The 30 best live acts in the world today

16th Jun 2011 | 22:00

The 30 best live acts in the world today
The 30 greatest live acts in the world today

With festival season upon us once again and a mud-splattered summer of carnage under canvas in prospect, there's no time like the present to find out which band or solo artist blows the competition away. When it comes to electrifying live performances, who rocks the hardest? Who puts on the greatest show on earth?

You voted in your thousands, and now it's time to find out the results. Here are the 30 greatest live bands and solo artists in the world today, as voted for by you. Click onwards to find out who is the hottest ticket on the planet...

The 30 best live acts in the world today
Jay-Z

Arguably the biggest rap artist on the planet, Jigga is also a live force to be reckoned with. The man sure knows how to put on a show.

His ’08 appearance at Glastonbury is the perfect testament to why Jay-Z deserves a place on our list. Following months of controversy about his selection as the festival’s first ever hip-hop headliner, and a war of words with Noel Gallagher, Jay-Z turned up and casually treated a huge crowd to a set pack with stone cold classics - plus a somewhat satirical cover of Oasis’s Wonderwall.

Not only the perfect way to cement rap’s place at the heart of mainstream music, but one of the best headlining sets Pilton has seen in recent years…

The 30 best live acts in the world today
Journey

"This is a song off our new record" is the kind of introduction guaranteed to please the die-hard fans but send the neutrals galloping towards the bar.

To be fair to Neal Schon et al, there's much more to Journey than one big hit, but when it comes to winning over an audience, it certainly helps to have a tune in your setlist so colossal that it can't fail to bring the house down. Yep, it's that one. We don't even have to mention it by name.

The 30 best live acts in the world today
Beyoncé

If you’re struggling to understand the concept of stage presence, take a look at Beyoncé in action. TV talent show judges are often heard to make the vacuous claim that a contestant has ‘owned the stage’, but Beyoncé actually does.

The quality of her vocal performances shouldn’t be underestimated, either, nor should the tightness of her band. She’ll have Glastonbury 2011 in her pocket.

The 30 best live acts in the world today
Kanye West

Kanye totally proves the rule - prominent in hip-hop - that the more detached from reality you are, the more exciting a performer you become.

Sure, it might grate on some when he burst onstage at an awards show at the expense of Taylor Swift, but when he’s touring his bonkers-but-brilliant new album with overblown stage shows and troupes of ballet dancers in tow, who’s going to complain that he’s gone a bit nuts?

The 30 best live acts in the world today
Machine Head

Oakland, CA's heaviest sons have been tearing audiences a new one since 1992 and 2007's The Blackening was acclaimed by the rock press as one of the leading heavy metal albums of the last decade.

Want heavy? You've got ten tons of it.

The 30 best live acts in the world today
The Black Keys

Few bands can pull-off garage blues-rock with the integrity, authenticity and passion of The Black Keys.

There may only be two of them, but these boys can make the sort of glorious racket with just a guitar and a drum kit that most five-piece bands would sell an internal organ to be able to crank out.

The 30 best live acts in the world today
Pendulum

They may have alienated the drum ‘n’ bass community that initially embraced them, but Pendulum can take comfort in the fact that their swerve to an electro-rock path has helped them to become a feted live act.

Their incendiary shows have proven to be particularly popular on the festival circuit: you don’t want to be the band playing on the other stage during their time slot.

The 30 best live acts in the world today
Coldplay

If any band epitomises the big tear-jerking, festival-closing moment it’s Coldplay. And releasing the anthemic Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall ahead of next week’s Glastonbury headlining slot is a canny - if predictable - move. There’s no better audience to push your new material at than 100,000 soppy ravers in a Somerset field, after all.

Coldplay’s shows, though, mirror the tunes: they’re huge. And Chris Martin’s energetic enthusiasm, even when he’s sat at a piano, is contagious. Who could forget this moment at Sydney’s Sound Relief in 2007 when Chris decides to jump security and go for a pleasant sprint through the frantic crowd.

The 30 best live acts in the world today
Aerosmith

MusicRadar was lucky enough to witness Aerosmith's headline set at Download 2010 and we can honestly say that not only were they the stars of the weekend, but they blew away the competition with consummate ease.

Despite the rain, even the stragglers at the back were in the palm of Steven Tyler's hand throughout a hit-packed set.

The 30 best live acts in the world today
Paul McCartney

It would be difficult for Macca to come up with a setlist that wasn't all-killer. Hell, we've even got a soft spot for We All Stand Together.

As singalongs go, Hey Jude at Glastonbury 2004 was one of the greatest ever, with the outro resounding around the bar areas and campsite at Worthy Farm hours after the former Beatle and his stellar backing band had left the stage.

The 30 best live acts in the world today
Green Day

Green Day’s rise from garage three-chord punk rockers to stadium-filling three-chord radio mainstays has been an unprecedented achievement. Formed way back in 1987 yet still, somehow, ‘down with the kids’, this forever-young three-piece have remained poster boys for several generations of rebellious stoner teenagers… and their moms.

Live, Green Day instil the kind of wild, devil-horn wielding crowd behaviour only possible in an arena full of young adults. It’s all about who can start the furthest away moshpit...

The 30 best live acts in the world today
Lady Gaga

A Lady Gaga concert has that wonderful mix of pop accessibility and bonkers, over-blown, high-budget nonsense.

Who knows if she’s going to turn up wearing clothes made of meat? Or be wheeled out in a coffin? Or possibly be shooting pyrotechnics from some body part or other? Who knows? But either way, she’ll definitely bring some massive pop tunes along for the ride…

The 30 best live acts in the world today
The Rolling Stones

What can you say about The Rolling Stones? At an age when they ought to be doing nothing more strenuous than mowing the lawn, Jagger, Richards, Watts and Wood are still capable of strutting around the globe and dusting off the kind of back catalogue that almost everyone else in this list would give their right arm for.

Will they tour again? Almost certainly...

The 30 best live acts in the world today
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Last seen ripping up enormodomes with the E-Street Band on his Working on a Dream Tour in 2009, Springsteen is currently in the studio working on his next album, so we may see a return to the road in 2012.

For the moment, though, our thoughts are with E Street saxophonist Clarence Clemons as he recovers from the stroke he suffered last week.

The 30 best live acts in the world today
Rage Against The Machine

When Rage Against The Machine split in 2000, the rock world lost one of its most potent live bands. Happily, sporadic reunions in recent years and 2009's Killing In The Name for Christmas number one campaign have seen the Los Angeles quartet back to their provocative, incendiary best.

Whether or not we'll ever see another RATM studio album is up for debate, but frankly, we'll always be up for bouncing around the moshpit to explosive classics like this.

The 30 best live acts in the world today
Radiohead

The thing that makes Radiohead such a phenomenal live act is the way they’ve adapted and evolved over the past decade.

Post-OK Computer the Oxford five-piece could so easily have rested on their laurels and simply churned out the likes of Karma Police and Street Spirit for guaranteed festival singalongs until they hit retirement age.

But they didn’t. Instead - alongside the inevitable indie classics - you can expect to see Jonny Greenwood rocking out with a modular synthesizer as they break out the off-kilter rave-up of Idioteque, or the whole front line pounding percussion through There, There. And then there’s Thom Yorke’s dancing

The 30 best live acts in the world today
Bon Jovi

We defy anyone, in any UK city, town or village, to go out on a Saturday night without hearing Living On A Prayer at least twice. Now imagine that all-consuming, fist-pumping moment on a sticky floor translated to a stadium fronted by a stage of ‘80s heart-throbs. Yes, “wowowowowow”, through a voice box, for real.

Bon Jovi’s The Circle Tour was the biggest of 2010, and this year’s mammoth Open Air Tour is even more extensive. Fists, headbands and lighters, erm… 'Always' at the ready. Sorry.

The 30 best live acts in the world today
Roger Waters

Pink Floyd might no longer be functioning as a complete unit, but Waters’ creative energy continues to flow.

He’s currently touring with The Wall Live - a worldwide jaunt that sees the bassist and his band performing the album of the same name in its entirety - and at the O2 Arena in London in May, even managed to coax David Gilmour and Nick Mason onto the stage to help him out.

The 30 best live acts in the world today
Foo Fighters

When Dave Grohl released a cassette-only album of his own material in 1992, he could never have imagined what the future held for him.

With the possible exception of Phil Collins, nobody in rock history has stepped out from behind the drum kit to become a frontman with such staggering success. By the way, in case you were wondering, Phil didn't make this list. We informed him by fax.

The 30 best live acts in the world today
Rammstein

Last time MusicRadar caught German metallers Rammstein’s tongue-in-cheek live show, bassist Ollie Riedel was crowd-surfing in a life raft while lead singer Till Lindemann chased keyboard player Flake around the stage with a giant, flame-throwing, phallic butcher’s knife before pretending to cook him in a giant cauldron.

And then the stage caught fire. Who’s going to argue with that?

The 30 best live acts in the world today
U2

By the time U2 complete their current 360 tour in July, via Glastonbury's Pyramid Stage on Friday, they'll have smashed all previous records for tour attendance and revenue.

The Rolling Stones' previous high scores of 6.3 million tickets sold and $558 million taken will be knocked into a cocked, diamond-encrusted hat by U2's earnings from 7 million paying punters. Presumably, they're doing something right.

The 30 best live acts in the world today
Prince

Prince the recording artist may have been infuriatingly inconsistent for the past two decades, but his live performance credentials have rarely been called into question.

Whether leading his band, playing multiple instruments or dancing the heels off his shoes, Prince does it with consummate skill. He’s the highest placed solo artist on this list, and deservedly so.

The 30 best live acts in the world today
Metallica

From Bay Area thrash metal upstarts to MTV-straddling hard rock megastars, Metallica have always been ferocious live proposition, thanks in no small part to James Hetfield's jackhammer right hand - certainly much more metronomic than Lars Ulrich's drumming - and planet-sized leonine roar.

And the oldies sound better than ever...

The 30 best live acts in the world today
AC/DC

AC/DC's last live jaunt, the Black Ice tour, wrapped up in 2010 after, let's face it, rocking 5 million punters in a mammoth two-year slog around 29 countries.

The band are reportedly due back in the studio next January and Angus Young is already planning for the next tour: "Now we're thinking 'How can we ever better the Black Ice world tour?' But we will."

The 30 best live acts in the world today
Muse

When they took their 2009 album The Resistance on tour, Teignmouth's leading Ufologists deployed hydraulic tower blocks and flying saucers to jaw-dropping effect, but last year's relatively pared-down Glastonbury production proved that they're by no means reliant on their supersize props.

Don't expect a low-key, intimate experience if you're lucky enough to catch them at Reading/Leeds in August, however.

The 30 best live acts in the world today
Dream Theater

Perennial MusicRadar poll contenders Dream Theater settle for a respectable top 10 placing this time out.

Find out what the future holds for the progressive metal outfit in our recent interview with John Petrucci and Jordan Rudess.

The 30 best live acts in the world today
Porcupine Tree

Psychedelic prog troopers Porcupine Tree are currently taking their mammoth The Incident tour through the US, before returning to Europe this Autumn.

Find out what frontman Steven Wilson had to say when we caught up with him in late 2010.

The 30 best live acts in the world today
Guns N' Roses

Although we'd struggle to pick some of the members out of a police line-up these days, there's no denying that when the Guns N' Roses circus comes to town, all eyes and ears are fixated on it.

Axl might not show, there might be a riot, but hey... rock 'n' roll is supposed to be dangerous, right?

The 30 best live acts in the world today
Iron Maiden

Sadly there are no bonus points for having a gigantic monster onstage, but you'd really have to go some to pip Maiden to the post when it comes to the theatrics and intensity of a full-on arena rock show.

England's heaviest export are still the kings when it comes to taking metal to the masses.

The 30 best live acts in the world today
Rush

So there we have it. The greatest live act in the world today is a Canadian trio who have been taking their hugely popular brand of progressive rock on the road for nigh-on four decades.

Rush are still selling out arenas across the globe and anyone who attended the recent Time Machine shows in the UK will confirm that they were nothing short of captivating for three and a half hours. Geddy, Alex and Neil, we salute you. Here's why.


Buy Rush on Digital/CD/DVD/Blu-ray:

Moving Pictures (CD + BluRay) | Beyond The Lighted Stage [Blu-ray] | Rush - Beyond the Lighted Stage [DVD] [2010] | Rush - Replay x3 [DVD] [2006] | Rush - 2112 and Moving Pictures - Classic Albums [Blu-ray] | Moving Pictures [iTunes] | Rush in Rio (Live) [iTunes]

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