Watching your favorite musicians — mega-stars or not — is always exciting. But there are some bands that are universally known for putting on unforgettable live shows. Let’s take a look at who they are.
It should come as absolutely no surprise that the Grateful Dead are at the top of this list. The band, formed in 1965, quickly rose to great popularity with its eclectic musical style of folk, rock, blues, jazz, psychedelic, country, and even a bit of gospel. Their concerts were known for long instrumental jams and a devoted following commonly known as “Deadheads.”
The Grateful Dead's improvisational approach to music captivated audiences and solidified their status as one of the most influential bands in history. Their legacy lives on through countless live recordings and the enduring spirit of their music, which continues to inspire new generations of fans around the world.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
One of the longest-running bands to date, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers had a very successful 40-year-long career, which suddenly came to an end when Petty himself died in 2017. The band, which was formed in 1976, is characterized by its catchy, southern rock style and has a large number of classics, such as “Free Fallin’” and “I Won’t Back Down,” which are certainly still considered party favorites.
Tom Petty's distinctive vocals and honest songwriting endeared him to fans across generations, and his music continues to resonate with its timeless appeal. With their energetic live performances and a sound that blends rock, pop, and Americana influences, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers left an indelible mark on the music world and remain a beloved icon of American rock and roll.
Deep Purple's dynamic sound and powerful performances continue to inspire and influence generations of rock musicians worldwide and for this reason, we saved them a place of honor on our list. Rising to popularity in the late 60s-70s, the band gained a place amongst the great rock legends. The British band is considered one of the pioneers of modern hard rock and heavy metal and has earned a place in the “unholy trinity” alongside Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin.
In 1975, they were enlisted into the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s loudest band for a show played at the Rainbow Theater in 1972. They were inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame in 2002, solidifying their enduring impact on the music industry and their status as true rock icons.
Arcade Fire is a Montreal-based indie rock band phenomenon that formed in 2001. All of their albums are extremely well-received. However, their 2010 album “Suburbs” won them critical acclaim and a Grammy. Their live shows are quite a spectacle, with various gimmicks such as paper mâché heads, visual effects, Haitian percussionists, and more.
Arcade Fire's performances are known for their infectious energy and their ability to create a sense of community and euphoria among their fans. Their music combines elements of indie rock, art rock, and baroque pop, creating a unique and captivating sound. With their thought-provoking lyrics and passionate performances, Arcade Fire continues to push boundaries and leave a lasting impact on the indie music scene.
The Eagles, formed in 1971, have churned out quite a number of universally loved rock hits. None are quite so famous as “Hotel California,” which was released in 1976 and remains a beloved classic. It is one of the world’s top-selling bands, having sold over 200 million records worldwide. Their overall style has been commonly referred to as “California Rock.”
The Eagles' harmonious vocal blend, intricate guitar work, and insightful songwriting propelled them to great heights in the music industry. Their songs evoke a sense of nostalgia and capture the essence of the California lifestyle. With their timeless sound and enduring popularity, the Eagles continue to be celebrated as one of the greatest rock bands of all time.
The Black Keys
With a refreshingly retro style for a modern band, The Black Keys started as an underground "garage band." They rose to critical acclaim, bringing them to the forefront of modern rock and earning a number of Grammy awards. The band's throwback sound is a result of their old-school recording approach, eschewing the overly polished sound of most studios.
The duo initially garnered attention through their electrifying live performances, captivating audiences with their raw energy and infectious tunes. From their humble beginnings with a modest following, The Black Keys steadily climbed to international fame, captivating listeners with their gritty, blues-infused rock.
Formed in 1994 by former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, the Foo Fighters quickly became a force to be reckoned with in the alternative rock scene. Their energetic and melodic sound, characterized by catchy hooks and powerful guitar-driven anthems, resonated with audiences worldwide. With hits like "Everlong" and "Learn to Fly," the Foo Fighters established themselves as one of the most successful rock bands of their generation.
Their relentless touring and high-energy live performances further cemented their reputation as a must-see act. The band has won a total of 12 Grammys, and their 2008 performance in Wembley is still considered one of the best live performances of all time.
Nine Inch Nails
Nine Inch Nails, more popularly known as NIN (for those who are too lazy to type), is an American industrial rock band formed in 1988 in Ohio by Trent Reznor. Frontman and lead singer Reznor is a multi-instrumentalist and captivates audiences at their live shows with his musical genius.
The album "Pretty Hate Machine," which was released in 1989, is still deemed one of the most iconic rock albums of all time. With a distinctive sound blending aggression, introspection, and innovation, NIN has consistently pushed boundaries, leaving an indelible mark on the music landscape and inspiring countless artists across various genres.
The wildly talented artist Prince (then The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, then back to Prince) was a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, dancer, and actor. But we bet you already knew that. What you didn't know is that he wrote his first song at age seven. Prince's most memorable record is "Purple Rain," which was released in 1984 with a subsequent film.
Prince's performances were nothing short of mesmerizing, captivating audiences with his flamboyant style, enigmatic presence, and unmatched command over his craft. His artistic legacy continues to inspire and influence generations, as he remains an everlasting symbol of creativity, innovation, and musical genius.
Mumford & Sons
Even though this next band has been around for a while, their introspective lyrics, infectious energy, and unwavering commitment to their craft, continue to resonate with audiences worldwide. Mumford & Sons, a British folk-rock band, formed in 2007, is known for its unique style, which mixes twangy banjos, acoustic guitar, and folk.
Their catchy tunes sparked their breakthrough back in 2009 with the sing-a-long classic “Little Lion Man'' which quickly became a pub classic in the UK. The band’s album "Babel" won them a Grammy for Best Album in 2013, garnering great critical acclaim. Their live shows are incredibly energetic.
The Allman Brothers Band
If you don’t know "Ramblin’ Man," we highly recommend you stop what you’re doing and give it a listen. The band is a timeless classic that has made an impact on the music world, with its soulful vocals, rich instrumentation, and continuing appeal. The band was formed in Jacksonville, Florida, by Gregg and Duane Allman and incorporated southern blues with jazz and rock.
The band was at the height of fame in the 70s, with their most noteworthy performance being a 23-minute version of their song “Whipping Post.” Duane Allman was killed in a tragic motorcycle accident in 1971. However, the band continued on without, dedicating “Eat a Peach'' to his memory.
King Elvis Presley himself created a massively devoted fanbase. His silky, bluesy vocals mixed with striking looks made him an instant charmer. He's made his mark on music history with unforgettable hits such as “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” and what is widely considered one of the greatest love songs of all time, “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”
His wild outfits and suggestive dancing in his live shows were quite an attraction and remain memorable to this day. Until his very last day, Elvis adorned the stages of Las Vegas, and his concerts were sold out minutes after ticket sales opened.
Believe it or not, the legendary Jimi Hendrix had a career that only spanned four years, but he still remained one of the most well-regarded guitarists of all time. In 1966, he began The Jimi Hendrix Experience, which skyrocketed him to mainstream fame.
His live performances were a wonder to watch with a mastery of his craft which is rarely seen amongst the most experienced musicians. Hendrix performed on the electric guitar like no other before him and provided a unique style and tone that was new to his era yet is still remarkable today. He truly did create a new sound of music.
A true performer down to his core, Alice Cooper, has been serving us high-energy rock shows since 1964! This VERY experienced singer has been called “The Godfather of Shock Rock,” with shows that have been known to use a wide range of props, such as guillotines, pyrotechnics, fake blood, dolls, and reptiles, just to name a few.
His performances are considered modern-day vaudeville with a horror aspect. Cooper was born Vincent Damon Furnier, who introduced heavy metal as we know it today. He was a pioneer in his field as over the years he earned himself the title of "the godfather of shock rock."
The wildly famous, eccentric British singer proved his chops already in 1962 at the ripe age of fifteen! A pioneer of the glam rock genre, Bowie’s career was catapulted to international fame with his "Ziggy Stardust" album and live tour. The innovative singer could be seen on stage in wild outfits, dyed hair, and rock songs that were absolutely breakthrough in style.
Bowie managed to keep his career going strong up until his untimely passing in 2016. Bowie was recognized for so many things besides his music. His sometimes outrageous outfits were almost a hallmark of his and his distinguished tone of voice has never been repeated by any other artist until this day.
The Fab 4, fathers of the British Invasion, and pioneers of rock, The Beatles will forever go down in history as the ones who solidified rock music, affecting generations of musicians to this day. The British band from Liverpool had a ten-year career that has yet to be matched in popularity. Seeing them live was a treat for all who had the opportunity.
Their influence on music will forever be unmatched, and they remain the best-selling musical act of all time. Even after the magnificent four split up and each went their separate way, they managed to continue and contribute their talent to the world and preserve the magic of The Beatles.
Pearl Jam was founded in Seattle, Washington in 1990, and already by 1991, they had released the album “Ten,” which remained in Billboard’s top 200 for five years straight. The grunge, Hard rock band is headed by frontman Eddie Vedder who was ranked as “one of the greatest singers of all time.”
The band got a place in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017 at their first eligibility. Rawring into the 21st century, Pearl Jam continues to spread their alternative rock and grunge tune on stages all over the world, still holding the title of one of the best and most unique musicians in the world.
Guns N’ Roses
The famous rock band with popular hits such as “Sweet Child O’ Mine” and their cover of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” was formed in 1985 and has captivated fans since. Their American hard rock style of music is perfectly curated for hard-core live performances with the wild Axl Rose as the lead singer and iconic Slash on lead guitar.
They remain one of the best-selling acts in history and continue to perform on stage even when they are well in their 50s. They were at their peak during the 1990s and although they might look older, their energy on stage hasn't seemed to age at all.
Well known for their lavish outfits and iconic face paint, Kiss lives on as one of the world’s most shocking rock bands. Although the band was formed in 1973, their signature look didn’t come into play until the early 80s, when the style of the band was solidified. Their live shows are a spectacle, including a number of unique special effects and pyrotechnics.
Some consider Kiss one of the most influential rock bands that ever existed and it's reported that they have sold over 75 million records all over the world. Kiss has also earned 30 gold albums, which is more than any American band has achieved.
Rising to fame in the 1960s, The Doors were both influential as well as controversial. Frontman Jim Morrison was known to have an erratic and hypnotic stage presence. During the band's years in operation, before Morrison’s death in 1971 at the early age of 27, they managed to create a lasting name for themselves.
They've released a number of timeless classics such as “Light My Fire,” “Riders On the Storm,” and “When The Music’s Over. ” The Doors were mainly about Morrison and his poetry. They influenced the music of the last century, however, they also had a great impact on culture itself, one that lingers on until this very day.
Rush began initially as a blues-rock band in Toronto in 1968 but morphed over time to a more progressive rock style. Drummer Neil Peart has made a name for himself as one of the best drummers to ever live. The band is well known for its musicianship and tracks that have highly complex compositions and a subject matter that is directly related to science fiction, fantasy, and philosophy, which is uncommon for bands of their style.
Rush have been known as a legendary band that was born in Canada and very fast became a worldwide wonder. They are recognized for their complicated compositions and electrifying lyrics.
Successful as both a solo artist and a ¼ of the group Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, Neil Young carved out a name for himself amongst generations of music lovers. The Canadian/American Singer-Songwriter started his illustrious career in the 1960s and has since continued to crank out beloved hits.
The singer has received numerous Grammy awards over the years and has been twice inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Young is known for his weeping tune and his solo folkie characteristics and although he is already well in his 70s, he continues to play his music in concert and spread his words to the world.
The outrageously talented British alt-rock band hit popularity with their first single, “Creep,” released in 1992. The band achieved international recognition with the release of the album “OK Computer” in 1997. Radiohead has become a household name, with hits such as “Karma Police,” “Fake Plastic Trees,” and “15 Steps” known by fans and non-fans alike.
Their live shows are heavy on the lighting aspect and their expert musicianship. Radiohead has a different style in their music. Three of the five members play guitar and make a point of it when composing their lyrics. It was only later in their career that they decided to add more instruments to their song and give other sounds center stage.
Michigan-born guitarist and musician Jack White has widely been regarded as one of the best guitarists of all time. Although he’s had a successful solo career and his hand in a number of various bands, he’s best known as half of the duo, The White Stripes. White has collected a whopping 12 Grammys over his illustrious career.
He’s known for his wild energy on stage and the mastery of his craft. jack is also associated with his former wife, Meg White who was best known for her outrageous sense of dress. She would be seen wearing only black, white, and red.
Rage Against the Machine
Formed in 1991 in Los Angeles, California, Rage Against The Machine's (RATM) rock songs focus heavily on both their political and revolutionary views. Their self-titled album, released in 1992, was listed by Rolling Stone as number 368 in the list of ‘The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.’ Their live shows invoke the anarchy and politically fueled vibe their music expresses.
Rage Against the Machine was also about hip-hop and heavy metal, and their sometimes-hard-to-listen-to sound became one of the leading tunes in their music field. They were known to have "problematic music" as they never sparred in words against corporate America.
My Morning Jacket
With an experimental/psychedelic style, My Morning Jacket has amassed quite a following since the start of the band in 1998. The band has been known to give festival sets the length of two full studio albums. In 2008, the band took the stage and played a 21-song show (120 minutes), left the stage for an intermission, and returned for another 14 songs.
This is largely unheard of, with encores generally lasting for three or four songs at most. The vocalist Jim James, alongside Tom Blankenship, and Patrick Hallahan created what is known as psychedelic music which seemed to be controversial to some.
Formed in Chicago, Illinois, in 1994, Wilco brings a hint of country style to the alt-rock genre. The band has shifted members over the years, but their music remains consistent, keeping their loyal fanbase. This two-time Grammy-winning band has continued performing and producing albums. Wilco’s live shows are the perfect mix of old hits and new material.
Their effortless cool on stage makes them quite a spectacle to watch. Wilco's significant and unique country-style roots are what make them stand out and deserve such impressive awareness. To some, their music may seem too daring and weird; however, to many, they are classic rock by all means.
The Alabama Shakes, formed in 2009, actually began their career strictly with live performance before ultimately being internationally recognized. The rock band incorporates a lot of southern blues and jazz into their style, with the undeniably talented lead singer Brittany Howard heading the show.
The band has won four Grammys and been nominated for six. That being said, their roots are in the live shows, and it’s there that the interaction and connection with the audience are felt. Over the years, Alabama Shakes has received critiques that were followed by huge success, through electrifying stage performances and a genre-defying tone.
Though you may recognize The Roots as the house band on NBC’s "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," they were actually formed in Philadelphia in 1987 and had a wildly successful career before mainstream recognition. The band is known for its jazzy and electric hip-hop style.
Prior to their TV debut, The Roots were known to throw free shows in their hometown of Philly — often with full brass bands — that would end with jazzy processions out of the theater and down the main streets for all to hear and enjoy. The band's jazzy and electric approach escalated their awareness all over the world, earning them global lifetime fans.
Musician, composer, and actor Tom Waits has had his hand in the music industry since the early 70s. His music has evolved quite a bit over the years, initially beginning in jazz and morphing into a fusion of blues, rock, experimental, and vaudeville. Because of his unusual style, Waits has garnered quite a cult following over the years.
Waits himself said his performances should be “a spectacle and entertaining,” which is exactly what he’s managed to do. His lyrics often cover social issues, all adorned in his distinguished deep voice. Today, bands like the Eagles and artists like Tim Buckley recovered covers of Waits's songs, bringing him even to greater heights.
Dave Matthews Band
The Dave Matthews Band is very well known for its long concerts that include a jam session-like feel. For their massive following, it isn’t their studio albums but rather their live shows that they wait for, much akin to the likes of Deadheads waiting for the Grateful Dead. Dave Matthews Band was formed in 1991 and, by 1994 had garnered international recognition.
They’ve sold over 20 million concert tickets and are very active in the live concert circuit to this day. Their biggest hits amongst others are " What Would You Say," "The Stone" and Halloween" which are songs that are still listened to today.
The ultimate jam band, Phish, gives the audience the feel of sitting in on a very high-quality jam session, with a blend of various genres that has an American rock folk vibe. Phish formed in Vermont in the early 80s and, with the exception of a few hiatuses, has continued to remain a strong group even decades later.
Their live shows have a large following, almost in the vibe of Woodstock and 60s-style groups. The band is known for their improvisation sessions, often held on stage and lasting hours of jamming that gave them that extra unique touch while performing.
An impressive career indeed; the late Leonard Cohen was active in the arts as early as 1955. Initially pursuing a career in poetry and novels during the 50s and 60s, it wasn’t until 1967 that he turned his focus toward music. His music can be described as folk-rock and has a live sound that has been praised by critics.
Even those who aren’t familiar with all of his songs would know his hit “Hallelujah,” which was made even more popular by the famous Jeff Buckley cover. Even today, Leonard Cohen's music continues to influence and make a difference in so many individuals' lives.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds are a rock band from Australia. It was formed in Melbourne in 1983 by vocalist Nick Cave, multi-instrumentalist Mick Harvey, and guitarist-vocalist Blixa Bargeld. Vocalist Nick Cave is the only consistent member of the Bad Seeds, but the group’s 30-year run has completely dominated the world of post-punk music.
Aside from releasing 17 studio albums and completing numerous international tours, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds have become known for their outrageously wild shows. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds are considered one of the best alternative rock bands of the past century, and they have for sure left their mark on music history.
Chicago's own Patti Smith is a musician, singer-songwriter, poet, and author. She rose to fame and even became an influential character in the New York City punk rock movement in 1975, thanks to her debut album, "Horses." Nicknamed the “punk poet laureate,” Smith has been known to fuse rock and poetry in her work.
Not only has she been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but she has also been recognized for her work as a writer. Smith’s live shows have a raw, intimate feel to them, making it easy for audience members to connect to her as a musician, as well as the music and content.
The psychedelic music project of Australian multi-instrumentalist Kevin Parker, Tame Impala, has been making waves in the music industry since 2007. While Parker writes, produces, records, and performs all of the project’s music in the recording studio, the touring act consists of a much larger group of musicians.
Since the band doesn't play together until after the music is already recorded, they get to play with the songs and vary them. The name Tame Impala is a reference to the African animal and coming into contact with one. The communication between a man and a wild animal is what lies behind the inspiration for a lot of the band's music.
Van Halen is a classic rock band formed in 1972 in California and consisting primarily of Van Halen family members as well as lead singer David Lee Roth. Guitarist Eddie Van Halen has been compared in talent and performance style to that of Jimi Hendrix on a number of occasions. Van Halen’s live shows are powerful and energetic.
Father-son duo Eddie and Wolfgang Van Halen are known to be a spectacle at their live shows, with an electric, pure hard rock vibe. His guitar-playing abilities have been known as superb and he is considered one of the best rock guitar players the music industry has ever produced.
Founded in Boston in 1970, Aerosmith is rock and roll in its purest form. Led by the eccentric lead singer Steven Tyler, Aerosmith produces blues-based hard rock with varying elements such as heavy metal, glam metal, and pop rock. The band's live shows are pumped with classic rock and roll energy, mixed with the wild style of Steven Tyler.
Aerosmith was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in the year 2000. They remain the best-selling American rock band of all time. Over the years Aerosmith has been recognized for their superb video clips, some featuring no less than Tyler's own daughter.
Coming to initial success in the 1980s, Iron Maiden was integral at the beginning of new-wave British rock. The band is distinguished by its signature operatic vocals and electrifying live performance. In 2011, Iron Maiden won Best Metal Performance for “El Dorado.” They still perform and have continued their wildly successful career for over 40 years.
The band has been known for some of the greatest heavy metal hits such as "Run to the Hills, "The Trooper," and "Two Minutes to Midnight." They have released Platinum and Gold albums both in the US and the UK including a debut album released in 1980.
Formed in 1976 by four Irish musicians in Dublin, U2 has managed over the years to garner international fame. Lead by frontman Bono; their music is laden with spiritual imagery and personal/socio-political themes. Their live performances boast an extremely large following, with long guitar solos by lead guitarist Edge known to be very elaborate in style.
U2 is one of the world's best musicians in all music fields and has 15 albums to their name, all being praised and getting huge success worldwide. Over the years, they have sold an estimated 170 million copies and won no less than 22 Grammy awards.
Originally formed in Devon, Muse elevated the 90s tenfold. Their songs have a metal base with a mellotron, church organ, and piano, but they stray with their use of electrics. Lead singer Matt Bellamy really gives the band their signature sound with his highly recognizable falsetto.
Muse has been repeatedly named one of the best live music performers by critics and music lovers alike. The Q Awards even nominated Muse for the Best Live Act award several times. They are a combination of rock, electronic, and classical music and have a unique sound that defers them from all other musicians in the industry.
A forever symbol of 70s Americana, Bruce Springsteen, also known as The Boss, has contributed an impressive number of hits to the rock & roll library over the years. His music is socially and politically driven much of the time, and his passion and energy make his live shows some of the most memorable for fans who’ve stayed loyal over the years.
Forever a rock legend, Springsteen has graced us with such numbers as “Born in the USA,” “Born to Run,” and “I’m on Fire.” He is without a doubt one of America's greatest symbols when it comes to music — especially rock 'n roll.
The heavy metal band Metallica is one of the most famous of its kind. Formed in LA in 1981, Metallica has revolutionized metal and thrash metal with a high level of musical skill. Their aggressive instrumentals and live performances have been seeing the band's audience moshing and thrashing around with them.
They have die-hard fans spread throughout the globe and have made for themselves a name in the genre of heavy metal to be revered. Even if you weren't a heavy rock fan, when it comes to "Nothing else matters," there is no one in the audience who is not familiar with the lyrics. Indeed one of the best rock ballads ever written.
The Rolling Stones
Formed in London in 1962, The Rolling Stones were integral in revolutionizing rock music during the time of the British invasion. Mick Jagger is known for his unique dancing in live shows, hypnotizing audiences. The song “Moves Like Jagger” by Maroon 5 was inspired by this very phenomenon.
On Rolling Stone’s list of the greatest artists of all time, they’re ranked 4th. Some of the band's greatest hits are "Can't Get No," "Brown Sugar, "Wild Horses," and, of course, we can't go without "Angie." The stones have been on the stage for more than six decades and are considered pioneers in their field.
Founded by Scottish brothers Malcolm and Angus Young in Sidney, Australia, in 1973, AC/DC has been referred to as “the greatest rock and roll band of all time” on a number of occasions. Defining 70s hard rock, AC/DC is chock full of power chords and skillful vocals that verge on metal at times. Their live shows are pure rock, making for electric energy throughout the crowd as they join in on a number of the band’s classics.
AC/DC are known for so many great hits ( if you're a lover of the niche), and among their best songs are "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap," Black in Black," and "Problem, Child." Even to this day, they have their loyal fan clubs who consider them to be the absolute best.
Formed in London in 1964, the original members of The Who were Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle, and Keith Moon. Integral in the Mod movement, The Who shocked audiences with their destructive live performances. It was common for the band to smash guitars and drums during their sets. In 1969, they released the rock opera "Tommy," earning them widespread acclaim.
The band had a hugely influential effect on rock music with the introduction of the synthesizer. The Who is considered one of the most influential rock bands of the 20th century and they have sold a total of 100 million records worldwide.
Paving the way for the genre of progressive rock, Pink Floyd solidified their spot as one of the most internationally successful bands of all time. Formed in London in 1965, the British band was the first to play with psychedelic rock and is known, in addition, for their wildly elaborate live performances.
The band reached the height of their fame in the 70s with the release of the albums “The Dark Side of The Moon,” “Wish You Were Here,” and “The Wall.” Pink Floyd's mark on music history remains a significant influence to many. Their political, emotional, and social commentary hold onto their unique message, and their magnificent music is heard on stage until this day.
Led by rock legends Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, the rock band formed in London in 1968 has become one of the most successful and innovative rock bands of all time. Their style varies from hard rock to heavy metal, with influences from blues and folk.
Although they produced an innumerable number of hits, “Stairway to Heaven” has become a household name even for those who don’t consider themselves fans. The band has many other songs that have become great hits over the years, such as "Black Dog," "Good Times Bad Times," and other hits that are just too many to count.
Formed in London in 1970, Queen revolutionized stadium rock with outlandish and masterful performances by frontman Freddie Mercury. Their songs, influenced by hard rock and heavy metal, took harmony and pop-rock to another level completely. The number of sing-along hits they’ve produced is unmatched by other rock bands from their era. Queen has now been nicknamed "the global jukebox" thanks to its 1985 Live Aid concert.
Freddie Mercury left after his passing not only great music but also a wonderful story that was adapted into " Bohemian Rhapsody," one of the best ones that came out that year. Even today, many rock bands perform with Queen covers, preserving their music for generations to come.
Red Hot Chili Peppers
The alternative rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers was formed in California in 1983. With a very typical rock style, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have garnered an unbelievably loyal and massive fan base. In 2004, the band was recorded over three nights performing in Hyde Park, London setting records for the highest-grossing concerts at a single venue in history.
Their music has influenced generations of music lovers, and they are known to be one of the best-selling rock bands in history. With over 120 million records to their name, The Red Hot Chiily peepers perform to this very day, and every concert is sold out.
The kings of Southern rock, Lynyrd Skynyrd, was formed in 1964 in Jacksonville, Florida. Originally named “My Backyard,” the band’s members, Ronnie Van Zant, Allen Collins, Gary Rossington, Bob Burns, and Larry Junstrom, went through various names until finally deciding on Lynyrd Skynyrd. It came from the name of a hated gym teacher they had in high school — Leonard Skinner.
Apart from their rock classics like “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Simple Man,” and “Free Bird”, these guys know how to put on a live show better than most. Their guitar solos are a thing of beauty, and anyone who ever had the privilege of seeing them live should consider themselves lucky.
True grunge-rock fans will forever mourn the death of the legendary Kurt Cobain in 1994. Nirvana was formed by Cobain and his friend and bassist Krist Novoselic in 1987, and three years later, drummer Dave Grohl joined them. Nirvana was wildly successful during the early 1990s, and its live performances were well-known for being extraordinary.
Two performances stand out, both in 1993 – one was when they played "Come as You Are" on MTV Live and Loud, and the other was on "Saturday Night Live" when they performed "Heart-Shaped Box". Even though they were active for a short time, their influence and legacy are still felt to this day.
Formed by English brothers Dave and Ray Davies, The Kinks rose to fame in the early 1960s and became one of the era’s most influential rock bands. Their popular songs “Lola” and “You Really Got Me” received worldwide acclaim and became chart toppers in several countries.
The Kinks were also known for putting on incredible shows, but their off-stage behavior got them banned from performing in the U.S. Before and after every show, the band would go out on benders that usually ended up with someone getting seriously hurt or in jail. Not that that kept people all over the world from listening to their music – quite the contrary.
As far as newer rock bands go, The Killers is undoubtedly one of the best. Formed in 2001 in Las Vegas, Nevada, by friends Brandon Flowers and Dave Keuning, The Killers went through several musicians until they finally stayed with guitarist Mark Stoermer and drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr., who joined in 2002.
Their first huge album, “Hot Fuss,” released in 2004, included the hit songs “Mr. Brightside” and “Somebody Told Me,” which skyrocketed the band to fame. Soon, they also became known as incredible performers, putting on unforgettable live shows. Apparently, Brandon’s energy and the band’s chemistry with any crowd are unmatchable.
It’s no surprise that British band The Cure would be on this list, as not only have they been around since 1978, but also have Robert Smith as their lead vocalist, songwriter, and guitarist. The band’s debut album from 1979, “Three Imaginary Boys,” was wildly successful in England, and their hit songs from years later – “Friday I’m in Love,” “Just Like Heaven,” and dozens more – catapulted them to international fame.
Another talent The Cure soon showed to the world was their ability to perform live. There are many concerts to choose from, but overall, Robert Smith’s unique voice and on-stage antics, paired with the band’s insanely skilled musicians, have made seeing this band a true experience every time.
Ok, some of you hard rock fans might raise an eyebrow with this one, but the truth is that Linkin Park was a phenomenal band to see live. Formed in the late 90s, Linkin Park’s alternative rock and nu-metal sounds took the world by storm; their 2000 album “Hybrid Theory” sold over 5 million copies in its debut year alone, making it a massive commercial success.
Anyone who saw them perform live during these years will tell you the same thing – late vocalist Chester Bennington was a force of nature when performing live. He sounded exactly as he did on the studio albums and held notes for longer than many other world-known rock singers.
Earth Wind & Fire
This absolute legend of a band has been around since 1969 and is still going strong. Earth Wind & Fire was formed in Chicago, Illinois, by the iconic Maurice White and has gone on to include several musicians over the years, such as Larry Dunn, Roland Bautista, Sonny Emory, Ronnie Laws, Philip Bailey, and others. Their unique sound mixes rock, soul, funk, disco, Latin, jazz, R&B, and Afro-pop, and unsurprisingly, their live shows are unbelievable.
Imagine being able to see so many top-tier musicians on stage combining the best music genres with kalimbas, horns, guitars, and crazy vocals – that’s Earth, Wind & Fire. The 6-time Grammy-winning band is a real treat to catch live, so if you have a chance, don’t miss it!
Electric Light Orchestra
The rockstars behind 70s anthems like “Strange Magic,” “Evil Woman,” and “Mr. Blue Sky,” The Electric Light Orchestra was founded in 1970 by Jeff Lynne, Roy Wood, and Bev Bevan. Their unique style is a mixture of rock, pop, and disco, and their futuristic record cover designs are still talked about even today.
The Birmingham-born band is also incredible on stage; their performances during the Zoom live Tour across the U.S. in 2001 are iconic amongst fans. From the very beginning, whenever these guys showed up on stage in the 1970s, crowds went absolutely wild, and with very good reason.
Few rockstars can match the force of nature that is Ozzy Osbourne, so it’s no surprise that Black Sabbath would be on this list. Formed in Birmingham, England, in 1968 by Toni Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler, and Bill Ward, Black Sabbath is regarded as one of the pioneers of heavy metal music.
Their 1970 albums “Black Sabbath” and “Paranoid” took the world by storm and rose the band to the highest echelons of stardom. These guys have been rocking world stages since the early 70s, and the list of their best live performances is quite long. For those who managed to catch their life before they disbanded in 2017, consider yourself extremely lucky.
The Beach Boys
The laid-back, young, flower-shirt-wearing Beach Boys definitely represent rock and roll’s lighter side, but they were an incredible band, nonetheless. They came together in 1961, in California, with brothers Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson, their cousin Mike Love, and friend Al Jardine as the original members.
By 1963 they had released the hit song “Surfin’ USA”, and a year later, “I Get Around”, which became a massive success. Their seminal album from 1966, “Pet Sounds,” is still regarded as one of the best in rock and pop history. The Beach Boys performed live on the famous “Ed Sullivan Show” several times, and each performance was better than the last.
One of the most influential bands in the scene of British punk rock, The Clash, came together in London in 1976 and achieved wild success until their breakup in 1986. Their most famous songs, such as “Rock the Casbah”, “I Fought the Law,” “London Calling,” and “Should I Stay or Should I Go,” became anthems of the dissent against the government of the time.
Their lyrics spoke about the social unrest that was ever so present at the peak of their fame. True to any good punk rock band, their live performances were epic, a crazy fest of headbanging, mosh pits, and wild parties. Their lead vocalist Joe Strummer, guitarist Mick Jones, bassist Paul Simonon, and drummer Nicky Headon were as talented as they were wild.
No respectable 90s child will have gone through their teen years without listening to R.E.M. at least once. This unique alternative rock band formed in the 80s after a group of students met at the University of Georgia. Those students were Michael Stipe, Bill Berry, Peter Buck, and Mike Mills, and although they did some of their best live performances during the 80s, it wasn’t until the 90s that they went mainstream.
Their albums “Out of Time” and “Automatic for the People” are what catapulted them to global fame. They had a very successful run until their breakup in 2011 but will always remain in their fans’ memories as one of the most enigmatic live bands ever.
You can’t think of the 80s without thinking of songs like “Roxanne,” “Message in a Bottle,” and “Don’t Stand so Close to Me.” The Police, formed in England in 1977, consisted of Sting, Stewart Copeland, and Andy Summers; the band rose to global fame in the late 70s and early 80s, with the release of albums like “Reggatta de Blanc” and “Ghost in the Machine”.
The Police also became famous for their live performances, which never let their fans down. Their music was a unique mix of rock, jazz, and sometimes reggae that gained quite a loyal following. Sadly, the band called it quits in 1983 because of too much fighting.
The name alone might not ring a bell, but the band Talking Heads sure will. David Byrne was one of the founders, main songwriter, and vocalist of Talking Heads, which was one of the best rock bands of the 70s. The band broke up in 1991, but David Byrne kept performing and has had quite a successful career as a solo artist.
One of the things that have earned him a solid reputation as a rockstar is his talent for live shows. His collaboration with other artists and his incorporation of new instruments on stage make his shows well worth the ticket price.
Although The National was formed in Brooklyn, New York, in 1999, all of its members are originally from Ohio. They (and we) were lucky to come together in New York City and form one of the last decades’ best rock bands. Its members, twin brothers Aaron and Bryce Dessner, brothers Scott and Bryan Devendorf, and Matt Beringer, are excellent live performers.
Bringing on extra instruments like horns, they put on an unforgettable show every time. If you’re feeling in the mood for some sad but very good rock music, put on “Fake Empire” or “Mr. November” from The National. Or better yet, catch a live show.
Queens of the Stone Age
Truly one of the best rock bands to come out of the 90s, Queens of the Stone Age has been rocking stages and making excellent music since 1996. Formed in Seattle by Josh Homme, the lead vocalist and guitarist, Queens of the Stone Age has seen several band members come and go throughout the years.
But the quality has stayed consistent; their 2002 album, “Songs for the Deaf”, was a massive commercial success. Their live shows are absolute rock and metal mayhem, and the crowds eat it up like crazy. Homme is a true performer and has undeniable chemistry with his audience in every single show with his Bowie-style moves and serious headbanging.
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Formed in California in 1967, the legendary rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival was central to the American counterculture movement of the 60s and 70s. The band, consisting of brothers John and Tom Fogerty, Stu Cook, and Doug Clifford, is the creator of epic rock songs like “Fortunate Son,” “Bad Moon Rising,” “Lookin’ Out My Back Door,” and dozens of others.
They were particularly known for their live performances, one of the best is the one they gave at the 1969 infamous Woodstock festival in Bethel, New York. Unfortunately, they disbanded in 1972 after Tom Fogerty left the group, but their songs are still heard to this day.
Another American rock band that gave unbelievable live shows was ZZ Top. This Texas-born band was around for over 50 years, and during all that time, it had the same members – Billy Gibbons, Frank Beard, and Dusty Hill. These guys knew how to light up a crowd with their comedic lyrics, their signature hat and sunglasses outfits, their long beards, and just general good vibes.
Their music mixed southern rock, hard rock, blues, and boogie, which gave them a unique sound. Songs like “La Grange,” “Gimme All Your Lovin’,” and “Legs” remain classic anthems of good old-fashioned American rock.
The journey started out in San Francisco in 1973 when ex-members of the Steve Miller Band, Santana, and Frumious Bandersnatch came together. Their live performance of their hit song “Don’t Stop Believin’” at their 1981 concert in Houston, Texas, was an absolute showstopper.
The band remained active and achieved massive commercial success with albums like “Escape” and “Frontiers”, topping charts worldwide. They broke up in 1987 but had a reunion in 1995, which has remained active until this day. If you get a chance to catch these guys live, don’t think about it twice, we promise it’s worth the price.
Let’s be clear here – anybody who got the chance to see Stevie Nicks live should already consider themselves lucky. But to have seen her when she was part of Fleetwood Mac is just a dream come true. The legendary rock band was formed in 1967, in London, by musicians Jeremy Spencer, Mick Fleetwood, and Peter Green. Then, keyboardist and vocalist Christine McVie joined in 1970, and Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham joined in 1975.
Their self-titled album in 1975 and “Rumours” in 1977 skyrocketed Fleetwood Mac to the highest ladder of rock and fame. Their live performances were talked about long after they were over, with each musician bringing electric energy to the stage and having a chemistry with their audience that earned them millions of loyal fans across the world.
No introduction is needed when it comes to the one and only Carlos Santana and his band of the same name. This absolute rock legend has been around since 1966, and his fusion of Latin rock, blues rock, jazz, psychedelic rock, and Chicano rock is one of a kind. The man and his band are some of the most talented musicians in music history, and watching them live is truly something else.
Santana’s otherworldly guitar skills sound exactly the same life as they do on any album, and getting to see him in action, engrossed in his music, is an experience like no other. Imagine listening to “Black Magic Woman” or “Maria Maria” performed live – few things compare.
With nearly 30 albums to their name, Genesis is one of those progressive rock bands that feels like it’s been around forever. The band was formed in England in 1967 by Phil Collins, Tony Banks, and Mike Rutherford, and despite having taken years-long hiatuses throughout their career, they remained active until 2022. Their albums “We Can’t Dance”, “Foxtrot”, and “Genesis” were wildly successful and remain some of the best rock albums ever made.
Their live performances are also etched into people’s memories because they were truly much more than a rock concert. Their live tours, particularly the “We Can’t Dance” one in 1992, are still talked about today.
Another rock legend, Eric Clapton, is right up there with the most legendary musicians of all time. Regarded as one of the most influential guitar players in the history of music, Clapton has been making music since the early 60s. Before embarking on a wildly successful solo career, Clapton played with legendary bands like Derek and the Dominos, Cream, and The Yardbirds.
His live performances were almost too good to be true; seeing him do a guitar solo on stage has been described as a mesmerizing experience by anyone lucky enough to witness it. The man is well into his 70s and is still playing like a boss.
English rock band Def Leppard was formed in England in 1976, and these guys knew how to rock out on stage like any of their contemporaries. Their early 80s albums “Hysteria” and “Pyromania” gained a wide following, and by the early 90s, they were one of the world’s most famous rock bands.
Although there were different members throughout the 70s and 80s, Def Leppard has had the same band members since 1992 – Rick Savage, Rick Allen, Vivian Campbell, Joe Elliott, and Phil Collen. As for their live performance, well, everyone knew that if they wanted to experience a true rock concert, going to see Def Leppard was a must.
Legendary guitarist Eric Clapton joined bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker in 1966 to form Cream, one of the best rock bands in history. Although they had a brief run, they managed to release four albums that were wildly popular, especially their 1968 “Wheels of Fire” album. Their sound combined hard rock, psychedelic rock, acid rock, and blues, which, paired with bassist Jack Bruce’s songwriting, made Cream’s music something unique.
One thing that earned Cream its much-deserved reputation as a solid rock band was their live performances. Their last concerts before breaking up in 1969 were at the famous Royal Albert Hall in London. The group reunited back in 2005 and gave a series of shows in the same venue – one last goodbye from Cream. The shows were nothing short of spectacular.
Even though their seminal album “Brothers in Arms” was released in 1985, we are still playing Dire Straits’ hit songs “Money for Nothing” and “So Far Away” to this day. Formed in London in 1977 by Mark and David Knopfler, Pick Withers, and John Illsley, Dire Straits released their first chart-topping single — “Sultans of Swing” — just a year after they came together.
Their live performances were famous amongst fans and fellow rock bands alike, especially their 1985 show at the iconic Wembley Stadium in England. Unfortunately, the band broke up for good in 1995, but thankfully, their music will live on forever.
Maybe some people will only be familiar with Yes’s popular song “Owner of a Lonely Heart”, but this rock band's repertoire goes much further than this hit song. Not only did the London-based band release nearly 50 albums, but they toured the world and have been an icon of rock since 1968.
The band’s members, Jon Anderson, Peter Banks, Chris Squire, Tony Kaye, and Bill Bruford have been lighting up stages around the world for decades. Their talent as musicians and their on-stage chemistry have earned them a reputation for being one of the best live rock bands in music history.
Even though Roger Fisher and Steve Fossen founded Heart in 1973 in Seattle, it wasn’t until 1975, when Ann and Nancy Wilson joined, that it truly became the legendary rock band we all know and love. Especially because it was amazing to see two women rock out on stage like that, to hit songs like “Crazy on You” and “Barracuda.”
Despite the breaking up and rearranging of the band lineup over the years, most recently, they came back together in 2019 and are still active to this day. Rocking out while singing to the lyrics of “Dreamboat Annie” was probably how millions of people spent their days during the mid-70s.
Apart from her powerful vocals and poetic songwriting, one thing Queen of Rock Janis Joplin was known for was her live shows. Joplin was a true force of nature, with an electrifying presence every time she took the stage. Regarded as one of the most successful and influential rock artists of all time, Joplin produced some of rock history’s most memorable songs.
Both as a solo artist and a member of bands like Big Brother and the Holding Company and Kozmic Blues Band, Joplin was a rare breed of musician. “Summertime,” “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Piece of My Heart,” “Mercedes Benz,” and dozens of other memorable songs will forever remain some of music’s best masterpieces.