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The 20 Best Live Acts of 2010

December 13, 2010  |  7:00am
The 20 Best Live Acts of 2010
5. LCD Soundsystem
We said of LCD Soundsystem’s album This Is Happening (our 2010 album of the year): “There’s a remarkable sustained energy to this collection.” It’s like a party on a little, round silver disc. But it’s even better when the party takes place in a club with the band’s adoring fans multiplying that energy by a couple thousand. Josh Jackson

4. Mumford & Sons
The communal power of rock is on display when Mumford & Sons’ fans bellow every word, arms and hands raised in the air throughout each song during their entire soul-moving live show. The act of mass confession driven by Marcus Mumford’s wrenching lyrics has the effect of a religious revival, no matter your persuasion. The crowd isn’t there to watch as much as it is to join the band in its celebration of light in the midst of personal darkness. Nick Purdy

3. Jónsi
On stage, Jónsi is costumed in a leather-and-cloth sash, variously patterned feathers, a furry shoulder harness and military-issue pants with a narrow stripe along the outer seams; pink makeup bursts across his temples. The look is 85 percent Peter Pan Lost Boy, 15 percent circa-1983 Cyndi Lauper. This is how the skinny dude from Sigur Rós goes about dismantling, brick by stoic brick, the perceived Great Wall of Self-Seriousness encircling his band’s frequently austere music. The sonorous organ hum, 13-minute tracks and wraith-like vocal cascades of Sigur Rós’ mystifyingly-titled ( ) album seem a zillion miles away when you watch Jónsi plucking his ukulele and singing flowery, life-affirming sentiments in clear English. Welcome to the opposite of opacity. Give your eyes a moment to adjust. Jason Killingsworth

2. Atoms for Peace
With members like frontman Thom Yorke, Flea, Nigel Godrich, Joey Waronker and Mauro Refosco, expectations were high for this super-group. But those expectations were exceeded, and the rules of engagement seemed to be utterly re-written. Mind-warping songs, jaw-dropping line-up and a crowd going so nuts on Oakland’s second night that even after the lights came up, the roadies starting pulling cable, and ushers start trying to herd people out, no one moved. The applause grew louder until the lights went back down and the band came back on broke into Joy Division’s “Love Will tear Us Apart.” Sitting on top of the San Andreas fault can be nerve wracking, but had there been an earthquake, no one in the room would have noticed. Jay Sweet

1. Janelle Monáe
There are few live acts today who can transform a crowd into a post-apocalyptic dance party in a matter of minutes and then turn around and stop you in your tracks with an arresting slow jam. Janelle Monáe can do it all, whether she’s tipping on the tightrope or sharing the stage with Of Montreal. Who knew the second coming of James Brown would be a tuxedo-clad android? Bonnie Stiernberg

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