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.
5. Vintage Trouble
Vintage Trouble might be the one of the most energetic touring bands of the year, taking stadium-sized riffs and smashing them into intimate clubs. Ty Taylor is the ultimate showman—spinning in circles, swinging the mic stand, falling to his knees, bouncing back up and sauntering out into the audience. Watching him perform is as much a part of the Vintage Trouble live experience as singing and dancing along to the music.—Hilary Saunders
4. Gary Clark Jr.
How long has it been since a singular blues-rock behemoth has regularly graced stages across America? Austin, Texas' Gary Clark Jr. filled the void in 2012 by lighting the summer festival circuit on fire with an arsenal of earth-shaking guitar riffs and an impassioned wail that sounds like it belongs to someone decades his senior. And if you had a chance to see him in an enclosed venue? Forget about it. It's a wonder the whiskey bottles of America's bars were able to stay on their shelves when pitted against the building-rattling vibrations emitted from Clark Jr.'s monster Epiphone licks. Hide the women and children, please.—Ryan Bort
3. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
Imagine yourself 40 years into your job, still giving every ounce of energy you have every day you show up for work—even after you became the boss. Bruce Springsteen formed the E Street Band back in 1972 when he signed on with Columbia Records, and four decades later, they haven't slowed down. And though we've lost Danny Federici and Clarence Clemons, their presence is still felt on stage, especially seeing Clemons' nephew Jake Clemons taking over on sax.—Josh Jackson
2. Alabama Shakes
It can be difficult for a band to continuously put on compelling live shows with only one full album's worth of original songs. But the Alabama Shakes, who also made last year's list, have toured extensively on their outstanding debut album, Boys & Girls. Brittany Howard's blast-from-the-past voice shines over the band's clean Southern twangs and ripping riffs. Plus, they've been known to bust out a Led Zeppelin jam or two.—Hilary Saunders
1. Jack White
Jack White is equal parts showman and recording artist. From the White Stripes’ red-and-white peppermint theme, to his various world record attempts, to Third Man Records’ ostentatious everything, White has always placed a high premium on flair. So when it came time for him to tour in support of his solo debut, Blunderbuss, fans knew to expect more than just a stool and guitar on stage. Debuted to the masses during an unforgettable and highly exclusive Sixth Street performance during SXSW in March, White’s 2012 live show typically consisted of two sets—one with an all-female backing band, The Peacocks, and one with an all-male backing band, The Buzzards. Between the two, White treated audiences to rousing performances not only of his newly minted solo material, but also of fan favorites from his days with The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather.—Ryan Bort