Top 10 Live Music Performances That Left Us Speechless
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Top 10 Live Music Performances That Left Us Speechless

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Andy Hammersmith
These live music performances left audiences speechless. For this list, we'll be looking at the most groundbreaking and fantastic live music performances. Our countdown includes Prince at Super Bowl XLI, Michael Jackson at "Motown 25," Elvis on "The Milton Berle Show," and more!
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Top 10 Live Music Performances That Left Us Speechless


Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Live Performances That Left Us Speechless.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the most groundbreaking and fantastic live music performances. These performers left us speechless for their theatrical, powerful, and/or emotional shows.

Did we forget any iconic live performances? Let us know in the comments below.

#10: The Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show” (1964)


It was one of the most famous moments in the history of television. The Beatles traveled across the pond in 1964 for their first U.S. tour and made this energetic appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Over 70 million people watched as the band formally introduced themselves to American audiences. At the height of Beatlemania, John, Paul, George, and Ringo were all professional and suited up in their classic looks. They also managed to perform through the relentless screaming of the (mostly) young female audience. This piece of music history featured the four Liverpool lads at the height of their live era.

#9: Jimi Hendrix at “Monterey Pop” (1967)


“Monterey International Pop Festival” was a concert that represented the new counterculture music scene in the late 60s. Guitarist Jimi Hendrix made a career-defining appearance there along with his bandmates in the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Turning the stage into his own personal playground, Hendrix quickly defied expectations with his skills and talents. He revolutionized the concept of destruction onstage when he went after his own instruments, famously shredding and destroying his guitar in a wild mix of music and performance art. It all culminated with the rocker setting his Stratocaster on fire. Along with a killer guitar solo, Hendrix left the venue as a mythic figure.

#8: Elvis on “The Milton Berle Show” (1956)


Elvis Presley didn’t invent rock and roll, but he did help popularize it in the late 50s. This iconic appearance on “The Milton Berle Show” contributed to the artist’s success and early controversy. The hip-shaking performance might be tame by today’s standards, but it was completely taboo for the time. He sang “Hound Dog” with all the confidence of a veteran performer. Shaking up American culture–literally–his passionate vocals and wild movements shattered norms. He even slowed down the song in a moment that drew applause and shock from the crowd. Presley prompted both backlash from critics and screams from adoring fans. By the end of the show, the singer achieved the status of a bonafide superstar.

#7: Talking Heads in “Stop Making Sense” (1983)


In 1983, new wave band Talking Heads performed three dates at the Hollywood Pantages Theater. Filmmaker Jonathan Demme assembled the best moments from each night into the definitive concert film “Stop Making Sense.” It was clear from the very beginning that it wouldn’t be any ordinary performance. Lead singer David Byrne and his bandmates orchestrated a music show that was a shock to the senses. There are strange dance moves, lively music, and even the inclusion of the lead singer’s memorable “big suit.” Throughout the richly detailed show, the influential act displayed a nonstop burst of pure energy and creativity.

#6: Nirvana’s “MTV Unplugged” Performance (1993)


Most people remember this Nirvana performance as the height of the “MTV Unplugged” series. The grunge band opted to play without their usual distortion in a surprisingly moving appearance. Frontman Kurt Cobain and his talented bandmates perfectly transitioned to the unplugged setting, even though the idea of an acoustic set purportedly made Cobain uneasy. Instead of playing all of their greatest hits, the group decided to go with a collection of deep tracks and covers. Their somber renditions of songs like “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” and “The Man Who Sold the World” made the show especially memorable.

#5: The Band Perform in “The Last Waltz” (1976)


On Thanksgiving in 1976, rock act The Band came together for a farewell show in San Francisco. They didn’t do it alone, though, with several legends joining them for a historic evening. Among the esteemed guests were Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, and Bob Dylan, who they often backed. If that wasn’t enough, director Martin Scorsese captured the entire thing on film for the world to see. While they started their career as a backing band, the group proved that they could rock out like the best of them. Each of the five members got a chance to shine on their respective instruments and, in a jam-packed finale, every guest took the stage for an emotional rendition of Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released.”

#4: Michael Jackson at “Motown 25” (1983)


The 25th anniversary of Motown was marked by an unprecedented and star-studded concert. Many of its famed alumni and other influential musicians came to salute the label, including Michael Jackson. At that point in his career, Jackson was an established solo artist with successful albums like "Thriller." His performance was nothing short of breathtaking and he held the crowd in the palm of his hand. The performer brought no shortage of vocal flourishes and iconic dance moves to the proceedings. He even busted out his legendary moonwalk for the very first time on stage. While the "King of Pop" would put on other historic shows like his 1992 set in Bucharest, the "Motown 25" concert first solidified his talents as a live performer.

#3: Prince at Super Bowl XLI (2007)


Prince put most other halftime shows to shame with his appearance at the 2007 Super Bowl. The performer didn’t let inclement weather stop him either. Wielding multiple guitars, the artist sang some of his best hits and a few covers to shake things up. Who else but Prince could have delivered an amazing cover of "Best of You" by Foo Fighters? During the set’s highlight, he delivered “Purple Rain” during a perfectly placed rainstorm. Seriously, it doesn’t get more iconic than that. All in all, his stirring guitar solos and unprecedented showmanship rallied the crowd for an unforgettable halftime show.

#2: Beyoncé at Super Bowl XLVII (2013)


You might not remember who actually won the 2013 Super Bowl, but it's fair to say that the true winner was Beyoncé. Her halftime show brought the house down with a trip through her impressive discography. In a series of choreographed numbers, she demonstrated once again that she was among the greatest performers of her generation. It didn’t even stop there, as a surprise appearance from Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams took the show to another level. The Destiny’s Child reunion rounded out the set with their nostalgic and joyful spirit. After the stellar performance, a power surge sent the stadium into a momentary blackout. How many performers can say they did so well the electricity gave out?

#1: Queen at “Live Aid” (1985)


There were many great frontmen in rock music, but Freddie Mercury eclipsed them all with this appearance at “Live Aid.” Along with his incredibly talented bandmates, the singer helped bring a classic list of hits to Wembley Stadium. Mercury led the crowd in chants and delivered rousing renditions of everything from "Radio Ga Ga" to "We Are the Champions." Each of the four group members were in top form as they provided a career retrospective like no other. Immortalized in the film “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the band’s performance put them firmly in the pantheon of the greatest live acts, probably ever.
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