Atwood Magazine’s Best Live Performances of 2018

Atwood Magazine's Best Live Performances of 2018

Live performances are ephemeral by nature, but 2018 saw artists finding a variety of ways to connect with fans outside of traditional music events. Live performance videos have flourished and gained popularity in recent years, fueled in large part by the ease of uploading videos to YouTube.

Although these performance videos can’t fully capture the feeling of actually physically attending a concert, they allow artists to put a different spin on a studio recording, giving fans a taste of what a concert experience would be like without having to leave their home – and allowing those who would otherwise be unable attend such an event to feel part of that special connection. In many cases, artists have elevated heretofore simple performance videos with interesting locations, great cinematography, or innovative stage designs.

Here are some of Atwood Magazine’s favorite live performances this year!

– Carmen Chan, columnist – Viewfinder

:: Best Live Performances ::

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Rank & File” – Moses Sumney

Carmen Chan

The fact that the live video for Moses Sumney’s “Rank & File” was directed by Colin Solal Cardo and Produced by La Blogothèque and BOX Prod comes as no surprise; they have long been at the forefront of capturing the magic of live performances. In the style of many a La Blogothèque video, Sumney’s performance looks like it was shot in one take. As Sumney loops his voice and percussion, the camera circles round and round capturing his every movement, like an animal stalking its prey. However, Sumney does not shy away, often gazing straight in the camera and breaking the fourth wall. The live video lends a potent urgency to an already electrifying song, transcending the medium into something more akin to performance art.


Bodies” (live on the Tonight Show) – Car Seat Headrest

Jimmy Crowley

Performing on a Late Night show is a often an important part of the album promo process, and on their second time around, Car Seat Headrest decided to pull the curtain back a little. Will Toledo cracks jokes about the band only having four minutes, and the changes the band made to make the near 7 minute song fit in the timeslot: “Is it the chorus yet? It’s the chorus, cause we’re on live tv, and we’ve only got 4 minutes to play this song.” The band provides an airtight performance of one of Twin Fantasy’s most memorable tracks despite cutting so much out.  The defining moment comes when Toledo says, “Normally, we do a bit of a breakdown here, but we only have 50 seconds left.  So, we’re just gonna go to the final chorus.”


May” – Jordan Rakei

Carmen Chan

Directed by Tom Mishra, the live video for “May” was shot in an old house in Brooklyn, featuring Jordan Rakei and his band performing amidst old toys, clocks, and other trinkets. In a song dedicated to his grandmother, it’s not too much of a stretch to conclude that the location was chosen due to its ability to evoke memories attached to childhood and family.


NFWMB” – Hozier

Carmen Chan

There’s not much to say about Hozier’s live performance video for “NFWMB;” the man truly needs nothing more than a guitar to accompany his whopper of a voice. The stripped back instrumentation forces you to focus all your attention on his lyrics, on what is unquestionably the darkest track off his recently released Nina Cried Power EP.


Daniel Caesar‘s NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert

Carmen Chan

The only problem with Daniel Caesar’s Tiny Desk Concert is that it’s way too short, because I would gladly watch him perform the entire Freudian album in this format. The camaraderie between Caesar and his musicians is obvious; there’s smiles all around and they’re clearly enjoying themselves. The beautiful harmonies combined with the music makes the entire performance feel like a warm hug. Make sure to stick around until the end of the video for a surprise cameo from H.E.R.


How To Socialise & Make Friends” (Live on Audiotree Far Out) – Camp Cope

Jimmy Crowley

Audiotree is one of the best in underground music for capturing live sessions often in their own studio.  Their “Far Out” series is one of the most engaging though, as they take artists out of their studio and place them in landscapes that compliment their sounds, such as Tigers Jaw in an indoor soccer field, Pallbearer in a cemetery, or Chelsea Wolfe in a church-like hotel.  Australian punks Camp Cope had one that stood out the most, as they recorded some songs on a dock on a pond on a summer day.  The wind blowing in their hair, with all the girls wearing sunglasses adds to the effect of the title track from one of this year’s best albums.  Plus, there’s a snippet of them covering Green Day’s “Warning.”


Comme Si” – Christine and the Queens

Carmen Chan

It was hard picking just one performance from Christine and the Queens to feature. The release of her sophomore album Chris saw her bring her live show to many talk shows this year, but her performance on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert was truly a joy to watch. Christine and her backup dancers took over the floor of the studio, putting on a performance that looked like it belonged on a Broadway show. It’s impossible not to feel impressed watching Christine and the Queens dancing up a storm while still hitting all the notes pitch perfectly.


Softly (Acoustic)” (Mahogany Session) – Rhye

Carmen Chan

For their Mahogany Session performance of the track “Softly,” Rhye stripped back the instrumentation of the song to its bare essentials. Shot in a globe maker’s studio in East London, the video and the soothing music gently wash over you, instantly calming you down. For the first half of the video, the camera mostly focuses on lead singer Mike Milosh, but halfway through, it pans over to feature a percussionist, a cellist, and a violinist during a brief instrumental section, proving that sometimes the best moments are the quiet ones.


Fallingwater” (Live at The Current) – Maggie Rogers

Carmen Chan

In a live session for The Current, Maggie Rogers performed an acoustic version of her single “Fallingwater,” letting her voice take center stage. With nothing more than guitarist Elle Puckett accompanying her, Rogers proves again that she doesn’t need any extraneous production to capture your attention, just her breathtaking voice and some heartfelt songwriting.


Beyoncé’s Coachella 2018

Carmen Chan

It’d be remiss to curate a list of the best live performances in 2018 without mentioning Beyoncé’s headline-generating sets at Coachella this year. With guest appearances from Solange, Jay-Z, and J Balvin, as well as an unforgettable Destiny’s Child reunion, Beyoncé’s Coachella performances were instantly iconic, an undeniable tour de force that showcased once more why she is the best of the best. Unfortunately, no official videos have been made available, so those who wish to rewatch the experience will just have to rely on fancams for now.


The Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio Live on KEXP

Ben Niesen

So many subgenres will probably never boom into the stratosphere of public conscious. It will probably never attain a Top 100 spot on the Billboard charts, nor will it find its way into popular art—no lyrics, no time, the masses want something that ties rhythm to rhyme. Or perhaps it’s the other way around. No matter, because Delvon Lamarr and his organ trio are back again at the KEXP institution to prove that last time wasn’t a fluke or something. They are the premier standard bearers of a genre that couldn’t be rarer—instrumental soul. A genre that only knew school by the time it got old. But from the opening notes of Curtis Mayfield’s “Move On Up,” to the silent drummer because his pocket is enough, to Lamarr’s right hand bass cup, KEXP and the trio from Seattle do nothing but deliver this year’s best example of music built for the soundtrack of your life, the brie to your merlot, the couch to your blanket, the fire to your parlor, the rain to your book day. Perfect.


Fool for You” (A COLORS SHOW) – Snoh Aalegra

Ethan Germann

Something that will never lose its value is the significance of a beautiful voice. Swedish singer-songwriter Snoh Aalegra croons over the backing track of her standout single “Fool For You” in a COLORS performance in collaboration with Clarks shoes. Her quiet confidence comes across in a voice that does not quiver, even at the most tender moments of her performance. She is a natural and effortless performer, and it is evident that she feels at home and has done this a thousand times over. The poignancy of her lyrics is matched by an opposing swagger which, together, create an comforting and introspective experience. This performance creates a need for viewers witnessing her talent for the first time virtually to see her in a live concert setting with the confidence that she will not disappoint.

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