2012 might go down as the greatest concert year I've ever had. Through the grace of the rock gods (and my lovely wife), I was able to see Black Sabbath, Bruce Springsteen, The Who, Motörhead, The Darkness, Alice Cooper, Andrew W.K., and The Hives (among others) for the first time. I saw some great metal and hard rock double bills: Motörhead and Megadeth, Scorpions and Tesla, Iron Maiden and Alice Copper, Cinderella and Sebastian Bach, and KISS and Mötley Crüe. Add in Flogging Molly, Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears, Anvil (including meeting the band), Black Keys, Arctic Monkeys, J. Roddy Walston & The Business, Kaiser Chiefs, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jack White, Gaslight Anthem, JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound, Vintage Trouble, Alabama Shakes, and Foxy Shazam, and it's tough to narrow this list down to my favorite ten. One way to do it is to exclude the shows I saw at Lollapalooza, which I separately ranked here.
Anyway, here are my ten favorite concerts of 2012, with the rest listed in honorable mention, since I didn't see a bad show this year. I also posted pictures for the shows for which I haven't previously done so.
Honorable mention: Motörhead and Megadeth (Aragon, February 10), Flogging Molly, Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears, and The Devil Make Three (Aragon, February 18), Black Keys and Arctic Monkeys (United Center, March 19), Andrew W.K. (The Riv, March 25), Kaiser Chiefs (House of Blues, April 19), J. Roddy Walston & The Business (Rib Fest, June 8), JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound (The Metro, November 21), The Who (All State Arena, November 29), Alabama Shakes (The Riv, December 1), Foxy Shazam and Super Happy Fun Club (Bottom Lounge, December 30).
10. Anvil, Admiral of Black, Beak, and Ironfinger, Reggie's Rock Club, February 23
Canadian thrash metal pioneers Anvil have been on a rollercoaster ride the last few years, after the fantastic documentary Anvil: The Story of Anvil was released in 2008. This show was a straight-up metal show. Ironfinger was a hard rock/metal group, apparently from the burbs, who rocked. Beak was okay –- a bit too screamy for my tastes. Admiral of Black was a solid metal band (I bought both of their albums after the show). Anvil was excellent. Drummer Robb Reiner is probably metal's most underrated drummer, and Lips Kudlow can still play a guitar with a dildo. The highlight of the evening happened between Admiral of Black and Anvil. I was there with my buddy Creature, whose brother The Weez used to work with the guy that made the Anvil documentary. Creature was wearing a Japanese Anvil shirt and talking to the merch guy, who asked Creature, "Where did you get that shirt? I've never seen that, and I'm Robb Reiner's son." Creature explained how he got it. Ten minutes later, I'm standing about 20 feet behind the stage, and Creature yells my name as he speedwalks past me with Reiner's son, who leads us down a few flights of stairs into the dungeonous subterranean backstage area of Reggie's, where we got to meet the band. I told Robb I liked his Edward Hopper-style paintings (see the documentary), while Creature talked to Lips about the guy who made their documentary. Then we got a picture. It was pretty cool.
9. KISS and Mötley Crüe, First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre, September 7
I've seen both bands before, and they both know how to put on a fun and entertaining live show. With this tour, both bands played for 90 minutes, and that was about the only downfall, since they both couldn't play longer sets. Here is a recap of the show.
8. Iron Maiden and Alice Cooper, First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre, July 5
Due to a snafu by our limo driver (and yes, I took a limo to the Iron Maiden concert), we arrived about halfway into Alice Cooper's set, which was too bad, since his live shows are legendary. At least we got to see Alice's head get chopped off in a guillotine. Iron Maiden is, well, Iron Maiden. You know you're going to get an energy-filled show, with pyrotechnics and giant robotic monsters. It must be odd for them to go from playing stadiums and festivals in other parts of the world with hundreds of thousands of people in the audience to playing a crowd of 10,000-15,000 in Tinley Park, Illinois, but you would never know the difference. I am convinced they couldn't put on a bad show if they tried. When lots of stage lights are involved, the iPhone tends to take a picture that looks like a giant fireball, but at least in this picture, you can kind of make out a giant picture of Eddie on the backdrop.
7. Scorpions and Tesla, Charter One Pavilion, June 28
This was billed as The Scorpions' "Final Sting" tour, and was supposed to be their farewell tour. After all, they have been performing together since 1965, and several of the band members are well into their sixties. Of course, you would have no idea. Their songs are made to be performed in front of huge outdoor audiences, and they bring it. Klaus Meine's voice is still as powerful as it ever was, and the rest of the band is as tight as can be. And they run and jump around the stage like people in their sixties should not be able to do. Tesla was pretty damn good too. Jeff Keith still has the pipes, and their set reminded me (and a lot of people sitting around us) that Tesla had a lot more hits than one might think at first blush.
6. Cinderella and Sebastian Bach, Congress Theater, July 27
A longer recap is posted here, but this was a pleasant surprise. Bach not only still has an amazing voice, but he also still has his swagger, as he proved by kicking some asshole out of the concert (see my linked recap). Cinderella is an underrated band that gets lumped into the glam metal genre, although when you listen to them, they are much more blues-based than most hair bands. As I mentioned in my recap, lead singer Tom Kiefer sounds exactly like he did 25 years ago, and Cinderella puts on a great show.
5. J. Roddy Walston & The Business and The Features, Double Door, March 30
After seeing J. Roddy Walston & The Business at Lollapalooza in 2011, it was a revelation. This is another one of those bands that I will see whenever they come to town. They play a great brand of booze-soaked rock and roll, and they put on a great live show. Were it not for the stoners making out in front of me for the entire show, I would have enjoyed it even more, but in the words of Brian Kelly, how could I stop them? Get the band's album and see them live. You won't be disappointed.
4. Vintage Trouble, Beat Kitchen, November 30
The night before this show, I saw Vintage Trouble open up for The Who at All State Arena. My friends and I had never heard of them, and we were blown away by their amped-up style of garage soul. One of my friends at that show said, "Can you imagine how awesome these guys would be at The Metro?" Not more than five minutes later, lead singer Ty Taylor said that they were playing at Beat Kitchen the next night. Boo yah. Daniel, Gregerson, and I went to the show, and the band did not disappoint. It was one of those shows where you're happy to see a band in such a small venue because you know next time they come through town, they will be playing to a bigger crowd. Taylor is a dancing machine on the stage. At one point he took off his jacket to reveal a maroon button-up shirt underneath. We all thought it was a leather shirt because it was so shiny. It was sweat. In addition to Taylor, the guitarist is awesome, and the rhythm section holds it down very nicely. This is a band that has been added to the list of bands I will see whenever they come to town. And to top it off, because it's the Beat Kitchen, the band hung out after the show, so Daniel and I got a picture with Taylor.
3. The Hives and FIDLAR, The Vic, June 29
Before this show, I didn't own any Hives albums and I had never seen The Hives, but I had heard from multiple people that their live shows are legendary. Holy shit was that true. Even if you have never heard a Hives song, I implore you to go see The Hives whenever they come to your town. The show was energetic, and lead singer Howlin' Pelle Almqvist was hilarious with his faux hubris. I have never seen a man command the attention of a concert hall more than he did. At one point, he asked everyone in the audience to be silent and get down on one knee. Everyone did. Then the band exploded back into their normal, frenzied garage rock. It was awesome. And the opening act, FIDLAR, was pretty good too, even if they appeared to be drunk and/or high, but I think that's part of their attraction. I also like the fact that their set list was written on a broken-down PBR case. Were it not for the next two shows on the list, this show would have been #1.
2. The Darkness, Foxy Shazam, and Crown Jewel Defense, The Metro, February 11
The Darkness show last February (full recap here) was phenomenal, not to mention Foxy Shazam's killer opening set, which made me go out and get their two albums the next day. It was only my second concert of the year and, after I left the show, I honestly did not think any other concert during the year could possibly top it. Until . . .
1. Bruce Springsteen, Wrigley Field, September 8He's The Boss. Game over.