The 50 best live acts in the world

U2 second best live act in the world. Says Q Magazine. Number 1 are The Hives, which we haven’t seen live so we can’t possibly comment. Our band are surrounded by young punks: number 3 are The White Stripes. (link via Kristian)

96 thoughts on “The 50 best live acts in the world

  1. I don’t know – for all the hype the Strokes have received (more in UK and NY press; spotty elsewhere), they have not gotten much attention on MTV. At least compared to the less talented (in my opinion) Hives and Vines. The White Stripes, however, are terrific. Talk about rock and blues!
    Either way, I think U2 should have stitched up greatest live act. oh well.

  2. I don’t know – for all the hype the Strokes have received (more in UK and NY press; spotty elsewhere), they have not gotten much attention on MTV. At least compared to the less talented (in my opinion) Hives and Vines. The White Stripes, however, are terrific. Talk about rock and blues!
    Either way, I think U2 should have stitched up greatest live act. oh well.

  3. I don’t think anyone can touch The White Stripes as far as being the best in this new “garage band sound” craze. The Vines have the one “good” song in “Get Free”, all of the songs from The Strokes sound the same to me… and The Hives need to learn how to sing… “Told You So” has to be the worst vocal performance I heard last year other than Nirvana’s “You Know You’re Right”. I got “White Blood Cells” by The White Stripes, and it is probably my favourite album of the year.

  4. I don’t think anyone can touch The White Stripes as far as being the best in this new “garage band sound” craze. The Vines have the one “good” song in “Get Free”, all of the songs from The Strokes sound the same to me… and The Hives need to learn how to sing… “Told You So” has to be the worst vocal performance I heard last year other than Nirvana’s “You Know You’re Right”. I got “White Blood Cells” by The White Stripes, and it is probably my favourite album of the year.

  5. I mean The Who are in their late 50’s and can run these young bands off the stage. U2 has just a little bit more stage presence. Not to mention a huge number of songs to draw upon. These new bands are lucky if they can play for an hour!

  6. I mean The Who are in their late 50’s and can run these young bands off the stage. U2 has just a little bit more stage presence. Not to mention a huge number of songs to draw upon. These new bands are lucky if they can play for an hour!

  7. The article gives a quote from the Hives’ lead singer: “Scream and clap between the songs, otherwise we will be forced to destroy you, Washington.” I saw four Elevation shows, and I can’t remember Bono EVER asking the audience to applaud. I REST MY CASE.

  8. The article gives a quote from the Hives’ lead singer: “Scream and clap between the songs, otherwise we will be forced to destroy you, Washington.” I saw four Elevation shows, and I can’t remember Bono EVER asking the audience to applaud. I REST MY CASE.

  9. Just to touch upon something that was said about those bands not having enough material to play for an hour…. The White Stripes actually have 3 albums under their belts, and the latest one alone is over an hour.

  10. Just to touch upon something that was said about those bands not having enough material to play for an hour…. The White Stripes actually have 3 albums under their belts, and the latest one alone is over an hour.

  11. Remember Chicago 1987: “Shut up, we’re not the Beatles”… or something to that effect. Or S.F. (that stands for San Francisco), Bono berates a fan holding a U2/SF banner. No, Bono can lose it, but generally he’s so full of heart.

  12. Remember Chicago 1987: “Shut up, we’re not the Beatles”… or something to that effect. Or S.F. (that stands for San Francisco), Bono berates a fan holding a U2/SF banner. No, Bono can lose it, but generally he’s so full of heart.

  13. Of the new bands mentioned above, the only ones worth a darn and ones we will still know in 5 years is the White Stripes. The Hives, Vines, Strokes will stil be around, but they are products of the media and MTV/Rollingstone. U2 is about music, not image or trends, but about the songs.

  14. Of the new bands mentioned above, the only ones worth a darn and ones we will still know in 5 years is the White Stripes. The Hives, Vines, Strokes will stil be around, but they are products of the media and MTV/Rollingstone. U2 is about music, not image or trends, but about the songs.

  15. as far as i’m concerned the title “best live act” is not up for grabs. It belongs to U2 for as long as they want it. Unless they feel like sharing with Bruce Springsteen on alternate Wednesdays in July. But only if they feel like it.

  16. as far as i’m concerned the title “best live act” is not up for grabs. It belongs to U2 for as long as they want it. Unless they feel like sharing with Bruce Springsteen on alternate Wednesdays in July. But only if they feel like it.

  17. In response to AAP’s post…are you sure U2 isnt about image and trends?…Surely you have to agree All That You Can’t Leave Behind was about image and trend, I mean, look at the reception from the media through Zooropa and Pop, most trashed U2 and said they were washed up…With Achtung Baby, Zooropa, and Pop, U2 SET the trends…ATYCLB went with the trends and what the media wanted and GUESS WHAT!…they got how many grammies out of the deal???…Just my .02

  18. In response to AAP’s post…are you sure U2 isnt about image and trends?…Surely you have to agree All That You Can’t Leave Behind was about image and trend, I mean, look at the reception from the media through Zooropa and Pop, most trashed U2 and said they were washed up…With Achtung Baby, Zooropa, and Pop, U2 SET the trends…ATYCLB went with the trends and what the media wanted and GUESS WHAT!…they got how many grammies out of the deal???…Just my .02

  19. (Pushing up nerd glasses)… Well, it was actually “In my country it’s tradition to clap” after Bono introduces Dennis Sheehan I think… He was irritated from the night before where Echo and The Bunnymen
    didn’t show up to a show and U2 were treated like shit because of it, and the fact that on German TV the crowd was dead as hell… Bono slaps a guy in the audience and changes lyrics in “I Fall Down” to “I don’t think I like this show I’d rather be home”… Dweeb award #3 for me!!!

  20. (Pushing up nerd glasses)… Well, it was actually “In my country it’s tradition to clap” after Bono introduces Dennis Sheehan I think… He was irritated from the night before where Echo and The Bunnymen
    didn’t show up to a show and U2 were treated like shit because of it, and the fact that on German TV the crowd was dead as hell… Bono slaps a guy in the audience and changes lyrics in “I Fall Down” to “I don’t think I like this show I’d rather be home”… Dweeb award #3 for me!!!

  21. I also think that if it was U2’s worst performance ever, Adam was drunk and high, Edge was in another country, and Bono was asleep, it would still sound better than the f^%%king Strokes… A couple of the other “The” bands are o.k. though, IMO…

  22. I also think that if it was U2’s worst performance ever, Adam was drunk and high, Edge was in another country, and Bono was asleep, it would still sound better than the f^%%king Strokes… A couple of the other “The” bands are o.k. though, IMO…

  23. the hives? *knocking head repeatedly on table*. give me a break. sure, they hav a crapload of energy, but with that many members in their band you’d think they would sound halfway decent. we could debate forever about this, but it just comes to that U2 have proven through everything their multi-faceted greatness.

  24. the hives? *knocking head repeatedly on table*. give me a break. sure, they hav a crapload of energy, but with that many members in their band you’d think they would sound halfway decent. we could debate forever about this, but it just comes to that U2 have proven through everything their multi-faceted greatness.

  25. Chris, while it’s debatable whether ATYCLB was too predictable as a U2 album, I’m not at all sure what trends they were following. Either way, it doesn’t detract from their onstage prowess during the Elevation Tour — particularly when compared to these bands who are clearly stuck in 1978.

  26. Chris, while it’s debatable whether ATYCLB was too predictable as a U2 album, I’m not at all sure what trends they were following. Either way, it doesn’t detract from their onstage prowess during the Elevation Tour — particularly when compared to these bands who are clearly stuck in 1978.

  27. Gloria – have to disagree with you there. Sure the Hives consist of a lot of band members, and we could debate that they are only half decent but remember u2 use so many effects on edge’s guitar and drum sequences that basically Bono could go solo and do 5 star hotels on a saturday night – just him and his pc. BTW – the Vines (Craig Nicholls) can sing (not sure why he doesn’t do so more often though).
    The Vines’ version of Ms Jackson shows his ability. If they continue to use Andy Wallace (Jeff Buckley) as producer, I think they’ll only get better. Remember U2’s Boy album isn’t a masterpeice either.
    Just my 2 cents worth – Radiohead are absolutley brilliant live!

  28. Gloria – have to disagree with you there. Sure the Hives consist of a lot of band members, and we could debate that they are only half decent but remember u2 use so many effects on edge’s guitar and drum sequences that basically Bono could go solo and do 5 star hotels on a saturday night – just him and his pc. BTW – the Vines (Craig Nicholls) can sing (not sure why he doesn’t do so more often though).
    The Vines’ version of Ms Jackson shows his ability. If they continue to use Andy Wallace (Jeff Buckley) as producer, I think they’ll only get better. Remember U2’s Boy album isn’t a masterpeice either.
    Just my 2 cents worth – Radiohead are absolutley brilliant live!

  29. Well, you have to take into account that they’ve also included Guns ‘n’ Roses and The Pogues in this listing. First, GNR is a pieced together shambles that can’t make half of their shows, and Shane McGowan left the Pogues a decade or so ago. Not to mention the fact that some band called “The Datsuns” is #10. Or the fact that the whole thing’s a thinly-veiled promotion for some mobile phone company. If U2’s looking for someone to slap a lawsuit against, it should be any corporation that uses their borrowed interest to shill a product.

  30. Well, you have to take into account that they’ve also included Guns ‘n’ Roses and The Pogues in this listing. First, GNR is a pieced together shambles that can’t make half of their shows, and Shane McGowan left the Pogues a decade or so ago. Not to mention the fact that some band called “The Datsuns” is #10. Or the fact that the whole thing’s a thinly-veiled promotion for some mobile phone company. If U2’s looking for someone to slap a lawsuit against, it should be any corporation that uses their borrowed interest to shill a product.

  31. sixtoe – the Datsuns are pretty good : they are from New Zealand (you know Lord of the Rings, Russell Crowe etc – I have to say this – I am Australian! and NZ have an inferority complex about us!!). JJJ plays quite a bit of their stuff here – don’t think they are top ten though. The Vines though are deserving of their spot; seen them 3 times now. I think they will burn out pretty quick though.

  32. sixtoe – the Datsuns are pretty good : they are from New Zealand (you know Lord of the Rings, Russell Crowe etc – I have to say this – I am Australian! and NZ have an inferority complex about us!!). JJJ plays quite a bit of their stuff here – don’t think they are top ten though. The Vines though are deserving of their spot; seen them 3 times now. I think they will burn out pretty quick though.

  33. sixtoe – the Datsuns are pretty good : they are from New Zealand (you know Lord of the Rings, Russell Crowe etc – I have to say this – I am Australian! and NZ have an inferority complex about us!!). JJJ plays quite a bit of their stuff here – don’t think they are top ten though. The Vines though are deserving of their spot; seen them 3 times now. I think they will burn out pretty quick though.

  34. sixtoe – the Datsuns are pretty good : they are from New Zealand (you know Lord of the Rings, Russell Crowe etc – I have to say this – I am Australian! and NZ have an inferority complex about us!!). JJJ plays quite a bit of their stuff here – don’t think they are top ten though. The Vines though are deserving of their spot; seen them 3 times now. I think they will burn out pretty quick though.

  35. These lists, although fun to check out, are ultimately pointless. It’s all pretty subjective isn’t it? Anyway, the best show I ever saw was Popmart. Elevation was somewhere in the lower middle of the 20 some concerts I’ve been to. Based on what I have seen live, I’d put U2 near the top.

  36. These lists, although fun to check out, are ultimately pointless. It’s all pretty subjective isn’t it? Anyway, the best show I ever saw was Popmart. Elevation was somewhere in the lower middle of the 20 some concerts I’ve been to. Based on what I have seen live, I’d put U2 near the top.

  37. Best live acts I’ve seen: Tom Waits, INXS, Einstuerzende Neubauten, Nick Cave, Gavin Friday, U2. Massive Attack was very good too. Bowie, of course.

  38. Best live acts I’ve seen: Tom Waits, INXS, Einstuerzende Neubauten, Nick Cave, Gavin Friday, U2. Massive Attack was very good too. Bowie, of course.

  39. Mark Adams: I’ve never heard of that incident you describe where Bono berated a fan for holding a U2/SF poster, but to me (as an Irishman) that looks like it means U2/Sinn F

  40. Mark Adams: I’ve never heard of that incident you describe where Bono berated a fan for holding a U2/SF poster, but to me (as an Irishman) that looks like it means U2/Sinn F

  41. So you’re that one person who liked the Neubauten in the Feyenoord stadium VonB? I admire you’re courage for standing up and admitting…

  42. So you’re that one person who liked the Neubauten in the Feyenoord stadium VonB? I admire you’re courage for standing up and admitting…

  43. Oooooooohhhhhhh, you’re really pushing the envelope NOW, Richard. Best three live acts of all time… 3. Grateful Dead. 2. KISS 1. U2.

  44. Oooooooohhhhhhh, you’re really pushing the envelope NOW, Richard. Best three live acts of all time… 3. Grateful Dead. 2. KISS 1. U2.

  45. i’ll agree w/ vonb massive attack was pretty good. but after u2, i’d say radiohead opening up for R.E.M. was probably the best i’ve ever seen. so good in fact, R.E.M. shouldn’t have even bothered to go on stage.

  46. i’ll agree w/ vonb massive attack was pretty good. but after u2, i’d say radiohead opening up for R.E.M. was probably the best i’ve ever seen. so good in fact, R.E.M. shouldn’t have even bothered to go on stage.

  47. trampoline: It was during the joshua tree tour (I think; maybe lovetown) that Bono misunderstood a fan’s sign that said U2/SF. He did think it stood for Sinn Fein. But the band was in San Francisco – that was all the fan meant by it.

  48. trampoline: It was during the joshua tree tour (I think; maybe lovetown) that Bono misunderstood a fan’s sign that said U2/SF. He did think it stood for Sinn Fein. But the band was in San Francisco – that was all the fan meant by it.

  49. best live acts I’ve seen: U2, Bruce Springsteen, Travis (a surprise, actually, because they’re so whitebread), Pete Yorn, Tom Petty (another surprise because his music is so mellow)… I saw the Monkees at the Fillmore in San Francisco, which wasn’t as much good as it was funny. 🙂

  50. best live acts I’ve seen: U2, Bruce Springsteen, Travis (a surprise, actually, because they’re so whitebread), Pete Yorn, Tom Petty (another surprise because his music is so mellow)… I saw the Monkees at the Fillmore in San Francisco, which wasn’t as much good as it was funny. 🙂

  51. Cool, thanks for the info Tucker. It’s kind of funny, actually… PS add the brilliant Mundy to the list of amazing Irish live acts. He gave all his fans at Dolan’s Warehouse (Limerick) a box of chocolates at Christmas, which was pretty cool if you ask me.

  52. Cool, thanks for the info Tucker. It’s kind of funny, actually… PS add the brilliant Mundy to the list of amazing Irish live acts. He gave all his fans at Dolan’s Warehouse (Limerick) a box of chocolates at Christmas, which was pretty cool if you ask me.

  53. Wilco is one of the best bands live I’ve seen. They’re incredible. But, yeah, I think there were moments when U2 has moved an entire arena to tears, no one puts on a show like they do.

  54. Wilco is one of the best bands live I’ve seen. They’re incredible. But, yeah, I think there were moments when U2 has moved an entire arena to tears, no one puts on a show like they do.

  55. U2 has and can be about image, but notice that their resurgence in the chart, and with critics came with a good album, not because of what they were wearing or saying, but it always comes back to good songs.

  56. U2 has and can be about image, but notice that their resurgence in the chart, and with critics came with a good album, not because of what they were wearing or saying, but it always comes back to good songs.

  57. I saw the Irish band the Frames open for the New Pornographers in a dump basement club in Washington DC last year. I had never heard of them before & got to see them up close (first row) in this tiny club. Suffice it to say they were awesome.

  58. I saw the Irish band the Frames open for the New Pornographers in a dump basement club in Washington DC last year. I had never heard of them before & got to see them up close (first row) in this tiny club. Suffice it to say they were awesome.

  59. Well… I have only seen 3 bands live before, so my top three goes like this…

    #3) Our Lady Peace: I saw them in a small arena after their 3rd (of 5) albums was released. Good show, with some rocking guitars

    #2) Matthew Good Band: They were mostly a Canadian-only band, and I saw them in a small club. They have broken up since this show, but Matt Good is releasing his solo album in like a month and a half. Great instrumentation, charisma and showmanship, and Matt Good’s vocal range is mindblowing.

    #1) U2: The only band that I’ve seen more than once (POPMart and Elevation) Smashmouth opened for them during the POPMart show, and almost ruined it too… they are the worst live band I’ve ever seen and/or heard.

  60. Well… I have only seen 3 bands live before, so my top three goes like this…

    #3) Our Lady Peace: I saw them in a small arena after their 3rd (of 5) albums was released. Good show, with some rocking guitars

    #2) Matthew Good Band: They were mostly a Canadian-only band, and I saw them in a small club. They have broken up since this show, but Matt Good is releasing his solo album in like a month and a half. Great instrumentation, charisma and showmanship, and Matt Good’s vocal range is mindblowing.

    #1) U2: The only band that I’ve seen more than once (POPMart and Elevation) Smashmouth opened for them during the POPMart show, and almost ruined it too… they are the worst live band I’ve ever seen and/or heard.

  61. Well… I have only seen 3 bands live before, so my top three goes like this…

    #3) Our Lady Peace: I saw them in a small arena after their 3rd (of 5) albums was released. Good show, with some rocking guitars

    #2) Matthew Good Band: They were mostly a Canadian-only band, and I saw them in a small club. They have broken up since this show, but Matt Good is releasing his solo album in like a month and a half. Great instrumentation, charisma and showmanship, and Matt Good’s vocal range is mindblowing.

    #1) U2: The only band that I’ve seen more than once (POPMart and Elevation) Smashmouth opened for them during the POPMart show, and almost ruined it too… they are the worst live band I’ve ever seen and/or heard.

  62. Well… I have only seen 3 bands live before, so my top three goes like this…

    #3) Our Lady Peace: I saw them in a small arena after their 3rd (of 5) albums was released. Good show, with some rocking guitars

    #2) Matthew Good Band: They were mostly a Canadian-only band, and I saw them in a small club. They have broken up since this show, but Matt Good is releasing his solo album in like a month and a half. Great instrumentation, charisma and showmanship, and Matt Good’s vocal range is mindblowing.

    #1) U2: The only band that I’ve seen more than once (POPMart and Elevation) Smashmouth opened for them during the POPMart show, and almost ruined it too… they are the worst live band I’ve ever seen and/or heard.

  63. Without a doubt – Jeff Buckley. Saw him perform 3 times in Australia (alot of his Mystery White Boy CD in from these Gigs).
    Brilliant Muso, unbelievable voice, amazing improvisor. Also seen Ben Harper in initmate mode, Like Buckley a great guitarist (though some what more orthodox!)

  64. Without a doubt – Jeff Buckley. Saw him perform 3 times in Australia (alot of his Mystery White Boy CD in from these Gigs).
    Brilliant Muso, unbelievable voice, amazing improvisor. Also seen Ben Harper in initmate mode, Like Buckley a great guitarist (though some what more orthodox!)

  65. Although I still enjoy reading the magazine at times, I have given up trusting Q infamous polls long ago… any press item that lists madonna (or the gallagher bros for that matters) above George Harrison (but also above Bono, Johnny Marr, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton…) isn’t worth more than a glimpse, as far as I’m concerned. Besides that, assuming that it is meant to be a list of current live bands (therefore one has to forget about The Who, Led Zep, Hendrix, Marley, Floyd, Doors and about nearly every great band), I can’t see how woud it be possible to put out of the top 5 people like Radiohead, The Cure and of course U2, maybe the only post-punk group to ever reach the (not only live) status of the true great bands that were (the who, rolling stones, beatles etc). As far as young (or, at least, new) acts are concerned, I wouldn’t count that much on the vintage-punk-influenced scene, but rather on the somehow overlooked electronic scene (anyone there? It’s 2003 afterall, not ’77), so why not mention the Chemical Brothers, a duo that can put together a surprisingly strong and moving live show without compromising their solid electronic roots. And if you really want to stick to the guitar/bass/drums formula, a group that came years before all those vintage hip kids like the strokes, the hives and stuff and was already practicing the art of ’70s rock with a far more accomplished sound, repertoire and stage presence before it all got down to passing fads are SUPERGRASS, whom I have seen live last december and made a very positive, lasting impression on me. Sure, they are no revolutionary band (but then all these new “the” bands are even less), but they are really capable of driving a live show with great playing, raw energy, flawless singing and captivating stage presence.

  66. Although I still enjoy reading the magazine at times, I have given up trusting Q infamous polls long ago… any press item that lists madonna (or the gallagher bros for that matters) above George Harrison (but also above Bono, Johnny Marr, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton…) isn’t worth more than a glimpse, as far as I’m concerned. Besides that, assuming that it is meant to be a list of current live bands (therefore one has to forget about The Who, Led Zep, Hendrix, Marley, Floyd, Doors and about nearly every great band), I can’t see how woud it be possible to put out of the top 5 people like Radiohead, The Cure and of course U2, maybe the only post-punk group to ever reach the (not only live) status of the true great bands that were (the who, rolling stones, beatles etc). As far as young (or, at least, new) acts are concerned, I wouldn’t count that much on the vintage-punk-influenced scene, but rather on the somehow overlooked electronic scene (anyone there? It’s 2003 afterall, not ’77), so why not mention the Chemical Brothers, a duo that can put together a surprisingly strong and moving live show without compromising their solid electronic roots. And if you really want to stick to the guitar/bass/drums formula, a group that came years before all those vintage hip kids like the strokes, the hives and stuff and was already practicing the art of ’70s rock with a far more accomplished sound, repertoire and stage presence before it all got down to passing fads are SUPERGRASS, whom I have seen live last december and made a very positive, lasting impression on me. Sure, they are no revolutionary band (but then all these new “the” bands are even less), but they are really capable of driving a live show with great playing, raw energy, flawless singing and captivating stage presence.

  67. Nine Inch Nails anyone??? Trent is arguably the most captivating performer I’ve ever seen, ‘cept the U2 boys of course… If you are a metal head at all, there is no more tight band live than Metallica… And if you are into bands that sound like they are asleep, drugged and talentless, there’s always The Strokes:)!!!

  68. Nine Inch Nails anyone??? Trent is arguably the most captivating performer I’ve ever seen, ‘cept the U2 boys of course… If you are a metal head at all, there is no more tight band live than Metallica… And if you are into bands that sound like they are asleep, drugged and talentless, there’s always The Strokes:)!!!

Comments are closed.