Most of my favorite bands/singers are the ones that ought to be recording live performances. The best examples are Joseph Arthur and Lissie, but there are a lot of better-known musicians out there whose live performances are completely underrated, and whether you first hear them live or in the album versions of their music can change the way you experience them...uhhh...forever after.
Starsailor is one of many bands I started listening to when I spent a summer in England visiting my mom, and I eventually ended up buying her an album as a birthday gift a couple of years ago. It's like Keane and Muse had a baby, and gave it to My Morning Jacket to raise. Speaking of My Morning Jacket....
My Morning Jacket
This song is magic. It's a little like tripping. You have to wait for when the singer freaks out, it's so good.
I didn't really know Beach House until they opened for Grizzly Bear at Vassar during my junior year (Victoria's an alumna!). I knew (and loved) Grizzly Bear already, so I was kind of eager to get through the opener, but let me tell you, Beach House BLEW ME AWAY. They stole the show from Grizzly Bear, who played for WAY too long (I think they clocked in somewhere around 3 hours) and kept trying to blind the audience with the light show. I still loved them. But Victoria Legrand's voice sounded AMAZING in the chapel space, and I was hooked. I promptly bought Devotion and their self-titled album from 2006, and was so disappointed. Her voice just doesn't transfer to the recordings the way it sounds live, and you haven't heard Beach House until you've heard them live.
Florence and the Machine
I've posted the "Other Voices" version of Cosmic Love before, and I'll post it again. It's one of my favorite live performances ever. The album version is perfection. But this is better. I'm in love with the harpist, by the way. This one is amazing too though:
I saw John Butler live last November. He was opening for Dave Matthews at Madison Square Garden, and he's what I remember from that concert. He played Ocean, and it was just one of those songs that you hear and you know everything is going to be ok. Magic. He's a demon on that guitar.
Other beauties to be explored live: The Arcade Fire, Warpaint, Beirut, and (surprisingly) Passion Pit. Go.