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Which Atlanta concerts made the Top 10 list for 2012?

Even though I’m lucky enough to see dozens of concerts every year – probably about 60 in 2012 if my admittedly shaky math is correct – there are always those few that have me clenching my fists in regret at the end of the year.

How I would have loved to have seen Alabama Shakes at The Masquerade in September. Or the Psychedelic Furs at either of their two Atlanta shows in 2012. Or Jack White at the Fox in October.

But, because of a conflict in concert scheduling (hey, seeing Alanis Morissette at the Tabernacle instead of the Furs at Variety Playhouse in October was a worthwhile choice, despite my initial laments), a conflict in personal scheduling (sorry, Jack, but a trip to Italy took precedence over seeing you) or basic exhaustion (yes, going to five concerts a week might sound dreamy on paper to some of you, but trust me, it gets harder as the years roll on), I wasn’t able to experience every show I’d hoped to see.

But of those many I did take in, here is my Top 10 picks for 2012 – and some almost-Top-10s. Feel free to share your picks as well.

Chris Martin captivated at Coldplay's summer show. Photo: Robb D. Cohen/www/

Chris Martin captivated at Coldplay's summer show. Photo: Robb D. Cohen/www/

1. Coldplay – The growth of this band as a live force is just stunning. Chris Martin has blossomed into a charming frontman who, while not nearly as intensely engaged as Bono, has nonetheless catapulted Coldplay into a live arena worthy of sharing a sentence with the U2 maestro. Coldplay’s July show at Philips Arena sparkled (literally), caressed and jolted, all in a two-hour period of sublime musicianship.

2. Ed Sheeran, Jingle Jam – At first it seemed odd that rising British star Sheeran, not the more established hitmaker Jason Mraz, was given top billing at Star 94’s recent Jingle Jam concert. But after watching five thrilling minutes of this young man racing around the stage to further adrenalize the hyped crowd, then snatching his acoustic guitar and creating layers of sounds with his on-the-spot looping was enough to convince that his breed of talent is a special one.

3. Kristian Bush and Friends, Eddie’s Attic – It’s cool enough getting to share an intimate space with the male half of one of country’s biggest acts and be exposed to new songs before they’re spun into Sugarland hits. But Bush’s guests at the November show at Eddie’s Attic – singer-songwriters Canaan Smith and Patrick Davis – served as astute reminders of why we love music so much in the first place.

Springsteen brought plenty of emotion to the Atlanta tour opener. Photo: Robb D. Cohen/www/

Springsteen brought plenty of emotion to the Atlanta tour opener. Photo: Robb D. Cohen/www/

4. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, Philips Arena – It might not have been Springsteen’s greatest set list (extremely heavy on the new songs from “Wrecking Ball,” which are, admittedly, great). Nor was it one of those epic four-hour ordeals (those started popping up later in the tour). But an air of specialness hung over the tour opener in Atlanta in March, mostly because it marked the first official show without Clarence Clemons and the start of a year-long tribute to one of rock’s most unforgettable sidemen.

5. Indigo Girls with Georgia Symphony, Cobb Energy Center – The Indigo Girls are such a live staple in their hometown of Atlanta that it’s easy to take them for granted. Sure, you might have seen them once, twice, a dozen times over the years. But hearing their dreamy folk-pop set to the orchestrations of the Georgia Symphony Orchestra earlier this month was not only chill-inducing, but a reminder of their terrific songwriting skills.

6. Tim McGraw/Kenny Chesney, Georgia Dome – The only thing holding back the party at the Georgia Dome in June was that blasted roof, but McGraw and Chesney did everything in their musical power to blow it off anyway. Two powerhouses of country, more than four hours of music between them and enough smashes to keep Manny Pacquiao down.

7. Aerosmith, Philips Arena (July) - Here’s a lesson, kids. Never count Steven Tyler out.

Nicki Minaj brought as many wigs as guests to her Fox show. Photo: Getty Images

Nicki Minaj brought as many wigs as guests to her Fox show. Photo: Getty Images

8. Nicki Minaj, Fox Theatre – Back in July, before the “American Idol” drama began, Minaj was simply riding the crest of success with her string of hits including “Starships,” “Pound the Alarm” and “Beez in the Trap,” with Atlanta rapper 2 Chainz. It was also a big deal at the time that 2 Chainz opened the show, so no one was surprised to see him pop out during Minaj’s set. But to get cameos from Waka Flocka Flame, T.I., Young Jeezy and even Monica? No other city could claim that kind of cool.

9. The Wallflowers, Smith’s Olde Bar – The Jakob Dylan-led band might not have returned with the hurricane force they might have hoped for, but this pre-tour September show at tiny Smith’s Olde Bar allowed the band to showcase their unvarnished musical chops.

10. Foo Fighters, Music Midtown at Piedmont Park – Yes, Pearl Jam’s show-closer on the second night of the expanded Music Midtown kept fists pumping mightily. And no doubt there were a ton of noteworthy performances over the two-day event in late September (Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and Florence + The Machine come to mind). But no band melted fans’ faces with sheer ferocity like Dave Grohl and Co.

Honorable mentions

Bonnie Raitt at Cobb Energy Centre (May 9)

Glen Campbell at Chastain Park Amphitheatre (July 14)

Yacht Rock Revival at Park Tavern (Aug. 18)

Civil Twilight, Music Midtown at Piedmont Park Sept. 22)

Susanna Hoffs, Eddie’s Attic (Oct. 29)

Heart at Fox Theatre (Nov. 7)

For more photos of the Top 10, check out our gallery.

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene

68 comments Add your comment


December 27th, 2012
1:03 pm

Yacht Rock Revival? hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

Steve Owens

December 27th, 2012
1:25 pm

Alabama Shakes at Masquerade
Beach House at Variety Playhouse
Tanlines at Basement, Graveyard Tavern
Matt & Kim at Variety Playhouse
Dum Dum Girls at The EARL
Generationals at The EARL


December 27th, 2012
1:43 pm

Ahhhh so many missing ;)
1. Ray Lamontagne- Cobb Energy
2. Bon Iver- Verizon
3. Music Midtown- Piedmont Park (Specifically Foo Fighters, Girl Talk, O’brother and Pearl Jam)
4. Manchester Orchestra for The Stuffing- The Loft, Vinyl and Centerstage (Local boys AND created The Stuffing…a staple before the holidays)
5. Chris Robinson and The Brotherhood- Centerstage
6. Levi Lowrey- Eddie Owen Presents The Red Clay Theatre ( if you haven’t been to this venue…you have to…Eddie Owen’s new venture that has hosted some of the best shows including Patty Griffin)
7. Laura Marling- Variety
8. Trampled by Turtles- Variety
9. Elephant Revival- Smith’s Old Bar
10.Iron & Wine- The Buckhead Theatre taping of the Artist Den…..surprise guest, Markéta Irglová!

Hope you’re well!


December 27th, 2012
2:35 pm

RUSH at Verizon Amphitheater


December 27th, 2012
2:44 pm

Color me confused … where did all the comments from earlier today go? There were probably a dozen or more replies several hours ago, now only 4?

Bragg Jam

December 27th, 2012
3:42 pm

1) Iron Maiden/Alice Cooper at Lakewood
2) Neko Case/Kelly Hogan at the Botanical Gardens
3) Red Hot Chili Peppers at Gwinnett
4) Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band Tour Opener at Phillips
5) Pearl Jam, Luda & Florence & The Machine at Piedmont Park


December 27th, 2012
4:12 pm

1. Beach House – GA Theatre
2. Dirty Projectors – Variety
3. Animal Collective – Tabernacle
4. Titus Andronicus/Screaming Females – Basement
5. Sleigh Bells – GA Theatre
6. Guided by Voices – 40 Watt
7. Neon Indian – Masquerade
8. Grizzly Bear – Tabernacle
9. Walkmen – Variety
10. Divine Fits – Terminal West

Favorite set at Music Midtown – Ludacris

Melissa Ruggieri

December 27th, 2012
8:19 pm

BEL: My fault. I’m on vacation and logged onto the site via my smartphone to correct a spelling error and in the process, somehow deleted the entire post as it appeared this morning. I have no idea what happened and haven’t been able to get it back all day. I’m incredibly bummed, since I saw there were many comments and I hadn’t gotten a chance to read them yet.
Technology is great…until you mess something up! Apologies. But thanks for posting!

Frank from

December 27th, 2012
8:52 pm

Guns N’ Roses at the Tabernacle in March was simply one of the best rock concerts I’ve ever seen (and I’ve been to a lot of them). Sure, no Slash, Izzy or Duff, but Axl and company made true believers of everyone who attended. 3 hours of pure rock heaven. If I only saw Radiohead at Philips Arena earlier that night, it would have been double the pleasure.


December 28th, 2012
2:12 am

I guess I’m the only one who thought Roger Waters “The Wall” at Phillips Arena was too good to be true. Absolutely fantastic!!

Melissa Ruggieri

December 28th, 2012
2:22 am

RockSocks – Actually, I agree with you 100 percent. The only reason I didn’t mention it was because it was high on my list in 2010 when it first played Philips and since it IS more or less the same show….

I loved it so much, I went to see it at Yankee Stadium, too!



December 28th, 2012
2:27 am

Moody Blues – Fox Theatre
The Beach Boys’ 50th Anniversary Tour – Chastain
Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band – Fox Theatre
Crosby, Stills & Nash – Verizon
The Who – Quadropenia Tour – Gwinnett Arena


December 28th, 2012
2:30 am

Quadrophenia :)


December 28th, 2012
10:07 am

Over the Rhine at Eddie’s Attic and The Red Clay Theater in Duluth. Brilliance
Roger Waters The Wall at Philips
Rush at Verizon Wireless
Lucy Wainwright Roche at Eddie’s Attic


December 28th, 2012
10:23 am

Bjork at the Roseland Ballroom, NYC. (Since Atlanta probably won’t see her….)

FM Fats

December 28th, 2012
10:42 am

Here’s another vote for Kelly Hogan’s homecoming with Neko Case at the Botanical Garden. What a fun night that was.


December 28th, 2012
10:59 am

Iron Maiden at Lakewood
Guns ‘n Roses at the Tabernacle
Anthrax/Testament/Death Angel at the Tabernacle

metal getting no love at the ajc


December 28th, 2012
11:01 am

Best shows in 2012 IMO:
Janes Addiction – Tabernacle – March
Girl Talk – Music Midtown – September


December 28th, 2012
11:53 am

Got to see They Might Be Giants for their 2-day concert at the Variety Playhouse which was awesome. You should try to catch them this April, because they are doing the same thing.


December 28th, 2012
12:00 pm

jason aldean & luke at lakewood. my best concert ever…. and i have been to quite a few shows over the years!


December 28th, 2012
3:01 pm

Eagles – Verizon – May.


December 28th, 2012
3:21 pm

The Experience Hendrix show at the Fox in March: Buddy Guy, Keb Mo, Johnny Lang, Robert Randolph, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Dweezil Zappa, Brad Whitford and many others.


December 28th, 2012
4:54 pm

Dave Matthews!


December 28th, 2012
5:13 pm

Thanks for the top 40 rundown. Snore. Why would you bother writing this?


December 28th, 2012
5:16 pm

Dead Can Dance at Cobb Energy Center
Rush at Verizon Wireless Amph.
Iron Maiden at Lakewood
ProgPower USA festival at Center Stage
Nightwish and Kamelot at Center Stage
Mayhem and Keep of Kalessin at Masquerade


December 28th, 2012
5:27 pm

Jay-Z/Kanye West sell out 2 nights in a row at Phillips and not even an honorable mention??? Really???

Once I got to Nicki Minaj I realized you were just joking around with your list….good one, lmao

Ptc dawg

December 28th, 2012
6:02 pm

Mothers Finest’ NYE at the Fox, circa 1983…….


December 28th, 2012
6:10 pm

Beres Hammond w/ Luciano @ Atlanta Civic Center

80s Rule

December 28th, 2012
6:39 pm

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers at Verizon was amazing.

JB Goode

December 28th, 2012
6:55 pm

Where is Radiohead? I thought their show at Philips was incredible.

Metal Rules

December 28th, 2012
7:49 pm

Ted Nugent at center stage,Iron Maiden a Lakewod, Mayhem Fest especialy SLAYER,and Motorhead,Van Halen a Phillips.Springsteen for sure. Aerosmih,and Kiss/Motley


December 28th, 2012
7:52 pm

the Eagles didn’t even get an honorable mention? wow! I would have put them above Bruce and E Street…


December 28th, 2012
8:15 pm

Zac Brown Band this Summer at Lakewood was AMAZING. Really surprised to see them left off while some older acts with a lot less energy are on the list. The Who was incredible, and Roger Waters should not have been overlooked. Honorable mentions to Rush, Dave Matthews, the Eagles and the Lost Dogs.

G. Lee

December 28th, 2012
8:42 pm

Rush. A sold out Verizon during 40 degree weather and no one left early.


December 28th, 2012
10:57 pm

Brother Hawk, with out a doubt ! Old dude on the harp was awesome!


December 28th, 2012
11:04 pm

Thanks for including some shows from the smaller venues (Eddie’s Attic; Smith’s Olde Bar).

Since it’s impossible to judge which shows are the best, though, unless you have seen them all, which is itself impossible, I think the header for this type of “best of” lists should be “My Favorite” or “The Best of the Shows I Saw” or…


December 28th, 2012
11:41 pm

Steve Vai @ Centerstage, The Allman brothers @ Chastain & Roger Waters @ Phillips


December 28th, 2012
11:52 pm

Trampled by Turtles @ Variety
Toadies & Helmet @ Masquerade
Godsmack @ Lakewood


December 29th, 2012
1:25 am



December 29th, 2012
2:33 am

My Morning Jacket in Alpharetta was incredible


December 29th, 2012
7:22 am

The Joy Formidible at the Masquerade. I thought the old building might not survive the finale.


December 29th, 2012
7:32 am

Almost Kings – @ Wild Bills – February (just after they got back from their appearance on “The Grammys”)

This Rocked

December 29th, 2012
7:49 am

I see many people also enjoyed the Iron Maiden show at Lakewood. Shame on the AJC for completely missing the internationally successful show that millions enjoyed this year. Better luck next time…

Pat Cogar

December 29th, 2012
8:02 am

Sorry you missed one of the highlights in entertainment this past year——NEIL DIAMOND!
He should have been in the top 10. He played to a sold out crowd and you could understand every word he said.


December 29th, 2012
8:17 am

Widespread Panic acoustic at the Tabernacle deserves a mention.

The Good Word

December 29th, 2012
8:50 am

Avenged Sevenfold?


December 29th, 2012
9:34 am

Saw McGraw/Chesney at the Dome. Couldn’t hold a candle to Keith Urban and Eric Church at Gwinnett Arena (separate shows). Eric Church is in a league all by himself.

And to Pat Cogar – totally agree. Neil Diamond was amazing!


December 29th, 2012
10:04 am


Buck Futt

December 29th, 2012
12:39 pm

Rush at Verizon and Nugent at Center Stage were great shows, but one concert that’s undeservedly unmentioned is Keb’ Mo’s fantastic set opening for Aaron Neville (who was nothing special) at the Botanical Gardens.


December 29th, 2012
12:43 pm

I knew even opening this link would be useless. Obviously, reading the comments the top concerts in the atl are biased based on the authors tastes. I have been to shows and felt nothing and I have been and left exhausted having screamed the whole time.