December 05, 2012

The Best Live Shows of 2012

I went to more concerts in 2012 than in any year before. I attended a show on average every 11 days and had a hell of a lot of fun in the process. I saw acts ranging from Andy Grammer to Tech N9ne to Bassnectar in venues from The Gorge in Washington to Vega Music Hall in Denmark. I saw some of the best shows of my life. Here are my favorites. 

Bon Iver (Sasquatch Music Festival)
This show, Bon Iver's headlining spot at The Gorge, and my first time seeing the group live, changed how I see live music. The level to which the enormous band built upon the already beautiful songs was unparalleled. From the opening notes of "Perth" to the last chord of "For Emma," the entire crowd was completely enveloped in the music. Mr. Vernon's words were genuine, proclaiming his awe at the loving crowd and jaw-dropping landscape. I cannot imagine a better show. 

Glen Hansard (Le Poisson Rouge, NY)
After being a fan for years, this summer I finally caught up with Hansard's travels in New York. Instead of attending his show at the Beacon Theater, I was lucky enough to opt for the intimate 3-hour warm up the previous night. The night felt more like a casual jam session as the Irishman invited Lisa Hannigan, John Smith, K'naan, and some new friends from the audience to join him for select cuts. A barrage of delightful covers and relaxed banter helped every audience member feel like a VIP.

Delta Spirit (Paradise Rock Club, Boston)
Delta Spirit is gritty. Their brand of rock isn't clean cut and prides itself on being awesomely messy. They got wild on stage and put on the best rock show I've seen in a while. The show was timed nicely at the peak of my excitement about their brilliant new album, and they proved that their new sound worked even better live.
Read the original review here

The Lumineers (Cafe 939, Boston)
I got really lucky on this one. The tour that took The Lumineers to the intimate Cafe 939 was booked long before they blew up. The young group got the crowd stomping their feet in no time with their lively brand of folk rock. I had as much fun at this show as any before despite the fact that I was there by myself. On their next visit to Boston, they will be playing a venue 12 times as big: House of Blues.
Read the original review here

Death Cab with Magik*Magik Orchestra (Wang Theatre, Boston)
You know you've been to a great show if the performance makes you a bigger fan than you were before. When I caught Death Cab For Cutie performing with an eight person string orchestra, that is exactly what happened. The strings were arranged tastefully and while they didn't take a leading role, they enhanced every song and took the performance to a new level. Only their most recent album was recorded with the strings but even their old tracks received an added punch from their presence.

Delta Rae (Bowery Ballroom, NY)
When I heard Delta Rae's debut album, I had no idea they had four amazing singers. The voices sounded similar enough that I wrote them off as having two vocalists. But when I witnessed them live their four-part harmonies took my breath away and each member held their own as they traded off lead duties. Just plain awesome.
Read original review here

Purity Ring (Le Poisson Rouge, NY)
It is rare that I attend a show that is like no other I have been to. Purity Ring's album release show in NYC was one of those nights. They performed in the round, on a circular stage in the middle of the venue. Hanging all over the place were colored orbs that pulsated to the beat of the music. Instead of just playing their music, the duo grabbed the audience and dragged them in.
Read original review here

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (Vega, Copenhagen, Denmark)
On this list two years in a row, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are definitely some of the most consistently brilliant performers in hip-hop today. I have now seen them four times in a variety of settings and they never fail to get the crowd going. Now with a complete album to perform, they have more ways than ever to work the audience. These guys always give 110% and are more dedicated than any other act I know. Luckily, they tour like crazy so you will probably have a chance to catch them soon.


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