Weak List Wednesday: Best Live Acts of 2011

In continuation of our end year lists, we decided to bust out a short list of our favorite live acts of the year. Obviously, we can only choose from what we have seen, but between the three of us, we have seen many of the seminal acts of today this year.

My Morning Jacket Best Live Band of 2011
Jim James, Rock God in the making

1. My Morning Jacket

The Louisville bred bearded rockers might as well be considered the official live band of LxL, since we three can’t get enough of MMJ live. Todd saw MMJ this year at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Denver, CO, the most beautiful venue in America, and I caught them at Lawn at White River in Indianapolis. At both shows, they played a girth of old and new material, with the songs off of their latest Circuital (“Victory Dance”, “First Light”, “) especially bursting with energy in the live setting.

2 Jay-Z & Kanye West

Austin and I saw the colossal rap kings last month at Palace at Auburn Hills outside of Detroit and it was a doozy.  The excess of this show was astounding for it really breaking down to just two guys on stage. I would imagine a follow-up to this tour will entail a live circus, 500 Vegas strippers, and human sacrifice.

3. Janelle Monáe

I caught Monáe at IU Auditorium in Bloomington, IN and was simply blown away. A natural born entertainer, Monae follows in a long line of great black entertainers, from James Brown to Michael Jackson to Erykah Badu. Her incredibly theatrical show didn’t even take away from the quality of her sound, which was impeccable even while she danced, jumped, and even fought dancing zombies.

4. The Antlers

The Firebird is a small venue in St. Louis in which Austin saw The Antlers, and it couldn’t be better for their increasingly big sound. Live bands just don’t sound this perfect. Every note was in place. The one song that varied significantly from the album version, “Kettering”, was the best live interpretation of a song I have ever heard

5. Sleigh Bells

3rd times was a charm for Todd with Sleigh Bells, when he caught them at greatest American festival, Bonnaroo. The noise rock duo seem to get louder, harder, and crazier each show … and so did the crowd … and so did Todd.

Bands we loved live, but hated to see miss the list:


TV On The Radio

TV On The Radio showcased why they are the best in the business at Pitchfork Music Festival this year, where I saw them play an especially emotional show after the death of their bassist, Gerard Smith. The band wheeled throw an energy driven set, hitting old staples like “Wrong Way” and “Young Liars” while also covering Fugazi and ripping through tons of new material.


Cold Cave

Austin also caught Cold Cave at the Firebird in St. Louis, and it was everything you would want out of an industrial show; loud, dark, and smoky. Along their dynamo breakout album Cherish the Light Years, it was a great year for the Cave.



Hollywood Todd saw tUnE-yArDs in Hollywood this year, and it was easily the most surprising live act of the year for him. Not that he didn’t think Merrill would pull off a wonderful show, he just didn’t think her booming African-influence beats, voice, and show would love-punch people in the ears the way it did live as it does on the album. We can’t wait to see how her live show develops as she continues to get bigger.

There is the list. Let us know what we got right, unforgivably missed, or just rip us in general.

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Author: Wes

Hoosier. Writer. Music Buff. Media Man. Tourist. Polar Bear.

6 thoughts on “Weak List Wednesday: Best Live Acts of 2011”

  1. I saw Sleigh Bells last year and is was one of the most disappointing shows I have ever seen. It was really quiet (which obviously kind of goes against their MO) and they only played for 32 minutes…because that’s all the material they had.

    I also saw TVOTR for the third time this year and it was the best yet. I didn’t love Nine Types of Light, but they just bring so much energy live. My favorite act of the year was definitely Cut Copy though, as predicted by Wesley

    1. That Pitchfork set I remember admittedly had a very poor mix. We set it up where we each had 2 of the shows we saw in 2011 as part of the top 5 (with MMJ counting for both Todd and I), so that’s why TVOTR missed the list, since it was my 3rd favorite show. I think even Todd would agree though that TVOTR is better live than Sleigh Bells.

      1. Agreed, TVOTR is better, live and studio. The first time I saw Sleigh Bells, I didn’t know there stuff as well, but I loved the show. The 2nd time I saw them at Pitchfork, it was pretty brutal. We were far back, it was very quite, and we couldn’t get into it. The third time was a sh*#t show. Super loud, and everyone was going nuts. Apparently venue has a lot to do with their outcome.

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