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

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In his Best Live Music Acts of 2008 list, Paste editor-in-chief Josh Jackson wrote the following:

“On any given night, on any city in America, there’s a band or a singer/songwriter transcending the usual concert experience. At the most basic, they’re doing the same thing as thousands of others that same night—standing on stage, singing and playing some instruments. But there’s something about the way they’re doing it—the way the lights compliment the sound, the way they involve the audience, the way their music connects directly to your soul, the way they make you know that there’s no place they’d rather be than with you, and the feeling becomes mutual. The audience will remember that night for a long time, and the next time they purchase a concert ticket, it will be with the hope to see something as special.”

For this list, the Paste staff argued, voted and argued again to find the 20 acts from this decade that evoked the feeling described above. Below is what we came up with. Let us know what we missed:


[Above: Photo by Rob Inderrieden]

20. TV on the Radio

Come for the gloriously frenetic songs that have been rewritten for the stage, stay for Tunde Adebimpe’s slithering, hypnotic dance moves. He’s arguably the frontman of the decade, and his bandmates know this; it’s why they play so hard. Austin L. Ray


[Above: Photo by Rob Inderrieden]

19. Of Montreal

With an endlessly inventive stage show to match its inspired glam-pop tunes, Of Montreal is a concert experience unlike any other. As the band tears through its whimsical yet danceable anthems, ninjas lurk in the wings and masked body-suited drones prowl the stage brandishing heads impaled on spears. Last time I saw them, at show’s climax, frontman Kevin Barnes emerged almost entirely naked from a coffin full of shaving cream. The band’s über-creative, anything-goes, artistically immersive performances have to be seen to be believed. Steve LaBate


[Above: Photo by Jon Gitchoff]

18. Pixies

One of the best live bands of the 1980s, the Pixies have set the standard of what a reunion tour can be. Playing to much larger crowds than when I saw them in 1989, Black Francis, Kim Deal and the gang seemed like they always belonged on the big stage. The band can still turn on a dime from quiet beautiful melodies to balls-to-the-wall rock, with Francis/Frank Black screaming his heart out to tunes from classics like Surfer Rosa and Doolittle. Josh Jackson


[Above: Photo by Jason McElweenie]

17. The Decemberists

Eight years ago, the idea of this rag-tag band of Portlanders ever effectively transitioning their whimsical, multi-instrumental live show from the tiny stages of Rose City clubs to expansive music halls across the country seemed about as likely as anyone ever rhyming “legionnaire” with “Frigidaire,” but The Decemberists did both with glorious panache. And as the band’s albums have grown more ambitious, so have their performances, balancing the whale costumes and sing-alongs of its early shows with an ever more epic, eclectic vision of the future. Rachael Maddux


[Above: Photo by Joseph Longo]

16. Ted Leo

The New Jersey punk rocker is unafraid to get a little blood on the stage or a little percussion in the crowd, echoing The Jam, Elvis Costello and The Clash along the way. His between-song banter is topped only by his status as one of the nicest dudes in the history of rock ‘n’ roll. Come prepared to be entertained. Austin L. Ray