There’s always surprises in the world of music each year. 2012 started strong following on the coattails of 2011, which was the first positive album sales year since 2004, thanks to Adele. More than 18 million copies of Adele’s ‘21’ were sold. She was quite the singular force. The love-lorn diva dominated the Grammys as well, winning hardware for all six categories, for which she was nominated.
There is no ‘21’ out there but albums are selling thanks to such popular artists as Taylor Swift, Rihanna and Mumford and Sons.
The latter, who will play a pair of much-anticipated shows in Camden in February, impressed at Austin’s South By Southwest with a preview of their solid album, ‘Babel.‘
But Mumford and Sons and the myriad of other acts at the massive music conference were overshadowed by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. No one has ever taken over SXSW like the Boss, who delivered a keynote speech that blew away addresses by such industry titans as Robert Plant, Neil Young, Pete Townshend and Quincy Jones.
Springsteen’s performance at the intimate Austin City Limits was absolutely incendiary. His Philly concerts, a pair at the Wells Fargo Center in March and Citizens Bank Park in September, in support of his eclectic ‘Wrecking Ball,’ his best effort since 2001’s ‘The Rising,’ were typical Springsteen. The shows were spirited, unpredictable and memorable, particularly the raucous initial show at CBP.
Madonna topped the Boss as the highest grossing tour of the year with a $296.1 million take. Madge irked fans in some markets by arriving late (10:30 p.m. in Philly, 11:30 p.m. in Miami) but Madonna puts on a show with an unparalleled production. The visuals are spectacular and just plain big but that matches the price tag ($375 for a first level seat). But fans apparently don’t mind the price.
Hats off to David Menconi for writing the finest rock book of the year. ‘Losering: A Story Of Whiskeytown,’ is a look at Ryan Adams, starting when he was an unknown in Raleigh. Menconi was covering the scene for the News & Observer, immediately was taken with the unpredictable, gifted songsmith, who led Whiskeytown to acclaim before going solo.
Great anecdotes and keen observations fill the tome. It’s a rare rock book that’s addictive as potato chips. You just can’t put it down. Fun take on one of rock’s few remaining characters.
A tip of the cap to Metallica for their Orion Festival in Atlantic City. The annual event, which will appear in Detroit in June, was surprisingly eclectic. Kudos to Metallica for adding Modest Mouse and Best Coast to its well-rounded fest, which included James Hetfield’s classic cars and Kirk Hammett’s horror flick set.
Speaking of Best Coast, the California based band, the Japandroids and Kitten are some of the best fresh-faced recording artists of 2012. Anyone who writes the annual rock is dead columns should check those acts out. The world of music continues to be vibrant. Expect that to continue in 2013.