The Year in Concerts

Ten shows you should have seen in 2012
December 21, 2012

(Clockwise from top left; Santigold, Sinéad O’Connor, Scissor Sisters, Fiona Apple. Inset; Grace Jones.)

‘Tis the season of year-end lists, and while I’m more than happy to look back at all the fantastic live music of 2012, I’m not so much into ranking and comparing and qualifying. These are the best shows a queer music fan could have seen this year, but I’m not saying any of them are better or worse than any of the others. If you didn’t make it to these performers’ shows, make damn sure you do the next time they come through New York.

Santigold at Governors Ball

Santigold’s sophomore album, Master of My Make-Believe, was hands down one of the best pop albums of the year, and her performance at this summer’s Governors Ball on Randall’s Island was just as amazing. Imagine joyously infectious songs like “The Keepers” and “Disparate Youth” performed outside on an idyllic summer day.

Fiona Apple at Governors Ball

Another standout performance from this year’s Governors Ball. Apple was at the top of her game this year, with an album, The Idler Wheel…, that wowed critics and fans, and with performances that left audiences breathless. By turns both frightening and vulnerable onstage, Apple is such an unpredictable artist that it always seems like you could be witnessing her perform “Criminal” for the last time.

Light Asylum, Trust and Mirror Mirror at Music Hall of Williamsburg

There was some extremely potent dark magic at work at the Music Hall of Williamsburg the night Light Asylum, Trust and Mirror Mirror all appeared on the same bill back in July. These three standouts of the dark-wave resurgence are anything but commercial, but the music they play is utterly bewitching, and seeing all three bands on the same stage was a borderline religious experience!

Gossip at Terminal 5

Speaking of religious experiences, Gossip’s May show at Terminal 5 made me a believer. I’d been something of an agnostic, barely a casual fan, before seeing Beth Ditto and co. live. But the singer’s gospel-tinged, rock-goddess voice—and the fact that she has the undeniable charisma of a cult leader—rocked me in my very soul.

Scissor Sisters at Terminal 5

With rumors of a potential hiatus flying around, I sure hope you made it to one of the Scissor Sisters shows at Terminal 5 this summer. Judging by the fact that just about every queer in the city was at the show I saw—and that was just the second night—I can’t imagine many of you missed it.

Sinéad O’Connor at Highline Ballroom

Even with laryngitis—which she claimed to have at her Highline Ballroom shows in February—Sinéad O’Connor is still an unparalleled performer. When she sang her ultimate crowd-pleaser, “Nothing Compares 2 U,” there wasn’t a single voice in the crowd that wasn’t raised along with hers.

Grace Jones at Roseland Ballroom

A Grace Jones show is so rare that missing her recent performance at Roseland Ballroom is simply a crime. There were fans of over 30 years at that show who were seeing the singer for the first time!

Lana Del Rey and Zebra Katz at Irving Plaza

After her widely criticized performance on SNL, Lana Del Rey’s first live gigs in New York last June were some of most anticipated shows of the year. The fact that queer Brooklyn rapper Zebra Katz was opening made us want tickets that much more.

Azealia Banks at Bowery Ballroom

One of the most exciting new artists to emerge this year, Azealia Banks’ Bowery Ballroom show this summer doubled not only as an old-school ball, but also as a statement of solidarity with New York’s unique urban queer culture. This is one hip-hop mermaid who’s definitely part of our world!