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.

10. Flaming Lips
We could talk about these fearless freaks' live show for days, but you'd probably get sick of hearing about that giant hamster ball after a while. Wayne Coyne and friends are one of two bands on this year's list who made our 2011 list as well, and in 2009, we named them one of the best live acts of the past decade. This year was no different, as the band performed Pink Floyd's classic Dark Side of the Moon from start to finish on tour and more than did it justice, following it up with a set of their own undeniable hits. We're not quite sure what these guys have cooking for 2013 yet, but at this rate, look for them to grace this list again next year.—Bonnie Stiernberg

9. The Who
Contemporaries like The Beach Boys and The Rolling Stones have fallen into the jukebox-of-hits pattern with their live shows, but The Who are to be commended for being bold enough to trot out their dense concept album Quadrophenia on tour this year. It's incredible to see the record performed in its entirety, but don't fret if you don't want to shell out the big bucks without hearing a few hits—the tour features an extended encore of favorites like “Won't Get Fooled Again,” “Baba O'Riley” and “The Kids Are Alright.” You'd never know frontman Roger Daltrey is pushing 70 from the way his voice still soars, and that scream of his will still make your hair stand on end.—Bonnie Stiernberg

8. The Men
It's not often that a band can be experienced in two completely different ways from month-to-month, but that's the case with Brooklyn's The Men, who we had the pleasure of catching several times this year. Their first set—a late-night slot at SXSW that highlighted their latest album, Open Your Heart—showed the guys polished and exceptional, scoffing at the on-stage smoke the venue surrounded them with. It was only months later when the fierce foursome, who seem to be churning out new tunes at an alarming rate, paid little attention to that same album at a recent Atlanta gig. Instead of leaning on the success of Open Your Heart, they tore through a handful of deafening, brand-new tracks to a sloshed, rowdy crowd. It's hard to say which version we like more.—Tyler Kane

7. Florence and the Machine
Frontwoman Florence Welch is a force to be reckoned with, at times ethereal and at others positively bombastic. On this tour in particular, she seemed to truly feed off of the crowd's energy, whether she was instructing everyone to hoist their neighbors up onto their shoulders or leading some frenzied, synchronized jumping during “Dog Days Are Over.” Her costumes occasionally appear to draw some witchy inspiration from Stevie Nicks, and we have to admit—we're totally under her spell.—Bonnie Stiernberg

6. Titus Andronicus
Titus Andronicus might have come fresh from the studio in 2012 with Local Business, but if their appearances at SXSW and multiple U.S. tours are any indication, the band belongs on the road. With the first half of the year dedicated to rehashing the classic The Monitor and The Airing of Grievances, we caught some real gems as the band built up Local Business and previewed tracks like “My Eating Disorder” along the way. And the whole time, frontman Patrick Stickles' personality is in full effect with musings in and outside of melodies.—Tyler Kane