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The 25 Best Live Acts of 2012

November 28, 2012  |  10:12am
The 25 Best Live Acts of 2012

2012 was a great year for live music, whether it was legacy acts brushing off the cobwebs and heading back out on the road or new groups proving their mettle on the big stage. We polled Paste staffers and writers about their favorite acts who toured or performed festival spots this year, and today we present the 25 Best Live Acts of 2012.

15. M83
Setlist.fm offers 122 M83 show listings for 2012, a number bested by only a handful, most notably Skrillex. This relentless support of Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming saw clubs turn to theaters, festival tents give way to main stages, and even found the band headlining events like FYF Fest and Treasure Island Music Festival. But, quantity is only part of the story. Anyone who caught M83 live witnessed a group seizing the moment with unerring musicianship, big-budget lighting, and a focal point in Anthony Gonzalez overcoming shyness to hold the spotlight in a proud display of passion and energy. Showmanship appeared both in the form of a creepy cloaked troll and in the full-band percussion frenzy that closes “Reunion.” And, of course, there’s the eventual sweaty dance orgy that is “Midnight City,” a perfect moment of unity served nightly that only a pop song could provide. M83 has long been a great recording act, but in 2012, Anthony Gonzalez finally became a rock star.—Philip Cosores

14. Justin Townes Earle
In support of this year’s Memphis soul-inspired Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now, Justin Townes Earle has been performing with a full backing band that wholly encapsulates the tone and emotion of that personal record. However, it’s the solo acoustic, mid-set breakdowns that showcase Earle’s jackhammer fingerpicking blues and raw, raspy vocals. It’s this contrast within sets that makes Justin Townes Earle shows both submissively stunning and absolutely invigorating.—Hilary Saunders

13. The Walkmen
Live acts don’t get much more solid than The Walkmen in 2012. Performing with a simple backdrop and white lights, the band let its raw talent speak for itself when showcasing its latest album, Heaven. Evenly drawing from all eras of the group’s catalog, they remind us why we’re still excited to see them deep into their career. And frontman Hamilton Leithauser’s voice is notably as powerful as ever. —Tyler Kane

12. The Jesus and Mary Chain
Ray and Dave Davies. Noel and Liam Gallagher. Jim and William Reid. There’s something about sibling rivalry among gifted songwriters that blows up a band and leaves the rest of us without hope for a reunion. But the Reid brothers of The Jesus and Mary Chain finally buried the hatchet this year, giving those of us who wore out our cassettes of Psychocandy but never caught them live a second chance to experience the wall of noise coming from the Reids’ fuzzed-out guitars and almost-buried vocals, delivered with the same nonchalant swagger that defined cool back in 1985.—Josh Jackson

11. Father John Misty
At a Father John Misty show, Josh Tillman is equal parts musical brilliance and comedic genius. In between extending and riffing on great songs like “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” and “Nancy From Now On,” he jokes with the audience with his sly humor that is more than evident on Fear Fun. Tillman is an exuberant performer, making his songs sound fresh in the live show, making his audience laugh and rock, all while seeming to have a great time while doing it.—Ross Bonaime

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