Best Concerts of 2016 | Bruce Matlock

The eruption from the crowd upon hearing “Loud(y)” let me know Lewis Del Mar is destined for much bigger venues.

2016 may have been the most depressing of my 29-year life. When it came to live music, however, it was one of my best. It featured two shows at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado, a Beatle, two Cage the Elephant shows, and an exclusive show in St. Louis by Rock and Roll Hall Of Famers Green Day. While this year guaranteed I’ll never see David Bowie or Prince live, I was able to witness the emergence of Lewis Del Mar, Judah and the Lion, and Anderson .Paak.

1. Lewis Del Mar | 10.14.16, Blueberry Hill Duck Room, St. Louis

These dudes ended up being the top of my most-listened to according to Spotify, in spite of the fact that their album didn’t come out until October. When I realized I had an opportunity to see them in the dark basement of Blueberry Hill, class the next morning wasn’t going to stop me. “Loud(y)” was my top song of the year, and the eruption from the small crowd upon hearing it let me know Lewis Del Mar is destined for much bigger venues.

2. Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats | 12.04.16, The Pageant, St. Louis

Stardom looks good on the 38-year-old from Hermann. It was clearly a very emotional night, with Rateliff avoiding cracking up most of the night, and early mentioning he didn’t want the evening to go down a darker road. It felt more like a celebration, like a returning champion, though the band calls Denver home now. By the time “S.O.B.” arrived, the crowd was in a fervor that ended in the entire building humming the track’s famous chorus until the band returned to the stage.

3. Sia | 06.22.16, Red Rocks Amphitheater, Morrison CO

The first of my two previously mentioned Red Rocks shows. It was not a pleasant evening, especially if you weren’t a local who knew. As show time approached, a chill swept over the mountain and rain licked the faces of fans. No one was leaving, though, unless it was to the gift shop to buy every blanket and rain jacket they had. Even the spokespeople for the event were almost blown offstage. Arrive Sia did, and a performance ensued. I say that word specifically because it was not a concert: Yes, a vocalist performed, and dancers acted out breathtaking scenes, yet this was beyond what a concert is. There was no front man cracking jokes or doing power fists. There was a shy Australian named Sia Furler hiding at the back and exiting with a meek “Thank you.” Coloradans are insanely tough.

4. Green Day | 10.26.16, The Pageant, St. Louis

Green Day have never been ones to shy away from a small venue tour. Hell, they go as far as to tour as other bands entirely. This felt special, though, as St. Louis doesn’t normally get this kind of show. It was supposed to be the first of the tour, but due to sickness ended up being the last. Maybe that was for the best, as the band was as tight as you can imagine any band being. All of the new songs were great and extremely well received. The selection of covers were silly and lighthearted, and the politically commentary was sharp. Billy Joe Armstrong lead the crowd in a chant of “No Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA” only two songs in during “Bang Bang.” The closing combination of “Ordinary World” and “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” was surreal—even though the real world came back all too fast.

5. (tie) Tool/Primus | 01.22.16, Chaifetz Arena, St. Louis

5. (tie) Cage the Elephant, Silversun Pickups, Foals | 03.19.16, Landers Center, Southaven MI

I’ll call these two shows having your cake and eating it, too. Normally with bands this large, you either settle for a sub-par opener or perhaps more often none at all. These mega-tours broke that norm early in the year. No band I saw this year was better live than Cage the Elephant. The antics may have calmed down a bit, but the band sounds all the better for it, and the lightshow is excellent but not distracting. Tool may be the most perfect-sounding live band on the planet. The intensity is doubled somehow live, and after the oddity of Primus, Tool somehow levels everything in you spiritually. | Bruce Matlock

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