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The 20 Best Live Acts of 2010

December 13, 2010  |  7:00am
10. Grinderman
When I saw Grinderman this past November, it was less a stage the band performed on than a pulpit. There, Nick Cave marched back and forth, sweat-soaked and preaching to his loyal followers, pointing in their faces, barking all manner of doom and gloom. To his left, Warren Ellis attacked a violin and flailed wildly, seemingly on another plane of existence entirely. Perhaps he was possessed and Cave was attempting to exorcise his demons? Hard to say, but I took it in with a dumb smile on my face all night. I was a believer. Grinderman converted me. Austin L. Ray

9. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
We knew the massive Merry Prankster-meets-tent-revival ensemble known as Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros would be a good time, we just didn’t know how good. After a spirited set full of jam-outs, harmonious mantras and lots of manic dancing in the crowd, frontman Alex Ebert sat in the middle of the audience, brought us all in seated around him, and played a sweet, tender encore of “Brother.” Few live acts can balance intimacy and exuberance with such finesse. An Ed Sharpe show is controlled chaos in gig form, and it is wonderful. Lindsey Eanet

8. Titus Andronicus
Patrick Stickles’s energy—just like his uncertainties, his disdains, and disappointments—are boundless, and perhaps the only thing more surprising than his ability to translate such caustic disgust with New England into one of the best rock-’n’-roll records of the year is his ability to turn those battered and beaten songs into a live show that’s more cathartic than cynical. In exorcising their demons, the members of Titus Andronicus are excitable and exuberant, inviting their audiences to share in their pain and creating a sweaty, snarling, welcoming community. Stephen M. Deusner

7. Arcade Fire
An Arcade Fire show is a truly special thing. There are usually about 10 band members, yet the sum is still bigger than their individual parts. And throughout the show, most of them look like they couldn’t think of a more fun thing to do than play music. For you. Right now. It’s an arena-rock show on an amphitheater stage with transcendent music that continues to uplift as band members shout along without mics during “Wake Up,” climb rafters, bang on oversized drums with abandon and fall to the ground, caught up in a moment that they somehow replicate night after night. And holding it all together is frontman Win Butler, giving every ounce of himself like a modern-day Boss. Maybe there’s some magic in having your wife onstage with you? Josh Jackson

6. Bruce Springsteen
Amazingly, I’d never seen the Boss before this year—a fact that I took a lot of heat for as editor of music magazine. As I’m sure you already know, all the hype is well-deserved. He’s a manic preacher/showman/everyman, using every part of the stage, including on top of the piano. At Bonnaroo, he jogged up and down the aisle towards the soundboard, leaning into the crowd, standing up on the railing, taking requests by grabbing fans’ homemade signs. He was the Boss, commanding us to sing along with “Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town,” despite the dusty sweat baked onto our bodies by a Tennessee day in June, despite his own protestations that it’s “too fucking hot for Santa,” all because a fan had handed him a giant cardboard Santa. And we did. We did whatever he said, whether or not it made sense. Josh Jackson

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