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Quarantine Comfort: The Best Livestreamed Performances So Far

Diplo, Neil Young, Waxahatchee, and others have given fans the next best thing to a live-music show

Jesus Aranguren/AP/Shutterstock, Adela Loconte/Shutterstock, Suzanne Cordeiro/Shutterstock

With the coronavirus continuing to force artists to cancel or postpone tours and festivals, many have taken their shows to social media — livestreaming from the comforts of their homes and offering fans a glimpse of their lives. From Brian Wilson to Diplo, here are the best performances so far of the stay-at-home era. Click through and find something to pass all the hours you’ll have to spend inside for the good of yourself and others.

Neil Young
When Neil Young streamed a performance of the digital rally for Bernie Sanders earlier in the week, he was aiming at a mass audience and, therefore, broke out his biggest hit, “Heart of Gold.” On his inaugural Fireside Sessions concert, directed by wife Daryl Hannah at the home they own in Colorado, he decided to please his most-devoted fans with an incredible set of rarities filmed all over the house. The intimate show featured “Vampire Blues,” “Love Art Blues,” “Little Wing,” and other wonderfully obscure tunes from his vast catalog. It set the bar very high for future Fireside Session shows. — Andy Greene

Code Orange
Many artists are scaling back right now, livestreaming songs from their living rooms or breakfast nooks. But in typically brash fashion, Pittsburgh metalcore crew Code Orange responded to the crisis by leveling up. When their hometown Roxian Theatre postponed the release show for their nightmarish new album, Underneath, the band took the opportunity to stage a real-time concert film in the empty venue. More than 13,000 fans tuned in on Twitch — more than double the venue’s capacity — and watched as Code Orange bashed out their brooding, chaotic, industrial-tinged songs, without even the slightest dip in intensity. (Their new lineup, with drummer Jami Morgan now taking on frontman duties, only enhanced the group’s sensory-overload attack.) Recent music-video footage that seems straight out of a dystopian sci-fi flick blended seamlessly with the live show, creating an immersive piece of heavy-metal theater, and a blueprint for other acts to follow in this deeply uncertain moment. “Things feel cold, ruthless, noisy, confusing, and disconnected,” the band wrote when announcing the stream. “But we all must refuse to tap out.” — Hank Shteamer

Brian Wilson
The Beach Boys legend kicked off Rolling Stone’s new IGTV series, “In My Room,” on Wednesday, sitting at his piano at home in California while playing the heart-wrenching Beach Boys classic of the same name. After a lighthearted take of “Do It Again,” concluded with “Love and Mercy,” from his 1988 solo debut. “I hope everybody is OK during this hard time we’re all going through,” he said. “Please take care of yourselves and your families.” — Angie Martoccio

Willie Nelson’s Luck Reunion 
The eighth annual Luck Reunion was supposed to draw 4,000 people to Willie Nelson’s Texas ranch this week, with a lineup that included Nelson, Lucinda Williams, John Prine, Margo Price, Nathaniel Rateliff, and others. Those plans, of course, went out the window (“I was concerned about 4,000 people coming to our backyard during a pandemic,” Willie’s son Lukas told Rolling Stone on Thursday). After canceling the event, the small Luck team decided to get creative, reviving the festival as a livestream that felt more impactful than any traditional festival would have been.

With Asleep at the Wheel’s Ray Benson hosting from Austin’s Arlyn Studios, artists broadcast live performances from around the world. Tami Nelson belted a fiery set from a record store in New Zealand. Paul Simon, Edie Brickell, and their daughter Lulu sang the Everly Brothers with their Hawaii neighbor Woody Harrelson. Lucinda Williams performed a sparse, electrifying set from her home. Margo Price and husband Jeremy Ivey tried out some gorgeous new songs at their home piano, with a baby monitor close by.

The highlight of the evening was Willie and his sons, Lukas and Micah. Sitting in the Texas living room where they grew up playing music together, they launched into Willie’s main set — including “Whiskey River” and “On the Road Again.” Nelson’s voice was strong, and he looked thrilled to be at work again. “Stay safe and stay sober,” Willie told his viewers before cracking up. — Patrick Doyle

Third Man Records
Jack White’s Nashville-based record label is planning daily livestreams from Third Man’s intimate Blue Room venue. Atmospheric pedal-steel wizard Luke Schneider kicked off the series on Thursday with a dazzling set that proved that online concerts can be an immersive experience. Put on headphones and be transported by the accompanying light show.
— Joseph Hudak

On the cusp of releasing her excellent new album, Saint Cloud, Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield livestreamed a performance from her home in Kansas City, Kansas, on Thursday night. Joined by her partner, musician Kevin Morby, the duo covered Silver Jews’ “Random Rules” and Everclear’s “Santa Monica.” Crutchfield tore through her new slow-burner “The Eye,” smiling and strumming her acoustic guitar. “Shit is so scary, but I’m hoping that in our collective respite we can take good care, be creative, love each other, read some books, be productive, stay connected, and know that eventually we’ll all emerge having done what we could as a species to fight a shared obstacle,” she said. Amen to that. — A.M.

Brad Paisley 
Brad Paisley is one of country music’s most-connected dudes (on Saturday, he’ll assemble Marty Stuart and Vince Gill for a livestreamed Grand Ole Opry set), and for his first at-home gig, he brought out the big guns. Carrie Underwood, Tim McGraw, and Chris Young all FaceTimed to duet. McGraw and Paisley’s cover of George Strait’s “The Fireman” alone was worth the tune-in, but it was the camaraderie between Paisley and his virtual guests, and his camera-operator wife, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, that made the loose show such a lighthearted salve.
— J.H.

“While we’re all in self imposed quarantine and I’m grounded from playing shows I am going to get creative and make up random sets and shows live from my house,” Diplo wrote on Instagram as he introduced his first virtual DJ set. Broadcast across Instagram Live, Twitch, and YouTube simultaneously, the performances feature Diplo behind his mixing board in a room decked out with giant plants, records, weird props, candles, strobe lights, and a TV bearing his name. Rhye joined him for the first “corona sabbath,” and on another he debuted some new Major Lazer material. Most of the sets are refreshingly typical Diplo: an intoxicating mix of Caribbean sounds with big-room EDM and trap. On Thursday night, he invited David Kong of the Community Biotechnology Institute to discuss social distancing before the set began. Not only are his sets a comforting late-night soundtrack — they’re also a perfect excuse to get moving and maybe Zoom in some friends while you’re home protecting yourself and others. And if you’re watching the feed, you may just see Idris Elba or Cat Power tuned in and commenting, too. — Brittany Spanos

Ben Gibbard
Ben Gibbard has been livesteaming performances from his home studio on a daily basis since Tuesday, offering up Postal Service favorites (“The District Sleeps Alone Tonight”), Death Cab for Cutie standbys (“A Lack of Color’), and unexpected covers, like “Ceremony” by New Order and Radiohead’s “Fake Plastic Trees,” which he introduced as a song by “Thomas Aquinas Yorke.” In the coming weeks, fans should expect the set lists to get even more loose, with Gibbard hinting at special guests to come. Each night, Gibbard is directing donations to a different Seattle-based charity. As the Death Cab frontman sang on Tuesday night, “I’m not coming out until this is all over.” — Jonathan Bernstein

Rufus Wainwright
Rufus Wainwright can make any stage his own, from a glamorous pop spectacle to an intimate solo-acoustic evening. Lately he’s been taking that last part even further, sitting at the piano in his robe each morning for wise, witty stuck-at-home performances of favorites like 2001’s “Grey Gardens” and 2003’s “Vibrate” on Instagram TV. (“My phone’s on vibrate for you/Electroclash is karaoke, too,” he sings on the latter. Turns out so is Instagram.) Wainwright has a great new pop album, Unfollow the Rules, coming out this year, but it’s nice to remember that he doesn’t need glitzy production values to put on a show to remember.
— Simon Vozick-Levinson

Chris Martin and John Legend
“Hi, my name is Chris,” Chris Martin said as he settled into his home studio this past Monday for a suitably cozy livestream that he called Together, at Home. “I’m here at your service for the next 20-something minutes.” He made good on his promise, playing songs on guitar and piano, and responding to fan comments. He even took some requests, including Coldplay’s breakthrough hit, “Yellow,” and treated viewers to a cover of David Bowie’s “Life on Mars.” In the spirit of the Ice Bucket Challenge, Martin tagged John Legend on his post, and Legend responded the very next day. “As promised, I am pants-less; I have a robe on, and no pants,” Legend joked with fans before his own poignant, off-the-cuff set. He covered Stevie Wonder, and Simon and Garfunkel, joked with his wife, Chrissy Teigen — who sat on the piano wearing a towel and drinking a glass of wine — and announced new music on the way. Expect more intimate, unscripted glimpses into our favorite artists lives in the days to come. — H.S.

Low Cut Connie
Preaching an irresistible message of unity from a safe distance, Low Cut Connie showman Adam Weiner pulled off the most impressive magic track of quarantined concerts yet: making an honest-to-goodness connection with the fans watching on their laptops and phones. It was a sweaty and rapturous display, with Weiner and guitarist Will Donnelly using every inch of Weiner’s South Philly living room. Weiner did yoga poses on his piano bench, shook his ass, and, by the hourlong show’s end was wearing nothing but his black skivvies and a robe. “Is this too much for a pandemic?” he asked. Hell, no. — J.H.

Robert’s Western World
The seminal Nashville honky-tonk may be closed to the public, but its stage remains open to the pickers and singers who play there regularly for tips. Joshua Hedley, Sara Gayle Meech, Rachel Hester, and the Royal Hounds are a few of the Broadway musicians who’ve been proceeding with business as usual — just without a live audience. Their classic country tunes, from Haggard and Jones covers to the occasional original, go great with a cold PBR, making it the next best thing to sidling up to Robert’s bar. — J.H.

Miley Cyrus’ Bright Minded
Rather than go the DIY concert route, Miley Cyrus has decided to step into the void left by various talk shows that have been forced to either go off the air or come up with clever ways of continuing remotely. Earlier this week, she launched Bright Minded, a daily talk show that airs Monday through Friday at 11:30 a.m. PT/2:30 p.m. ET on IGTV (episodes are later posted on YouTube as well). The vibe is fittingly laid-back, with a focus on well-being, mental health, and, as the pop star put it, trying to “stay lit in dark times.” So far Bright Minded  has featured an array of guests including Demi Lovato, Rita Ora, Amy Schumer, designer Jeremy Scott, and the cast of Love Is Blind, while Cyrus has also offered home workout tips and used the show to raise money for a variety of charities, like food banks and housing organizations. — Jonathan Blistein

Ariana Grande
Ariana Grande has been one of the most reliable voices of wisdom and reason throughout the coronavirus pandemic so far, especially when it comes to making sure everyone practices proper social distancing (“like your hip hop yoga class can fucking wait i promise” — truer words have never been spoken). And while Grande has yet to announce a full livestreamed concert or anything along those lines, on Thursday she did offer up a short clip of her singing a tender a cappella rendition of “I Believe in You and Me.” Though, alas, it wasn’t much, one can certainly hope there’s more like it on the way. — J. Blistein

Juanes and Alejandro Sanz
Juanes and Alejandro Sanz, two titans of Spanish-language pop, took turns trading hits during a cheerfully ramshackle performance they streamed on YouTube Live on Sunday. The two stars and six backing musicians squeezed into the corner of a living room, taking time to banter and joke between songs. Juanes’ “La Camisa Negra” was loose and walloping, making room for a virtuosic piano solo that gradually grew in volume. Sanz followed with “Corazón Partío,” paring down the lushly orchestrated recording and transforming it into something raspy and urgent. The performance has been viewed nearly 2 million times. — Elias Leight