Friends, we have found the worst list of all time, and it is Rolling Stone Readers Pick the Top Ten Live Acts of All Time: Bruce Springsteen. The Grateful Dead. Queen. The Rolling Stones. KISS. Pink Floyd. Pearl Jam. Led Zeppelin. U2. The Who. Yes, that’s all ten. Yup, that is a whole lot of white rocker dudes. Uh huh, the only band on that list that formed since the ’70s is Pearl Jam. Where to even begin?
Instead of further dissecting the Rolling Stone list, we decided to make our own list of acts — all of whom you still might conceivably go see — that you need to check out live. This isn’t a definitive top 25; it’s just a roundup of Flavorpill staffers’ favorite live bands. Our recommendations are after the jump. You can add yours in the comments.
You probably already know that rapper Jean Grae rocks the mic like nobody’s business. But did you realize, as social media manager Russ Marshalek points out, that “she’s fucking hilarious and self-effacing live”?
Sales manager Michael Orell understands that Radiohead are another platinum-selling gang of white dudes, but he still loves them after all these years: “The hallucinatory yet intimate sound that made me a fan in the first place never faded or diminished in the slightest, even though I was all the way in the back of Madison Square Garden. My firstborn to whomever the fuck does their sound.” His colleague, Dave Coll, adds: “Radiohead’s most amazing achievement in concert is that time and time again they play songs that the crowd can recognize 100% and yet has never heard before. They take a synth-based song like ‘Spinning Plates,’ and do the whole thing on the piano. They get the crowd dancing to ‘Weird Fishes,’ zoning out to ‘Everything in Its Right Place,’ and holding up cellphones to ‘High and Dry.'”
Social media intern Sophie Weiner can’t recommend this experimental act highly enough: “The Books are a pair of artists who mix audio samples, including everything from 1980’s hypnotherapy videos to thrift store voice mail cassettes, with gorgeous, intricate cello and guitar compositions and vocals. Seeing The Books live elevates their music from intriguing, if a bit inaccessible, to a realm of brilliance inhabited by only the greatest multimedia artists. Every song is paired with a video, many of which use the clips that their samples were originally from. The mesmerizing visuals and words illuminate a multitude of possible meanings for every song, while they play their instruments flawlessly over the top. As if that wasn’t enough, The Books prefer to play in unorthodox concert spaces, like art museums or churches, so when you have a religious experience, you know you’re in the right place.”
“It’s always hard to imagine how a man who looks like Skeletor can keep a crowd fixated with balloons, a sampler, a laptop, and a big smile,” writes Flavorpill London contributor Oliver Spall. But don’t let appearances fool you — we guarantee you’ll be riveted.
Sometimes, you just have to give it up for a 20th-century master. “Leonard Cohen was also one of the best shows I’ve ever seen,” says Patrick Letterii, who works with Flavorpill’s venue partners. “He did like four encores, and he kept dancing the jig offstage and then dancing back on. This was last year. I think he’s like 80.” Close enough: he’s 76, so… yeah. Impressive.