Best Music of 2012CoS Exclusive FeaturesPlaylistsStaff Lists

Top Live Acts of 2012

on December 10, 2012, 1:12pm
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annual report live e1354828544653 Top Live Acts of 2012

Here’s a good problem to have: Too many acts on the road. This year, we spent a lot of time at venues or festivals worldwide and not one of us is complaining. Several entertained, several disappointed, but the successes far outweighed the failures. Because there are so many engaging talents out supporting their music these days, we decided to expand our choices to five and create a shortlist rather than just any one resounding winner.

We know you’re just as avid as a concertgoer, so please feel free to share your choices in the comments below. Who knows? Perhaps your recommendation will get another pair of Chucks out to your local venue. We’re not the only ones who would appreciate that.

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December 26, 2012 at 11:41 am


Cooper H
December 18, 2012 at 7:14 pm

Thanks for including Swans on here. Their show in Boston was like going to war…an earth-rending force to be reckoned with.

Vid Stropnik
December 12, 2012 at 5:17 pm

Maiden were awesome live!

Damon Larkins
December 12, 2012 at 1:33 am

M83’s set at Lollapalooza was very poor. The sound was off and the instruments weren’t in sync. People are overrating this band, hopefully my next experience with them is better. Frank Ocean’s aftershow at the Metro was unreal. He played 75 minutes and had there been more songs in his catalogue, he probably would’ve kept playing. His vocals were able to reach the heights and depth on his songs from Nostalgia, Ultra and Channel Orange. The band had versatility, switching from a full on jam for songs like Pyramid or a rock and roll vibe on Strawberry Swing. They were awesome live. Another live act that I believe won me over would be: Sleigh Bells. Once they were a band gracing downtown Brooklyn bars and clubs, then opened for Red Hot Chili Peppers, and being at a variety of festivals and being a top act of many. I had no idea what to expect. I watched videos online and read reviews, but those just don’t do this act justice of how awesome they truly are. They are considered noise pop, and I must say this is without a doubt, the loudest show I have ever encountered. The sexy and lush vocals mixed with two beastly guitar players, and recorded tracks in the background: equate to an adrenaline filled rock pop show that I’m still telling people about. You have to see them in order to fully embrace their artistry. I’ve seen some amazing acts this year like Red Hot Chili Peppers, Florence and the Machine, Smashing Pumpkins(which I believe was the best show I’ve ever witnessed), however I’m giving you my top acts of newer artists live shows. My last show that I saw that was unforgettable was an EDM show. Prior to going to this concert, the staff was handing out ear buds, I laughed and said “It’s just a little bass, what could possibly go wrong.” I would eat those words, because this show had bass that could stretch to Istanbul. The artist stepped up to his DJ table and was surrounded by 12 amps, with bright gold light, and a screen in front of him as well as behind him. In honor of his new release “Vava Voom”, Bassnectar aka Ashton Lorin, opened with “Vava Voom.” Within those first 4 minutes of seizure inducing lights and gladiator like bass, I knew that this was going to be epic. Mixing the best of his material from my personal favorite “Divergent Spectrum”, wild style, Time Stretch, Cozza Frenzy, and more: no one went home disappointed. After two hours of sick lights, 1000 watts of energy from Lorin, and mammoth bass drops, the night came to an end, confetti fell down from the ceiling and I felt like I just won something. Although I didn’t win anything, I left with a greater appreciation of a genre I once saw as annoying and pointless. It can be creative, fun, and you can meet people from NY to Germany. Well those are my TOP live acts of 2012. Can’t wait for 2013!

December 11, 2012 at 2:58 pm

The fact that Mutemath isn’t on this list is appalling. I mean putting their drummer on a pedestal and putting him in the crowd, crowd surfing on an air mattress, handstands, jumping over organs, 3 people playing a drum set, letting a crowd play a theramin. Plus, the band is tight as hell and sound fantastic.

I was there
December 11, 2012 at 10:03 am

Hello… Jeff Magnum! You should have been there. Your list is incomplete.

December 10, 2012 at 9:22 pm

Jack White was magical at Outside Lands this year!

William Keenan
December 10, 2012 at 8:20 pm

The fact that Phish is not on this list just shows how out of touch CoS is with what’s going on in the world of live music.

Alex Young
December 11, 2012 at 12:23 am

We have much respect for Phish. We just like to give our lists a little variety. Can’t have them included every year.

December 10, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Agree with the 2 below…add Lumineers and Smashing Pumpkins. Also, no live bands list isn’t complete with out My Morning Jacket, right? It should just be standard to have them on these kinda lists…

Stephen FunMan
December 13, 2012 at 3:26 am

While I agree with what Alex has stated about Phish, the same can not be said for MMJ. This year they polished off tracks that hadn’t been played in years and they let their fans participate in the curation. The result was one mind blowing set after another and for the first time in the touring career of MMJ you could actually follow them follow them for multiple shows without too significant of an overlap in song selection. It’s all good, though. Notoriety or not, the show goes on and Jim still sings, the way that he sings.

December 10, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Okay, where is SMASHING PUMPKINS? You know there were more than 6 live musical acts going on this year. I’m sure you could list more than that.

Dan Rust
December 10, 2012 at 10:59 am

No doubt that M83 deserves to be on this list. It is an experience I will never forget and hopefully not the last. My other favorite show this year was the Lumineers. I think they deserve at least an honorable mention. Rather than a band on a stage, I felt like we were all in it together.


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