From pop, metal, rap and beyond - what was your greatest gig of the year?
Andrew Trendell

14:04 14th December 2015

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So the end of the year is nigh, and we're totally knackered. We've been at so many gigs, drunk so many £5.50 warm pints, sat through so many soundchecks, heard no end of forgettable support bands (and some awesome ones) - but that's not to see we're jaded. We live for live music, so it's been one hell of a ride. From Muse to Madonna via Wolf Alice and everything in between, here are the 30 best live acts we saw in 2015 - ranked in order of greatness. 

From festival acts and arena kings to those rising through the ranks of sweaty toilet venues, we've seen some amazing shows this year. We could endlessly bang on about the many, many great nights we've had well into 2016. Alas, we can not. So we've narrowed it down to these guys. 

These are 2015's 30 greatest live bands, ranked. 

  • 30. Noel Gallagher: Upon a request for an old Oasis staple, Noel spits back at Latitude: "I don't play that any more mate, because I've got so many fucking great songs - I can't play the same old shit all the time". He needn't worry. Having released on of the most artful albums of the year, his solo shine with that 'instant classic' charm that runs through all that he does. With cutting banter, a graceful poise, a smattering of classics, he is the songwriter's songwriter, if ever there was one.

  • 29. Courtney Barnett: With the laissez-faire flow of her smouldering grunge-pop and the easy-going nature of her stage presence, Barnett is resplendent as one of the most magnetic talents you could hope to see - she's the perfect summer act. Many who try to add a touch of the wistful to rock end up with something quite contrived, but from her banter to the ease with which she wraps herself around the twisted charisma of 'Dead Fox', 'Depreston', 'Avant Gardner' and 'Pedestrian At Best' before clawing at her howling guitar on hands and knees, Barnett is only ever herself.

  • 28. Foo Fighters: No, they aren't reinventing the wheel - they're just good old-fashioned rock n' roll, written for everyone and delivered with a scream in your face and a hand on your shoulder. Whether wheelchair bound or not, Grohl is arguably one of the most magnetic men in rock. He'll be drawing us in for decades to come.

  • 27. Madonna: There's no way to quite put into words the palpable aura that surrounds the Queen of pop when she performs live. It's like a circus, dance, Broadway show show and gig all rolled into one, and her Rebel Heart tour was enough to convert even the most stubborn of cynics.

  • 26. Fall Out Boy: With pyro, a stage show worthy of gods, and a set now made of solid gold wall-to-wall pop-punk classics, these American Beauties have come a long way - and by their own admission. %u201CYou%u2019re the band that got bottled,%u201D recalls bassist Pete Wentz to a Yorkshire crowd of their well documented 2007 Leeds Festival incident. %u201CNow they fucking love you!%u201D Indeed we do.

  • 25. The Libertines: While their sound was born in the sweaty backroom toilet venues of London, that intense energy of these indie dancefloor staples is magnified by their every-growing status as true classics as the band bloom into a festival headlining, arena-worth force of nature. This the soundtrack of a generation, and it's about bloody time they were aired on this scale. Not only that, but Anthems For Doomed Youth was an absolute bloody triumph. They've a newfound purpose, and the good ship Albion sails on.

  • 24. Brandon Flowers: The Vegas born icon has showbusiness sewn into his DNA and running through his bones. The Desired Effect is by far one of the most immaculate pop releases of the year, and on stage he has a natural flair that so few can parallel - Killers or no Killers.

  • 23. Taylor Swift: Onstage, though her charm and charisma is disarmingly palpable, Swift is also at times physically awkward %u2013 unsure quite how to manage her limbs inbetween the moments of theatrical choreography. Rather than letting this awkwardness manifest itself in stillness, at Hyde Park, she bounded unapologetically across the stage, pausing only to occasionally collapse, dramatically, onto the floor.

  • 22. Run The Jewels: What a year it's been for RTJ. Not only did rap's great bright hope completely blow the roof off every festival they touched down in, but Killer Mike and El-P proved that they can cut it alongside the likes of Public Enemy when punching upwards at authority while still making you move, and the awesome finale of 'A Christmas Miracle' rumbles with a menacing groove and masterful command of words that sets them echelons above their peers.

  • 21. Hot Chip: A kaleidoscope of life, colour and joy - Hot Chip are the most fully-formed dance rock act on the road, producing a genre-bending out of body odyssey of music that can only really be rivalled by the likes of Talking Heads or their peers in LCD Soundsystem.

  • 20. Interpol: Few bands lucky enough to have one of 'those' classic records like Turn On The Bright Lights manage to live outside of its shadow, but as the infectious compulsion behind their latest LP El Pintor proves when they're on the road, one can't help but sense that the best of Interpol may still be to come. After all, they're truly in their prime right now, at the peak of their powers. The cool and smouldering balance between tension and decadence makes them utterly arresting to behold.

  • 19. Laura Marling: With five albums under her belt, the shyness with which Laura Marling was so often associated has transformed into a steely resolve. She still stares intently as she performs - but these days her gaze isn't directed at the floor, it's fixed defiantly upwards.

  • 18. Ryan Adams: What it year it was to be a R'Adams fan. While 2014 saw him release his brilliant self-titled LP, 2015 was one hell of a globe-conquering victory lap - taking in Glastonbury and covering all of Taylor Swift's 1989. While his sound always leans on the melancholy of a hangover fuelled by whiskey and heartache, now a sober Adams takes us by the hand and leads us down a track that takes in the full breadth and class of his solo career - and the result is a pure celebration.

  • 17. Foals: Once their mathy idiosyncrasies made the idea of them one day playing arenas and headlining festivals seem pretty absurd. Still, it kept being said, and now it's become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Why? Well the trajectory for Holt Fire into What Went Down has turned them into a Rock band with a capital R. Forget what you thought Foals were, no expectations can contain them - they're larger than life, feral and ready, and they're coming to your town.

  • 16. Kanye West: There is no such thing as a 'casual' Kanye fan - he wants to mean everything to everyone, and if he can't then he'll leave you behind. Hence why so many feel more than a little bit cheated. Is that a very 'Glastonbury' way to feel? No, but whatever - hip-hop matters, Kanye matters and his headline set mattered. Yeezy certainly played up to being 'the world's greatest living rockstar', even if the world didn't agree.

  • 15. Wolf Alice: They were only ever going to smash the hype pulling off one of the best debuts of 2015, and as you'll know if you caught them at Glasto, Reading, Brixton or anywhere and everywhere else they conquered this year, the sheer momentum behind them is only matched by the love they receive, and the fire and fury they put in. Guitar music doesn't need saving, but that hasn't stopped Wolf Alice.

  • 14. Marilyn Manson: A pyro-fuel carnival of headfuckery, Manson is still the master of all he purveys - the twisted manifestation of all of his influences. He is Iggy Pop, he is Ozzy Osbourne, he is David Bowie, he is Madonna - he is the traits of all icons torn inside in nightmare form. He is sex, he is religion, he is art and ultimately pure hedonistic entertainment. He is the reaction to the horror that surrounds him. That's Marilyn Manson - the hero that we deserve.

  • 13. BABYMETAL: What? Seriously. Reading Leeds may have been headlined by the likes of Metallica, Mumford & Sons and The Libertines, but the only word still on anyone's lips is 'BABYMETAL'. Opening the main stage with an absolute mindgasm of thrash metal and choreographed idol pop insanity, they left is all in fits of joy. Wembley won't know what hit them.

  • 12. The Maccabees: Marks To Prove It was one hell of a record, and as a live act they've bloomed into an absolute beast - every show a hit-packed and career-spanning performance - showing a testament to not only their longevity but why there seems to be no stopping them. Music to make you, dance, feel, weep, think and thrive. A national treasure.

  • 11. The Twilight Sad: The best live band you've never seen, it pains us that their wall-of-doom approach to music hasn't made them one of the biggest bands on the planet. Well, they're supporting The Cure on the road next year. Expect to have your bones shaken, your heart broken and your life changed.

  • 10. New Order: From the death of Ian Curtis bringing an end to Joy Division, to the departure of the now thoroughly embittered bassist Peter Hook, if there's anything that history has taught us, it's that nothing will stop New Order. As a fitting act of defiance, 2015's comeback album Music Complete is a rush of invention and compulsion. Their live sets are always a history lesson in how dance-rock and post-punk came to be, but their new stuff shows they can still lead it somewhere entirely new.

  • 9. Beck: Held together by elastic dance moves and exquisite showmanship, Beck and co turned so many open fields and dark ooms into one hell of a disco carnival. The ageless twisted charm of 'Black Tambourine', 'The New Pollution', 'Loser' and 'Hell Yes' rank Beck as an artist in a class of his own, while soulful cuts from the Grammy-winning Morning Phase provide tender respite as 'Blue Moon', 'Lost Cause' and 'Wave' soulfully tug at the heartstrings as the twilight hour sets in, before the party returns in full swing with explosive renditions of new single and ultimate summer jam 'Dreams', 'Girl' and a raunchy rush of 'Sexx Laws'. This man is everything.

  • 8. Portishead: We're still in awe from what we saw at Latitude - a consistently gripping and ultimately flawless performance, an opulent feast for the eyes, ears and heart - a show for all time from with an unflinching sense of artistry.

  • 7. Slipknot: Quite simply the finest metal act on the road today - the masked menaces heighten every element of their sound and aesthetic to create a relentless rush of madness, like a runaway freight train crashing through hell.

  • 6. Enter Shikari: Every band member is given time to shine, with a sound that takes in all genres from techno to pop to sheer rock brilliance - blending the best of them all to create a world that can only be Shikari, never seeming contrived. Our bodies still ache from the full force of what we've experienced. Fetch the anaesthetist.

  • 5. Blur: They could have just miked the reunion cash cow for all that its worth - cynically banging out the same regurgitation of hits for decades to come. But no, The Magic Whip resurrected the true spirit of the band - they've made a record that really matters, and play like they've still everything to gain.

  • 4. Chvrches: Live, Chvrches' sound is deeper and bassier, their signature synth-pop filled out, turned up and extrapolated to reach the far corners of whatever venue they're in. At the expansive Alexandra Palace in November, Mayberry, too, managed to fill the space in which she found herself with incredible ease.

  • 3. Kendrick Lamar: Between the gut-trembling bass of ‘Backstyle Freestyle’ and rocking version of ‘Fuckin’ Problems’, Kendrick's shows weren't politically-conscious tirades and deep cuts - he came with the intention to party. He's probably the most significant figure in music today (sorry Kanye), so that surely makes a Kendrick gig the party of the year, right?

  • 2. Muse: Here stands a band who have headlined Glastonbury and Reading & Leeds two times a-piece, sold out pretty much every stadium on the planet, yet still had a huge challenge to face in 2015: headline the hallowed hard rock ground of Donington Park and prove the heavy metal purists wrong. With flames, fireworks and a whole lotta' fury, the space-rock trio did exactly that. However, the lack of the usual bells, whistles, lasers and robots of the Muse show was noted, leaving only the music to do the talking. It rocked, and now they're throwing the kitchen sink back into it with their 2016 stadium tour.

  • 1. Father John Misty: The liquid-limbed lounge lizard lothario inspires no less than wide-eyed screaming love from the many men and women with arms outstretched hoping to grasps Joshua Tillman as he stalks and invades the front rows. His every elastic movement is a spectacle in itself, but they lend themselves only too well to him truly embodying his tales of lust and lunacy. With I Love You, Honeybear, he's released one of 2015's finest albums. With sealing his campaign with the kiss of a totally ecstatic run of shows, he also ranks as our favourite live act of the year too.

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