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50 Greatest Live Acts Right Now

The crowd-pleasing, club-wrecking, festival-killing road rulers

Bruce springsteen germanyBruce springsteen germany

Bruce Springsteen performs in Germany.

Jo Lopez

Who rules the road in 2013? To find out, Rolling Stone asked a panel of writers, industry figures and artists – from Lars Ulrich of Metallica to Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes – to vote on their favorite live performers right now. To be eligible for the list, a performer must have toured within the last five years and not announced their retirement. So, from the Stones to Skrillex, from Gaga to Green Day, here they are – the 50 most crowd-pleasing, club-wrecking, festival-killing live acts right now.

1. Bruce Springsteen
Springsteen has always brought nearly superhuman levels of energy to his shows, but his current Wrecking Ball tour stands as one of his greatest and most thrilling. (It even featured the longest Springsteen show ever – four hours and six minutes, in Helsinki, Finland, on July 31, 2012.) For more shows, Springsteen shreds the pre-planned setlist and collects request-bearing signs from the crowd, leading the band in impromptu renditions of covers by everybody from The Ramones to Jackie Wilson. “I don’t look at the setlist very much during the night,” he recently told Rolling Stone‘s David Fricke. “I’m listening to the song we’re playing – it’s talking to me about what to play next. And I’m watching the audience. Sometimes it’s the look in someone’s eyes about how bad they want to hear that song they’ve written on a piece of cardboard or their head.”

Showstopper: Each night’s highlight is different – a beautiful thing with Springsteen shows.

Greatest Guitarists: Bruce Springsteen

2. Prince
He’s never sounded better, his band 3rd Eye Girl is fire-hot and he’s plundering his back catalog with a vengeance; check the Youtube clips of his grunge-blues remake of “Let’s Go Crazy.” “He’s a better guitarist than you are,” says Cliff Burnstein of Q Prime Managment. “He’s a better singer than you are. He can dance better than you.  His songs are better than yours. You might have a better jump shot, though.”

Showstopper: “Purple Rain,” especially when Prince launches into the epic guitar solo. Or another one. Prince can make the building collapse with any song if he feels like it.

Greatest Singers: Prince

3. The Rolling Stones
After a five-year break, the Stones swaggered back last year, playing rarities (“Factory Girl”), fan requests (“Memory Motel,”) and a stretch of absolute classics (“Tumbling Dice,” “Honky Tonk Women”), proving they’re still the world’s greatest rock & roll band. “Everyone was trying to get the band really on,” Mick Jagger said late last year. “We wanted to put the music out in a good way, not just be flash.”

Showstopper: The recent tour included a superfan dream come to life: Mick Taylor joining the Stones on the blues epic “Midnight Rambler,” conjuring ’72-era magic all over again.

Greatest Artists: The Rolling Stones

4. Arcade Fire
The Montreal band has proven that emotionally apocalyptic indie rock can be as grand as U2 without losing any of its chaotic intensity. They’ve barely played live since owning the 2011 Grammy Awards, and they have a new album nearly in the can (due late October), which may include music produced with James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem. This, plus word on a secret Montreal hometown show last winter, suggests their shows may be even more of a communal dance party than usual.

Showstopper: Usually the glorious “whoa-oh-oh-oh” emo-glam-rock singalong of “Wake Up,” from their 2004 debut Funeral.

New Immortals: Arcade Fire

5. Neil Young
By some miracle, Young’s singing voice and guitar playing is undiminished from his Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere days forty-plus years ago. Whether he’s playing with Crosby, Stills and Nash, Crazy Horse or completely solo acoustic, he pours every bit of himself into his stage show. “We learned almost everything we know from him,” says Tegan Quin of Tegan and Sara. “I hope one day to have even half his stage presence and catalog.”

Showstopper: Many shows on his ongoing world tour with Crazy Horse conclude with a twenty-minute rendition of “Like a Hurricane” that rocks like, well, you know.

Greatest Artists: Neil Young

6. Jay Z
With a live band keeping him on the toes of his fresh Louis boat shoes, the only predictable thing about a Jay Z show is you won’t see the same one twice. “He makes a real personal connection with the audience at every show. “There is an inclusive aspect to the show that is exhilarating,” says Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy. “He’ll go down as a legend, on par with the Beatles and the Stones.”

Showstopper: The raucous “99 Problems” thunders like a Zeppelin throwdown – and on Jay’s Legends of the Summer tour, Justin Timberlake handles the cranky cop’s lines.

Greatest Albums: The Blueprint

7. Radiohead
Radiohead are the only band in rock that can leave nearly every hit song out of the setlist, and still see 20,000 fans walk out of an arena happy. They refuse to rest on nostalgia, and since their new work is every bit as strong as the classics, it doesn’t matter.

Showstopper: They rarely get through a concert without a blistering rendition of their ice-flow disco masterpiece “Idioteque.”

Best Songs of the 2000s: “Idioteque”

8. Jack White
Live, White will break out songs from his whole career, including cuts by White Stripes, the Raconteurs and the Dead Weather. Fans still miss Meg White on drums, but the old material sounds amazing fleshed out by a complete band, bassist and all.

Showstopper: The version of “Seven Nation Army” he plays at the end of most shows makes the original seem limp by comparison.

New Immortals: The White Stripes

9. Rage Against the Machine
They haven’t released a note of new music this century, but their three-album catalog represents rap-rock at it’s absolute best. Their rare shows these days prove that every band that followed in their wake is a pale imitator. “I’ve never seen the kind of audience unity that I’ve seen at Rage shows,” says Lars Ulrich. “I saw them a couple years ago and it felt like there 75,000 people ready to fuck some next-level shit up.”

Showstopper: “Bulls on Parade” manages to whip a crowd into a psychotic, violent frenzy like no rock song ever written.

Best Albums of the Nineties: Rage Against the Machine

10. My Morning Jacket
They’re the quintessential 21st century rock & roll psychedelic band, fusing decades of rock history into exploratory jams and anthems, while peppering every set with excellent covers (the Stones’ “Waiting On a Friend,” Velvet Underground‘s “Oh, Sweet Nuthin'”), and covers of covers (the Band‘s version of Marvin Gaye‘s “Don’t Do It”). “They’re amazing,” says Brittany Howard. “Every song could be their big, set-closing song. Just an epic band.”

Showstopper: The ominous sludge of frontman Jim James’ strumless guitar intro to “Victory Dance.”

Best Albums of the 2000s: Z

11. U2
Three decades into their career, Bono and Co. are still at the top of their stadium-killing game. “What they do live is always inspiring,” says Lars Ulrich. “They have this ability to create intimacy; you see them in the big fuck-off arenas, but it always feels like it’s just you and the band.”

Showstopper: Any one of the soaring Joshua Tree anthems. Or if you’ve got relationship troubles (who doesn’t?), it’s “One.” Every time.

Greatest Artists: U2

12. Wilco
Jeff Tweedy and Nels Cline have become one of the best two-guitar-fronts in rock. Plus, their catalog has grown fat with gems, and you never know what they’re going to play. “Their current lineup plays older material better than the band that recorded the originals,” says fan and Late Night With Jimmy Fallon music booker Jonathan Cohen. “That’s a rare thing.”

Showstopper: “Heavy Metal Drummer” is still the sing-a-along fave, while guitar fiends are most likely to faint during “Impossible Germany” or “Spiders (Kidsmoke).”

New Immortals: Wilco

13. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Fans who complained of stale hits-heavy setlists in recent years got a surprise this year when the Heartbreakers overhauled their set with deep originals and covers, including Paul Revere & the Raiders’ “(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone” and the Grateful Dead‘s “Friend of the Devil.” “I think we have raised the bar a bit,” Petty tells Rolling Stone. “Musically, the communication is really fantastic right now. I think in many ways, we have gotten better.”

Showstopper: Petty resurrected the Traveling Wilburys’ “Tweeter and the Monkey Man,” transforming it into a tension-filled, ten-minute psychedelic epic.

Greatest Artists: Tom Petty

14. The Black Keys
The Black Keys honed their raucous live set for years in clubs, as they tightened up their songwriting. Now, they’re bringing big riffs and bigger hooks to arenas and festivals around the world. “At a recent fancy gathering, I saw them decimate the suits and the hipsters alike with their bulldozer blues,” says Tom Morello. “It left me (and everyone else) gasping for air.”

Showstopper: Old stompers like “Thickfreakness” are mindblowing, and newer ones like “Next Girl” and “Run Right Back” are full of urgent intensity.

Best Albums of the 2000s: Attack & Release

15. Paul McCartney
McCartney returned to touring in 2002 for the first time in a decade and has since given fans everything the Beatles didn’t in concert: Great sound and long, career-spanning sets. “It’s kind of amusingly different,” says McCartney, who plays nearly 40 songs a night. “[Performing] is what I do, and it’s what I’ve always done, and I love it so much. Of course, there’s got to be some kind of physical limitation. But I haven’t found it.”

Showstopper: From opener “Eight Days a Week” to the “Hey Jude” sing-along, the hits are a blast. But recent shows have featured curveball peaks, like Wings’ funky “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five” and the Beatles goofy deep cut “All Together Now.”

Greatest Singers: Paul McCartney

16. Alabama Shakes
Frontwoman Brittany Howard is a force of nature whose roots-rock vocal power only seems to be growing. And besides potent originals, their songbook is full of sneaky covers (see their sharp-fanged take on Led Zeppelin’s “How Many More Times”).

Showstopper: “Be Mine,” which re-animates the Muscle Shoals R&B of their home turf for a new generation, complete with a speed-ramp finale that has Howard speaking in soul-queen tongues.

Best Albums of 2012: Boys & Girls

17. Nine Inch Nails
After a four-year hiatus during which he did Oscar-winning soundtrack work and started a new band (How to Destroy Angels), Trent Reznor is reconvening Nine Inch Nails and bringing industrial-strength torment to an arena near you. At the band’s coming out gig at the Fuji Rock Festival in Japan, they proved why this year’s slate of shows is called the Tension Tour – the balance between the perfectly sculpted sonic darkness, the sensory-attack light show and Reznor’s doom-diva charisma were breathtaking.

Showstopper: Any of NIN’s Nineties hits has the power to turn an arena full of fortysomething fans into a giant junior-high goth dance party.

Greatest Artists: Nine Inch Nails

18. Metallica
They haven’t quite reached Bob Dylan status yet but Metallica have been on their own Never-Ending Tour for much of the past decade. They are an incredibly well-oiled machine, and they know exactly what their audience wants to hear: lots of songs from Eighties classics Master of Puppets and Ride the Lightning and not much from recent albums like St. Anger or Reload.

Showstopper: “One” is always epic, and the pyro brings the chaos of war to the stage.

Best Albums of the Nineties: Metallica

19. The Roots
They are not merely the world’s best hip-hop band – what competition do they have, really? – but one of the great musical outfits of our time. Their tenure as Jimmy Fallon’s house band has only made them more jukeboxingly versatile; you never know what you might hear, or who might turn up. “Obviously I am a little biased on this one,” says Fallon music booker Jonathan Cohen. “Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello and Paul Simon all left their regular bands at home to collaborate with the Roots on our show. That says a lot.”

Showstopper: It could be a letter-perfect cover of Kool G Rap’s “Men at Work” or the Beastie Boys‘ “Paul Revere.” Jim James might join them for some Prince and Bill Withers covers. Or they could just drop a smoking version of their own “Break You Off.”

Music’s Top Tweeters: Questlove

20. Kanye West
West’s whole life may seem like performance art, but the stage is where his brilliant vision is laid bare. He melds high art with high anxiety – ranting, raving, pleading, and preaching in front of innovative video productions and entrancing stage sets like a man on the brink of genius or madness (and very often, both).

Showstopper: In recent years, “All of the Lights” – which comes with that spine-tingling horn fanfare and a synapse-sizzling light show – has been guaranteed to raise the room’s collective heart rate and risk of seizure.

New Immortals: Kanye West

21. Red Hot Chili Peppers
New-ish guitar player Josh Klinghoffer brings a spry energy that allows singer Anthony Keidis and bassist Flea to strut and flail like men half their age. Their tour to support last year’s I’m With You culled fifty songs from throughout their career, making for one of their most exciting live shows in ages. Plus, they still look impossibly cool in tube socks.

Showstopper: Flea’s slap-popping bass interludes and spontaneous hand-walking.

22. Tom Waits
Waits is one of America’s most brilliant singer-songwriters, a poignant and hilarious storyteller, and his live gigs are exceedingly rare – his 2008 blink-and-you-missed-it Glitter and Doom run was a tough ticket, and he hasn’t mounted a full-on tour since the 20th century. Plus, he has the show-biz heart of a carnie: “It’s actually like Kabuki theater, the way he does things live – really old fashioned theatrics,” says Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes.

Showstopper: It could be the 151-proof Latin groove of “Hoist That Rag,” the lullaby heartbreak of “Innocent When You Dream,” or the piano-bar nutjob noir of “9th & Hennepin.” That catalog is deep.

23. Pearl Jam
After more than twenty years, the grandmasters of grunge are still bursting with surprises, mixing their world-beating anthems with rare cuts and covers. “They are one of the only rock bands of their level that is capable of completely turning their set list inside out on a night-by-night basis,” says Late Night With Jimmy Fallon booker and Pearl Jam Twenty author Jonathan Cohen.

Showstopper: Epic live staples like “Porch” and “Black,” which consistently clock in at nearly ten minutes.

24. Dave Matthews Band
Two decades in, DMB still know how to surprise their fans, shaking up their setlists this summer with rarely played cuts like “Dancing Nancies” and “The Dreaming Tree” with a huge lineup including lead guitarist Tim Reynolds. “I’m really lucky to be part of something that turns a lot of people on and still turns us on,” Matthews told RS last year.

Showstopper: The band recently started playing Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times,” a blistering showcase for Reynolds and Matthews’ classic growl.

25. Phish
America’s reigning jam band has been playing mighty strong and ultra-tight recently, and they still throw one of the best hippie-shake, weed-bake dance parties around.

Showstopper: A recent New Jersey show jammed a cover of Talking Heads‘ “Crosseyed and Painless” into “Harry Hood” for 30 minutes; the next night boasted a 19-minute version of Velvet Underground’s “Rock and Roll,” followed by Deodato’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001)” and a “Tweezer” jam with still more Talking Heads (“Cities”). David Byrne, you have a major fan.

26. Leonard Cohen
Cohen emerged from a fifteen-year hiatus in 2008 with marathon shows that showcase all of his best songs. His band is absolutely stunning, and, at 78, his deeper-than-deep voice is captivating. The three-and-a-half hour show seems to pass by in minutes.

Showstopper: He doesn’t do many covers, but his set-closing rendition of “Save the Last Dance for Me” almost makes you forget the Drifters version even exists.

27. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Cave, 55, may be the only consistent member of the Bad Seeds, but the group’s 30-year run has produced one of post-punk’s great catalogs. It’s current edition, which includes psychedelic gut-bucket violinist Warren Ellis, is a gothic inferno, with Cave presiding as dark lord of psycho-sexual rock ritual.

Showstopper: The camp-epic murder ballad “Stagger Lee,” which peaks with Cave yelling “suck my dick” – a terrifying invite in the song’s context, but which gets remarkably positive fan response.

28. Patti Smith
At 66, Smith still brings the punk-rock shaman-priestess mojo. She’s also a poet and a comedian who always has something setting her brain on fire.

Showstopper: Inevitably, it begins with “Jesus died for somebody’s sins/But not mine,” and ends with “G-L-O-R-I-A-AYYYYYY.” And somehow, it never gets old.

29. Muse
No other band brings futurist paranoia and stadium grandeur to the stage like this virtuosic trio. From their imaginative set design (they often seem to play while hanging in the air) to their retina-scorching light show (more lasers? Why not all the lasers?), Muse carry on the decades-old tradition of British prog from Pink Floyd to Radiohead.

Showstopper: “Survival” is an ocean-size anthem, with Matt Bellamy starting out on piano before blasting the crowd with smoke jets and a guitar solo that always achieves liftoff.

30. Madonna
Madonna sets the gold standard for pop tours, combining the precision of a Broadway spectacular with the theatricality of an action flick and the raunchiness of a burlesque show. She always sings live and dances her well-toned ass off, reinventing her catalog with goodies for every drag queen, soccer mom and tween in the house. “My first Madonna show was in 2006, and when she came out I started crying,” says Sara Quin of Tegan and Sara. “She is truly the master of the pop-icon show.”

Showstopper: “Like a Prayer” isn’t in the set every tour, but when the Queen trots it out, it never fails to deliver pure ecstasy – no Molly required.

31. David Byrne
Byrne has been touring with art-pop protégée St. Vincent and an outsized brass band, making songs from their collaborative album Love This Giant sound twice as awesome, and turning some Talking Heads songs inside out.

Showstopper: “Burning Down the House” with a massive horn section = best idea ever.

32. Sleigh Bells
No duo since the White Stripes has been able to kick up joyous punk rock noise like Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller. Miller can torture a Marshall stack with the best of them, and the duo have done a great job at adapting the broad scope and overdriven sound of their most recent album, Reign of Terror, for a live setting.

Showstopper: “Infinity Guitars,” in which Krauss exudes so much badassery that fans become too transfixed to headbang along.

33. Beyoncé
Beyoncé’s vocals are so pristine live, she could sing while standing stock-still for two hours and get standing ovations. But Bey isn’t just the Voice; she’s also the Body, the Hair Flip, the Don’t-Fuck-With-Me Snarl. Her choreography is pristine, her all-girl band is perfect, and her confidence is punishing. Don’t forget, this is a woman whose mane got caught in a fan at a recent show and she still never skipped a note.

Showstopper: B’s been expertly poppin’ her booty to “Crazy in Love” onstage at least 10 years before Miley Cyrus even heard the word “twerk.”

34. Foo Fighters
What began as Dave Grohl messing around on a home demo tape has turned into one of the greatest stadium acts of our time, pounding out hit after hit in an era when rock is supposedly dead. “They have so much energy and passion,” says Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes. “It always feel effortless and never forced.”

Showstopper: “Everlong” has the ability to turn 80,000 calm fans into a giant screaming throng of lunatics.

35. Bruno Mars
Anyone from the age of 5 to 95 can walk out of a Bruno Mars concert feeling like the show was designed just for them. Mars walks the old-school walk (occasionally in James Brown‘s funky shoes) and talks the sexy talk (sometimes in Prince-like come-ons), but he also nails the hits, leads a super-energetic nine-piece soul band, and rips a mean drum solo.

Showstopper: Mars caps his Moonshine Jungle sets with a spectacular version of “Gorilla” featuring enough pyro to impress Mötley Crüe.

36. Florence and the Machine
At this point, Flo in concert is the pop equivalent of an appearance by Princess Kate. Her pipes are regal, and her sense of ceremony is impressive (see 2012’s Ceremonials).

Showstopper: The big beat Brit-soul choral chant of “Shake It Out.”

37. The National
This year’s Trouble Will Find Me is the most immediate album these Brooklyn guys have made in their decade-plus career. Live, they give their songs extra muscle (bringing a horn section on tour helps), while maintaining the musical detail and emotional intimacy the recording studio. Says Says Marc Gieger of William Morris Endeavor: “When I need to get real depressed, I go see the National. I come home and everything seems good again!”

Showstopper: The way guitar-playing brothers Aaron and Bryce Dessner build elegiac noise swirls over Berninger’s Merlot-steeped croon on indie-rock burners like “Sea of Love” and, whenever they deign to drop it into their set, “Mistaken for Strangers”

38. Queens of the Stone Age
This year’s …Like Clockwork might be their most deliciously crushing disc of vampiric metal mayhem yet, and live they’ve never sounded tighter. Josh Homme’s Bowie-style crooning is at once funny and reverent and dude has more I’m-rockin’ faces in his arsenal than you’d get in an entire episode of Headbangers’ Ball.

Showstopper: The gangly hallucinations that dance behind the band as they stalk through “Smooth Sailing.”

39. Rush
Four decades into their career, Geddy, Alex and Neil still put on the same kind of incredible show that destroyed pot smoke-clogged arenas back in the Seventies, mixing oldies like “The Spirit of Radio” and “Subdivisions” big chunks of their excellent 2012 album Clockwork Angels. Neil Peart, now 60, remains the single greatest drummer alive and guitarist Alex Lifeson is almost as versatile and powerful as the dude sitting at the massive kit behind him. “Every song rates a standing ovation,” says Metallica manager Cliff Burnstein.

Showstopper: Rush don’t play a single song from the 1970s during their main set, but in the encore they bust out three sections of their 1976 magnum opus 2112.

40. Eric Church
At his summer stadium shows, country star Eric Church emerges amid smoke and sirens before kicking into his stomper “Creepin,” beginning a gig that recalls arena rock’s golden age. “When I was growing up, seeing Metallica was an intense experience. It was a prepare-for-three days and then recover for three or four days and that’s definitely kind of the way that we approach it,” Church says.

Showstopper: During his deep cut “These Boots,” fans take off their cowboy boots and raise them high. “It’s never been played on the radio, and everybody sings every line,” Church says.

41. Tame Impala
Kevin Parker (the Perth, Australia native that leads Tame Impala) is a young psychedelic wunderkind, making tunefully mind-melting music that Syd Barrett would’ve appreciated, using little more than guitar, a bunch of pedals, and a Day-Glo imagination. Live, their natural trippiness is expansive and transporting.

Showstopper: The sweetly gelatinous whirlpool of “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards.”

42. Skrillex
EDM is one of the biggest live draws going today, largely thanks to the showmanship of a pocket-size powerhouse named Sonny Moore. Skrillex’s sets are relentlessly satisfying drop-a-thons as he headbangs, hops, and tweaks buttons atop his spaceship stage set like a 5-year-old mainlining Fun Dip. “When I saw him,” says Lars Ulrich, “it was 30,000 kids going fucking apeshit to this orgasm of lights and sound and strobes. I’ve never seen anything so completely over-the-top. It felt like it was on a spaceship.”

Showstopper: You never know what pop, hip-hop, and electro hits Skrilly will bust out, but his own smash “Bangarang” is always a squelchy scorcher.

43. Mumford & Sons
How can a four-man acoustic band that doesn’t even have a full-time drummer possibly make enough noise to fill an arena? Mumford & Sons have plenty of technical tricks – ranging from Ben Lovett’s subtle synth enhancements to the well-mic-ed kick drum Marcus Mumford stomps on, to the electric-bass-style pickups on Ted Dwane’s stand-up. But the real answer is that the Mumfords are confident enough to aim big, to make their shows as uplifting and fervent as possible. “That’s why the shows always have to be an effort,” says Mumford, who cites Arcade Fire, Bruce Springsteen’s Sessions Band and Old Crow Medicine Show as live influences. “If we walk offstage and we have any energy left, it hasn’t been a good show.”

Showstopper:  When a horn section joins them for their contagious, explosive anthem “Lover of the Light”­­­ and when they play close sets with covers like “The Weight” and Fleetwood Mac‘s “The Chain.”

44. Janelle Monáe
This primo funk soul sister is one of the most inexhaustible, electric performers of the past decade. Look closely and you’ll find traces of Prince, Bowie, Jagger, and Beyoncé in her swaggerific soul revue, but Monáe is no imitator: There aren’t any other ladies belting ballads then crowd-surfing in tuxedos on the road right now – and there likely never will be.

Showstopper: “Tightrope” packs in all of Monáe’s signatures: the fly footwork, the sweet spins, and that ornate cape.

45. Lady Gaga
Gaga isn’t content to just put on conceptual pop spectacles; her concerts double as refugee camps for her Little Monsters, the masses of queer kids and outcasts that drape themselves in police tape and bubble wrap as an homage to their fearless, fashion-forward leader. Gaga never stops thinking big: huge sets, massive choreography, epic speeches about overcoming obstacles. And her ability to dance in foot-high platforms is matched by her killer pipes and effortless piano playing.

Showstopper: “Bad Romance” is a reliable singalong, with Gaga conducting the stadium like a beautiful mad scientist.

46. Tool
They haven’t had a new album out since 2006, but Tool still bring the art-goth-prog-metal thunder like true dungeon masters. “We did live shows to sell the records. Now we do records to sell the live shows,” Maynard James Keenan has said. At this point the mysterious band practically dissolves into guitarist Adam Jones’ fantastically twisted accompanying videos, which only puts more focus on the relentlessly discomfiting music.

Showstopper: Double-bass drum crushing Danny Carey’s mind-boxing time signatures and Seventies-rock-worthy drum solos.

47. Sigur Rós
Since Pink Floyd threw in the towel, they’re the most magnificently trippy rock outfit on the semi-arena circuit. And Jonsi’s what-the-fuck-is-he-singing-about? falsetto is one of the most beautiful sounds in rock. Their ability to make studio orchestration take shape live is a wonder to behold.

Showstopper: The slow-mo, tear-jerking, singing-into-the-guitar-pickups majesty of “Svefn-g-englar.” Jimmy Page, you are not the only who can destroy a crowd with a bowed guitar.

48. Green Day
Green Day have eleven albums under their belt, and they walk onstage each night prepared to play practically any track from that deep catalog. They also aren’t afraid of arena rock bombast, embracing pyro, confetti cannons and classic rock covers like “Highway to Hell.”

Showstopper: Billie Joe Armstrong brings a fan onstage every night to play guitar on “Longview.” Even when they can’t play a note it’s still an absolute riot.

49. Taylor Swift
She’s a kiddie feminist heroine who knows just the right dose of hooks, glitter, and stories about her famous exes to whip arena crowds into a teary frenzy. Swift has grown into a live powerhouse by stepping up her singing chops and making every fan in the house feel like they have a very tall, very talented BFF who just wants to hang for a few hours and gab about boys ‘n’ stuff.

Showstopper: Swift descends from a grand staircase for a fully choreographed “I Knew You Were Trouble” (and somehow manages a costume change onstage before the biggest bass drop).

50. Fiona Apple
The reclusive Apple has actually been playing shows lately – great ones, in fact. She’s the most intense, mercurial, and inventive piano-playing singer-songwriter of her generation, and her touring band is extremely tight, ready to follow her wherever she feels like heading.

Showstopper: “Paper Bag” for its sing-along heartache, or “Criminal,” which she generally sings like she’s opening a can of whoop-ass on whoever approved the video’s final cut.

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

By Jon Dolan, Patrick Doyle, Caryn Ganz, Andy Greene, Will Hermes and Julian Ring


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