Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Tuesday Top Ten: Concerts of 2016

2016 was another great year of concerts, beginning with Black Sabbath in late January and ending with Weezer in early December, with some amazing acts in between.

2017 is looking promising, too, with tickets already purchased for Japandroids/Craig Finn, Experience Hendrix, Def Leppard/Poison/Tesla, Tom Petty, Chicago Open Air (featuring Kiss, Rob Zombie, Megadeth, and Anthrax), Foreigner/Cheap Trick, and Green Day –- not to mention Hamilton, which I realize isn't a concert, but is still pretty cool.

But enough about 2017.  Here are my top ten concerts of 2016 (not including the shows I saw at Lollapalooza, which I separately ranked here).  I didn't see a bad show, so narrowing it to ten was a challenge.

Other shows attended (in chronological order):
Super Diamond – January 30 - House of Blues
Wolfmother and Deap Vally – February 25 – The Metro
David Cross – March 17 - The Vic
Kung Fu – March 19 - Martyr's
Gary Clark, Jr. – April 1 - The Riv
So So Glos, Dirty Nil, and Symposium – May 21 - Beat Kitchen
Eagles of Death Metal – May 25 – The Metro
Jane's Addiction – July 28 – The Metro
Ace Frehley – August 26 - House of Blues
Budokan 77 and Viceroy – September 9 - LiveWire Lounge
Weezer and Phantogram – December 1 – The Aragon

10.  Black Pistol Fire and The Hunna – June 18 – The Metro
I saw Black Pistol Fire at Lollapalooza in 2015, and I though they were awesome.  I bought their album, and I thought that was awesome.  Ergo, when I found out they were playing at The Metro, it was a no-brainer.  This Austin-based duo plays blues-based garage rock.  I tend to like duos because, when it's just a guitar and drums, the band has to get creative, and that usually results in good things.  Black Pistol Fire does just that, with good results.  The show was foot-stomping and engaging.  I'll definitely see them again next time they're in town.

9.  The York Album Project – May 1 - Schuba's
I wrote about this back in May.  It was a concert of original songs put on by high school students, under the tutelage of one of my good friends, who is their music teacher.  I was (and still am) extremely impressed with how good the show was.

8.  Black Sabbath and Rival Sons – January 22 - United Center
This was one of the first stops on Black Sabbath's final tour -- aptly named "The End" -- so I sure as shit wasn't going to miss it.  While old, the band still rocks.

7.  Brian Wilson – July 16 - Union Park
Even if Wilson isn't the most animated stage presence, seeing him, Al Jardine, and others play Pet Sounds front to back was pretty damn cool.

6.  Heart, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, and Cheap Trick – July 19 - First Merit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island
Billed as The Rock Hall Three for All, this was a great triple bill.  Cheap Trick started out the fun.  They always put on a great show.  Joan Jett was up next.  I saw her in 2015 open for The Who.  She rocked then, and she rocked again this time around.  Heart was the headliner.  I have been wanting to see Heart for years, and for one reason or another, I always had a conflict when they came to the Chicagoland area.  I'm glad I finally saw them.  Ann and Nancy Wilson both still have it.  They played a great set, and Cheap Trick even came out for a jam at the end.  All in all, a pleasant way to spend a summer night.

5.  Hall & Oates, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – July 22 - Hollywood Casino Amphitheater
No summer would be complete without a limo trip to Tinley Park to see a concert.  Hall & Oates is another one of those groups that I've always wanted to see.  The most successful duo in history, Hall & Oates was a a big part of my childhood.  They are one of those groups whose songs you know, even if you don't know you know them, and they put on a great show.  To make things better, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings opened (and Trombone Shorty opened before them, but unfortunately, we didn't get there in time to see him), and they were great too.  I'm glad I got to see them, given Sharon Jones's untimely death last November.  The pictures I was able to get weren't as good as the show, but their clarity is indicative of my mental state at the time.

4.  The Darkness, Raven Eye, and The Last Vegas – April 27 - House of Blues
The Darkness continue to consistently be one of the best live bands around.  Trust me, if they come to your city, go see them.  Last year, I was lucky enough to catch a guitar pick.  This year, I somehow caught a bass pick from Frankie.  Next time, I hope to catch an entire instrument.  After the show, I hung out with Jake and Elwood in the HOB lobby.  Not a very talkative duo.

3.  Pearl Jam – August 20 - Wrigley Field
It had been eight or nine years since I had seen Pearl Jam.  I missed out on tickets for their last dalliance at Wrigley a few years back.  I got tickets, and then a friend from college who is a huge Pearl Jam fan told me he was coming to town for the show and had an extra general admission field ticket.  Needless to say, I sold my regular ticket and took the GA ticket.  Pearl Jam doesn't put on a bad show, as far as I've been told, and this one confirmed it.  They sounded great, played some songs they hadn't played in a while, and even brought up former Saints player Steve Gleason (who, as you may know, suffers from ALS).

2.  Iron Maiden – April 6 - United Center
The sheer power and magnitude of Iron Maiden's stage show cannot be understated.  I have seen the band several times in outdoor amphitheaters, but never inside.  They sold out the United Center, and we had general admission floor tickets.  When you go to an Iron Maiden concert, you see a show.  The stage settings were intricate and fantastic, changing probably a dozen times, depending on the song or album.  Musically, the band is still one of the best around.  The guitars are still amazing.  Steve Harris's basslines are still ridiculous.  Nicko McBrain's drum set is still massive.  Bruce Dickinson still hits every one of those high notes perfectly and runs around the stage with the energy of a man half his age.  And Eddie, well, he's still Eddie.

1. Guns N' Roses and Alice in Chains – July 1 - Soldier Field
I have never been more excited to see a concert than I was to see GNR.  Having never seen them when the band was together in the late '80s and early '90s, I had basically been waiting 25 years for this day.  They did not disappoint.  I had always told Jester that I would spend $1,000 to see a reunited Guns N' Roses.  Rest assured, I didn't spend that much, but I did get a VIP package that included front row tickets.  The whole experience was nothing short of amazing.  Before the show, one of the bars in Soldier Field was made into a VIP lounge, where there was an appetizer buffet and GNR-inspired mixed drinks (not to mention regular alcoholic drinks).  Everyone who did the VIP thing got an awesome hardbound tour book, along with replica flyers and tickets from GNR shows in the '80s and '90s. 

But all of that would have been worthless if the band didn't play well.  First up was Alice in Chains, who I was never a huge fan of back in the day.  However, they killed it.  The lead singer who replaced Layne Staley sounds exactly like Staley, and the whole band kicked ass.
And then came the main event.  Guns N' fucking Roses.  
They played for two and a half hours, and it was all awesome.  I wasn't worried about Slash.  I've seen him before, and he hasn't lost a beat.  Nor was I worried about Duff or the rest of the band.  
Axl was the wildcard, but I will tell you this:  he came, he sang, and he conquered.  He had the energy and the pipes of his younger self.  

The band put on a consistent, energetic, and musically proficient show.  It was everything I had waited for and more, and I'd easily put this in my top five favorite concerts ever.

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