Doing it well? That's an entirely different story.
The crux of this statement can be explained simply by the words "Ableton" and "Live." Almost all of the acts you saw this year were probably utilizing the program in one way or another, but "how" and "for what" depends entirely on the artist in question. If you're feeling lazy, Live can be a little like playing a video game, except instead of Mario, you get to control your latest album. At its most dynamic, however, Live can act as a central hub for an entire band, while having enough functions to keep an octopus with a penchant for improvised techno happy. As we said, it all comes down to the user.
Unsurprisingly, the acts that fared best in our poll were those opening themselves up to the elements by taking risks and not relying too heavily on the computer—if at all. Laurent Garnier moved back into the live arena this year with the help of a six-piece band, while acts like Moderat and Fever Ray brought the mainstream success of their respective albums to the world's stages in much the same vein as an indie rock band.
The one thing that did unite all of the acts in the top ten, though, is sweat—physical or metaphorical. Because after all, if the artist you're dancing to is making it look easy, then it probably is.
Looking not unlike Krafwerk, Moderat featured three producers standing upright in front of platforms that held their gear aloft for them to play. A minimum of fuss, a minimum of movement. Modeselektor + Apparat = Moderat. The key was in the visuals, once again provided by frequent collaborators Pfadfinderei, who translated the music of this trio effortlessly into images, both literal and figurative. And, of course, the music, which somehow sounded as if it was built expressly for the live arena, this bassline exposing its true power, that drum pattern revealing itself to be eminently danceable. It was a show in the truest sense of the word, a spectacle that you had to experience firsthand to understand the rave reviews that followed them everywhere. And it's also the reason that you, the RA readers, picked them as the top live act of 2009.