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Added by the giraffe on 8 Feb 2009 11:07
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Best Live Bands

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From 1994 to present, the best live band I've ever seen. NIN has it all...great visuals, great sound, intense performances, and that feeling of never knowing quite what to expect when you're watching them. Trent Reznor constantly reinvents his stage show, and always has a talented back-up band to bring his songs to life.
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Truly amazing...The Mars Volta get on stage and just jam the entire time they play, but you don't need to be on anything to enjoy it. The first time I saw them they played 6 songs over the course of 2 1/2 hours. High-energy, intense, a show that grabs your attention and doesn't let go until they're done, and yet leaves you wanting more.
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One of the most underrated bands ever, Tripping Daisy always put on amazing shows. Interesting visuals, great sound, and enthusiastic performances that left me smiling for hours afterward. Tripping Daisy shows were always a great time all around, and I deeply miss them.
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Average listal rating (34 ratings) 8.7 IMDB Rating 0
It doesn't matter which band he's with, when Mike Patton is on the stage it's going to be a great show. Hands-down the best frontman ever, his manic energy and amazing vocal talents make for a great show, and every project he's been in wouldn't be great without him.

See: Faith No More, Tomahawk, Fantomas, Peeping Tom, Mr. Bungle, etc.
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Average listal rating (52 ratings) 7.3 IMDB Rating 0
Ask anyone. The Roots are the best live hip-hop act on the planet. They play their own instruments, and can rock a crowd as well as any rock group. Amazing.
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Average listal rating (9 ratings) 8.9 IMDB Rating 0
The best metal band I ever saw live. Brutal, intense, a force to be reckoned with. Those who bemoan Phil's tendency to rant between songs missed the point...he was giving the moshpit a break to relax, because they sure as hell never played their slower songs live. I miss them too.
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Another intense, high-energy, amazing live band. There's a good reason why so many people turned out to see them when they reunited last year...they knew it was worth it.
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Average listal rating (155 ratings) 7.1 IMDB Rating 0
Out of all the bands I've seen, Deftones are the one band who's NOT from Texas that I've seen the most (16 times at last count). High-energy, intense, and almost always a great show.
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One of the most FUN live shows around. You never know what MSI will do, but odds are they'll make fun of people, other bands, and probably destroy something before the night's over (or else get their fans to destroy something).
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Most of The Jesus Lizard's fans undoubtedly were more impressed with their live show than their albums. Not that their albums aren't amazing (they are), but the live show was what they did best. Their relentless sonic attack, intensity, and energy were always present...and then singer David Yow would walk out on top of the crowd, in cowboy boots no less, screaming his lungs out all the way. And if you think you can push him back onto the stage and keep him there, you're wrong.
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Average listal rating (28 ratings) 5.5 IMDB Rating 0
The costumes. The various "bodily" fluids spewing everywhere. The random targets that get attacked and destroyed. And each new tour brings a new plot to the stage. There's no one like GWAR, and that's the way it should be. Even if you hate their music, everyone should see GWAR live at least once. It's fun, it's messy, it's original...a completely unique EXPERIENCE.
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A Surfers show is also an experience, and for that it deserves a high spot on this list. This is another band where anything can happen when they play, probably in front of a backdrop with surgical videos and other bizarre images projected on it. Their live shows were always every bit as weird as their music, and that's saying something.
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The first time I saw SGM, they started their show by walking through the venue's main entrance and made their way through the crowd singing what sounded like a traditional folk song. Once that was done, they got on the stage with their odd array of instruments (many of which they made themselves) and delivered a hell of a show. They also fall under the category of experiences.
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A Gogol Bordello show is like a great party...a lot of singing and dancing and everyone has a great time. Also an experience, this time very heavy on FUN.
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Another anything goes show that's a different experience. Always a lot of fun. Odds are someone in the crowd will be the butt of at least one of their jokes at some point in the set. When they toured behind Hooray for Boobies they offered free stuff to people who got onstage and did stupid things they wanted them to do like try to drink a case of Dr Pepper during their set or crowd-surf from the stage all the way to the back of the venue and then back to the stage without falling.
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Any band that arrives to their shows by UFO is a must-see. The Lips really get their crowds involved too, making it an interactive experience. Also always a lot of fun.
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Average listal rating (341 ratings) 7.1 IMDB Rating 0
They have fire and lasers...need I say more?
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Average listal rating (46 ratings) 6.4 IMDB Rating 0
While Rasputina always puts on a great show, it's Melora's between-song banter that really keeps things interesting and entertaining. She always has a little story to tell, whether about something she's observed or the song they're about to play. And if you've never heard them, they play rock songs with violin, viola, cello, and drums only, which isn't exactly a common thing.
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One of the most intense live bands on the planet, and they usually have female dancers on the stage adding to the spectacle. Simply amazing.
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The best show in country music right now period. No other country musician does an hour and 15 minute set of country followed by an hour plus set of rock/punk/metal. Hank does everything his own way, and that's what sets him apart from his peers.
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Average listal rating (7 ratings) 8.6 IMDB Rating 0
They hit the stage dressed in all white, pound on their instruments, and never stop moving the whole time. Highly entertaining.
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Average listal rating (97 ratings) 6.7 IMDB Rating 0
Giant video screens showing scenes from various horror and anime films, crazy stage sets, and fire. Rob's solo shows used a lot of the same things White Zombie did, but for whatever reason before he went solo he could still deliver all of his lyrics without missing words, which is what always bugged me about seeing him without them. That and his solo music has never been as good.

Too bad the White Zombie chapter is done.
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You can count this for Marilyn Manson after he dropped The Spooky Kids from his name too, but the early line-ups put on the best shows Manson's ever done. Back in the early years I was completely afraid to get too close to the stage for fear of what might happen to me. Manson's always taken a theatrical approach to his live shows, and it's worked more often than failed (and it has failed from time to time) and usually guarantees that the show will be worth watching.
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Average listal rating (9 ratings) 7.3 IMDB Rating 0
I'd never heard them before seeing them live several years ago, and they came out with this weird, dark energy that I could feel raise the hairs on the back of my neck. The next time I saw them they played for over an hour without stopping and each song flowed perfectly into the next, and it was very intense. And I swear their singer never stops dancing around.
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How they throw themselves around the stage the entire time they play without missing a note, I'll never know. It'd be interesting to see a complete list of the injuries they've all sustained over the years from colliding with each other, their equipment, and various parts of the various venues they've played. Super intense and amazing.
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Average listal rating (13 ratings) 7 IMDB Rating 0
Another weird band where anything can happen. Great energy, great sound, and maybe I'm a little biased since they're one of my favorite bands right now.
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Another band that always had great energy onstage...they were a lot of fun to watch as they danced and ran around throughout their sets.
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For the first few years they were around, Trail of Dead was known for playing shows that ended with them trashing their instruments. Once they got signed to Interscope they stopped doing that every time they played, but every now and again when the energy is right they'll still break things before leaving the stage. Fortunately they still deliver a great set regardless.
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Weiland's a dancing fool, and the rest of the band always plays tightly. The set is heavy on the hits too, which pleases most of their fans.
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Average listal rating (81 ratings) 6.9 IMDB Rating 0
When Chuck D is on the stage you can't help but stop and take notice. Then you've got Flavor Flav acting crazy, the S1Ws bringing an intense militaristic feel to the set, and Terminator X making some of the most amazing noise ever. Awesome.
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Average listal rating (13 ratings) 6.1 IMDB Rating 0
Coal Chamber always had this dark, creepy energy when they played, and I never saw them play a show without giving it 100%.
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Another great band that threw themselves around onstage the entire time they played, and sometimes they even landed in the crowd. Have a few drinks in you beforehand and it's even better.
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Always intense, whether he does a spoken-word performance or plays his songs with his touring band. Very thought-provoking and original.
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Average listal rating (98 ratings) 6.9 IMDB Rating 0
Few bands play together as well as Primus, and all 3 of them are among the best musicians on the planet right now.
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Average listal rating (2 ratings) 10 IMDB Rating 0
A vastly underrated band, they always put on fun, intense, high-energy, amazing live shows. They should probably be above Deftones actually, since the time I saw them play a show together Orange 9mm put on the better performance. But I guess I let them fall down here because they're not around anymore.
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Average listal rating (5 ratings) 6.8 IMDB Rating 0
Vinnie is a great frontman, and Sponge has always been a great live band even with all their line-up changes over the years.
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Average listal rating (5 ratings) 6.8 IMDB Rating 0
How good is Local H live? I've given bands I hated money just because Local H was opening for them. And you know what? Local H blew them away, every time. And for a band with only 2 guys in it, that's impressive.
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Average listal rating (28 ratings) 6.3 IMDB Rating 0
Another great live band, but I enjoy their shows more because their fans are so much fun to be with. They know all the words to all the songs and sing them as passionately as AM! does. It's like they're the favorite band of everyone in the crowd, so everyone's celebrating too. Which is great because these days far too many bands can't even hold an audience's attention for their set.
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Average listal rating (16 ratings) 5.7 IMDB Rating 0
Mark E. Smith is a mad genius, and with every line-up that's played with him as The Fall he's made tons of amazing songs. The last time I saw them, he seemed determined to deconstruct the show the entire time, moving microphones around, messing with the sound levels of the other musicians' instruments, and knocking parts of the drum kit over. Hilarious.
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Average listal rating (286 ratings) 7.5 IMDB Rating 0
It's the Pixies. They're amazing. End of story.
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See The Mars Volta, minus the jamming.
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Average listal rating (2 ratings) 8 IMDB Rating 0
Another crazy, intense live act. Their singer has a tendency to spend as much time in the crowd as on the stage, which makes things very interesting.
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Their shows are like going to a religious revival (minus the religion)...and who knows maybe their bluesy rock will save your soul.
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Average listal rating (21 ratings) 5.8 IMDB Rating 0
Filed under FUN also, and Eddie Argos's between-song rants are always highly entertaining.
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It's like a dance party...they dance the whole time they play, and if you're not dancing too there's something wrong with you.
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Average listal rating (49 ratings) 7 IMDB Rating 0
One of the greatest bands ever, and that holds for their live shows too. Plus, it's hard to beat a show that only costs $5 to get in.
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Average listal rating (82 ratings) 6.7 IMDB Rating 0
Another intense, high-energy, and fun live show.
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Average listal rating (1 ratings) 10 IMDB Rating 0
Another underrated band that always put on great high-energy shows.
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The only ska band on my list, though Less Than Jake could also be here. Both bands always put on really fun live shows and danced and moved all over the stage.
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Average listal rating (72 ratings) 6.4 IMDB Rating 0
One of the most fun hip-hop acts I've ever seen, their shows were truly a good time for everyone. Plus you don't see a giant bong everyday.
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I've been going to concerts since 1994, and these bands have put on the best performances I've seen. The order may not be exactly correct, but don't focus too much on that...all of them are equally worth seeing. If you think someone's missing, let me know...I might not have seen them yet.

See also: Best live shows I've seen for further details on some of these.

For an exhaustive list of the bands I've seen, check out my Bands I've seen live list.

If you enjoyed this list, please check out my other music lists

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the giraffe's music lists guide (37 lists)
list by the giraffe
Published 6 years, 6 months ago 2 comments



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Comments

Posted: 8 years, 4 months ago at May 1 20:36
Where's green day??????????????
Posted: 8 years, 4 months ago at May 1 20:36
Where's green day??????????????
Posted: 8 years, 4 months ago at May 21 4:10
I have never seen Green Day perform live. Not a fan.
Posted: 7 years, 3 months ago at Jun 3 10:56
I like your list. But you gotta expand on your musical horizon. These are all bands from 90's - 00's (Some 80's). There were many great 70's, 60's, and 50's bands who had and still have fantastic live performances.
Posted: 7 years, 3 months ago at Jun 3 13:50
I've seen some bands from those years put on excellent shows, it's simply that none of their shows made the deep, lasting impression that these did.
Posted: 7 years ago at Sep 15 12:22
Couple of artists/bands missing.
Radiohead? RHCP? Nick Cave?
Other than that, great list.
Love to see Fugazi here.

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