The best concerts of 2012

Jay-Z and Neil Young made the new Barclays Center an instant hit

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Photograph: Jon Klemm


Van Halen at Café Wha?, Jan 5 Perhaps it’s unfair to include a show not open to the public. But a rejuvenated, David Lee Roth–fronted Van Halen at a club that seats 250? You’d boast too.—Steve Smith

Björk at the New York Hall of Science, Feb 6 Of her album about nature and technology, Biophilia, Björk told TONY, “It’s not, either I have a laptop or I have a tree. You can [have] both!” To prove it, she set up shop in a museum, with a band that included Tesla coils and an Icelandic choir.—Sophie Harris

Rhys Chatham and Oneida at Merkin Concert Hall, Mar 17 Presented as part of the Ecstatic Music Festival, punk minimalist Chatham and woolly art-rock band Oneida offered borderless simpatico that lived up to the fest’s name.—SS

Craig Taborn Trio at the Village Vanguard, Apr 3–8 An elusive piano genius, heard constantly in supporting roles but rarely as a bandleader, navigated thrilling sound labyrinths in his first Vanguard headlining run.—Hank Shteamer

D’Angelo at PNC Bank Arts Center, Aug 23 Even 5 billion miles away in New Jersey, the chance to see recently resurfaced R&B hero D’Angelo do his thing live for the first time in years was too good to miss, and the show was sizzlingly, lip-smackingly delicious.—SH

Ethan Iverson, Ben Street and Albert “Tootie” Heath at the Village Vanguard, Aug 23 Bad Plus pianist Iverson’s pangenerational projects are always rewarding; here, drum vet Heath kept Iverson and bassist Street on their toes.—SS

Royal Thunder at the Knitting Factory, Sept 11 Opening for the justly buzzed Pallbearer, this vintage-style Atlanta hard-rock quartet upstaged the headliner, thanks to bassist Mlny Parsonz’s superhuman vocal prowess.—HS

Jay-Z at Barclays Center, Sept 28 The opening night of Hova’s eight-show run felt like a dream come true for pretty much everyone at Barclays—including the rapper himself—to judge by the screams (male and female) heard when he took the stage.—SH

Jazz & Colors in Central Park, Nov 10 The conceit—30-plus groups play seasonal standards in Central Park—sounded gimmicky, but the execution was a delight, with world-class combos performing in a discovery-friendly, NYC-exalting setting.—HS

Neil Young and Crazy Horse at Barclays Center, Dec 3 The venerable Canuck capped a busy year with a rugged yet tenderhearted sprawl of a gig in the company of his trustiest backup band.—HS


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