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I’m not talking about the obvious legends like Springsteen, U-2 and the Stones. (For those who require mollification, I’ve included a list of the bands who won Rolling Stone magazine’s “Top Ten Live Acts of All Time” survey last year at the end of this entry. What I’m listing here are performers who, even if you knew they were good, you probably didn’t know HOW good.

Mumford and Sons. This is band you really HAVE to see live to appreciate. They spend a big percentage of their stage shows standing in a line right at the front of the stage, as if they wish they could crawl into the crowd and be part of the gang. Any performer who needs a lesson on how to connect with an audience need only spend a few minutes at one of their shows on their Gentlemen of the Road tour and they’ll learn everything they need to know. And ya gotta love a so-called rock band with a stand-up bass. Just sayin’. 

Guitar Man

Joe Bonamassa. To quote one fan after a concert: “Blues, then rock, then blues rock, then funk. Is there anything this man can’t play?” I am (ahem) old enough to remember watching an episode of Real Life with Jane Pauley in which this 13-year-old, chubby-cheeked kid walked out on stage with John Lee Hooker and started to play. His performance literally brought me to my feet, and that was in my living room. What happens when you add another twenty-or-so years of performance experience to someone who was a prodigy in the first place? Go to one of the concerts on Joe’s 2013 tour and find out.

Kenny Chesney. Before you automatically yell “but I HATE country music,” let me tell you about a friend of mine who’s the son of a very influential Rock-and-Roll music producer. David has spent his entire life with all-access passes to pretty much any rock concert he wants to see, and his tastes run, understandably, toward big-name rock acts. Lately, however, he’s been dating a girl who’s a big country fan. He wanted to impress her, so he used his family connections to score excellent seats to see one of the shows on Chesney’s No Shoes Nation tour. He figured he could suffer through a night of country music for the sake of romance, but got one hell of a surprise. “It might be the best concert I ever saw,” he told me. And with David, that’s saying something.

Old Fashioned Microphone

The Manhattan Transfer. Okay, maybe you don’t have to hear this band live to appreciate how good they are. That’s because they do the vocal portion of their studio recordings live as well. That’s right, none of those impossibly complex layers of vocal acrobatics was accomplished with the use of a computer. But go see them anyway. They’re playing some pretty intimate venues over the next few months, so you’ll be able to truly enjoy an up-close-and-personal experience.

Kiss. If you were born after 1975, you probably associate Kiss with the atrocious reality show, Gene Simmons Family Jewels, which somehow survived for seven excruciatingly horrible seasons on A & E. And while  classic arena anthems like Lick it Up and Rock and Roll All Night are catchy, they’re really just standard late 70’s, early 80’s hair band fare, right? Well, maybe. But, as one recent concert goer noted, “Kiss knows what rock-and-roll fans want in a concert. Amazing light shows, spectacular pyrotechnics, wild costumes and sing-along music that yanks you out of your chair.” It worked in 1977 and, by all accounts, it still works on their 2013 tour. Oh, and they DID make the Rolling Stone list. 

How many of these bands have YOU seen live? My personal answer: not enough of them. Luckily for me (and you), all of them have upcoming show dates.

Rolling Stone Magazine’s “Top Ten Live Acts of All Time” (in order)

  1. Bruce Springsteen
  2. The Rolling Stones
  3. The Who
  4. Pink Floyd
  5. Led Zeppelin
  6. U2
  7. Queen
  8. Pearl Jam
  9. The Grateful Dead
  10. Kiss

What’s YOUR top ten list?

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