Favorite Concerts of 2012

The year is coming to a close and I thought I would look back at some of the incredible concerts I attended during 2012. I got to see so many of my favorite performers that it’s almost absurd, with so many beautiful moments that it’s hard to believe it all happened within the span of 12 months on the islands of New York City. I’ve included a link to videos from each so you can check it out yourselves.

[Previously: My Favorite Concerts of 2011]

Antony & the Johnsons | Radio City Music Hall | 01.26.12

Antony & the Johnsons

The concert that most made me a sniffling mess was totally Antony & the Johnsons’ Swanlights performance at Radio City. A commission by MoMA, Antony Hegarty, dressed in a flowing white robe, sang in his haunting and gorgeous voice beneath a crystal-like chandelier with lasers crossing the stage while a full orchestra played behind a screen (the revealing of which still gives me goosebumps even in memory). The cavernous Radio City only made the lone figure of Antony on the center of the busy stage more powerful, whereas I can easily imagine just about anyone else become lost in the lasers and looming art installation. But it was just beautiful and gave me a serious case of Stendhal Syndrome (and watery eyes) to listen to that otherworldly voice. At the end, well, I’ve never heard so much endless applause. Hands down my absolute favorite concert of the year, maybe of all time. [Blog recap]

Watch: “Salt Silver Oxygen” and “Crazy in Love (Beyonce Cover)”

(image via Pitchfork)

Jeff Mangum & the Music Tapes | Brooklyn Academy of Music | 01.21.12

Jeff Mangum

How crazy is it that two years in a row I can put someone on my concerts list who I thought I would never once get to see? (In fact, I’m rather sure the above photo is from last year’s show, but media-shy Jeff Mangum tends to have the same uniform/set-up.) This time, it was from the second row of the Brooklyn Academy of Music and being that close just made hearing all those old Neutral Milk Hotels more intense. I fell in love with openers the Music Tapes with their giant metronome, and the whole band marching on stage for “The Fool” will forever be one of my favorite concert moments. One of their members, Julian Koster, played the saw for many of Neutral Milk Hotel’s songs and it was so amazing to see him and Mangum play together again. I actually just bought a ticket to see Jeff Mangum this year, assuming I can get myself to Poughkeepsie for it, so apparently this once reclusive musician is staying with us for a while. Thank god. [Blog recap]

Watch: “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” (you may see someone familiar in this totally ruining the shot.)

(Image via Pitchfork)

The Flaming Lips & Yoko Ono | Bricktown Events Center | 12.31.12/01.01.12

Flaming Lips, Yoko Ono, & Sean Lennon

Okay, so much of this New Year’s Eve concert took place in 2011, but the nearly 20 minute cover of “She’s So Heavy” definitely started my 2012. You probably know that I love the Flaming Lips and have spent many NYE with them, but seeing them in such a small venue as the Bricktown Events Center in Oklahoma City with Yoko Ono & the Plastic Ono Band (including Sean Lennon), with an opening performance from Phantogram, all beneath a disco ball that I’m 99% sure was salvaged from the old UFO, made it extra wonderful. From Yoko Ono’s surprisingly enjoyable screaming freaking out the Okie audience, to the Lips’ usual freaking out antics with confetti and balloons and the scratchy new songs, it was the best way to start what turned out to be a fantastic year. I guarantee there will never be a more earnest performance of “Happy Christmas (War is Over)” than the one I heard performed that night. [Blog recap]

Watch: “Happy Christmas (War is Over)”; “Strawberry Fields Forever”; “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”

(image via Yoko Ono/Flickr)

Sigur Rós | Prospect Park | 07.31.12

Sigur Ros

On a lovely summer night, Sigur Rós filled the Brooklyn air with their ethereal music for a two hour concert that floated by like a dream. It was my first time to see the longstanding Icelandic band live and it was a breathtaking performance, led by Jónsi’s oddly enchanting voice with the densely layered band. This was their first time to tour in about four years, but I hope I don’t have to wait another four to see them again. [Blog recap]

Watch: “Popplagið” and “Saeglopur”

(Image via NPR)

The Mountain Goats | Music Hall of Williamsburg/Bowery Ballroom | 10.14-16.12

The Mountain Goats

So this was something I’d never done before: see the same band three nights in a row. But there are few bands I like as much as the Mountain Goats, and that I can rely upon to be an absolutely brilliant concert experience every time, so I did it. And did not regret it. While all three nights focused on their new release, “Transcendental Youth,” there were plenty of unexpected moments each evening, with the cover of Wye Oak’s “Civilian” (chills!) sticking out in my mind, as well as the digging up of older songs like “You Were Cool,” “Sax Rohmer #1,” and “Pure Milk,” and a seemingly extra energy driven into some of my favorites like “See America Right” and “Broom People.” I’ve lost track of how many times total I’ve seen the Mountain Goats, and every concert has totally gripped me in some way, but they somehow just seem to be getting better.

Watch: “Civilian (Wye Oak Cover)”

(Image via paperblog)

The Mountain Goats & Anonymous 4 | Ecstatic Music Fest | 03.24.12

Anonymous 4 & the Mountain Goats

I actually saw the Mountain Goats earlier in the year as well, although a version condensed down from the full band to John Darnielle playing with the medieval acapella group Anonymous 4 (with some help from the talented Owen Pallett). An unlikely pairing? Sure, but it ended up working with surprising success, with Darnielle’s intense Mountain Goats songs that seem bled out of scars biting against the spiritual layers of voice that would sound more in place in an abbey, striking in an unexpected balance. I love when artists take risks.

Watch: “Spent Gladiator II” and “Night Light”

(Image via NPR)

Efterklang | Metropolitan Museum of Art | 09.28.12

Efterklang

As Efterklang themselves pointed out, it seemed appropriate they were giving the American premiere of their new album Piramida just outside the Met’s Egyptian galleries. The Danish art-rockers’ performance with the Wordless Music Orchestra was gracefully done, and if all bands I like start doing sit-down concerts in museums with arrangements with orchestras, I’ll be thrilled.

Watch: The whole concert!!!!

(Image via NPR)

St. Vincent & David Byrne | Beacon Theatre | 09.26.12

David Byrne & St. Vincent

I have been wanting to see David Byrne perform for a long time, and while it was exciting to hear Talking Heads songs at this concert, the collaborations with the wonderful St. Vincent were highly enjoyable as well. And there was plenty of weird dancing (Byrne being stiffly emphatic, St. Vincent frenetically tottering around). I’m not totally in love with all of their album together, Love this Giant, but it definitely has some catchy material that really grew on me after seeing it live.

Watch: “This Must Be the Place”; “Road to Nowhere”; “Cruel/Burning Down the House”; and “Who.”

(Image via Brooklyn Vegan)

The Antlers | Glasslands | 07.31.12

The Antlers

This “secret” show featured new music from the Antlers’ Undersea, and at Glasslands with their intricate music reverberating through the small space with its surreal art installations, it sort of felt a bit like we were underwater. Amazing, mesmerizing, I never get tired of hearing their music and the live performance is always stunning.

Watch: “No Widows” and “Crest”

(Image via Stereogum)

Superchunk, the Hold Steady, & Clap Your Hands Say Yeah | CBGB Festival in Times Square | 07.07.12

Superchunk

What a weird place to hold a music festival: busy-as-hell Times Square in hotter-than-hell July. But I will apparently do anything for the bands I love, including watching Superchunk in over 100 degree heat. And it was definitely worth it. The Hold Steady were excellent summer music as well and I can’t say I ever expected to see droning, introspective Clap Your Hands Say Yeah play in the bustling center of Times Square with the advertising lights towering above them. Unknown to me then, it was actually their final show in their current version, so I’m so glad I braved the infernal heat.  [Blog post]

Watch: Superchunk’s “This Summer”; Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s “In This Home on Ice”; The Hold Steady’s “Constructive Summer”

(Image via Spin)

Grizzly Bear, the Flaming Lips, Santigold, & Fun | The Intrepid | 08.10.12

Colbchella

Okay, so, this wasn’t exactly a concert in the usual sense, as the four groups were being filmed for Stephen Colbert’s “Colbchella.” However, I can’t leave out seeing the Flaming Lips on a freaking aircraft carrier. Plus, Grizzly Bear! (Who hadn’t played together in a couple of years.) I’m still not sold on Fun but they are undeniably catchy, and Santigold was fun herself with her umbrella-twirling dancers. But the highlight was both Wayne Coyne and Colbert climbing into the rolling balls and going over the crowd.

Watch: The Flaming Lips’ “Do You Realize??”

(Image via the Village Voice)

Also Awesome But I’m Getting Tired:

Philip Glass’ Another Look at Harmony – Part IV | Park Avenue Armory | 02.26.12

Tibet House Benefit: Laurie Anderson, Antony Hegarty, James Blake, Das Racist, Tim Fain, Philip Glass, Stephin Merritt, Rahzel, Lou Reed, and Dechen Shak-Dagsay | Carnegie Hall | 02.13.12

Questlove’s Shuffle Culture | Brooklyn Academy of Music | 04.20.12

Craig Finn | Mercury Lounge | 02.29.12

Crossing Brooklyn Ferry: Beirut, Atlas Sound, and My Brightest Diamond | Brooklyn Academy of Music | 05.05.12

Maps and Atlases | Glasslands | 05.19.12

!!! | Lincoln Center | 08.09.12

Of Montreal, Jens Lekman, The GZA, and Dean & Britta | Northside Festival | 06.14-17.12

Reggie Watts | Bell House | 07.06.12

Thom Yorke | MoMA PS1 | 09.08.12

Patrick Wolf | Joe’s Pub | 09.20.12

I wish I could do write ups for all of these! And I know there are other concerts I am forgetting. Wow, when did I sleep this year?

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