You Ain’t No Picasso’s Favorite Concerts of 2012
December 26th, 2012 by Matt
#35: The Head and the Heart @ Forecastle
I’d heard a song or two by Head and the Heart going into their show at Forecastle, but I’ll admit that I was really just seeing them because there wasn’t a lot of competition for their time slot at Forecastle. But just like what happens a handful of times at every festival I go to, I wound up loving their set. They were energetic, charming and sounded fantastic.
#34: Blitzen Trapper @ The Mohawk / SXSW
It’s been a while since I saw Blitzen Trapper! This show took me back to where I was when I first saw Blitzen Trapper: the Mohawk during SXSW. Great band in a great venue.
#33: Nick Diamonds + Idiot Glee
Nick’s record release set in Lexington wasn’t the longest, but he did covers of Harry Nilsson and Jonathan Richman AND brought out an old Unicorns track, so it’s tough not to include this set in the list.
#32: GROUPLOVE @ Bonnaroo
I only knew one GROUPLOVE song and they didn’t play it while I was watching them, but this show won me over in about 2 minutes. These guys bound around on stage, playfully jump into one another and churn out some of the catchiest pop music you’ll hear all year. I get the feeling I’ll be seeing them (and loving them) for years to come.
#31: Sleeper Agent @ Forecastle
I was so incredibly glad this set was fantastic. It was my first time seeing Bowling Green, KY’s Sleeper Agent and I made about half a dozen of my friends at Forecastle meet me at their show. They had a lot more stage presence than I expected of such a young group.
#30: Yelawolf @ Bonnaroo
I don’t know if I enjoyed Yelawolf’s set or the crowd’s response more. The hip hop tent on this day at Bonnaroo was electric and Yelawolf’s show was a rare opportunity to catch a rising artist in the prime of their youth.
#29: Futurebirds @ Forecastle
I saw Futurebirds three times this year. All of them were good, but this was by far the best. The band dressed in costume, but that wasn’t the main appeal– more like a physical manifestation of the effort they were putting forth in the show.
#28: Sleigh Bells @ Forecastle
I’ve seen some so-so Sleigh Bells shows, but this one was another great rocker. After being deafened up front taking photos, I joined my friends in the very back of the yard and enjoyed the rest of their set at a distance.
#27: Langhorne Slim @ Cosmic Charlie’s
This show was almost a year ago, but I still remember it well. It was freezing cold outside, but walking out of Cosmic after such a great show. I’ve seen Langhorne play several times over a long span of time, but this was easily the best.
#26: Charles Bradley @ Forecastle
Charles Bradley was one of the few at Forecastle that convinced me to stick around for his whole show. This was some seriously classic soul music that you just don’t find any more.
#25: Andrew Bird @ Forecastle
Though I’ve fallen a lot in my Andrew Bird fandom, I can’t deny that he puts on a great show. Seeing him on a sunny afternoon was a pure delight.
#24: Guards @ Hype Hotel / SXSW
I’ll be honest here: I didn’t expect Guards to be this good live. I liked their albums, but didn’t think they could actually improve on the experience in concert. The first show I caught at SXSW was great, the second was magical.
#23: Jesus & Mary Chain @ the Belmont / SXSW
Much like when I saw Echo and the Bunnymen at SXSW a few years ago, JAMC were a classic group who (aside from aging) appeared to have lost nothing from their heyday. We got a long set full of pretty much every song you could have wanted to hear.
#22: Michael Kiwanuka @ Bonnaroo
Though I only was able to pop in for a couple songs, this set was fantastic. Kiwanuka sounds like nobody else making music today.
#21: tUnE-yArDs @ Bonnaroo
tUnE-yArDs had a ton of very devoted fans at her Bonnaroo show. She’s quickly turning into one of those underground acts with a fierce fanbase (including me).
#20: Bonnie “Prince” Billy @ Cosmic Charlies
We actually got two sets at this show: one before by BPB and band playing under a fake name debuting all new songs and some covers, then a full headlining set. Both were fantastic.
#19: Z-Trip w/Nas + Brother Ali @ SXSW
I had to wait for almost an hour for the Red Bull party to let in some more people to this giant show, but it was worth it. Z-Trip brought out a bunch of special guests including Nas, who stuck around for the last half of the show.
#18: Portugal. The Man @ Buster’s
I didn’t get too many good shots of this show because PTM’s light show required them to be in the dark most of the time, but that just let me sit back and enjoy it. We may not have got an album from them this year, but this show made that news go down a bit easier.
#17: Neko Case @ Forecastle
In the weeks before Forecastle I told several people that they should check out Neko’s show because “I can’t imagine anyone not liking her show.” Now that it’s over I still feel the same way. She’s an incredible singer, songwriter and on-stage personality.
#16: Alabama Shakes @ Hype Hotel / SXSW
Another show at the Hype Hotel, another show on my best of the year list. Alabama Shakes are so good live for being as young of a band as they are. Obviously 100% of that magic belongs to their lead singer Brittany Howard who really brings her all to the performance.
#15: Sufjan Stevens / Nico Muhly / Bryce Dessner @ Memorial Hall / MusicNOW
MusicNOW consistently brings world premiers and one-of-a-kind performances to an area that is not usually so blessed. This trio wrote and performed a string of songs about the planets that was absolutely beautiful. I'm looking forward to hearing a studio version so I can really take in all the arrangements.
#14: Shearwater @ the Parish / SXSW
At this point I had just fallen in love with Shearwater’s Animal Joy and was going to see them at SXSW at just about any cost. This was my first time seeing Shearwater; they’re a bit better than I even expected. They have such a range of songs that their show didn’t get too monotonous as a lot of indie rock acts do.
#13: Ludacris @ Bonnaroo
Luda! This set was incredible. Even though Ludacris could easily have phoned it in like other rappers of his stature, he gave us a great performance full of classic song after classic song.
#12: Jimmy Cliff @ Coachella
No photo pass for Coachella Day 1 (the only day I attended) means no reviews and no photos. Still, they had some of the best shows I caught all year too. I sat on a hill drinking a tropical beverage and listened to Jimmy Cliff do classic originals and new covers like "Ruby Soho."
#11: The Lumineers @ Gibson Guitar Showroom / SXSW
Even before it seemed like they’d have the breakout single of the year, I was excited to see the Lumineers live. Getting to and from the Gibson Guitar Showroom took almost an entire evening of my SXSW experience, but it was worth it. The Lumineers can work a crowd and put on a great show.
#10: Pulp @ Coachella
I’m not the biggest Pulp fan, but it’s hard not to enjoy their show. Jarvis Cocker is an incredible frontman and the band have tons of great songs.
#9: Deerhoof @ Cosmic Charlie’s
So in love with their new album. So in love with this show.
#8: St Vincent @ Bonnaroo
I didn’t get to stay to the end for this — one of my biggest concert sadnesses of 2012 — but the front half was incredible. Annie gets better every year. I wish I could have caught her show with David Byrne, but it’s hard to be greedy when I got something as amazing as this show at Bonnaroo.
#7: The Black Keys @ Coachella
After all this year of seeing them the Black Keys still pack an incredible punch live. Plus they brought out John Fogerty to cover “The Weight” in tribute to the recently passed Levon Helm.
#6: Neon Indian @ Hype Hotel / SXSW
This was surprise #1 of the year. I like Neon Indian just fine, but I couldn’t believe how great this set was. I’m sure it helped that he was back in his home turf of Austin playing a highly anticipated show, but his performance was incredible.
#5: Refused @ Coachella
The dumbest thing I did in 2012 was think I needed to leave Refused’s set early so I could fight the traffic to get back to my hotel and make sure I caught my plane on time. Nope. No traffic. Awesome set from a band I never thought I’d get to see live.
#4: Jeff Mangum @ 40 Watt
His show in Lexington was good, but there was something so magical about seeing Jeff Mangum perform at the 40 Watt. It was an emotional performance in a very intimate setting — all you need for a moving concert.
#3: My Morning Jacket @ Forecastle
What an incredible year we have when a show this good is only #3. This was exactly what I hoped for MMJ’s headlining set at their curated year of Forecastle: guest appearances (Andrew Bird, Dean Wareham), covers, rarities and a long, long set. If I ever move away from Kentucky, I’ll miss you most of all, My Morning Jacket.
#2: Radiohead @ Riverbend
As I said in my review, this wasn’t the Radiohead setlist that I wanted. And I know that they know they could come out and do a greatest hits show for the rest of their live and leave us wowed. But we got a lot of songs from the new album and a lot of under-appreciated songs from their catalogue and it was incredible. Songs you didn’t think you loved were your favorite song for a night. I’m sure a lot of people left this show to revisit old Radiohead songs or albums they’d previously written off or ignored.
#1: The Roots @ the Mohawk
I was prepared to love the Roots’ show, but not so prepared that I anticipated it would be this good. The Roots don’t play shows like every other band; they link everything together using little connective tissue of music that never lets the joy drop for even a second. To transition between songs they might meld the two together for a second, insert a classic cover between the two or do something silly like send their sousaphone player to walk through the crowd while doing a solo. This was pure love of music from both sides of the stage.
Tags: Alabama Shakes·Andrew Bird·Black Keys·Blitzen Trapper·Bonnie Prince Billy·Bryce Dessner·Deerhoof·Futurebirds·Grouplove·Guards·Head and the Heart·Idiot Glee·Jeff Mangum·Jesus & Mary Chain·Jimmy Cliff·Langhorne Slim·Ludacris·Lumineers·Michael Kiwanuka·My Morning Jacket·Nas·Neko Case·Neon Indian·Nick Diamonds·Nico Muhly·Portugal the Man·Pulp·Radiohead·Refused·Roots·Shearwater·Sleeper Agent·Sleigh Bells·St Vincent·Sufjan Stevens·Tune-Yards·Yelawolf·Z-Trip