The 20 Best Live Acts of the Decade (2000-2009)

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[Above: Photo by Jason Reed]

5. Janelle Monae

From our 2008 live review: “Monae burned up the stage and worked the crowd into a frenzy as she poured all her energy into the performance. In her tuxedo, pompadour hairdo and saddle shoes, she ran around the stage with total abandon. She’s taken the frenzy up a notch since I last saw her, jumping in to the crowd to dance, crowd surfing and slamming the mic stand to the ground.” Tim Regan-Porter


[Above: Photo by Bob Butler]

4. Tom Waits

Tom Waits could stand in one spot and recite any selection from his catalog, and we’d love it. But he’s a true performer, bringing his songs to life with loads of personality and sometimes even props. Confetti falls from the rafters, dust fills the stage when he stomps his foot, and lucky audiences get to hear him tell jokes. Kate Kiefer


[Above: Photo by April Brimer]

3. Radiohead

It’s pretty rare to find a band this obsessed with studio polish and concert shredding. (We’re lucky to get one or the other.) Radiohead, though, has found a way to excel in both arenas. If anything, the live show enhances what the band does on record, supplementing spooky atmospherics with old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll crunch. The band’s light show is the awesomest thing we’ve seen since high school, when we hit up the laser-light extravaganza in our hometown planetarium. Nick Marino


[About: Photo by Austin L. Ray]

2. The Flaming Lips

Wayne Coyne and his crew have managed to cultivate a live show that’s somehow both a visual and emotional manifestation of their delightfully bizarre musical experimentations. Burbling with dancing aliens and Santa Clauses, ginormous plaster hands and Coyne’s ubiquitous, crowd-surfing bubble-ball (plus steady performances from the band members themselves, somehow unmoved by the odd chaos unfolding around them every night), the shows are probably made even better by some sort of mind-altering substances, but you almost don’t need them. Rachael Maddux


[Above: Photo by Mark C. Austin]

1. 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 a small 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

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