Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Best of 2012: The Best Concerts I Attended

It makes sense that I would like most concerts I attend, especially because at this point, there are very few artists I am inspired to check out for a first time. Seeing live acts whose music I like and who have previously impressed me in concert, leads—not so surprisingly—to a pretty high percentage of shows I’d deem “great” or better.

Still, it is pretty gratifying as I look back on a year in which I attended 36 concerts, that I rated 10 of them @@@@@, 11 more @@@@1/2 and another 9 @@@@. That makes for 30 of 36 shows that I really liked, with the handful of lesser ones including free festival performances and a Merle Haggard gig that was impeded by audio issues at the awful Congress Theater.

In fact, the only concert that truly disappointed me in full—i.e. beyond wishing some different songs were played and/or the pacing was a bit better—was one by Madonna. You can read my review of that show here, but I was actually anticipating it to be good as I had seen and liked her three previous times.

There was only one artist I saw multiple times in 2012, and the four shows by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band would, honestly, hold down the top four slots on my list below. But rather than have the Boss monopolize 40% of the top 10, I’ll group all four of his shows as #1. However, that still leaves 17 gigs that I gave @@@@@ or @@@@1/2 vying for the nine remaining berths before Honorable Mention. And all I have to really separate them at this point is my eroding memory. So know that everyone listed below up to and including Dinosaur Jr. could easily be considered a Top 10 concert.

And even some of the acts toward the bottom of this Best of 2012 list may have made a case for Top 10 status if but for a few small adjustments. Radiohead and Wilco should have sprinkled a few poppier selections into their setlists; Prince shouldn’t have kept the United Center house lights off for 45 minutes after his set ended, then played “1999” and “Little Red Corvette” after most people left (me included) after the lights came up; and I would’ve liked the always great Garbage even more if it weren’t for my discomfort in the jam-packed and sweltering Metro.

I won’t include Tributosauras—who I saw do Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers—below, even though I really enjoyed their show at Skokie’s Backlot Bash, and I suspect I liked the Rev. Al Green a bit more from the lawn at Ravinia than pavilion dwellers have shared. But everyone else here not only belongs on my Best Concerts of 2012 list, but perhaps even a bit higher than I ranked them.

Note: I will cite opening acts in cases where I enjoyed them in their own right, but my rankings are based solely on the performance of the headliner. All venues are in Chicago area except as noted.

1. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band – September 7 – Wrigley Field (my review)
Also, September 8 – Wrigley Field, April 12 – Palace of Auburn Hills (my review), November 3 – KFC Yum! Center, Louisville (my review).

2. Coldplay – August 8 – United Center (my review)
This surprises me, too, but they were unsuspectingly fantastic.

3. Elvis Costello and the Imposters – September 15 – BMO Harris Bank Pavilion, Milwaukee (my review)
Opening act Willy Porter was also terrific.

4. Neil Young and Crazy Horse – October 11 – United Center (my review)

5. Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators – September 28 – Riviera Theatre (my review)
Another show that pleasantly surprised me by being as great as it was. Opening band Foxy Shazam was the strangest act I’ve ever seen, but surprisingly tuneful too. Another opener, The Lovehammers, were also good.

6. The Killers – December 21 – UIC Pavilion (my review)
I also really liked opening act Tegan and Sara

7. The Who – November 29 – Allstate Arena (my review)

8. Willie Nile – April 28 – Fitzgerald’s (my review)
Nile was backed by the Nicholas Tremulis Orchestra, who also opened the show

9. The Hives – June 30 – The Vic (my review)

10. The Beach Boys – May 22 – Chicago Theatre (my review)

Honorable Mention (in preference order)

- System of a Down – August 15 – Allstate Arena (my review)
- Peter Gabriel – September 27 – United Center (my review)
- Red Hot Chili Peppers – May 28 – Allstate Arena (my review)
- Maximo Park – September 17 – Schubas (my review)
- Roger Waters – June 8 – Wrigley Field (my review)
- Aerosmith with Cheap Trick – June 22 – United Center (my review)
- Dinosaur Jr. – June 23 – Green Music Fest (my review)
- Weezer – July 27 – The Venue at Horseshoe Casino (my review)
- The Zombies – July 31 – Viper Alley (my review)
- Van Halen – April 1 – Allstate Arena (my review)
- Radiohead – June 10 – First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre (my review)
- Wilco – July 3 – Adler Theatre, Davenport, IA (my review)
- Prince – September 24 – United Center (my review)
- Smashing Pumpkins – October 19 – Allstate Arena (my review)
- Garbage – August 7 – Metro (my review)

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