen] played at dusk at Coachella in 2009, they had him play basically unopposed. 80,000 people, mostly in their teens and twenties, many strictly hip-hop or EDM heads all stood and watched and I swear you could have heard a pin drop. I have never seen any crowd at any show that reverential, that respectful, that silent.

I had the same experience at Benicassim, which is usually pretty rockist (people like Oasis headlining). Everyone just really softly singing Hallelujah, just loud enough to be participating, not loud enough to overwhelm Cohen. Just beautiful.
posted by Infinite Jest at 1:50 AM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yep, Charlemagne, as a die hard Dylan fan, he's just not that great live. His voice is shot, the mix is usually muddy, and at least the last time I saw him, he doesn't play guitar anymore. Unfortunately, "The Neverending Tour" is more of an insult than an accomplishment. What I wouldn't give to have seen him in 1965-66, or 1975-76.
posted by malapropist at 2:39 AM on August 2, 2013


For an amazing live experience I would never miss a show by Les Savy Fav. Every show I have seen is different feeding off the venue and the audience to create something funny and spontaneous.
posted by alanbee at 4:35 AM on August 2, 2013


No Drive By Truckers?
posted by octothorpe at 5:14 AM on August 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Taste is really important to a list like this; there are a bunch of bands on that list that I wouldn't see for free because I don't care for their music. And other artists that have SOME music I love but not enough/anything they'd play.

The other thing that struck out was how many of these bands I'd consider way on the downhill. Sigur Rós put on one of the top 5 best sets I've ever seen in a club in 2003 but I've been almost bored the last two times I've seen them (which to be fair have been at outdoor festivals). I really enjoyed my first time seeing Rush... and then got bored when they put on the same show three years later. I have traveled far to see Radiohead but the last time I just wanted to leave (but was too tired to push my way out of the crowd). The Black Keys, Pearl Jam, Muse, Arcade Fire, My Morning Jacket and Tool are all the same story.

And these (beyond Rush and maybe Pearl Jam and Radiohead) are, in the context of this list, young bands. And I'm betting they wouldn't've made the list 10 years ago (or whenever would make sense for their age).

Consensus list-making results in watered down broad appeal typical stuff. This list is "if you like this artist their concert should be good enough for you to enjoy yourself, probably a lot". Which isn't a bad thing but it's very different from "best", which will probably be a different list for everyone that regularly goes to shows. That is unlikely to contain that many people from this particular list.

I'd much rather see the top 5 or 10 list from each contributor.
posted by mountmccabe at 5:57 AM on August 2, 2013


Though they somehow listed Janelle Monáe who is young and isn't in the broad rock style of much of the others... so yay for that.
posted by mountmccabe at 6:00 AM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


mountmccabe, really? Black Keys? I saw them last year headlining Coachella, and they were *spectacular*... it was one of the greatest shows I've ever seen, despite it being a stadium sized audience. I thought they were tighter than ever, having seen them in 2009. And My Morning Jacket? I haven't seen them since 08, but I've heard that they're still amazing live.

And freaking Arcade Fire? I didn't get to see them when they toured The Suburbs, but my friends who saw them were absolutely blown away. From what I hear (I know, it's getting old me trying to vouch for bands that I haven't seen live in a while) they were at the top of their game at that point.

I also saw Radiohead last year and, not being particularly into Radiohead, I didn't stay for the whole show. I didn't think it was anything special. Rush, sure, I could see them being stale at this point. Never liked Muse or Tool, but seriously though, My Morning Jacket and Arcade Fire are still at their peaks, if you ask me. And ain't nothin you gonna say convinces me that Black Keys show I saw last year was not one of the most amazing concerts I've ever seen.
posted by malapropist at 6:16 AM on August 2, 2013


Seriously, Los Lobos. I saw them just last year, and literally wept through two thirds of the show it was so powerful and beautiful. The way they can effortlessly and seamlessly move from traditional Norteño acoustic songs into their blues/rock & even experimental music & back again is a thing of beauty. They're not just skilled journeymen though -- they live their music like they breathe the air.

And they're loose, too, like when Cesar Rosas got a wild hair in the middle of a song, realized he was playing the intro lick to One Way Out by the Allman Bros, & then got a little insistent with it, while the rest of the band looked around for a sec with this sort of WTF? look, then they gave in, & played the whole song, then somehow segued back into whatever they'd been in the middle of previously. When they get going, they're a 50-ton freight train just rolling down the tracks, born to roll that way. The best American band currently making music, if you ask me.

Also, I haven't seen the Black Crowes in a number of years, but when you take into consideration that Before the Frost... was recorded entirely live on stage -- holy fuck. Them not being on the list makes it double-suck.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:28 AM on August 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Eels, man. Eels.
posted by COBRA! at 6:31 AM on August 2, 2013


Drive-By Truckers, y'all. Drive. By. Truckers. If you've never seen 'em you're doing yourself a disservice.

can't believe i forgot DBTs

Can't believe Drive By Truckers took so long to come up. Those guys are as musically tight as they come, and they just rocked the fuck out of the house for like two and a half hours.


Yes, yes, and yes. Despite all the drama and lineup changes, every single DBT show I go to manages to be the best show I've ever seen in my life. Without a doubt one of the best bands of our time.
posted by kjh at 6:49 AM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I can't see The Black Keys as being on the downslope. I saw them in '08 or so and they were OK but had no real audience interaction or connection. But I just saw them a few month's ago in a much larger venue and they totally owned the arena.
posted by octothorpe at 6:53 AM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Years ago ( for Wild Mood Swings, that long ago), I saw the Cure at the Rosemont in Chicago, and it was fantastic. They barely played any songs from the new, and sort of meh, album. It was an amazing show, and the first time I heard (and physically felt) what it's like to be in a crowd of ten thousand people all singing the same song. Damn, that was great.

Other amazing shows:

Ani Difranco came to Tokyo as the headliner of a weeklong indie rock festival, but no one knew who she was. The band that opened for her, Go!Go!7188 were awesome, and I became an instant fan, but when they finished their set, about ninety percent of the crowd left. Difranco came out to a crowd of a couple hundred or so, laughed it off and played a fantastic show.

Less Than Jake. I've seen them now four times in Japan, and every time is a blast. They don't have much in the way of light shows or effects, they just play loud and fast and make sure everyone is having a good time. Bonus round, they had Kemuri open for them, and the front man for Kemuri is just a magnetic presence.

Flogging Molly came to Tokyo last year, and I didn't really know them, just went with a friend who wanted to go, and the show made me a fan by about halfway through the first song. Great live band.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:58 AM on August 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I know this is super niche because they never tour and no one cares about them, but The Wrens put on the best non-metal show I have ever seen.

Best metal show I have ever seen, is of course, ISIS.

Although I'm kinda suprised there isn't one metal band on this RS list. I figure someone like Dillinger Escape Plan would have some cache for RS.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:27 AM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


That is pretty much a list of reasons why I don't go to live concerts.

I was just reminiscing the other day about one of the first live performances I bought tickets to: Mstislav Rostropovich.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:32 AM on August 2, 2013


On day, I was listening to Flogging Molly and thought, "I bet these guys are great live." Later, I saw them live and they were.
posted by ckape at 10:02 AM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Wrens! The Wrens! I care.
posted by FelliniBlank at 10:16 AM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Swans
Sigur Ros
Dirty Three
Underworld
posted by Kafkaesque at 10:42 AM on August 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have been to a great many shows, and for my money nothing beats a good classical orchestra.

The most fun I've had at a show was Josh Ritter's.

I think that any list like this that doesn't include Boredoms or John Zorn is bound to be wrong, but this is Rolling Stone we're talking about. So whatever.
posted by Rory Marinich at 1:00 PM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Fireworks, lasers, light shows and all that are cheating

Naw, man, that's why we call them "shows". It's about entertainment and spectacle, too. Would you knock a P-Funk show because of the costumes and props? RESPECT THE MOTHERSHIP
posted by Hoopo at 3:50 PM on August 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I may take a good deal of flack for this, but I've been really impressed with the more recent stuff I've seen on YouTube of Morrissey live. I really like his backing band.
posted by 4ster at 4:44 PM on August 2, 2013


No Sparks, no Wire. [yawns]
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 5:35 PM on August 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


4ster, I saw Morrissey in Port Chester, N.Y., over the winter, and it was fantastic! He still sounds great, and his band is top-notch.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 5:42 PM on August 2, 2013


I saw Sparks this year on their Two Hands One Mouth tour: singing, keyboard, and nothing else. It's astonishing how they could perform glam rock, disco, and whatever their new minimalist thing is called, all without a band or gimmickry lighting. Master performers, the Maels.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:33 PM on August 2, 2013


I know this is super niche because they never tour and no one cares about them, but The Wrens put on the best non-metal show I have ever seen.

The Wrens! The Wrens! I care.

Yes, oh heavens, yes. When I was feeling the worst I had ever felt, full of panic and fear, my friend took me to see The Wrens at the 7th St. Entry in Minneapolis. The band was giving it everything, and I felt alive to feeling again. That was one of the crucial moments for me when art saved my life, or saved me from despair.
posted by Handstand Devil at 7:09 PM on August 2, 2013


Primus, motherfuckers. I don't give a Depend whether they're touring or not.

I think I'll have some warm milk and go to bed early.
posted by nowhere man at 7:28 PM on August 2, 2013


They are touring. They'll be playing the festival where I'm seeing Neutral Milk Hotel.
When I saw a bit of Primus at Soundwave I got a headache.
On day, I was listening to Flogging Molly and thought, "I bet these guys are great live." Later, I saw them live and they were.

They're amazing, and generally better than Dropkick Murphys.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 7:39 PM on August 2, 2013


Bukvich beat me to it, but, c'mon, no Gwar? What the hell?! I don't even own a Gwar album. I only really like one or two Gwar songs. But the Gwar show I went to was hands fucking down the best live show I've ever been to.
posted by Bugbread at 11:55 PM on August 2, 2013


Best. Shows. Ever. (in no particular order) :

Prince
Tame Impala
Spiritualized
Bone Thugs n Harmony
Dr. Dog
Rasputina
The Dead Milkmen
Devo
She and Him
Godspeed! You Black Emperor
TV On The Radio
Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra
Glass Candy
CSS
Phish
Stevie Wonder
Ween
Morphine
Herbie Hancock

Bands that I love, but whose shows were WAY too loud to enjoy :

Mogwai
Explosions in the Sky

Show most ruined by loud, inconsiderate fans who were so loud, fucked up, and obnoxious that I wondered if they'd ever even heard the band before, and if they had, I couldn't fathom how it escaped them that said band is actually quiet, mellow music, deserving of a chill, respectful audience :

Mazzy Star

A complete waste of money :

Whatever incarnation of Parliament/Funkadelic I saw a couple years back

Decent-enough band whose show nonetheless put me to sleep :

Wilco

Basically unknown post-rock bands that put on insanely awesome shows that few will ever get to see :

Caspian
Brookhaven
Kinski
posted by evil otto at 8:37 AM on August 3, 2013


Oh. And add Yo La Tengo to the Best Shows Ever list. Especially if you can catch one of their Hanukkah shows. (they still do those, right?)
posted by evil otto at 8:59 AM on August 3, 2013


They did until Maxwell's closed last week.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:38 AM on August 3, 2013


:.(
posted by evil otto at 10:23 AM on August 3, 2013


I saw Yo La Tengo do a free show in the park a few years ago and they seemed a little weirded out of playing in front of picnicking families. They still put on a great show though.
posted by octothorpe at 10:37 AM on August 3, 2013


Not a terrible list (my WTF is Mountain Goats)

Mountain Goats are now mostly guys who used to be in a band called Diskothi-Q, who were also A.Maze.Ing. live (I blessedly had the privilege to share a stage with once, and seriously -- if you can find a copy of their album "The Wandering Jew", then GET IT)...

I remember seeing MG when it was just John Darnielle solo, and...Good Christ, was it electrifying. After his set, he took requests. I asked for "Snow Crush Killing Song", and it may be one of the best, most perfect songs I have ever seen performed live.

I agree. He/They should be on this list.
posted by kaseijin at 11:34 PM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mogwai don't need to be anywhere near this list, though. Love them recorded. Their live show was boring and predictable as all hell.
posted by kaseijin at 11:35 PM on August 3, 2013


Radiohead also remains one of maybe two shows I have ever walked out on. I didn't even pay my entry to the club. Disliked the show/set so much I went and sat outside on the curb, waiting for the rest of my friends to come out after the show.

It took me a good 10 years before I gave them a fair shake again, but I do like Amnesiac and Kid A.

Dunno if I would ever think to include them on a "Top 50" list of live acts, though.

...it was all fishnet shirts and emo poses.
posted by kaseijin at 11:39 PM on August 3, 2013


Dunno if I would ever think to include them on a "Top 50" list of live acts, though.

...it was all fishnet shirts and emo poses.

Who would be my top 50? No idea...but maybe a top 10 is workable... in no particular order:

* Nick Cave
* DEVO
* Gary Young-era Pavement
* Yo La Tengo
* Nirvana


and this:
Willie Nelson, people. WILLIE NELSON.

Yes. Maybe I should include him. Finally saw him last summer...and oh. my. god. So good. And, to top it off, I have never seen such a diverse crowd all getting along and loving on each other. Rednecks, hipsters, college kids, older people, hippies, boot scooters, punks... and every single one of them got along and just had a good time listening to Willie play. It was a truly beautiful thing.
posted by kaseijin at 11:49 PM on August 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


mountmccabe, really?

Yes, really. I am not saying those artists are bad live... just that the most recent shows I've seen by them have not been near as good as earlier times. The Black Keys were great the first couple times I saw them and then the best show I saw from them was Coachella 2007. I've seen them a couple times since and it has been diminishing returns; I was at Coachella in 2012 and had no problems skipping them.

And, again, I mean this for me personally and acknowledge that others will have different experiences. And some of it is that I also don't like the most recent albums as much/at all. I like liking music; I wish I could do it more.


I also am a little surprised that some people are saying they haven't/don't like Mogwai live; I have loved them every time I've seen them and their set at Coachella in 2004 (another Mojave set!) was one of the best shows I've seen.
posted by mountmccabe at 9:05 AM on August 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


What percentage of gigs have been ruined by bad sound engineers I wonder?

Also, it seems like if the singer is having a good day it makes a massive difference unless the band plays as well as this.

Also certain bands seem to make more effort when its a studio setting. Other artists can just blow you away no matter what.
posted by misterG at 2:22 AM on August 5, 2013


Frank Turner playing to 5 people.
Ted Leo in a packed club on my birthday.
Gaslight Anthem at the Annandale.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 3:12 PM on August 5, 2013


CiS: I went to see the Gaslight Anthem back in 2009 in Hollywood and Frank Turner was the first opener (followed by the Loved Ones and Murder by Death (great lineup the whole night!!)).

Frank comes out by himself with just a guitar, and I could feel the crowd get aggro right from the start. Like, who the fuck is this dude with just a guitar?!? And he won over just about every single person there in 15 minutes. It was really quite something.
posted by dogwalker at 8:21 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


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