20 most exciting live acts of all time – as voted by you


120. The Rolling Stones

20. The Rolling Stones. They're the band whose guitarist was electrocuted live onstage, whose free show at Altamont turned into the riot that killed the '60s, and whose recent shows prove that age ain't nothing but a number. How could they not be on the list?

219. The Clash

19. The Clash. Too young to see The Clash play? Check out the cover of 'London Calling' – Paul Simonon smashing his Fender bass onstage in New York City in 1979 – and imagine the raw energy of their live shows.

318. Blur

Danny North/NME
18. Blur. The spare reunion appearances by the quintessential Britpop band have been so majestic they reduced grown men to tears. And those men were Damon Albarn, singer, and Alex James, bassist.

417. Pink Floyd

17. Pink Floyd. Pink Floyd didn't do 'normal' gigs. Early shows were acid-fuelled '60s happenings, then they played at Pompeii, then they invented the high concept arena show with The Wall, a show which saw the band bricked up behind a giant white wall live on stage. Even Pink Floyd tribute acts have higher production values than most bands.

516. Foo Fighters

16. Foo Fighters
Guy Eppel/NME
16. Foo Fighters. There's a reason why Dave Grohl has played Reading a mammoth nine times – it's because he and his band are the modern-day descendants of the original monsters of stadium rock.

615. The Cure

15. The Cure. This summer's Cure shows have been mammoth, three-hour performances touching on the band's entire career. Not just great performers – great value for money too.

714. David Bowie

14. David Bowie
14. David Bowie. Though he didn't tour for 12 years before his death earlier this year, Bowie could be counted on to bring a touch of theatre to his live performances, from the wild costumes of the Ziggy Stardust to the elaborate stadium trickery of 1987's Glass Spider tour. Whether it's Thin White Duke-era or Ziggy, Renaissance man Bowie always puts on a hell of a show.

813. AC/DC

Danny North
13. AC/DC. They ride on stage on a train, there's a hyperactive, ancient schoolboy in the band and they play 'Back In Black' as a matter of course. If you don't enjoy an AC/DC show, you don't like live music.

912. Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix performs live on stage. Circa Date PA
12. Jimi Hendrix. Jimi Hendrix burning his guitar onstage at 1967's Monterey Pop Festival is one of the most iconic rock images of all time. His shows were unpredictable, improvisational and wild. No wonder he's so high up in this run-down.

1011. Radiohead

Danny North/NME
11. Radiohead. They're the only band who could make apocalyptic Glastonbury conditions seem like a good thing (for the atmosphere), they're a band that can hold thousands of people in rapt attention and – if you're lucky – you might see Thom Yorke do his special little dance.

1110. Rage Against The Machine

10. Rage Against The Machine
Tom Oxley/NME
10. Rage Against The Machine. Not only did the campaign to get Killing In The Name to Christmas number 1 in 2009 get one over on Simon Cowell, it also gave cause for a celebratory UK performance from the band themselves. And just as the name implies, they are always incendiary live.

129. Led Zeppelin

9. Led Zeppelin. Listening to Led Zeppelin's albums tells you only half of the story of this legendary rock band. "Zeppelin was a live band and that's how we got our reputation," John Paul Jones has said.

138. The White Stripes

Andy Willsher/NME
8. The White Stripes. Striking visuals, brilliant tunes and the sight of one man playing enough notes for four; The White Stripes may be gone but they'll never be forgotten.

147. Arctic Monkeys

Pieter M Van Hattem/NME
7. Arctic Monkeys. They may be from the same no-nonsense school of performance as Oasis, but Arctic Monkeys shows are always thrilling. No wonder Danny Boyle snapped them up for the Olympics opening ceremony.

156. Nirvana

6. Nirvana. Nirvana were unbeatable when they were plugged in – their 1992 Reading Festival performance was probably their defining moment – and their MTV Unplugged album confirmed they were just as good without the amps.

165. Bruce Springsteen

5. Bruce Springsteen. Delivering the performances of his life even though he's now in his 60s, The Boss lives up to his nickname onstage, where his epic sets include plenty of old favourites.

174. Queen

4. Queen
4. Queen. Of all the performers at 1985's Live Aid, Queen emerged the true winners, holding the whole of Wembley stadium – and a global TV audience – in the palm of their hands. Freddie Mercury was born to perform; rarely has a singer been blessed with such magnetism.

183. The Killers

Guy Eppel/NME
3. The Killers. Having conquered the world with 2004's debut 'Hot Fuss', The Killers quickly started writing songs to thrill stadiums with. The result? One of the most bombastic live bands going.

192. The Strokes

Andrew Whitton/NME
2. The Strokes. The fact that The Strokes are at number two in the poll is testament to the New Yorkers' undending well of cool. The more bored they look, the more we lap it up.

201. Muse

Andrew Whitton/NME
1. Muse. Topping the list is the only band to fly a spaceship above their concerts, a modern band with an eye for the preposterous whose performances are never anything short of spectacular. It had to be Muse.