I’m fairly certain I wrote this at the end of 2011, but I don’t see how any year could ever top the live performances I saw this year. Though not as plentiful as last year, 2012 was a combination of luck and eagerness on my part and it couldn’t have been better. Good luck 2013. Below are my top concerts of 2012 in no particular order, but Bon Iver was certainly best.
Justice – Tabernacle – 3/22/12 (live review)
I have resisted the urge to join the EDM craze of the past few years, but can appreciate the movement and many of the artists (see Big Gigantic, Pretty Lights, Archnemesis and a few others). While Justice may get lumped into that crowd, they really fall more into the rockstar category. Justice’s underrated latest album Audio.Video.Disco has an underlying rock edge that matches the duo’s bravado and stage presence. From the oversized Marshall speakers and glowing cross to the expanded renditions of hits like “D.A.N.C.E” and “Phantom Part II”, the talented Frenchmen had their way with the Tabernacle crowd.
Hangout Music Festival – Gulf Shores, AL – 5/18/12 (live review)
While Hangout’s lineup at the 3rd annual event didn’t especially wow me, the experience and weather were amazing once again. VIP status to cover the fest for AMG was probably the music-related highlight of my life as I got to relax in an above ground pool, take advantage of free drinks and enjoy a secluded front row viewing area. Jack White was the top headliner of the weekend with a set that utilized two bands to rip thru Blunderbuss, covers and White Stripes classics. My first experience with Gary Clark Jr. proved to be enthralling and recently reunited Dispatch played beach ready hits galore on a beautiful Saturday. The final day closed with more great weather, hilarity from Big Freedia and a better than expected set from band of gypsies, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. Oh and I was able to interview Big Gigantic. Not bad, eh?
Bon Iver – Verizon Amphitheater at Encore Park – 6/8/12 (live review)
Bon Iver’s masterful self-titled 2011 album was an ambitious affair compared to the bare-bones aesthetic of For Emma, Forever Ago. So much that I was curious how Justin Vernon was going to pull off such a grandiose spectacle in a live setting. Enter 8 other musicians, wistful lighting and a variety of instruments and I’d say Vernon accomplished that feat. Colin Stetson wowed with sax solos (“Blood Bank” especially), but Vernon’s ability to bounce from guitar to electric organ, unique vocal ability and Midwestern charm was enthralling. “Wash” and “Beth/Rest” were just a few moments from a perfect performance. One of the best live performances I’ve seen in my life.
Gary Clark Jr. – Variety Playhouse – 6/12/12 (live review)
Witnessing guitar virtuoso Gary Clark Jr. twice in a month might seem like overkill, but it was well worth it. Clearly feeding off the energy of a buzzworthy Bonnaroo performance, Clark Jr. wielded his axe with confidence as he tore through blues covers and his recent Bright Lights EP. From the growl of “When My Train Pulls In” to the funk of Curtis Mayfield’s “Movin’ On Up”, the fans at Variety Playhouse knew they were seeing something special.
Music Midtown – Piedmont Park – 9/21/12
Being able to cover the Music Midtown line-up announcement for AMG was a fun experience, especially when it was announced that the fest would be a 2-day experience. With a friend’s bday celebration, warm Fall weather and friends flying in for the weekend, any expectations were high, but easily surpassed. Friday delivered with fantastic evening sets from Avett Brothers and a Foo Fighters marathon I wish was still going. Saturday was even more spectacular with a VIP ticket (thanks Blake!) and my most anticipated act, Florence & The Machine. Florence brought an unexpected comedic element when her set didn’t start quite as planned, but showed grace and tremendous vocal feats to a sold out crowd. Girl Talk got Piedmont Park rowdier than I ever would have imagined and Pearl Jam held up their end of the bargain as legendary closers. Can we expect a 3-day fest in 2013?
Yeasayer – Tabernacle – 11/18/12 (live review)
When seeing a band perform for the third time, you don’t expect to be wowed, but Yeasayer did exactly that. Electronic tinged tracks from Fragrant World (like “The Devil and the Deed” and “Longevity”) had people moving in unison almost as much as old hits from Odd Blood and classic “2080”. Another surprise I wasn’t expecting was seeing ATL’s Janelle Monae nod her head in approval in the middle of the Tabernacle crowd.