Live, onstage, in front of an audience just looking for an excuse to let loose all its pent-up energy — that is where a band truly proves its mettle. Forget studio tricks and multiple takes — playing live strips away all the bullshit and you have to either put up or shut up. And fans are no pushovers. We will crush you with a "Slayer!" chant without compunction if you smell of poserdom. But if you lay it all on the line and deliver from the heart, we will follow suit. The bands below have done just that throughout their careers, and their audiences, too. We asked you to pick the single greatest live band of all time — here are the ranked Top Five results.
Going to a Metallica gig in 2018, the heavy-metal pioneers more than justify the ticket price by giving fans a state-of-the-art multimedia experience, an ever-morphing set list of some of the greatest headbanging songs ever written, and an overwhelming sense of familial belonging. Their performances have always felt larger than life — from the time they were tearing up tiny clubs, to the days when they first graduated to arenas, bringing Snake Pits, pyro and collapsing Lady Libertys with them — and now their show truly is. And yet, somehow the band never feels distant or detached. To the contrary, what really makes Metallica so great live is how passionate they are and have always been, and that passion is contagious, from the front row to the nosebleeds.
Credit it to a particularly epic case of second wind, but Bruce Dickinson's energy is unmatched even at 59 years old. Add in perfect pitch and serious commitment towards giving his all at every single live gig and you have one of the best frontmen in the world, just one piece in the puzzle that makes Maiden easily one of the best live bands in the world — while pushing towards 40 years in existence. And Dickinson's brothers in arms are no slouches, all playing super complex riffs while using the stage as their own personal shuttle run.
Once upon a time — for a brief moment — Tool were small-club troublemakers, apt to shoot off shotguns and dance with scantily-clad obese women onstage all while churning out their sinister, seductive brand of truly alternative metal. Then MTV broke them big and several arena tours later, they are a veritable prog-rock behemoth, whose laser lights and psychedelic projections are Pink Floydian in their scale and brain-frying capacity. To see Tool is to step into another dimension and, for many fans, to never want to come back to reality.
When Pantera were good, they were the best. No one could top the energy, the fun, the fury, the hilarious banter, hijinks, all-star covers and overall spontaneity, the tight musicianship, the old-school showmanship, with Phil leaping off drum risers and inviting fans onstage for scream-offs; Dimebag raising toasts and shredding like a motherfucker; Rex unloading badass bass lines, cool as shit, cigarette in mouth; and Vinnie holding it all together from on-high atop his throne. The stage was Pantera's home away from home, and they welcomed fans to join them there in a cathartic, tribal party to end all parties. Sadly, it came to an end itself, and a tragic one at that, but when it was good, it was the best.
When it comes to irreverent, no-holds-barred onstage antics, none did it better, or more boldly, than recently defunct spazcore innovators Dillinger Escape Plan. Throwing sanity, restraint, common sense and the band members' own personal safety to the wind, the quintet approached each show as its own unique, arcane ritual, baptizing audiences with blood, sweat and chaos. No one ever left a Dillinger show without a memory — and possibly even a scar — to treasure for life, and a story to shock, astound and horrify disbelieving friends and family with. DEP bid fans farewell at the end of last year, as possibly the world's last truly dangerous rock band, and they are already missed.