Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Tuesday Top Ten: Concerts of 2015

After 2014's relatively sparse concert attendance (only 12 shows, which is an even, if not pathetic, monthly average), I roared back in 2015 with 23 shows (and I even took January and November off!).  2015 was a really good concert year.  It started off strong with Billy Idol, and ended even stronger with Diarrhea Planet and JEFF The Brotherhood.  In between, I saw the likes of Paul McCartney, The Who, Metallica, Gregg Allman, Slash, Neil Diamond, The Replacements, Weezer, Foo Fighters, Cheap Trick, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, AC/DC, and The Darkness, among others.

2016 is looking bright, as well.  Tickets have already been purchased for Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Gary Clark, Jr., and Wolfmother, with Weezer, Cheap Trick/Heart/Joan Jett, and some others recently announcing tours.  (Unfortunately, I was unable to procure tickets for Bruce Springsteen's show tonight at the United Center.)  Of course, I am cautiously optimistic about the purported Guns N' Roses reunion.  I would lose my shit (figuratively, hopefully) if I saw them.

Anyway, here are my top ten concerts of 2015 (not including the shows I saw at Lollapalooza, which I separately ranked here).

Other shows attended (in chronological order)
-Communist Daughter, American Grizzly, and Black Oil Brothers - February 19 - Martyr's
-Tin Lynott - March 14  - Martyr's
-Gregg Allman - March 20 - House of Blues
-Neil Diamond - April 14 - United Center
-The Replacements and The Smoking Popes - April 30 - The Riv
-Fort Frances - May 9 - Lincoln Hall
-JEFF The Brotherhood and Flesh Panthers - June 17 - Double Door
-Weezer and Saint Motel - July 8 - Petrillo Music Shell
-Rusted Root - July 18 - Sheffield Garden Walk
-Freddy Jones Band - July 25 - Taste of Lincoln Avenue
-Craig Finn and Esme Patterson - October 22 - Old Town School of Folk Music
-Black Pistol Fire and The Erers - December 2 - Lincoln Hall

10.  The Who and Joan Jett & The Blackhearts - May 14 - Allstate Arena
I saw The Who a couple years ago when they played the Quadrophenia album in its entirety, and I thought that show was just okay, probably because that's not one of my favorite Who albums.  On the bright side, Vintage Trouble opened up for The Who that time around, so I can thank The Who for helping me discover Vintage Trouble.  This time around, they brought Joan Jett & The Blackhearts as their open, and Jett and the gang were awesome.  The Who played a wider range of songs, as I had hoped they would, and the band sounded great on their 50th anniversary tour.  And the guest appearance by Eddie Vedder was a nice touch.

9.  Ghost and Purson - October 3 - The Riv
Ghost has gotten better each time I've seen them.  With new singer Papa Emeritus III, the band was on their A game when we saw them at The Riv.  Seeing them a few weeks before Halloween was particularly cool.  The theatrics, combined with the great music and witty Swedish banter with the crowd, makes for a great show.

8.  Foo Fighters, Cheap Trick, Naked Raygun, and Urge Overkill - August 29 - Wrigley Field
This was one of the longest non-festival shows I've attended, as it started at 5 p.m. and went until about 11.  We walked in to "Sister Havana," watched Chicago's Naked Raygun plow through their set (kitty corner from the Cubby Bear, where Dave Grohl saw them play when he attended his first ever concert), rocked throughout Cheap Trick's wonderful power pop, and then enjoyed almost two hours of Foo Fighters, with Grohl sitting in his throne of guitars, still recovering from a broken leg.  Foo Fighters are, in my opinion, the best hard rock band of the last 20 years, and even with Grohl in a seat, they managed to rock the shit out of Wrigley.

7.  Billy Idol and Broncho - February 7 - The Riv
I saw part of Billy Idol's set at the first Lollapalooza at Grant Park back in 2005, and I have wanted to see him live since then.  He didn't disappoint, playing a great set with a lot of energy.  His guitarist, Steve Stevens, is one of those underrated guitarists for hire that can absolutely shred.  And Idol looked and sounded great.  We can all only hope to be able to dance around on stage at age 59 with a six pack.  Well, I plan to dance around on stage at age 59 with a six pack, but it will probably be some imperial porter, and I'll probably be quickly arrested.

6.  Royal Blood and Mini Mansions - June 3 - The Metro
How hard can a duo consisting only of a bass player and a drummer rock?  Very, as it turns out.  Royal Blood is just that:  two dudes.  Like many fantastic duos before them, they get a whole hell of a lot of sound out of two people, but what makes them unique is that lead singer Mike Kerr doesn't play a guitar, but rather a bass.  That said, he often plays the bass like a guitar, and he gets some pretty amazing sound out of it.  With soaring vocals and some Sabbath-esque riffs and drumming, I'd describe their music as garage metal, although they hit other genres as well.  I'll always have a fond place in my heart for this show because Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals was going on during the show, and in between songs, everyone was checking their phones for the score.  The band must have been very confused when people started randomly cheering louder after a Hawks goal.

5.  The Darkness - October 20 - House of Blues
The Darkness is one of my favorite live bands.  They play their balls off every night, and I will see them every time they come to Chicago.  We were able to mosey up to pretty close to the stage, which turned out to be fortuitously fortunate because one of my friends caught a drumstick, and I caught a pick from none other than the hand of Sir Justin Hawkins himself -- a concert-going first for me.

4.  Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators and Fozzy - May 18 - Concord Hall
I am a huge GNR fan, and until this year (keeping my finger crossed they come to Chicago), I had never seen any of the band members live.  Slash is one of my favorite guitarists, so seeing him in a relatively small venue was a no-brainer.  He was awesome.  And when I say that, I mean that he inspired awe in me.  My buddy and I positioned ourselves pretty close to the side of the stage where Slash was stationed, and I spent most of the concert staring at his fingers, as he hammered out some of my favorite songs.  And don't discount Myles Kennedy, either.  He can hit the same notes Axl can, and he is a formidable force on stage.  A nice bonus was the opener, Fozzy, which is a hard rock and metal band fronted by WWE superstar Chris Jericho, who himself can hit some high notes.

3.  AC/DC and Vintage Trouble - September 15 - Wrigley Field
I have been waiting a long time to see AC/DC.  Last time they came through town (which I want to say was 2008 or 2009), they were playing out at Allstate Arena and charging too much for the pleasure of driving to and from Rosemont, so I didn't go to the show.  This time, they were playing at Wrigley Field, and my friends and I were able to get general admission field tickets when they went on sale, and the show was phenomenal.  We had a great view of the stage, and the band kicked as much ass as I had hoped they would.  The stage presentation was top notch, too, from the video screens to the giant hell's bell to the cannons for "For Those About To Rock" to a giant inflatable Rosie.

1 (tie).  Diarrhea Planet, Left & Right, and Wax TV - March 27 - Lincoln Hall
1 (tie).  Diarrhea Planet and JEFF The Brotherhood - December 30 - Lincoln Hall
On a night when Bruce Springsteen is currently playing in my city, to paraphrase Jon Landau's description of The Boss upon first seeing him in May 1974, I have seen the future of rock and roll, and its name is Diarrhea Planet.  With four -- yes, four -- guitars, Diarrhea Planet plays with the energy of punk and the technical proficiency and guitar solos of metal.  They are like a combination of Weezer, Van Halen, Thin Lizzy, and Phil Spector's Wall of Sound.  It's frantic and energetic, and the show is a lot of fun to watch, even if you don't know the songs, because the guys in the band look like they're having a blast on stage.  I have some video of the March show, but unfortunately, the sound on my phone was not so good, but check them our on YouTube.  With a name like Diarrhea Planet and song titles like "Ghost With a Boner," I'm not expecting these guys to play stadium tours anytime soon, but that works out well for fans because we get the chance to see them in smaller venues.  If they come to your town, see them.  You won't be disappointed.  Hell, I loved their show so much in March that I went to see them again in December at the same venue, and they were even better the second time around, which I didn't think was possible.

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