The thirty best concerts of 2012

Categories: Best of Denver

Eric Gruneisen
Radiohead's show this past March at 1STBANK Center is one of 2012's thirty best concerts.

While 2012 will be remembered as the year that Red Rocks hosted the most shows in its history, it's also going to go down as one of the best years for concerts in Colorado in general. As we reflected on all the incredible shows we took in this past year, there were an astounding number of what we'd consider must-see shows. Out of all the shows we reviewed, we've somehow managed to narrow it down to the thirty best concerts of 2012. Keep reading to see which ones we picked, and as always, feel free to weigh in if you think we left out one of your favorite shows.

See also:
- The twenty best hip-hop shows of 2012
- The ten best EDM shows of 2012
- Last Night Review archives

Judging by the instrument setup on stage, you could have guessed what sort of music Michael Kiwanuka would be playing: congas prominently pushed to the front of the stage, a classic sparkle drum kit reminiscent of something Ringo might play, an organ and a handful of acoustic and electric guitars with stained wood-grain finish. Santana could have waltzed out of a time machine and begun playing at any minute. Instead, Kiwanuka and five other musicians crowded the instrument-packed stage, and without any introduction launched into their set. Already-familiar chords of his newish single, "I'll Get Along," filled the room, hushing a crowd made up largely of couples -- so many folks on dates to see Kiwanuka, which makes sense: His folk-pop music seems geared toward them, and they ate it up.

"There were horses and what looked like buffalo skins, elaborate umbrellas and a rhythm-perfect band dressed in...we don't know what. There were striking red, blue and green lights, with plenty of space for Santigold to emerge, flanked by two synchronized-singing, back-up-dancing drummer gals, wearing absolutely blinding smiles. Starting the show with "Go," Santigold (aka Santi White) opened up a can of weird for Denver last night. As the opening strains of "Go" played, the dancers came out with militant fervor, high stepping and jumping, taking their places on either side of Santigold, who mimicked their movements with a cool style of her own."

DeVotchKa played their first show with the Colorado Symphony in February at Boettcher Concert Hall, moving longtime fans and enthusiasts to a state of tearful and awe-inspiring bliss. Last night, the rare and remarkable collaboration played for a larger audience at Red Rocks Amphitheatre -- and the unexpected, yet perfectly natural musical chemistry between the two groups proved transcendent once again.

The whole show was a bit of an unexpected display of a communal musical experience that you don't often see. People knew this music and so many people sang along to songs that they've obviously come to love with a band that encouraged the audience participation not in an aggressive, desperate way but with a gentle nudge and grace. Clearly, this band has played this material countless times both in Denver and beyond, at small venues and large, but there was no pretense and these people were very much swept up in the moment last night at the Bluebird.

26. PEACHES @ the SUMMIT MUSIC HALL | 10.13.12
With champagne, campy German dancers and enough fake boobs to smother an elephant, Peaches' show at the Summit was a roofied cocktail of grimy beats and erotic theater. Putting on a show that was both grand in scope yet refreshingly minimal in its DIY simplicity, the queer, electro-punk goddess offered up a ninety minute set that put to shame the million dollar operations of today's top rated DJs, giving the audience a primal does of 21st century punk rock. Like a hologram Grace Jones fronting Gwar before a live Victorian orgy, the show left us all a little pulled inside out.

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My list wasn't even close . I'm not familiar w/ better than 1/2 the artists you mentioned . But if it's in WW,  it must be correct .....


Not sure how New Order didn't make this list.  But Leonard Cohen was indeed amazing.

Eamonn Wilcox
Eamonn Wilcox

Death Grips at Larimer was probably the best night of my life

Rob Author
Rob Author

No. Die Antwoord didn't even make the list but Skrillex did? Lol.

Brian F. Johnson
Brian F. Johnson

Not listing the second night of Jacket at Red Rocks = Epic fail!

Maxwell Turtle Pants
Maxwell Turtle Pants

Beats Antique had a killer show at the Rocks that was TRUMPED by their halloween bash giving props to Pretty Lights, Bassnectar and Dom before rolling into an absurd Catskills and instrumental Bohemian Rhapsody. Railroad and Umphrey's murdered red rocks on august sixteenth and although umphrey's set seemed a little cleaned up as opposed to their usual jam...a kashmir encore with both bands made it a night to never forget. Oh and easily some of the most feel good vibes and excellent experience on the Rocka for Lotus' debut as headliner. Emancipator opened and made the crowd a loving sea of friends before a gigantic lotus flower was erected on stage to harness the EOTO magic before letting the semi hometown band come on and perform the best show of the last three years that ended in the only fashion possible, a Nomad shoutout to those that waited for this moment between the rocks, Spiritualize encore into Colorado. Hearts melted, friends were forever made, and love for the performers was sealed. Xavier Rudd at Ogden was thrilling to all in his mesmorized crowd while Die Antwoord showcased why they deserved a repeat at the ogden four months later. BUT for new music, that romantic moment that WE ALL LOVE when something happens and everyone's attention in the room captured and you witness a band become a little bigger than reality from the independent dungeon they have been hiding in came one fateful night at Larimer Lounge when Purity Ring booked a show and sold it out only to book another and sell that out as well. The Lumineers broke out in a big way but these Canadian kids made one hell of a splash in five points. Props on Jack White at No 1 as he was the king of Red Rocks this summer.

Jeremy Richards
Jeremy Richards

Nah you left out Bassnectar and Pretty Lights at the Rocks, I don't know how you could have put Skrillex before that.. WEAK


I don't even know how you picked 30. I went to exactly 4 shows this year, Ryan Adams, Refused, Petty and Deftones. This was a bad year for concerts in Denver and arguably the worst Red Rocks line up in years...

Mantonat topcommenter

Two thumbs up on the Leonard Cohen concert. I also loved when he did Tower of Song on what sounded like a Casio keyboard; it added a touch of humor to the show and brought him closer to the audience.

I'd also cast my vote for the Frank Turner show with Larry and his Flask at the Summit in September. Insane energy level from Frank and his band. 

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