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7 Artists Who Rarely Perform(ed) Live: Steely Dan, The Beatles, Brian Eno and more

by Joey DeGroot   Mar 31, 2014 15:28 PM EDT

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Rock and roll legend Fats Domino dies

When Kate Bush recently announced new concert dates, a certain section of the Internet freaked out. This reaction wasn't simply due to the fact that she's one of the world's most celebrated living musicians, but rather because Kate Bush has somehow managed to not tour since 1979. She's not the only world famous artist who has an unusual relationship with the stage, however...

1.     The Beatles

How could it be possible that the world's most popular band didn't perform many concerts? Well, they did for more than half of their career, but as Beatlemania grew more intense, the boys realized that its audiences were so crazed that they weren't even listening to the music. So, in August 1966, the Beatles did their last tour and retreated into the studio, ringing in what is arguably its artistic peak.

2.     Nick Drake

The notoriously introverted folk singer Nick Drake seemed to have the exact opposite problem that the Beatles had; his albums didn't sell well, and the few times he did perform live, they were awkward, poorly attended affairs. However, Drake proved himself to be the Vincent Van Gogh of folk music; he (allegedly) committed suicide in 1974, but in the last few decades his albums have sold far more than they ever did during his lifetime.  

3.     Harry Nilsson

Harry Nilsson was often thought to be the American equivalent of the Beatles, and he and John Lennon were even friends. Unlike the Beatles, however, Nilsson never performed publicly. Despite this, he still achieved commercial success in the late '60s and early '70s, even winning a Grammy for his version of the song "Everybody's Talkin'" for the soundtrack to Midnight Cowboy.

 4.     Steely Dan

Steely Dan isn't so much a band as it is a project of songwriting duo Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, with a huge number of studio musicians backing them up. They toured briefly in the '70s, but much like the Beatles, they chose to focus solely on studio albums until they broke up. In the early '90s, however, the duo reunited and began touring again, most recently in 2013.

5.     Brian Eno

Though Brian Eno toured in the early '70s with glam heroes Roxy Music, he left the group in 1973 due to fatigue from touring, which would explain why he's never done another tour to support his highly influential solo work. Eno seems content staying behind the scenes, however, producing albums for massive bands such as Talking Heads, U2, and Coldplay.

6.     Jandek

Not only did avant-folk singer Jandek not perform live for most of his 40-year career, he's also only given two interviews and has refused to reveal any details about his own life. Even his real name has never been confirmed (though it's believed to be Sterling Smith). Despite, or perhaps because, of his enigmatic identity, he's become a cult figure in underground music, with fans such as Ben Gibbard and Conor Oberst. Since 2004 however, Jandek has performed occasionally each year.

7.     XTC

New Wave pioneers XTC retired from touring in 1982, but not because they were so overwhelmingly successful like the Beatles, nor so overwhelmingly unsuccessful like Nick Drake. They retired because frontman Andy Partridge was simply unable to perform, suffering a mental breakdown and crippling stage fright at the beginning of their 1982 tour. Despite their withdrawal from the public, XTC continued releasing excellent work, including 1986's Skylarking.

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