There are plenty of perks that come with working for a music company. And while free records are great, perhaps the best perk is catching as much live music as we do each year. 2013 was another incredible year to see some of our favorite artists hit the stage, whether in front of thousands at a giant festival or a select few inside a dark club. We polled our writers and editors, with the parameters that artists needed to tour or perform festival dates in 2013 to qualify for this list, and this is what we came up with: the 25 best live acts of the year.
19. Arcade Fire
Arcade Fire’s “secret” shows in Brooklyn during CMJ may have been polarizing, and the announcement of their dress code for their upcoming 2014 dates turned a few heads, but ultimately, an Arcade Fire show is still an Arcade Fire show—transcendent, and a reason to stay excited about live music. So get over yourself, dust off that formal wear, and we’ll see you at these guys’ full-blown tour next year.
18. Kanye West
If you know anything about Kanye West at all, you’ll know that he doesn’t really do anything small-scale. If he’s proposing to his girlfriend, he’s gonna need to rent out an entire ballpark (even though we’re pretty sure Kim Kardashian isn’t much of a baseball fan), and if he’s touring behind Yeezus, he’s going to make sure it’s THE GREATEST TOUR OF ALL TIME. Whether or not he has achieved that is open to interpretation, but West certainly knows how to bring the theatrics, with giant set pieces and a supporting cast that makes the whole thing feel more like performance art.
17. My Morning Jacket
Jim James set out on an excellent solo tour of his own this year, but that didn’t stop this band from making the rounds as well, and much of what Josh Jackson wrote when we named them the best live act of 2011 remains true today: “If you think that rock ‘n’ roll is dying, My Morning Jacket is here to forcibly eject those thoughts from your brain. An energetic live band throughout their career (remember when they all had the hair and knew how to use it?), their concerts have only gotten better. Bruce Springsteen hasn’t gone away, but Jim James has been steadily getting promoted through the ranks, looking every-more ready to take over as Boss.”
16. Dr. Dog
Dr. Dog have always been an excellent live band, but this year’s shows seemed to carry them to a new level. Beca Grimm caught them in New York, and she wrote, “Hardly any smokers breaking from the show stood outside. Everyone was still in there, still thrilled to be, too. I felt thrilled, too. Thrilled Dr. Dog can sell out a NYC venue in less than a minute. And thrilled after 15 years as a band—and endless changes, growth along the way—the crew could collectively chip a unique spot into Philadelphia’s musical trunk right now, but also Americana as a whole for all time.” Read her full review here.
15. Passion Pit
On first listen, songs like the immensely commercially successful “Take a Walk” are danceable and perfect fodder for workout-playlists. But on subsequent listens, when you really pay attention to the lyrics, you quickly realize that Passion Pit’s music is more than the 30 second-jingles you hear in TV commercials. They’ve got vivid and compelling stories of their own to tell, and their effervescent live shows might just be the place to really immerse yourself in one of their pop-y epics.—Anita George
You never know what will happen at a Deerhunter show, and this year they reached a new level as they brought their stellar Monomania material to life. Oh, and they just so happened to turn in easily the best late-night performance this year on Fallon. Check it out below.