Eugene Cho

greatest rock, pop, and roll?

It’s been an intense week so let’s lighten things up with a question in hopes that many people contribute.  The question is simple:  

Who’s the greatest band/musical artist of all time?

I grew up as a huge Elvis Presley fan and he’s still up there for me.  But, the more and more I listen to U2, I wonder if we’re possibly listening to the ‘Greatest Band of All Time.’  Clearly, it’s not the most creative answer since there are zillions of fans but  they are good in so many ways:  talent, charisma, content, convictions, performance and something we don’t appreciate enough:  longevity.  To be able to do it year in and year out over a course of decades is very rare.  

Update: Here are my Top 7. Clearly, I’m a little biased…

  • U2 [longevity and my gen]
  • Beatles [I get it. They’re good]
  • Elvis Presley [The King and the moves]
  • Rolling Stones [600 million albums sold]
  • Bob Marley [If I had to buy one CD…]
  • Bob Dylan [One of a kind]
  • Ray Charles [the movie sold me]
  • Michael Jackson [best entertainer]

Now, I have to admit that I have yet to go to a live U2 show.  It’s on my list to do before I die.  So that leads to the next question:

What’s the best live concert you’ve been to?

My answer:  Chicago.  Very memorable since that was my first concert in middle school when Peter Cetera was still fronting the band.  But I have to be honest, that’s the only big show I’ve been to. 

Anyway, here’s a recent outdoor live performance of U2 doing their song called “Magnificent.”  Listen and read the lyrics: What great ambassadors… 


I was born
I was born to be with you
In this space and time
After that and ever after I haven’t had a clue
Only to break rhyme
This foolishness can leave a heart black and blue

Only love, only love can leave such a mark
But only love, only love can heal such a scar

I was born
I was born to sing for you
I didn’t have a choice but to lift you up
And sing whatever song you wanted me to
I give you back my voice
From the womb my first cry, it was a joyful noise…

Only love, only love can leave such a mark
But only love, only love can heal such a scar

Justified till we die, you and I will magnify
The Magnificent

Only love, only love can leave such a mark
But only love, only love unites our hearts

Justified till we die, you and I will magnify
The Magnificent

And some U2 sense of humor from a recent David Letterman show. Wait for the ‘Sting’ comment…

Filed under: entertainment, ,

61 Responses

  1. neu says:

    I’m terribly biased. Fela Kuti is the greatest artist of all time. And if you got introduced to him due to a song by Common, or the recent movie “The Visitor”, no, you are not a true fan.

  2. John Choi says:

    hands down best live show: nofx

  3. DanW says:

    You need to clarify your terms. I’m assuming you mean “pop band” and “pop artist.” Otherwise, not one of today’s groups would make the top of the list, and we’d be talking about the Chicago Symphony, the L.A. Philharmonic, Franz Liszt, Maurice Andre, Yo-Yo Ma, and all the “real” musicians out there. As far as “pop” goes, I’d go with Alison Krauss and Union Station.

  4. George Song says:

    Quest Worship team circa 2001

  5. I saw U2 at the Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles on November 18, 1987 during the Joshua Tree Tour. It was by far the best concert experience ever.

    I saw them again the following year when they did 2 songs for an Amnesty International event in the same place.

    I hope to see them again during this tour. The new album is great.

  6. Geoff says:

    I love U2. Have all the albums, saw the show, all that. They’re my favourite band. But I can’t honestly say that they are the best band of all time. I don’t think you can go past the Beatles for that.

  7. john C-W says:

    my band of course
    SORRY for the shameless plug

    seriously though, My favorite live show: Tool.

    it was visually stunning and musically complex….I don’t even own any of their albums, but the show blew me away.

  8. m@ says:

    Sting comment — BRILLIANT.

  9. Al Han says:

    I can’t believe no one mentioned Radiohead! Musically, they have pushed the boundaries more than any other band. Their lyrics might not be as poetic as Beatles’, but they’re paving the way for rock music of the future. I’m not overstating when I say EVERY CONTEMPORARY ROCK BAND IS INFLUENCED BY RADIOHEAD (unfortunately, not the same can be said about U2).

  10. DK says:

    YES, U2 is the greatest band of all time! So funny… did you see my latest post with the “interview” with Bono? Impeccable timing!

  11. Erik H says:

    I don’t think I can choose one best concert I’ve ever been to. I’m going to cheat and give several.

    Eagles – New Years Eve Y2K in Los Angeles
    Rage Against the Machine – 1997 in Chicago
    U2 – Denver 2005
    Rollingstones – Seattle w/ Dave Matthews Band opening
    Pearl Jam – Seattle 2003
    Eric Clapton – Chicago 99
    Buddy Guy – New Orleans 2004
    Dave Matthews Band – any Gorge show
    Derek Trucks – Seattle 2008

    Ok, sorry, but it’s impossible for me to choose just 1

  12. eugenecho says:

    @m: i’m still laughing about the sting comment. absolutely brilliant.

    @erik h: dude, you’ve been to alot of shows. i feel so uncultured.

  13. i appreciate U2 for their intent and influence more than I enjoy them these days. I feel like their recent albums have been too splashy/commercial and pretty mediocre (nothing wrong with splashy when it’s done right). I know, some will want to behead me for saying that, but I prefer war and unforgettable fire.

    greatest band of all time- I can only speak personally because I have no idea how to weigh the greats, so for me it’s (The) Catherine Wheel. Introduced me to shoegaze/alternative music/saved me from En Vogue and Right Said Fred in the early 90s, started me down the road to what I listen to now. Also the best live act I’ve ever seen. Constant shivers during that show.

  14. Randall says:

    Best band ever? My vote goes to The Police.

    Best concert ever? 1998ish Sheryl Crow at Andrew’s Amphitheater on the University of Hawaii campus. An amazing show and just at the end when she was singing “The Difficult Kind,” a light misty rain started to fall.

    Just a beautiful, beautiful show.

  15. eugenecho says:

    @danW: got it. changed the title to ‘greatest rock, pop, and roll’

    i also put in my Top 7 which includes bob marley & michael jackson. go ahead and shoot me but they’re up there.

  16. mike says:


    I heard they suck live…

  17. Tyler M says:

    Wait, where is the Bob Dylan?

  18. eugenecho says:

    Oh snap. I forgot Bob. Sorry MJ.

  19. Kevin says:

    U2 is definitely the best band ever. The Beatles are overrated, legendary, but so what. So is U2. They just aren’t dead yet. And to the above poster, Radiohead was influenced by U2 – just ask Radiohead. U2 has influenced TONS of bands.

    I’ve seen U2 three times and Mute Math probably six times. Those have been the best shows I’ve seen. Bob Dylan and R.E.M. were pretty good, too.

  20. Kevin says:

    I should add that U2 is the reason I became a committed Christian, too. So yeah, I’m biased, but I can still put up a strong argument that they’re the best ever. : )

  21. Best band in history for me is the Beatles. Just too prolific and influential to deny.

    Best live show I’ve been two is a tie between Broken Social Scene and Wilco.

  22. Ahh I couldn’t just let that go… I would include Bon Iver and M83 as well.

  23. Dave says:

    I DVRd Letterman last week to watch all 5 nights – way fun! It was interesting to compare stage presence and charisma apples-to-apples with so many other bands that have had talk show gigs.

    I’ve seen only a handful of concerts – Michael Jackson (at 14), Josh Groban, DC Talk, Michael W. Smith, Newsboys. I’d say Josh Groban was my favorite of those – that boy can sing and entertain. Looking forward to catching U2 when they come through again.

    Other solid bands/performers – Steve Taylor (great Christian alternative band from the late 80s with the best lyrics of all time), Beach Boys, James Taylor, Queen, the Doors, & Earth Wind and Fire (all for different random and personal reasons).

  24. gaius says:

    best concert: u2 (especially in cities like NYC, Philly)

    best bands:
    led zeppelin
    pearl jam

  25. Dan Hauge says:

    Hi Eugene,

    I’m afraid I must strenuously object to placing U2 over the Beatles. The Beatles gave us more variety and sheer creativity, practically reinventing themselves and re-influencing the whole rock landscape at least once a year. And I’d argue that their briefer lifespan actually helps in earning them the top spot. Even though it wasn’t their intention, I think there’s a lot to be said for bowing out at the top of your game. Otherwise you just end up repeating yourselves and getting mediocre over the next decades (see Rolling Stones, R.E.M., and, yes, U2)

    Now, after slamming them, I’m going to do a 180 and say that the best show I’ve ever been to was the Elevation (heart) U2 tour in Vancouver back in 2001. It was on a Good Friday, and the ‘Streets Have no Name’ centerpiece was nothing short of a stadium-sized worship song (complete with reading a psalm out of the message :).

  26. abramjanson says:

    rage against the machine.
    pearl jam.

  27. ronpai says:

    I spent most of my money on concerts from ages 14-23.

    Best Shows:
    *Rage Against the Machine/The Roots ’97 Vancouver, BC
    *Lollapalooza ’93 (Primus, Alice in Chains, Arrested Development) – Vancouver BC
    *The End Fest ’90 (Beastie Boys, Sarah McLaughlin, Toad the Wet Sprocket, L7) – Kitsap County Fair, WA
    *Pearl Jam – ’07 The Gorge, WA
    *White Zombie/Pantera ’95 – Vancouver BC
    *Pink Floyd ’93 – Vancouver BC
    *Metallica ’92 and ’97 – Vancouver BC x2 and Seattle, WA

    Can you tell I grew up on the canadian/US border?

    Best Bands in no particular order(Most Influential):
    Led Zeppelin
    Michael Jackson
    The Beatles
    Jimi Hendrix
    The Rolling Stones

    I based these mostly on people who inspired people to be performers/musicians of some kind.

  28. jadanzzy says:

    It’s funny how much Christians think U2 is the greatest thing in the world. They’re wonderful, but a bit overrated.

    Sonically, The Beatles beat out U2 in terms of sheer influence. U2 influenced worship bands. Beatles influenced countless rock bands.

    Beatles over U2 is a given. It shouldn’t even be argued.

    But another band that has a ton of influence in indie rock is My Bloody Valentine. MBV’s influence is espionage.

  29. Three Doors Down, Matchbox 20 and EverClear! All day, every day.

  30. Barb says:

    Beatles–San Francisco, Cow Palace, 1965. Nothing more to say.

  31. Tyler says:

    best band: beatles, it aint even close.

    best concert: john mayer trio with ray lamontagne opening.

  32. Pat Stark says:

    I’m sad for you that you haven’t seen U2 live yet. I promise that after I donate lots of cash to your NGO, I’ll save a little and take you the next time. I was fortunate to be given tickets by a generous friend from church for both the Elevation Tour and How to Dismantle and Atomic Bomb. Easily the best shows I’ve ever seen. When I was in high school I snuck up to the Seattle Center Coliseum (Key Arena?) and say Styx in 1981. 3 and a half hours of pure 80’s indulgence. That would be my second place vote for best concerts. No one can hold a candle to U2 voracious social conscience, musical creativity, and committment to their fans.

  33. Matt K says:

    Saw U2 live at Key Arena in 2003: front row, center. There is an epic tale that accompanies getting the tickets, but I won’t bore everybody with it. A pretty amazing show. I can say pretty confidently that it was the best concert I’ve been to. They’re a really good band, but the new album is not among their best. Beatles and Rolling Stones belong in the top echelon, Led Zeppelin too. Credence Clearwater Revival might be the most underrated of all time.

    My favorite genre is alt-country (Steve Earle, Ryan Adams, Lucinda Williams, et al.) So I imagine most folks here don’t give a rip about this kind of music, but the second greatest concert I ever saw was “Old Crow Medicine Show”. The most energy and impressive musicianship I’ve seen from most bands– and it doesn’t hurt that they’ve got an amazing catalog of songs in their relatively short career.

  34. chad m says:

    can i admit the greatest concert i’ve ever been to was Kenny Chesney/Tim McGraw? honestly, i don’t get out much. i don’t actually like concerts all that much.

    i have to say greatest band of all time need to include:
    Pearl Jam
    Rolling Stones

  35. eugenecho says:

    i’m surprised there isn’t a little more love for U2.

    having said that, i’m also surprised since most of you weren’t even alive during the heydays of the beatles.

    @barb: except you. i take your word

    @pat stark: how do you always get the freebies: colorado? penthouse? and now u2 tix?

    @chad m: it’s alright bro. it’s alright.

    on 2nd thought: i think watching nickelcreek at QCafe has also got to be up there for me.

  36. jHong says:

    i’m ashamed of all of you. i know this was a pop/rock/blahblahblah list but where’s the hip-hop/r&b representation? here’s my list of essentials that somehow no one has mentioned thus far:

    STEVIE WONDER [caps were SO necessary]
    beastie boys
    MARIAH CAREY [for serious, if anyone tries to hate on mimi, or at least mimi pre-1997, i may have to start a slap fight]
    whitney houston

    and @Ian? saved FROM en vogue?! shoot… ‘free your mind’?! are you kidding me?! and when dawn hits that “wo-woo-woo-wooooohhh” during the bridge of ‘never gonna get it’ you can not TELL me you didn’t jump up and testify just a lil bit!

    y’all are messing with my christianity right now for REALZ. don’t make me rap battle you all. i’m still praying for PE’s recovery from the last one.

  37. eugenecho says:

    @jHong: next week, i’ve got a post already ready for “Top 5 Emcees.”

    And you didn’t make it.

  38. Pooba~ says:

    Are most of you people doing DRUGS????? He asked for: GREATEST BAND of ALL TIME…

    …and you picked someone who is enjoying their 15 minutes of fame!

    THINK… people! ! !

  39. Jonathan says:

    That YouTube clip of Top 10 is hilarious.

  40. Dadofiandi says:

    The Clash
    The Stones
    The Who
    The Beatles
    Bruce Springsteen
    David Bowie

    Best concerts, The Replacements, The Smiths, Violent Femmes, and David Crowder.

  41. jHong says:

    oh yeah? i just made a list of top-5 people in the quest office who front like they can breakdance but can’t. turns out i didn’t need the other 4 spots.

    [please don’t fire me]

  42. Of course U2 is the best band ever. And seeing them live is so on my to do list.

    As for concerts –

    the most intense – Rolling Stones – London 1990
    the most fun – DC Talk/ Audio A – San Antonio 1993

    but really these days I much prefer going to a low key David Wilcox concert. He is pretty much the only person I will pay to see every time he is in town.

  43. Two best concerts I’ve ever been to:
    * Supertones @ Knott’s Berry Farm on New Year’s Eve ’96
    * Five Iron Frenzy “Winners Never Quit” Tour @ SPU ’03

    Gotta say though, my runner-up is Brooks & Dunn with Kenny Chesney at Qwest Field in ’06.

  44. Pat Stark says:

    Pastor Eugene,
    I’m pretty sure I’m always getting hooked up with freebies because of all the oppression I receive from the cowboy-haters of the north.

  45. Kay says:

    Given that “best” is completely subjective, I still can’t resist to put in my two cents:

    As a nod to Dan W, I’ll include a couple of classical greats, too:

    1) Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Valery Gergiev playing at the Musikvarein, Debussy…. *amazing*… almost passed out from the beauty of it; Vienna, 2008

    2) Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Project, Seattle, 2004

    3) Arcade Fire, Sasquatch Festival 2007

    4) Ben Harper, Sasquatch Festival 2005

    5) The Notwist, Neumo’s Seattle 2008… turned out so much cooler than expected. The definitive small-venue, captive audience, completely over the top live performance that showcased their ability to start with what they recorded and just completley blow the roof off…

    I’m not too impressed with bands who perform a live show that sounds exactly like their CD… Hence, disappointed by R.E.M, Death Cab, and a few others. Heck, even Justin Timberlake does more than that….

    And John Choi… I’m jealous…. NOFX…. that’s R-A-D, RAD.

  46. joel says:

    (more recently) pinback & modest mouse

    and eugene, your list, eh? a little on the top 40 side. trying not to offend anyone?

  47. eugenecho says:

    @joel: no offense taken.

    greatest list. not favorite list. if it was the latter, i’d only have elvis and marley in my top 10.

  48. Barb says:

    thanks for the vote of confidence–I was at the Beatles concert before you were born. I have the ticket stub in my old diary 🙂 P.S. the ticket cost $7.00 and we thought that was huge.

  49. Hmmm… I love these music lists. I gotta say Joni Mitchell is one of the greatest artists of all time. Her guitar playing, singing and writing are just about flawless, and her work has stood the test of time. Her catalogue is staggering… I mean, even if just three of her albums existed – Court and Spark, Blue and For the Roses – she would be a legend. But she has been writing, singing and recording from the late 60s until now. She is a genius.

    Yes, I love U2. Saw them (for free!) in San Jose, CA, on the Elevation tour. When Bono came out, I’m a little ashamed to say, but it was like a religious experience. That curtain of lights! City of Blinding Lights! It was a powerful moment.

    Other favorite concerts: lots of CCM back in the 80s (2nd Chapter of Acts, Farrell & Farrell, Petra, Amy Grant, Geoff Moore, dc Talk, etc.) My pre-teen sons and I really enjoyed a toby Mac concert a few years back… Diverse City Tour.

    Oh man… Bash-N-the-Code when they were called Found Free. I fell in love with Rebecca Sparks when she sang “Diamond.”

    Indigo Girls acoustic… just Amy & Emily, Buddy & Julie Miller, Lucinda Williams, Victoria Williams & Mark Olson, Jonatha Brooke. Sorry I can’t narrow it down.

  50. dan says:

    Tough call on ‘best’ vs ‘most influential’. I actually wrote a couple of years ago about how I didn’t get the whole U2 thing and people threatened physical harm against me – so I won’t be doing that here.t

    Have to agree with Jess on Stevie Wonder – he has been doing his thing for over 50 years!

    And, I am not sure if this will cause more threats but how about Prince making it somewhere on the list?

  51. Best Bands/Musical Artists:

    The Beatles
    The Who
    Stevie Wonder
    The Police
    Dire Straits

    Best Live Shows:

    U2 (Joshua Tree Tour – 1987)
    Genesis (Phil Collins is a great live performer)
    Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova (“The Swell Season”)

  52. beattieblog says:

    Ok Eugene, you wondered where the love was:

    Come on people. Musical taste is pretty subjective, I realize. But U2 is the greatest of all time. They’re the Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky of their genre. I used to put the Beatles up there because they were the first mega band and influenced so many, but U2’s longevity and, in particular, Bono’s work as a history changer put ’em over the top. I think one reason, Eugene, you’re not hearing more love for U2 is that it’s become so cliched to love Bono and U2, particularly among Christians between the ages of 40 and 25. But there’s a reason for that. What other rock band can sing about love, heroine, America, atonement, war and salvation all in 2 hours?

    Eugene, you gotta watch:
    The half-time show at the Superbowl after 9/11:

    Live Sunday Bloody Sunday performance from “Rattle and Hum” –

    Then go buy the Live From Boston DVD. Then watch Bono’s speech at TED from 2005:

    Was a Beatle ever nominated for the Nobel prize? Bono has been nominated for an Oscar, an Emmy, a Grammy, and a Nobel – and he was Knighted and named TIME’s man of the year. Come on!

  53. Katie says:

    you can’t bring up greatest bands and expect me to stay away, even days after the post.

    the earth will go up in flames and christ will come back and the beatles will still be the greatest band ever to grace this earth. sorry friends, that’s just the facts 🙂

    despite my huge distaste for u2 on almost every level, i’ll refrain from saying anything more about them other than, if they’re on the list radiohead cannot be excluded.

    because i haven’t seen broken social scene, arcade fire, or radiohead live yet, i’d have to go with m.i.a. she is sick live.

  54. Katie says:

    you can’t bring up greatest bands and expect me to stay away, even days after the post.

    the earth will go up in flames and christ will come back and the beatles will still be the greatest band ever to grace this earth. sorry friends, that’s just the facts 🙂

    despite my huge distaste for u2 on almost every level, i’ll refrain from saying anything more about them other than, if they’re on the list radiohead cannot be excluded.

    because i haven’t seen broken social scene, arcade fire, or radiohead live yet, i’d have to go with m.i.a. she is sick live.

  55. […] favorite music – right now In response to last week’s post about the Greatest Rock/Pop Band of all time and the numerous contributions and push back regarding my suggestion that U2 be considered as the […]

  56. adam says:


    I have to put Journey back on the best band list right now with Arnel Pineda as the lead (No disrespect to the Steve Perry fans)

    Arnel Pineda, is one of the best vocalist I have EVER heard! Check out this cover of Survivor before Pineda became the new lead singer of Journey.

  57. Bam says:

    U2 is really good. But they dont compare to the beatles. They were revolutionaries of music. They inspired everyone that came after them. The fact that the newer generations discover them and adore them shows that they stood the test of time and will continue to.
    U2 isn’t out there like that. Not yet at least.
    Radiohead= amazing.

  58. Brett says:

    Basically, the debate comes down to either U2 or The Beatles. Both bands attracted a massive, world-wide audience. Both bands have/had extremely charismatic front-men. Both bands pushed the boundaries of pop/rock music while also remaining relevant. Both bands reinvented themselves. Both bands incluenced other bands/artists that followed them (@AL HAN I love Radiohead too, but they were actually VERY heavily influenced by U2). The main difference that I can see between the two bands is that U2 has managed to stay together for over 20 years without resorting to self-parody a la The Rolling Stones (relax Stones fans, I like them too, but you know what I mean). Not only that, but where The Beatles sang about good concepts (world peace, etc.), U2 has actually been able to mobilize their listeners to action.

    Eugene, you need to go see the boys live. They are going to be in Vancouver BC at the end of October, I think.

    BTW, the new album is their best since Achtung Baby.

  59. […] reminded me again of the great, intense, contentious, and rabid debate we had on this blog about “Who is the greatest band/musical artist of all time?” That debate can rage on but how about this simple […]

  60. […] really enjoy u2’s music and have even hosted a debate on this blog if they are the greatest band ever. I’m also a huge fan of BONO for the way he leverages his fame to be a voice for the […]

  61. Kyle Reed says:

    This is a no brainer for me: U2 Best Band of All Time.
    If you look at music today you will see that U2 has influenced a ton of it. The same can be said about the Beatles as well, but for me (I am 23) U2 is my Beatles and they influence the music that I listen to today.

    TOP 5 BANDS:
    1) U2
    2) Radiohead
    3) David Crowder Band
    4) Derek Webb
    5) Death Cab for Cutie

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