15 Notable Houston Concerts of 2012

As we look back over 2012 this week, it is now time to revisit some of this year's memorable shows. It wasn't easy narrowing the list down to 15. Concerts are in chronological order.

CHRIS GRAY DAY, The Continental Club So much local talent and so much love. Uh, if I'm maybe a little too biased on this one, then let's go with the Mountain Goats, also in January. (January 14) JOHN SEABORN GRAY

RADIOHEAD, Toyota Center Some of it felt like it wasn't quite all there, appropriate considering shadows and spirits, sleeping and dreaming, are a recurring theme for Radiohead ("The Gloaming," "Identikit"). But for those of us wondering if it would kill them to throw in a chord change, they gave us "Airbag" from OK Computer, and once in a while dug out a riff that is still as sharp as a blade, like Hail To the Thief's "There There." (March 3) CHRIS GRAY

BUILT TO SPILL, Fitzgerald's Energy was high amongst both crowd and band -- or as energetic as BTS members get, which is not very -- but the vibe was all-around positive. Doug Martsch, a front man not particularly known for his onstage loquaciousness, seemed to agree, even early on. "This is the first time in Houston that we aren't on some giant stage in some weird place," Martsch noted to the crowd with relief. "It's nice!" (March 12) NEPH BASEDOW

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN & THE E STREET BAND, ACL Live (Austin, SXSW) Guest guitarist Tom Morello ratcheted up the volume of the E Street Band, standing out on "The Ghost of Tom Joad," a song he previously covered with his own Rage Against the Machine a decade or so ago. His metallic coda to the song, half Neil Young rage and his own trademark fretwork was what laymen call a "face melter." (March 15) CRAIG HLAVATY

DONOVAN, The Palm Door (Austin, SXSW) The '60s bard, the precursor to Bowie, the guy in the car with Dylan in Don't Look Back, the guy whose influence gets lost on this side of the pond, turned in a great solo set with complete candor and style. His voice, still impeccable. He sounds the same live as he does on those dusty albums at the record store. Hit after curio-box hit came out of the man. I was standing next to the bar only to notice Eric Burdon of the Animals and War drinking wine ("spill the wine...") listening to Donovan on his iPod, learning "Season of the Witch" so Donovan could summon him to duet on the darkly magical wonder. (March 17) CRAIG HLAVATY

THE BEACH BOYS, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion The second set was near-biblical, in rock terms at least, with previously-dormant godhead Brian Wilson attacking the band's monolithic Pet Sounds material with gusto. It was as if he sat around during that first set bored, waiting to show off his legend for that second half. (June 9) CRAIG HLAVATY

MESHUGGAH, House of Blues This was my fourth Meshuggah concert, but Sunday's show definitely had the best sound mix out of the performances I've witnessed. The band sounded apocalyptically heavy. Just as bewilderingly extreme was the light show, which assaulted the audience with a battery of colored LEDs and strobes. (April 30) NATHAN SMITH

CHICKENFOOT, Bayou Music Center An all-star lineup that highly impressed me: Joe Satriani on guitar, Michael Anthony on bass and Sammy Hagar on lead vocals. They put on an excellent show. (May 29) CHRISTINA LYNN

SNOOP DOGG, Eleanor Tinsley Park (Free Press Summer Fest) "Shout out to all the weed smokers in the house," he said at one point. "Damn, I need to smoke some motherfuckin' weed," he said at another. He gave a hilarious speech about always seeming to get arrested every time he's in Texas (the cops always want his autograph), and a warning that any officer wanting to arrest him might have to go through the crowd first. The crowd thought that sounded like a fine idea indeed. (June 2) CHRIS GRAY

CRIMSON PROJEKT, Warehouse Live it was a show I never thought I would get an opportunity to see: a reformed version of King Crimson that is actually an active touring unit. Consisting of most of the more recent line-up of the band, minus Robert Fripp, it was a really exciting moment to finally hear all those classics played live and also to hear not only how great all the musicians still are but how well those songs still hold up after all these years. (July 8) COREY DEITERMAN

SLAYER, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion Slayer shows seem to take nothing out of the band -- it looks freakishly easy -- but their crowds are worn out by the midpoint of the set. That's a good thing. A Slayer festival set list is shorn down to the bare and bloody basics, though I was excited to hear "Disciple" from God Hates Us All (released on September 11, 2001 no less) mixed among World Painted Blood material. (July 11) CRAIG HLAVATY

SWANS, Fitzgerald's you had to be attentive to every moving part onstage to get the full story. From my vantage point on the balcony I could watch pieces swell and retract. It was like watching a team weld together an installation piece. (September 15) CRAIG HLAVATY

BLONDIE, Arena Theatre During "One Way or Another," the last song of the main set and one of several hard-charging rockers in a row, security had to remove an overexited woman who couldn't resist a little stage time herself not once but twice. Two different women, right back to back, almost on top of each other. By then, though, Blondie had been priming those two and many others in the crowd for a while. (September 19) CHRIS GRAY

ACTION BRONSON, Numbers Once the Queens rapper made it to Houston, we were treated with a magical night. Bronsalino began his set onstage, then migrated into the crowd, to the bar, and eventually onto Westheimer. His fans followed him out into the street like lemmings, basking in his unpredictability and grateful for the close contact not often allowed by most rappers. The concert turned into a block party, making this show one of the best of the year. (September 22) MARCO TORRES

ZZ TOP, Constellation Field At 9 p.m., as the lights went out, a scene was projected onto the back wall of the stage, emulating a movie trailer. The audience was told that the following preview, while approved for all audiences, was rated "ZZ." Whatever that meant, it got the crowd's blood pumping as a female narrator introduced Gibbons, Hill and Beard to the crowd. A minute later, the band strutted out onto the stage. Beard walked to his kit first, tapping his snare and checking his kick drum. Moments later, Gibbons and Hill walked out together, wearing their suits and shades, an overall air of cool about them. (October 20) MATTHEW KEEVER

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