2012 isn't even over yet, and we're already feeling sort of nostalgic for it.
We saw a lot of great shows this year, so narrowing it down to the most mind-blowing 20 wasn't easy, but it was a lot of fun.
Enjoy, our Top 20 Phoenix Concerts of 2012.
Top Five 2012 Heavy Releases In Phoenix Top 12 Biggest Musical Letdowns of 2012 The 10 Most WTF Moments of 2012 Five 2012 Albums for Enjoying The Apocalypse Top 5 Genre-Bending Electronic Albums of 2012
Plenty of derisive things get said about Wilco being "dad rock."
You can't get around the fact that songwriter Jeff Tweedy, bassist John Stirratt, drummer Glenn Kotche, guitarist Nels Cline, and multi-instrumentalists Pat Sansone and Mikael Jorgensen, are indeed pushing or well into "dad age," but there's an intended sting to the tag, implying that the band has lost its edge, that the band makes music solely for graying NPR listeners and flannel-clad white kids. (A sage friend, before the show: "Sonic Youth is a $20 ticket, Wilco is $50, all because they've tapped into that Eagles demographic.") -- Jason P. Woodbury
Last week I made it public knowledge that I'm not a Radiohead fan. Call me crazy, but the songs of the critically adored, legendary art rockers just don't speak to me. The sounds are distant and obtuse, and what can I say? I like music with immediacy.
But I went into last night's show feeling -- bring on the Radiohead puns -- optimistic. People don't just like Radiohead, they love them, and the band's status as innovators has been trumpeted far and wide. I stated in my original piece that I was willing to give Radiohead a shot, that I was excited to see if the intimacy of a live show would connect for me the way so many of the bands' records connect for its fans. -- Lenni Rosenblum
I'm not superstitious, but it's hard to brush off the supreme bad luck I had on Friday the 13th, attempting to drive my Nissian Maxima to Day 2 of the four-day country festival Country Thunder. I'm from Houston, and was curious how it would stack up against Livestock and Rodeo where I come from. Stacks up pretty well -- Country Thunder has years of experience under its belt, marquee names like Jake Owen and Big and Rich, and a reputation for one of the wildest parties in the West. -- Taylor Moon
Country Thunder 2012: [See the complete Country Thunder coverage.]
When I streamed the band's Coachella performance last weekend so I could get an idea of what to expect when they came to Phoenix, I thought, "She's great, but something about the performance is kind of weird." To hell with those thoughts! Last night, Florence + the Machine delivered an outstanding performance that was beyond anyone's (or at least my) wildest dreams or expectations. -- Lenni Rosenblum
There was a moment Thursday night during Drake's bombastic, flashy performance when I wondered whether Drake was going to review me. It was during an extended (10- or 15-minute-long) audience-appreciation segment, where Drake turned the lights on the crowd and shouted out girls he found sexy, guys he wanted to clown on, and little kids (who'd "better not go home cussin' and shit").
As his razor-sharp band -- a stellar drummer, keyboardist, guitarist, bassist, and DJ -- played a languid, soft jazz groove, Aubrey Drake Graham called out to his fans: the girl in the Sade shirt (he's a big fan), the girls with their hair looking all "Afrocentric and shit," and the dozens of fans wantonly violating the "don't wear a band shirt to said band's show" rule, sporting Young Money, OVOXO, YOLO, and Take Care shirts. -- Jason P. Woodbury
Last night's lineup was strange, to say the least.
Noise rockers The Icarus Line drew comparisons to Iggy Pop while Against Me! played its first Phoenix show after singer and guitarist Tom Gabel announced the decision to start living her life as a woman, going by the name Laura Jane Grace. Headliners The Cult toured in support of Weapon of Choice, which fit right in with the band's illustrious catalog.
Triumph was in the air as Florida punk rockers, Against Me! took the stage to the Rocky theme song and tore right into two new songs dealing with Laura's transgender identity- "True Trans Soul Rebel" and "Transgender Dysphoria Blues." Both songs sounded like an extension of the White Crosses material, and will probably become anthemic singalongs once fans learn the lyrics. -- Melissa Fossum
It's hard to know exactly what to say about about Jonathan Richman's performance at Crescent Ballroom last night.
Not because things weren't memorable (they were) or uneventful. Not because the crowd wasn't interesting and hilarious. And certainly not because Richman's performance lacked (it didn't). But the songwriter opened with a cut from his 2004 album Not So Much to Be Loved As to Love called "He Gave Us the Wine to Taste It," a song that warns against thinking too much, that celebrates the joy of experience over obsessive contemplation. -- Jason P. Woodbury
50 songs for 50 years. It's hard to imagine any band getting away with it, right?
It's even harder to imagine it being exceptional, but that's the best word I can use to describe what The Beach Boys (Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, David Marks, Bruce Johnston, and their crack nine-piece backing band) did last night at Grand Canyon University.-- Jason P. Woodbury
Despite Joel Marquard's adamant assertion that the Americana/roots sounds of his full-blooded gospel project Through and Through Gospel Review are "all in fun" and without heavy theological implications, it was impossible not to sense the spiritual weight of the music last night. -- Jason P. Woodbury
Through and Through Gospel Review @ Crescent Ballroom: [Full Review]
The Valley's revered no-charge hip-hop night, The Blunt Club at Yucca Tap Room, stayed true to its reputation for rocking the roof with DJs on the ones and twos, and live performances by local rappers Creed Chameleon and Mouse Powell, as well as a special performance by Luckyiam of Living Legends lore.
With a more than eager crowd, the club was poppin' long before Luckyiam hit the stage.
Tricky T, LES735, and FACT135 dropped dope beats while Dumperfoo and Queenloopy provided the visuals via live art paintings. -- Anthony Sandoval
Luckyiam @ Yucca Tap Room: [Full Review]
With a career that's spanned four decades, immensely popular norteño group Los Tigres del Norte has plenty of practice making Grammy-award winning music. So when I say last night's show was riveting, electric, compelling, or any other positive adjective I've ever used to describe a concert, it should come as no surprise. But for the sold-out crowd that filled the Ovations Live Showroom at Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino it was more than any one word can surmise. It wasn't a vanity concert that groups like Los Tigres are often afforded after reaching certain heights: it was a fan's show.
Comprised of Mexican-American brothers Jorge, Hernan, Eduardo, Luis Hernandez, and cousin Oscar Lara, the quintet ran through their expansive inventory of hits while indulging every fan that approached the low-sitting stage for a handshake, photo op or handwritten song request. -- Anthony Sandoval
Los Tigres del Norte @ Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casion: [Full Review]
I challenge anyone who thinks that Phoenix has a faltering music scene to go to the second night of Los Dias de la Crescent tonight. Go ahead, I dare you. You'll most likely see that this so-called Tempe versus Phoenix rivalry is non-existent (or at least not that big of a deal) as long as great bands are playing and the beer is flowing.
The first night of the festival went off without a hitch thanks to a packed venue and all of the bands playing on time. The transformation of the back parking lot into an outdoor stage was pretty impressive -- Joe Pagac painted a Los Dias mural on the back of the venue next to a large wall of posters showing off Stateside Presents' upcoming shows. The décor is what really brought it all together.
The Grande Stage was accented by a large Arizona flag backdrop and a bunch of blue patio lights and streamers overhead. Also, there were a bunch of food trucks and booze vendors (including Four Peaks) that were all reasonably priced, providing the recipe for a successful event. -- Melissa Fossum
A eight-hour all-you-can-eat beat buffet was served up to a sea of rave fanatics, club kids, and EDM aficionados at the outdoor venue, offering a mix of acts and artists of the highest caliber ranging from electro-house, trance, hardstyle, drum 'n' bass, and dubstep (natch).
It has all the hallmarks of a primo rave, only in a much bigger venue with a far more star-studded lineup. (Sadly, one superstar who was conspicuous by his absence was Dutch electro-house bigwig Hardwell, who had to cancel several recent appearances this past week due to a bout with the flu.) -- Benjamin Leatherman
"Can I take y'all back to 1994?"
It's a question that Ice Cube popped in the midst of his performance during last night's West Coast All-Stars Tour stop at Comerica Theatre. The near-sellout crowd -- which had been plenty rowdy all evening -- lost their shit after Cube's query and got even more cray cray during Snoop Dogg headlining set. -- Benjamin Leatherman
The Walkmen have always sounded worn. "Sometimes I'm just happy I'm older," singer Hamilton Leithauser belted on "We've Been Had," from the magnificent and wonderfully titled Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone, all the way back in 2002.
Ten years later, he's still writing about getting older, singing "I was the Duke of Earl, but it couldn't last/I was the Pony Express, but I ran out of gas" on "We Can't Be Beat," from 2012's Heaven, a song that serves as a sort of spiritual sequel to "We've Been Had." It's a rare kind of song, one that doesn't mourn for lost youth so much as champion the art of living right now, and The Walkmen are a rare kind of band, one that rages as well as they contemplate, with style and showmanship lacking from the downward-gazing mopers they often get lumped in with. The Walkmen proved this much at Crescent Ballroom last night. -- Jason P. Woodbury
"I want to do what a stripper does, and in another way do what a carnival barker does, or a shaman, some kind of Pentecostal preacher," Josh Tillman, the singer/songwriter known by his alter ego Father John Misty, said when we spoke in advance of his show at Rhythm Room Wednesday night. "Those are all more interesting archetypes than a guitarist to me." -- Jason P. Woodbury
The Deftones rocked an absolutely packed house at the Marquee Theatre last night, treating Valley rock fans to one of the best shows of the year.
From the opening notes of "Diamond Eyes" singer Chino Moreno took command of the room with one of his outstanding vocals and energy. "Rocket Skates" followed as fans screamed the lyrics, "guns, razors, knifes," in synchronicity with Moreno.--Jim Louvau
"Life out of context is living ungodly," Ms. Lauryn Hill sings in "Black Rage," the new song she's named her 2012 tour after.
Built over a jazzy interpolation of the Sound of Music's "My Favorite Things," the song is heavy, exploring the brutal and checkered history of Black America: "Two-thirds a person," "rapings," "beatings," "victims of violence both psyche and body." It's the centerpiece of her show, an important moment that underscores that Hill has never been into the idea of easy lyricism, and that she isn't afraid to approach uncomfortable, but important, topics. So when she finished the song to a sea of whoops and cheers, she must have wondered if the message was lost on the audience, and a sea of cellphone camera flash. "What did I just say?" she queried. -- Jason P. Woodbury
Who is Bruce Springsteen anyway?
The street rat poet singing about characters straight out of West Side Story? The balladeer casting American youth in B movie glory, Roy Orbison grandeur, and fleets of fast cars? The protest singer, spitting bile at corrupt bankers and politicians? The soul brother, swinging his hips and taking the crowd to church?
Bruce Springsteen, standing in front of the mighty E Street Band, spent time in all of these poses last night as he finished up the Wrecking Ball tour at Jobing.com Arena, reminding the roaring crowd with each song, each shimmy, each sweaty line, that he's one of the greatest performers and songwriters in America.-- Jason P. Woodbury
Local shock rock legend and all Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame inductee Alice Cooper hosted his 12th annual Christmas Pudding holiday bash at Comerica Theatre in downtown Phoenix last night. All proceeds benefiting his Solid Rock Foundation, this year Cooper featured Pudding alum Don Felder, L.A Guns, Sebastian Bach, host John O' Hurley, and magician Murray SawChuck took the stage.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
While the line-up of openers may have not been all that exciting on paper, Cooper had some tasty ingredients in his recipe this year (See what I did there?) closing out the night with a 10-song performance which featured superstar actor Johnny Depp and guitar virtuoso Orianthi backing him up. -- Jim Louvau