As the year end approaches we revisited the best live music performances we saw during 2012. Exceptional live shows by Radiohead, Leonard Cohen, Alabama Shakes and Jack White took place in Austin over the past year. Texas acts, Hacienda, The Toadies, Ruthie Foster, Hard Proof and Alejandro Escovedo played electrifying sets as well. In all, 2012 was a good year for Austin both musically and economically as the “Live Music Capital” continued to prosper while much of the nation struggled to recover from recession.
We recap the best shows of the year (in no particular order) and a slideshow of images from those dates in our year in review below:
Radiohead taped an Austin City Limits TV show last March while they were in town for a performance at the Frank Erwin Center. They may arguably be the biggest name ACL TV producer, Terry Lickona has landed in his over 30-year career. Thom Yorke and the band played to an engrossed, packed, Moody Theater. The taping took place just before South by Southwest Music Festival (SXSW) and it felt like the British rockers were leading off the festivities.
We watched a sneak preview screening of the taping at Republic Square Park in downtown Austin last September. Afterwards, we chatted with Mr. Lickona about using the Alamo Drafthouse outdoor screen to show more tapings and the Delta Spirit (see more on DS below) taping scheduled during Fun Fun Fun Fest the following month. You can view behind-the-scenes video and images of the taping at the ACL TV website.
Jack White (The White Stripes, Dead Weather) returned to Austin for Austin City Limits Music Festival in support of his fantastic solo album, “Blunderbuss” with two bands in tow, the all-male, Buzzards and the all-female, Peacocks. Both bands played during his ACL Festival performance on the AMD stage and the ACL TV taping the same week. White executed a nearly flawless set at the Moody Theater taping with the Buzzards opening the set, transitioning to the Peacocks seamlessly as feedback from White’s guitar resonated throughout the theater at the midpoint. The taping setlist was more subtle than the Zilker Park ACL performance with White opting for the endearing, “We Are Going To Be Friends” over “Seven Nation Army” to end the show.
White has been nominated for several Grammy awards for his work on “Blunderbuss” including Best Rock song for “Freedom at 21” and Best Rock Album.
Visit the ACL TV website to see video and images from the taping. The full episode is scheduled air “early winter” according to ACL TV.
Songwriter and poet Leonard Cohen is revered by music fans and musicians alike for his craft. Cohen began his 2012 American tour at Bass Hall on the University of Texas campus for a two night stand. We caught the first night performance which featured over three hours of music in two sets. Cohen was unforgettable particularly when spouting poetry like “A Thousand Kisses Deep” in his trademark baritone.
The 78-year-old Canadian continues his tour this month with stops in Boston and New York before heading to Europe. Remaining tour dates can be found here.
Ruthie Foster, Carolyn Wonderland and Alejandro Escovedo
Each SXSW Festival, The Austin Chronicle produces the Austin Music Awards (AMAs). Amid the calamity of performances that is SXSW, the awards show is usually sparsely attended. 2012 was the year that changed for the AMAs as Bruce Springsteen made a surprise appearance and Alejandro Escovedo pulled double duty as a performer and de facto Master of Ceremonies. The veteran musician was indeed masterful leading Springsteen, Joe Ely and an all-star list of players covering the Rolling Stones’ “Beast of Burden”.
Another highlight was Grammy-nominated singer, Ruthie Foster and local legend, Carolyn Wonderland teaming up with a stunning version of Bob Marley hit, “No Woman, No Cry”. Foster, a gifted blues and folk singer, had her latest, “Let It Burn” nominated for Best Contemporary Blues Album.
Being an instrumental, Afrobeat band among the multitude of indie bands in Austin is both a challenge and blessing for Hard Proof. In 2012, the band gained a legion of fans, took up residency at the Continental Club and garnered acclaim from the local music press. Last April the band played a memorable set at the Mohwak with Akina Adderly and Nakia (The Voice). The talented group featuring the Black Joe Lewis horns is known for inciting spontaneous dance-parties at their gigs.
Hard Proof just released their self-titled, first full-length album which can be streamed and purchased here.
The San Antonio group that backed Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys) on his 2009 solo tour, Hacienda got a boost this year with an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman and help in the studio from Auerbach who has been nominated for a Best Producer Grammy. Before they ended up in New York taping The Late Show, the band stopped by the Blackheart to play local radio station, 101X Homegrown Live series. The Blackheart back patio was filled to capacity for a remarkable show.
Visit the band’s website and click the music player to hear tunes from the Auerbach produced, “Shakedown”.
Another Grammy-nominated artist, Alabama Shakes made our list for their scintillating performance at Stubb’s BBQ with Lee Fields. The roots rock act led by Brittany Howard who has drawn comparisons to Janis Joplin was nominated for Best New Artist. Howard not only sings with the same gusto as Joplin, she plays a mean guitar too. Their show left us breathless after the intense, torrential set they turned in to launch ACL Festival.
Alabama Shakes tour Australia and New Zealand in January after non-stop touring stateside this year. Be sure to click the link above to see photos of the Stubb’s pre-ACL Festival show.
After seeing Delta Spirit at the Do512 Lounge, SXSW and ACL Festival this year we wanted more, attending their ACL TV taping during Fun Fun Fun Fest. Each performance seemed better than the last, culminating in a super-charged taping. You could tell the band was excited about recording the TV show and fans were just as excited to catch the root rock act from San Diego that has been gaining steam this year. The set was phenomenal. Photos from the taping can be viewed at the ACL TV website.
Be sure to watch the video shot at the Do512 Lounge of the band playing hit, “California”. The band also heads to Australia starting with Big Day Out Festival in Sydney January 18th with Alabama Shakes among others.
Carolina Chocolate Drops
We caught the Carolina Chocolate Drops brand of folk-country music at the Johnny Cash 80th Birthday Tribute that featured Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson. There were many good performances that evening, but Dom Flemons, Rhiannon Giddens, Hubby Jenkins, Adam Matta, Justin Robinson turned in the most notable song, “Jackson”. Watch a video clip of the performance by clicking the link in the left sidebar.
The band was nominated for a Grammy for Best New Folk Album for their latest effort, “Leaving Eden.” It is the Drops second nomination. They won a Grammy for 2010’s “Genuine Negro Jig”.
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What were your favorite performances of 2012? Use the comment section below to tell us about it.