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.
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.
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.
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.
For more photos of the Top 10, check out our gallery.
By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene