The problem with music lists is that die hard fans of every band not included are going to have an issue, and die hard fans of bands included who think their favorite band should rank higher are going to have a issue. A fan’s love affair with a band and its music can easily be destroyed by a less than impressive live presence, however there are a few select bands who have gone down in history as the most amazing to see live. Unfortunately for us, a lot of rock’s best live acts are now considered “Classic Rock” and we will never experience them at the peak of their fame. Take a look at some of the best Classic Rock acts to ever grace a stage and packed venue.
9. The Grateful Dead
The Grateful Dead without a doubt have one of the most devoted fan bases of all time. Formed in 1965, they are still touring today, as fans (Deadheads) dutifully follow them from show to show. One of the best things about The Grateful Dead is that fans never know what to expect. Organized and rehearsed shows were never a part of their game-plan resulting in a slew of the best performances ever put on by a band.
8. Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones shining moment was definitely not their halftime performance for Super Bowl XL in 2006. Having formed in 1962 though, they have continued to pack stadiums and captivate fans, several decades after their peak and that is because on stage they are one of the best. The Rolling Stones are not known for extreme flashiness or grandstanding although there is some, they are merely a cohesive group of musicians who bring incredible passion and energy to their songs even as they age into their 60s.
Unlike bands mentioned earlier, KISS fans knew exactly what to expect from this incredible band and loved every minute of it. Unlike the more stripped down live acts mentioned before, KISS was all about the performance in every aspect of the term. Explosions, blood-spitting, fireballs and of course the costumes and make-up combined with volumes cranked up as high as possible make KISS a must-see live band. Everything about being a KISS fan means you have to see them live, because their concert experience is just as much a part of their identity as the music itself.
Yes, this is all about bands, but in all reality Queen is considered one of the best live bands ever because of Freddie Mercury. Mercury was the physical definition of “made for the spotlight” with every lyric of every song belted out like it was his last. Live Aid in 1985 featured an incredible list of performers but because of Mercury all anyone remembers is Queen, a literal showstopper and mesmerizing on-stage presence.
5. The Who
The Who have to be on here! Why? Because they are the originators of rock band stage antics that have been copied for so many years now that we don’t know what rock shows are without them. Yup, Pete Townshend was the first to smash a guitar on stage- a move that has become a marker of a pumped up musician. When it comes to rock shows with swinging microphones, smashing instruments and getting so amped up you feel invincible, we have The Who to thank for that.
4. Led Zeppelin
Of all bands that have long since broken up, Led Zeppelin may be the one most pleaded with to get back together and that is because decades after its creation, their music is still reeling in fans. Jimmy Page and Robert Plant had their tension but their passion for the music was undeniable, captivating packed stadiums and making them an intense live act to see.
While many of these bands dominated in the ’70s, U2’s success came in the ’80s and continues well into today. With Bono as one of the most charismatic frontmen ever, combined with technology for great theatrics, U2 concerts have continuously been regarded as one of the best. Although there record sales have dwindled, their concert tickets still have no problem selling out.
2. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
Bruce Springsteen’s performances have gone virtually unchanged over his 40 year career, making Springsteen and his band one of the most powerful performances you could ever see live. Seemingly never to have had an “off-night” Springsteen’s stage presence is something unprecedented by almost any performer, leaving the rocker to dominate shows and pack stadiums well into his 60s– long after many other acts have called it quits.
1. Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd land at number one for several reasons, many surrounding the fact that they put on shows in the 70s and 80s that even technology today could not recreate. With their sound being one of the most recognizable, the band put on a visual experience for their largely drug enhanced fans, turning a concert into a fantasy world with helicopters, flying pigs and impressive backdrops. 70,000 excited fans would fall to a silence as Pink Floyd performed amongst visual wonders, transporting the audience to whole other realm while at the concert.