“What was your favorite show this year?” My good concert-going friend asked me this a while ago, and it took me a while to think of an honest answer. There were a lot of really great live shows this year and I was lucky to see some amazing, intimate concerts. I came up with a top five. I know. The last thing the world needs is another top anything list, but I couldn’t choose just one and not mention the others. They earned it.
5. The Black Keys at the Merriweather Post Pavillion / Madison Square Garden
They sold out Madison Square Garden in no time at all. And they rocked it so hard, I decided to go see them at the legendary Merriweather venue. Yes, these were two different shows, but the Arctic Monkeys killed it at both and I got to see the Keys from the pit in Delaware, which was way more fun. (And I was even lucky enough to see them again for free in Central Park!)
4. Jack White at Webster Hall
The first AMEX Unstaged concert, it was held at super-small Webster Hall and my friend and I managed to get in early enough to see the whole show from the second row. Jack played two hours — one with his all-girl band, The Peacocks, and one with his all-guy band, The Buzzards — and he brought along The Black Belles to warm up the crowd. Great show (directed by Gary Oldman!) in a small space was the key to this being one of my favorites.
3. Newport Folk Festival
This might be cheating, but I’m throwing the whole festival on here. Deal with it. I found so many bands that became my new favorites (Joe Fletcher & the Wrong Reasons, Blind Pilot, Spirit Family Reunion, Brown Bird) and even more that I already loved (Dawes, Trampled by Turtles, Tune-Yards, Gary Clark Jr., Punch Brothers). The best part was that it was a crowd-friendly show: throughout the weekend, we were chomping on hotdogs next to half of The Head & the Heart, drinking beer while Chris Thile was playing ping-pong next to us, and even walked by the legendary founder of the festival. It felt like a big backyard party in a gorgeous location. Will definitely be back.
2. Grace Potter & the Nocturnals at Irving Plaza
Thank you, Rolling Stone! The Nocs played a whole extended set in tiny Irving Plaza, and I was in the front row the whole time. I walked away with a guitar pick from Grace and a regret that I had never pursued my dream of being a long-legged rock goddess. It looks so goddamn fun. Shows in venues like this have spoiled me, though: I passed on GPN’s stints at the Beacon Theater because I wouldn’t have had even close to the same experience.
1. Glen Hansard at Le Poisson Rouge
A three-hour concert in what basically felt like someone’s living room. Guest songs from Desmond Child, Lisa Hannigan, members of The Frames, and about half the cast of the Broadway musical Once. I mean, even Michael Stipe was in the audience. It was my first time seeing him live, but Glen might just be my favorite artist to see perform. He is so unbelievably sincere and that night, he paid tribute to the venue and the people who inspired his first solo album. It was an unforgettable show packed with his own music, songs by The Swell Season and The Frames, and covers from Bruce Springsteen to The Band. Ending with “The Parting Glass” was a perfect choice for an unreal night.
That’s it: my top 5 concerts of 2012. Here’s to lots of live music in 2013!
Thanks again, MyFreeConcert. I saw a post about a free private Rolling Stones show for none other than Grace Potter & the Nocturnals at Irving Plaza, and I immediately sent my RSVP in (and instructed my friends to do the same). I also learned about a meet-and-greet with a small acoustic set at Best Buy across the street, so I was ready for a full day of GPN!
The band played (sans Matty) “Parachute Heart,” “Stars,” and “Never Go Back.” It was great meeting the band, if only for a minute. Benny was so sweet after I told him I loved his solo album, This is the Future. (If you haven’t heard it, listen immediately.) He seemed surprised that I had heard about it and told me that it would be out in vinyl soon (so GET IT). I made my way over to Irving Plaza post-signing and found out NONE of my friends would be joining. Wah-wah. Their loss! I scored a front-row spot, just right of center.
The band came on just a little after 9:30 and played past 11. It was my first time hearing material from their new album live, except for a few songs played during their Storytellers taping that I was lucky enough to go to. They KILLED it. Stand-outs include “The Divide,” “Oasis,” “Parachute Heart,” and “Turntable.” “Turntable,” especially because Grace crawled on the stage toward us in the front row and asked us to be her RCA cable. Be still, my lady-crushing heart.
They played a great mix of old favorites and new, and they came back with an encore of “White Rabbit,” “Nothing But the Water I & II,” and “Happy” by the Rolling Stones. And I managed to snag a pick thrown from Grace herself. Perfect way to end the night.
The Lion, The Beat, The Beast
Never Go Back
Stop the Bus
One Heart Missing
Paris (Ooh La La)
Nothing But the Water I and II
Happy (Rolling Stones)
I answered Gotham Casting’s call for audience members. And then I enlisted my friends to do the same. Out of all the concerts they’ve offered, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals’ taping was the one I wanted to go to most. I’ve been a fan of Grace for a while now, and I don’t think there will be many opportunities to see the band in such an intimate venue anymore.
I already had a ticket to see The Shins at Terminal 5 that night, but if I got the call, there was no question as to which I would go to. While I was in LA, I got the e-mail and immediately confirmed. I was beyond excited and asked my friend Paul to go with me. He’s a great friend and music fan, and I knew he would appreciate the opportunity.
After hanging out in Harlem (“What are you guys waiting for?” “Grace WHO?” was a pretty consistent conversation between us and passersby), they let us in to the studio, which was beautifully lit. We were ushered to our second row spot in the center, which I was psyched about. First row will constantly have a camera in their face, but second will be undeterred from enjoying the show without distraction. While taking in the space, I caught the stage manager Joey noshing on some pizza. I laughed, but next thing I knew, two bags of chips and a water from the green room landed in my lap! He said he was sorry for his bad manners. (And that I looked like a baked chip kinda girl. Thanks, Joey.) What service! Could it get better?
And then Elvis Costello sat right behind me. Elvis Freakin’ Costello.
Grace split her gorgeous white Pucci pants so emergency repair was needed before the THREE HOUR SET. Grace and the band were so relaxed and casual, we could have stayed there for three more. We heard some incredible stories about how the band came together, where certain songs originated from, and how they related to the band’s growth. George Michael’s “Careless Whisper” somehow became a recurring theme. There were tears, there were a lot of laughs, but mostly there was some kick-ass rock and roll.
I learned a lot about one of my favorite bands: Benny has a special relationship with Knocked Up, Scotty used to have a soul patch AND play in a band called Soul Patch, and Grace is as vulgar as they come (it’s awesome — and NOT going to make it on TV). Grace also said some really fantastic things about sexuality and music. The woman is a goddess who OWNS it, and she’s not apologizing. She also didn’t apologize for those mushrooms she took with her while writing the new album. And there’s a whole album that exists out there…produced by T-Bone Burnett!
It was an incredible show, and I can’t wait to see what it looks like in edited form. It’ll be amazing to have a record of it (and then remember all the juicy little tidbits that got left out)!
Songs That I Can Remember:
Stop the Bus
Paris (Ooh La La)
Never Go Back
Nothing But the Water
Big White Gate