10. Adam Ant, Sept. 28 at Seminole Casino Coconut Creek
New Wave’s most fashionable pirate returned for a tour in anticipation of his 2013 comeback album, but the set list was 99 percent old favorites and rare B-sides, chock full of surprises performed with gusto. That much can’t be said for Adam’s backup dancer, who shared no chemistry with the singer; luckily, it didn’t deter from this otherwise stellar greatest-hits collection.
9. Sleigh Bells, Feb. 11 at Revolution Live
The Sleigh Bells set was particularly raucous and speaker-busting, but no more raucous and speaker-busting than other Sleigh Bells shows in Miami and West Palm Beach in recent years. What made this show exceptional were the guests they brought along as their opening acts. Jacuzzi Boys performed a fine set of skuzzy surf rock while Liturgy, the self-described “transcendental black metal band” confused just about everybody in the best way genre-bending music can.
8. Woody Sez, opened March 16 at Theatre at Arts Garage
In my designation, this musical falls under touring concerts rather than original theater productions, because most of the talent flew in for this unique celebration of Woody Guthrie’s life and music. The first Arts Garage program presented by ex-Florida Stage founder Louis Tyrrell, the musical featured four talented singers, playing Guthrie’s music on their own instruments while sharing the folk pioneer’s groundbreaking marriage of the folksong and protest song. It was educational in the most entertaining way possible.
7. Elvis Costello & the Impostors, April 25 at Hard Rock Live
Unfortunately, the crowd at this concert moved as if it was on life support, but Costello himself was in top form, a mad carnival barker whose 150-foot Spectacular Spinning Songbook kept the set list unique to this show. This show would probably be higher on this list if a couple of songs (like “I want You”) didn’t bring the energy to a sagging low just when the show was supposed to amp itself up. But the last half of the concert, which included “Peace, Love and Understanding,” “Everyday I Write the Book” and “I Can’t Stand Up” was pure bliss.
6. Built to Spill, Sept. 11 at Culture Room
Straight-up, no-frills indie rock served with plenty of loud guitars, chiming harmonies, angular song structures, catchy melodies and fist-in-the-air sing-a-longs. Built to Spill didn’t seem particularly high-energy on this night, but the songs emanating from their instruments were pretty darn close to perfection. It’s hard to beat a set list that included “I Could Hurt a Fly,” “Joyride” and “Car.”
5. The Daily Show Live, Dec. 1 at Coral Springs Center for the Arts
This standup comedy triple bill combined the talents of three Daily Show personalities – writer/producer Adam Lowitt and correspondents John Hodgman and Al Madrigal – for a rare tour that conclued with a Q&A session. Madrigal was the show’s veteran comedian extraordinaire, providing a polished set of relatable material in a smooth, storytelling fashion. But the highlight of them all was the cerebral Hodgman, whose weird look and weirder material reached its cultish zenith with a gut-busting bit involving audience interaction.
4. City and Colour, June 4 at Culture Room
City and Colour, the surprisingly fragile indie-soul-folk project formed by Dallas Green after leaving hardcore band Alexisonfire, provided a stirring and seemingly endless set of music for a sold-out crowd. I’ve never seen a room more electric than this audience was (despite some obnoxious talkers near the bar), and the Culture Room’s sometimes shaky acoustics sounded studio-perfect for a set that included everything anyone would have wanted to hear from City and Colour’s two most recent records.
3. Nouvelle Vague, Nov. 2 at Grand Central
Sexy, sexy, sexy! The three vocalists front-and-center for this rare South Florida appearance from France’s New Wave music revivalists Nouvelle Vague knew how to use their bodies as well as their voice for a theatrical stage show that presented ‘80s indie chestnuts like “Blister in the Sun,” “Dance With Me” and “Dancing With Myself” in a lustful and lustrous new light.
2. So You Think You Can Dance!, Dec. 5 at Hard Rock Live
This past month’s tour-closing performance of So You Think You Can Dance! operated as a hometown show for two of its locally raised dancers, whose touching speeches kicked off what would become a very special night of dance. Variety ruled in an eclectic set of dance numbers that took the best from the show’s past season and integrated compelling new group numbers, all of them flowing together like liquid legwork.
1. Public Image Ltd., Oct. 5 at Grand Central
Appearing in Florida for the first time in Florida in more than 20 years, post-punk legends Public Image Ltd. delivered the year’s most riveting live performance, on the very first night of its fall 2012 tour, and even with a noticeably under-the-weather lead singer in John Lydon. His head cold did nothing to tamper his band’s sonic onslaught, where classics like “This is Not a Love Song” and “Rise” shared the stage with epic dirges like “Religion” and “Albatross.” This was where pop went to die, and punk too – charting frontiers that still seem renegade and postmodern, decades after they were recorded. A packed house ate out of Lydon’s hands with every note.