And the Best Live Set of 2012 Goes To…..?

by Sunshine & Vanilla

Alright.

Here it is.

I have put this off because it is actually causing me anxiety inside.  It is hurting my grey little heart.

I saw a lot of bands in 2012. Over 80, in fact. Over 80 bands. Including some of my very favorite bands. I’m looking at you Lucero (who I saw about 5 times) and Jackie Greene (who I think I also saw about 5 times). I saw legendary people (hello? Mother effin’ Al Green? Stevie Wonder? Roger Waters for eff’s sake!!). I saw bands I grew up with (Metallica? Literally grew up with… James Hetfield lived in my hometown, his bigass Bronco was a very familiar site).  I saw new bands I’d not heard of before who were awesome (Joe Pug, of Monsters & Men – say what you want, they are really good live). I got to relive the good ole days with a set from Pennywise that turned me into my 19 year old self like you wouldn’t believe.  I saw bands that people love that just aren’t my thing (sorry fun. & passion pit – and you know, Neal Young, I love you, man, I’ve seen you about nine hundred times, but you blew it at Outside Lands this year, just wasn’t your venue).  I finally saw Explosions in the Sky and The Cowboy Junkies after coveting those shows for years and was happy to also catch The Black Keys and Alabama Shakes. There were more, of course, those are just the ones that spring to mind. Okay, Tom Morello’s killer set at Outside Lands deserves a good mention, too, and I can’t really go without mentioning the Chris Robinson Brotherhood because Mr. Chris Robinson makes me so happy inside (seriously, he just makes me want to hug everyone).

So how to pick a favorite set?  How could I possibly pick the best out of 80 bands?  It’d be easy to pick my favorite band and say they were the best, but that wouldn’t really be fair, would it?  Just because I love love love love love a band doesn’t necessarily mean they put on the show that had me walking out going HOLY SMOKES THAT WAS THE BEST SHOW EVER!

A lot of those bands did have me saying that because I love live music more than just about anything in the entire world. Something comes over me when I’m at a show. Maybe it’s because when you’re there, you’re really there. You’re in the moment. You aren’t anywhere else. I’m not thinking about work or some boy. I’m just thinking about being there, enjoying the show and where I’m going to get my next tasty vodka drink.

And so – the two winners, in my opinion…

Jane’s Addiction at the Warfield in San Francisco October 18.
Okay. Now this isn’t going to surprise anyone and those of you who have known me for any length of time are going to cry foul, particularly given what I said a couple paragraphs ago. YES, it’s true, I’ve loved Jane’s Addiction for more than half my life.  In fact, I’ve loved Jane’s Addiction since 1990, which, let’s face it, is probably almost as long as some people reading this have been alive.  I’m not choosing them because they are one of my favorite bands, however (or because of the pavlovian reaction I have that makes me want to lick Dave Navarro). I’m choosing them because the show was impeccable.

The sound was incredible and the show was awe inspiring, nevermind Jane’s Addiction hasn’t played a run of small venues like that in I don’t know how long. I have seen them a bunch of times, dating back to the good ole ’90s. In fact, I saw them earlier in 2012 at a festival and left the show disappointed – to the point that I was unsure if I would go see them again. That is until I found out they were playing the tiny lil’ Warfield.

That Warfield show was off the hook.  Unlike the festival earlier in the year it really felt like the band was feeling it instead of just up there putting on a show. The solos were incredible, Perry sounded amazing, I don’t even know how Dave Navarro makes some of those sounds come off his guitars. It’s like magic. They whipped that crowd into a fervor. Everyone who left said it was they best they had sounded in years.  I left saying it’s probably the last show of theirs I will see, and what a way to go out.  There will never be a show to top it.  It may have been the best show of theirs I’ve ever seen (aside from the great ENIT festival of 1997 which was indescribable for reasons all its own).

AND, tied for Best Show of 2012:

The Afghan Whigs: Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, November 8
Now this one might surprise some people.  I didn’t even know who the Afghan Whigs were until a few years ago when my friend (and music guru) [censored to protect the not so innocent] sent me a copy of one of their albums as well as a copy of one of the Twilight Singers (frontman Dulli’s side project) albums.

I had tickets to see the Twilight Singers in 2011, but 2011 was the Year of Cancelled Shows *coughSocialDistortioncough* and so I never did get to see them.  I’m actually glad that happened because I had no idea what I was in for when I walked through the doors of that Afghan Whigs show in November.  Neither did my friend who had never even heard one song of theirs.

She asked me what they sounded like and I said, “Oh. Kind of rock n’ rollish. Maybe a little mellow grunge-y.  Pretty sexy.” Because, how do really describe them?

How indeed?  I walked out of that show feeling like I’d had a goddamn religious experience. That band, live, knows how to build up a song, a set, a sound in a way that I’ve rarely experienced before. They just pound it into you in a way brings more to the table than just, “okay now, listen to this.”

What’s particularly funny about my choosing this show is that Greg Dulli is really a showy frontman and that is not really my style.  Okay, if you’re someone like Marilyn Manson who is putting on a SHOW, that’s one thing (and I saw MM back in the 90s and let me tell you, that was a s-h-o-w and it was awesome – Hole, the co-headliner, not so much).  Lots of people love that and credit Dulli for being an excellent frontman. I find it distracting and, despite being about six rows back, spent most of the show with my eyes closed, reveling in the driving force that was the music.

And it’s a force. It’s… I can’t really describe it.  I think at one point I looked at my friend and all I could really say was some sort of muttered, “jeezus effing chreest.”  I really like live music and I leave the venues happy and smiling and feeling like I just had a genuinely great time. But I left that venue feeling like I needed to go home and have a very long cold shower.  Or, something.

Preferably something.

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THAT said – my favorite concert MOMENT of 2012?  Guy Venable coming out and singing with Lucero at the sold out show at the Fillmore back in March and the entire crowd singing right along with him.  The shorter video doesn’t show it, but the longer one does… When it was all said and done, Brian gets up and shouts, “That’s my Mother[censoredforthekiddies] DAD!!!!!” and it was just the cutest thing ever!  Also cute was the fact that Rick and Brian had to go get a very drunk Ben from the stage as he seemed as though he just wanted to keep on playing forever.

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Additional Disclaimer – Of course seeing Roger Waters perform The Wall in its entirety is basically one of my all time dreams come true (especially at AT&T Park). The only reason it didn’t go up as one of the top concerts is because A) it’s really more of a theatrical performance than a concert. And B) I also saw it in 2010 and counted it as one of my top shows that year  😉