The 25 Best Live Acts of 2012

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2012 was a great year for live music, whether it was legacy acts brushing off the cobwebs and heading back out on the road or new groups proving their mettle on the big stage. We polled Paste staffers and writers about their favorite acts who toured or performed festival spots this year, and today we present the 25 Best Live Acts of 2012.

20. David Byrne and St. Vincent
The combination of David Byrne and Annie Clark is exciting on the duo’s release Love This Giant, but live, they’re transcendent. Backed by a full brass band, not only do Byrne and Clark play off each other well, both masters with their guitars, but they each get their own chance to shine in the spotlight. From classic Talking Heads songs to the frenzied shredding of “Actor Out of Work”, even if this tour is a one-time thing, it’s rock’s best answer to Watch the Throne, an event that is too fascinating and great to ignore.—Ross Bonaime

19. Black Lips
The Black Lips have always been notorious for their often controversial and always entertaining live shows. Though their most recent album, Arabia Mountain, was released last year, the Georgia natives didn’t miss a beat with their 2012 touring schedule. In addition to their usual run of dates, the adventurous punk rockers traveled to the Middle East in September, making stops in places like Egypt, Iraq and Tunisia. And let’s not forget their recent performance at Austin’s Fun Fun Fun Fest, during which a seemingly deranged Val Kilmer disrupted their show and eventually locked lips with guitarist Cole Alexander. It appeared as if Kilmer was re-inhabiting his role as Jim Morrison from 1991’s The Doors, but his on-stage cameo was actually part of a new Terrence Malick film. If Malick and company wanted mayhem, they chose the right band’s performance to walk in on.—Ryan Bort

18. Of Monsters and Men
Whether they’re on the cozy stage at our SXSW party in the mid-afternoon or playing in front of thousands in a packed theater on their headlining tour, Of Monsters and Men give the same level of intensity from start to finish. The six-piece Icelandic folksters (joined on stage by an accordionist/trumpet player) aren’t afraid to push the limits of what they already mastered on an excellent album. Live, the drums give the band a more dance-like vibe, and everyone claps and chants along to the uber-catchy melodies Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and Ragnar Þórhallsson sing so captivatingly. Fans of the album will have new respect for the group’s music and will be easily blown away by the force the band hits you with every second of every song.—Adam Vitcavage

Video Platform Video Management Video Solutions Video Player 17. Neil Young and Crazy Horse
For anyone who has heard Neil and the Horse play live in support of Psychedelic Pill, the first thing that's immediately obvious is that they haven't made any concessions at all to aging. If anything, they sound more raw and distorted than ever as they explore extended versions of Crazy Horse classics such as “Powderfinger,” “Fuckin' Up” and “Cortez the Killer.” The few minutes of calm Young allows the audience during a brief acoustic set are quickly brushed aside to make way for full-throttle versions of new songs like “Walk Like A Giant” and “Ramada Inn.” Don't pass up on a chance to see Crazy Horse on this tour. They're playing better than they ever have.—Douglas Heselgrave

16. The Lumineers
This quiet band released a gentle folk album about love and heartbreak to much acclaim. But in all honesty, the album can't hold a candle to what the band does during their live shows. They transform from a trio to a quintet for a full sound that begs you to sing along. The group's wholesomeness oozes through to their performances where you can see their genuine love for playing in front of people. The Lumineers want you to be a part of it, and they want you to sing louder than them, especially during their breakout hit “Ho Hey.” It is an experience you definitely want to see in an intimate setting, and luckily their intimacy translates to the masses effortlessly.—Adam Vitcavage