Being as interested in music as you might imagine from someone who blogs about it as much as I do, it kind of goes without saying that I watch acts live, although I was certainly later to the party than you’d think. I saw my first live performance in 2013, and that was at Glastonbury, a festival as apposed to a gig I’d specifically opted to go to. However, in my short ‘career’ of gig-going, I’ve luckily been able to see some of the biggest stars in music, and when compiling this list I’ve had to take a lot of things into consideration such as; the people I was with and the vibe of the crowd, the artists’ performance itself, how much I liked the artist prior, and also how I feel looking back on it. So here you have it- the 15 best acts I’ve seen live.
15. Rita Ora
Rita Ora was one of the most pleasant surprises I’ve seen musically. Of course she was as glamorous as you’d expect, rocking as little clothing as you’d expect too, but the girl can really sing, and really does put a great show on. She churned out her hits including Radioactive and R.I.P. which had the whole (surprisingly huge) crowd singing along with their ‘palms to the sky’. She then did a karaoke-style section where she cited Biggie Smalls’ music as being key to her success, of course she famously sampled Party and Bullshit.
14. Blink 182
Blink 182 will always be one of my favourite artists, and their excellent material is really why they’ve made this list, they were on the most part good, but they were a little disappointing. Read my full review of Blink 182’s performance here.
13. Twenty One Pilots
As you might expect from a British festival- it rained, leaving us with no option but to dive into the nearest tent where Twenty One Pilots were performing. Whilst spectating, I wasn’t really sure what I was watching, rap? Rock? Indie? The american duo are some of the most experimental, inventive musicians and performers I’ve seen. They were backflipping off their piano, stage diving, drumming each others drumsticks as if it were the drumset itself, it was a energy-filled high-octane performance that I’ll never forget, especially from an act I’d never even heard of.
12. Dolly Parton
The cute Queen of country music, Dolly Parton, was one of the biggest names to hit Glastonbury 2014- most people will agree that she easily surpasses ‘headliners’ Kasabian and Arcade Fire at least. With one the biggest crowds I’d ever seen, she pranced onto the stage five minutes early, sporting a glittery white/silver dress and immaculate hair, she was gleaming all over, and genuinely looked like she was on top of the world. She kicked off her set with a few of her well-known songs including Jolene which had the crowd understandably rocking. I, as well as most of the crowd, didn’t know about 60-70% of her songs but either way, we were all jiving and singing along to each track as best we could.
11. Tyler, The Creator & Earl Sweatshirt (EarlWolf)
EarlWolf were added to Reading/Leeds’ 2013 lineup about a week before, and it was a great surprise having missed out on Earl Sweatshirt earlier on in the year due to him falling ill. The duo opened with Drop, one of my favourite Odd Future songs, and apparently the bass was setting off car alarms four miles away. The undeniable energy conveyed by the duo transferred into the crowd and at points I literally thought I was going to be squashed, was of the most deranged, crazy performances I’ve ever seen.
10. Fall Out Boy
You forget just how many songs you like and know by Fall Out Boy until you see them live. Near enough every song is a banger from Sugar We’re Going Down, to their new material such as My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark. What’s more is that Patrick Stump sound exactly the same as he does on the record(s). The group also brought out Foxes to help them with Just One Yesterday which was a nice touch.
9. Imagine Dragons
I’ve seen Imagine Dragons twice, the first time was one of the most disappointing things I’ve seen besides Fatboy Slim, mainly due to not performing some of their best-known songs, more specifically On Top of The World. Second time round they played Night Visions in its entirety- It’s Time was a swaying sing-a-long, while Radioactive was an explosive closer.
For someone of Marshall Mathers‘ standard, you may expect him to rank significantly higher on this list, but it’s only due to the quality of the acts to follow that Eminem‘s found at number eight. Despite the sheer craziness that the actual man himself was in front of me, the innate talent of Eminem is just unreal. While his setlist was a little strange- omitting hits like Beautiful, Space Bound, Bitch Please and many more, the performance really is evidence of just how good he is. Unveiling guests Royce Da 5’9″ and Dido was merely the icing on the cake.
7. The Black Keys
The Black Keys were odd performers, they lacked charisma as well as audience interaction, and merely churned through their extensive catalogue, with only an introduction or a ‘thank you Glastonbury’ to note, they also took huge pauses between songs so that Auerbach could swap guitars. However, they’re two of the most innately talented musicians I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing, they didn’t need to do anything else other than perform there songs as-is, they truly encapsulated the less-is-more way of thinking. I remember standing there thinking, on numerous occasions, ‘how on earth is he making that noise come out of that guitar?’, Auerbach is truly one of the most underrated guitarists in music right now. What’s more is that they played my favourite Black Keys song- Gotta Get Away, in which I seemed to be the only who knew it, which of course, was fine with me.
Some of you might be surprised that the Scottish synth-pop trio are rated so highly on this list, but believe me, if you ever get the chance, be sure to see them. CHVRCHES performed their entire album and completely and utterly blew me away, single-handedly one of the best performances I’d ever seen. Vocalist Lauren Mayberry was a tad shy to begin with, and I think the overwhelming crowd got to her a bit initially, but after a couple of songs she was well into her stride and had the crowd gasping and begging for more. They made me wait for my favourite, The Mother We Share, but it was the perfect ending to a flawless performance that I will never, ever forget.
Nas has never really gained the respect he deserves over here in the UK, so bizarrely he didn’t even nab a spot on a main stage at Glastonbury 2013, instead ending up on the fairly small Sonic Stage. Despite this, in a similar fashion to how The Black Keys perform- the real quality of the performance comes with the immaculate standard of their material. Performing everything from his extensive catalogue, including Life’s a Bitch to Daughters, Nas reminded me exactly why he’s one of my favourite rappers of all time.
I’ll be honest I can’t remember the entirety of this performance thanks to our old friend the intoxicant, but my friends assure me I looked like I’d been having the time of my life. We arrived on scene at The West Holts Stage just in time, Disclosure has just began their opening track- F for You, playing the original, then the Mary J Blige featured rework, unfortunately she didn’t grace the stage but it was still a great way to kick off their set. They played almost the entirety of Settle, with all the best tracks including Confess To Me and Voices making appearances, they brought an array of guest vocalists including Ed MacFarlane, Aluna Francis, Eliza Doolittle (who I love and basically lost my head when she came out) and of course Sam Smith for a suitable, and somewhat expected finale- in the form of Latch.
3. Chase & Status
I’ve been lucky enough to see the electronic duo five times, three DJ sets, twice live. Let me tell you, the difference is night and day, the first time was Live at Glastonbury and remains the best. Churning out every hit of theirs from Blind Faith to End Credits, as well as brining out near-enough every guest contributor such as Liam Bailey to Louis M^tters. Having been around great people, the vibe was electric, remaining one of the greatest performances I’d ever seen. Turns out I’d made the right decision to see Chase & Status over The Rolling Stones, yes really.
2. Green Day
I have a big three- Eminem, Blink 182 and Green Day, they are my absolute favourites artists, and their respective albums were the first albums/singles I’d ever bought. While Blink 182 fell a little short, and other rappers exceeding Eminem, Green Day was left. A Green Day performance is just so much more than the music, it’s a real show, an example of how to connect with an audience and still play some outstanding music. A T-Shirt cannon, a bunny outfit, Highway To Hell, Dookie played in full, a toilet paper gun, it was just a constant barrage of surprises and showmanship. Billy Joe Armstrong really is a God of the stage.
1. Chance The Rapper
Chance The Rapper is the greatest act I’ve seen perform, and while that seems hard to believe when looking at the prior artists within this list, it’s only until you see him that you can understand just how good he is. Despite seeing a plethora of artists over the course of Glastonbury 2014, Chance The Rapper deserved his own review detailing exactly why I rated him so highly, have a look at some clips of the performance, and read the full review here.