The Best Concerts of 2012

The roar of the crowd. The rush of energy as the band takes the stage. The deep-felt euphoria that rattles your soul. What better place to be truly present than at a concert. And 2012 was full of memorable ones: This writer witnessed everyone from the Beach Boys to the lauded rise of indie supergroup Divine Fits. But it was these five shows that ruled them all:

5) Fiona Apple, Sept. 14 at the Greek Theatre

The beautiful ice queen herself awoke from her creative slumber seven years after the triumphant Extraordinary Machine (Epic) with an even more vulnerable and volatile album, The Idler Wheel... The gusto of that record came alive onstage (and in a Texas jail cell) and enthralled fans. She simultaneously appeared frightened and empowered, a duality most of us can relate to.

4) Sigur Ros, Aug. 12 at Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Sigur Ros concerts have always been otherworldly experiences, but up until this gig, the Icelanders had never performed for the dead. It was chilling to see them in such a historical, gorgeously somber setting. The moaning EBow and melancholic croon of front man Jonsi nurtured the hallowed grounds in an infinite caress.

3) Fun., Aug. 17 at the Wiltern

True to their name, these superstars from NYC are extremely "fun" in a live setting. Confetti, kitschy cover songs, epic drown-out-depression singalongs-- you name it, the trio nails it. This was one of those uproarious gigs at which every tune became an anthem, which inspired all to throw their arms around one another and toast to life. See, Gen Y isn't so cynical after all!

2) Madonna, Oct. 10 at the Staples Center

Madge didn't miss a step at this event (to call it a concert would be a disservice). It was as though Cirque du Soleil exploded and fragmented into 20 troupes, all clamoring to support the Material Mama. (Yep, even son Rocco got in on the act during "Open Your Heart.") This two-hour spectacle was a celebration of a legend who's paved the way for pop heroes to come. And in her 50s, she's still got nicer legs than most ladies half her age.

1) Grouplove, Nov. 17 at the Wiltern

To youth! This cavalcade of Angelenos did its hometown proud this past weekend, pulling out all the stops for an audience that included the band members' parents (awwwww!). The energy from the "Tongue Tied" group was relentless, fueled by Red Bull and dizzying optimism. Lead singer Christian Zucconi, the spitting image of Kurt Cobain - sky-blue Fender guitar and all - coupled his effervescence with gratitude for the success Grouplove had seen this year. Amid the cheeriness, one of the show's most memorable moments stemmed from an acoustic, unplugged version of the campfire ballad "Cruel and Beautiful World." Their album urges us to Never Trust a Happy Song, but one should have faith in Grouplove's uncanny ability to put on a phenomenal concert.

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