Thursday, January 3, 2013

Top 15 Concerts of 2012

These were the top 15 concerts I attended in 2012.  Feel free to make your own list in the comments.

15. Diamond Rugs - 06.24, Rumsey Playfield, New York, NY
"Totally Lonely" was exponentially better live than recorded, with all the members joining producer Justin Collins on the final refrain. For the set-closing "Christmas in a Chinese Restaurant," the group thinned its ranks to a duo of McCauley and Los Lobos' Steve Berlin. The fact that it was merely days after the summer solstice only amplified the beautiful sadness of the song." (Read full review)

14. Deer Tick - 12.19, Brooklyn Bowl, Brooklyn, NY
"With a loud "Kick it!" they crunched into "Fight for Your Right." Matt Vasquez of Delta Spirit now had the oft-traded Mustang, but his most memorable contribution to the song was throwing pitcher after pitcher of beer onto the crowd. This insane final display was the ultimate example of why we go to Deer Tick shows: Because anything can happen because it's a goddam party." (Read full review)

13. Alabama Shakes - 10.06, Merriweather Post Pavilion (Virgin Mobile Freefest), Columbia, MD
"While bassist Zac Cockrell still only moved slightly more than a well-timed bobblehead, Brittany Howard was absolutely magnetic.  She was wearing a blue dress with red dots and sporting a straightened hairdo, but you couldn't take your eyes off her face.  If you were a deaf person, you could've learned all the vowel sounds just by the way her mouth moved, soulful howls bursting out of the gaping hole." (Read full review)

12. Mayer Hawthorne - 04.16, Webster Hall, New York, NY
"This isn't a concert; it's a show," Hawthorne announced at the onset.  Backed by his band, the County, MH dazzled fans with a set of soulful originals from both of his albums, and even a few Hall & Oates covers.  For final song "Henny & Gingerale," Hawthorne played bartender and made drinks for those in the front row as he sang.

11. Matt Embree - 09.11, The Acheron, Brooklyn, NY
"The banter became downright ridiculous, Embree claiming he knew half the people in the room, even their "drunken-ass aliases, like when you get so drunk you're another person." While he may have seemed like another person between songs, his drunkenness had no effect on his musicianship. His guitar solo in "Taking Chase as the Serpent Slithers" was absolutely ferocious, and he proved his vocal prowess on a soulful cover of Hendrix's "Castles Made of Sand." (Read full review)

10. 10 Ft. Ganja Plant - 04.20, The Middle East, Cambridge, MA
This was the third ever live performance for the secretive reggae band.  The sweaty night of dub in the basement of the club was a night to remember... though due to obvious reasons, somewhat forgotten. 

9. Phish - 12.30, Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
"Disarmed by the first set, we were all ready for Phish to drop the real jams on us.  Kicking things off with "Down with Disease," the boys made it through the main part, and then unearthed a subterranean monster toward its end.  Knowing glances around the room as we lapped up the amazingly funked-out puzzle where all the pieces fit properly." (Read full review)

8. Ben Harper - 10.10, Carnegie Hall, New York, NY
"That was only the start of what would be the 54-minute encore, where Harper reached back into his catalog to revive old favorites like "Not Fire Not Ice," "Power of the Gospel," and "Welcome to the Cruel World."  The show could have bookended with the instrumental "Exhale," but surprisingly, Ben brought his chair downstage, even in front of the suspended stage mic, to play "Suzie Blue" on ukulele." (Read full review)

7. Kishi Bashi - 05.16, Le Poisson Rouge, New York, NY
It's hard to upstage the Barr Brothers, but with a violin, a microphone, and some looping pedals, he did it.  Everyone stared silently in awe as he magically constructed his songs piece by piece.  Best of the three times I saw him.

6. The Heavy - 08.30, Irving Plaza, New York, NY
A live staple for years, "The Big Bad Wolf" followed it like Little Red Riding Hood, but this wasn't the sneaky trickster from the children's tale.  This was a fucking monster.  With the crowd howling and screaming, "What you say!" it was incredible to realize that I was in a room full of adults singing along, "I'm gonna huff and puff, and blow your house down!" (Read full review)

5. Ben Taylor - 05.17, City Winery, New York, NYBen and band unveiled several new songs from his upcoming album Listening in the sonically sweet space.  Audience member John Forté sat in for a few tunes, including the fan-suggested encore "Digest."

4. Animal Liberation Orchestra - 07.23, Rocks Off Boat Cruise, New York, NY

"You guys are yelling out some really old ones," noted Dan.  "Should we do 'Sexo y Drogas?'"  And they did.  For the first time in over a year.  It was like watching 2004-era ALO all over again.  Before launching into the singalong "Walls of Jericho," I heard Lebo tuning a little ghost of "They Love Each Other."  My ears didn't deceive me, the Garcia ditty exhuming itself from the remains of "Walls." (Read full review)

3. Grace Potter & the Nocturnals - 06.14, Irving Plaza, New York, NY
"At 9:37, the band took the stage to the tribal drums of the title track off their newest  album, The Lion the Beast the Beat. Having released the LP on Tuesday, the set was heaped with fresh tunes, and Grace wasn't ashamed of it. "If you don't know it, just fucking pretend you do." (Read full review)
2. Band of Horses - 09.18, House of Vans, Brooklyn, NY
"What was evident was that these boys love playing music. Ben sang with such gusto, you could witness the veins bulging in his tattooed neck. Every member had a wide grin for the show's duration; even the typically stoic Ramsey sneaking out a smirk from somewhere in the center of his beard." (Read full review)
1. Neil Young & Crazy Horse - 09.29, Central Park Great Lawn (Global Festival), New York, NY
"Neil Young and Crazy Horse played a blistering mix of new songs from the upcoming Psychedelic Pill, and classics like the 15-minute opener "Love & Only Love." Young, Poncho, and Billy Talbot huddled together in the center of the stage, churning out waves of distortion into the crisp night air." (Read full review)

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