Boy George’s vocals were soulful, and the songs were like old friends.
1. Culture Club | 07.20.16, The Family Arena, St. Louis
Seminal 1980s band Culture Club graced the Family Arena stage with all four original members, including their eccentric lead singer: the one and only Boy George. This was a tour we were always told would never happen. Yet, this year, the luck of the fans changed, and the production was incredible. George’s vocals were soulful, and the songs were like old friends. “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me,” “Church of the Poison Mind,” and the biggest-selling single of 1984, the über hit “Karma Chameleon,” were all present, along with many other fan favorites, and even a couple of new Culture Club songs. The band looked ageless, and their sound was impeccable. This was, indeed, the best show of 2016, one for which I’ve been waiting for many years. The Boy and his cohorts were flawless.
2. Stevie Nicks | 12.03.16, United Center, Chicago
The Enchantress of rock ’n’ roll is currently on her long-awaited 24 Karat Gold Tour, twirling around stages across the nation. However, she did not play St. Louis this time around, so since she didn’t come to me, I went to her. Driving the five hours to Chicago, I wondered: Would the show be worth the trip? At age 68, does Nicks have what it takes to keep her legions of hardcore fans happy? She does, indeed. Playing songs from as far back as 1971’s “Crying in the Night,” from the pre–Fleetwood Mac Buckingham Nicks, the diva performed tunes she has not touched in years. With grace and a strong vocal, Nicks delivered the goods to the packed house, telling the story behind each song. Although she did perform some songs from her illustrious band Fleetwood Mac, like “Gypsy,” “Gold Dust Woman,” and “Rhiannon,” she delved mostly into her work as a solo artist. Hits such as “Stand Back,” “If Anyone Falls,” and perhaps her biggest solo hit, “Edge of Seventeen (White Winged-Dove)” were delivered with a fierceness only Nicks can create. When she was joined onstage by Chrissy Hynde of opening act The Pretenders, together they put new magic in the first single from 1981’s Bella Donna, “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.” This was a magical show by an iconic rock performer. At 68, Nicks is still in her prime, and her performance was magical.
3. Barry Manilow | 02.26.16, Scottrade Center, St. Louis
The man who writes the songs that make the whole world sing came around for his final tour. His stage presence and talent pose no question: The women still love him, and the men still want to possess his pizazz. In the music business for over 40 years, Manilow had many a hit to play—and did his best to play them all. “This One’s for You,” “Copacabana,” and “Mandy” were among the steller songs he has written over the years. Fans were well satisfied by the set selection, and his heartwarming presence could be felt even in the back of the arena. For his last hurrah, the singer brought his best game, and his soft rock style will be missed. At 73 years of age, he sounded terrific, giving each song his all. A great night of music.
4. Paul McCartney | 08.03.16, Busch Stadium, St. Louis
Back in the States, the former Beatle put on one hell of a show. With hits from his days with the Fab Four, as well as Wings and his solo work, each song held a special spot in musical history. With a large pyrotechnics display during a spirited rendition of “Live or Let Die,” the show was a spectacle to behold. Treated to hits including “Hey Jude,” “Yesterday,” and “Band on the Run” from his days with Wings, fans were more than satisfied with the set. Selling out Busch Stadium is no easy task, yet, every time he graces our city, it is the only venue big enough to hold him. A true icon: To see him is an honor.
5. The Rock Hall Free for All feat. Joan Jett, Cheap Trick, & Heart | 07.16.16, Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre, St. Louis
With three Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees on one bill, this was sure to be a night to remember. Up first, Cheap Trick brought uts patented brand of ’70s-style rock to life. This is one band that fans love to hear live. With favorites like “Dream Police,” “I Want You to Want Me,” and chart-topper “The Flame,” the band captivated the crowd. Next up, hard rock icon Joan Jett took the stage, and supplied a ferocious set of classic Jett tunes. “Crimson and Clover,” “Light of Day,” and “I Hate Myself for Loving You” were given an almost punk edge, as Jett delivered her vocals with a rock ’n’ roll viciousness.
Headlining the show was mega hit-makers Heart. Sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson commanded the stage, showing their supreme stage presence and raw talent. Vocalist Ann still has the pipes that made her a star, while guitarist Nancy proved her ability to do more than just play a killer riff. Nancy took the lead vocal on “These Dreams,” and her performance was sublime. The pair gave the crowd the songs they longed for—“Barracuda,” “What About Love,” and super hit “Alone”—coupled with songs from their latest album, Beautiful Broken. This was one great night of classic rock ’n’ roll; I look forward to another tour of inductees.
6. Marilyn Manson | 07.25.16, Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre, St. Louis
With the release of his latest album, The Pale Emperor, Manson toured the States twice, hitting our area both times. His second visit was as a supporting act for Slipknot, yet in his satanic way, he stole the show. In between new songs such as “Third Day of a Seven Day Binge” as well as “Killing Strangers,” he wowed the crowd with violent renditions of Manson classics, including “Disposable Teens,” “The Beautiful People,” and the mega hit that started it all, his version of the Eurythmics Top Ten hit “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).” Always a showman, Manson whipped himself into an industrial frenzy, leaving the audience sweaty and wanting more.
7. Air Supply | 07.06.16, The Family Arena, St. Louis
With music trends always changing, this is one band that has never followed what was popular. They have always stayed true to their soft rock, romantic sound. Who would have thought that in 2016, Air Supply would not only still be around, but still be relevant? Yet relevant they are. Hits like “Sweet Dreams,” “The One that You Love,” and the massive hit, “All Out of Love” were welcomed by the large crowd at the Family Arena. When it comes down to it, Air Supply still has the ability to make one fall in love with them all over again.
8. Stryper | 11.08.16, The Ready Room, St. Louis
The Christian metal powerhouse known as Stryper brought the 30th anniversary of its seminal album To Hell with the Devil to the stage, playing the release in its entirety. Vocalist Michael Sweet still possesses his magical four-octave range, and uses it well. Drummer Robert Sweet, Oz Fox on lead guitar, and Tim Gaines on bass are still at the top of their game. With all four original members, this was one hell of a show. Though the band has announced this may be their last tour ever, fans hope that they will continue on. Holding the record for the most successful Christian hard rock album in history, Stryper harness a special power which, along with their pop-touched metal sound, have rocked thousands of fans. This show was no exception.
9. Styx | 03.12.16, Peabody Opera House, St. Louis
Classic rockers Styx brought the crowd to their feet, playing all the hits they are known for. Tracks like “Too Much Time on My Hands,” “Renegade,” and “Blue Collar Man” come across just as fresh as they did back in their heyday. Though the band has lost longtime vocalist Dennis DeYoung, it matters not. Tommy Shaw provided exceptional vocals, and the band proved they still have what it takes to rock.
10. Gemini Syndrome | 07.01.16, The Firebird, St. Louis
This exciting new metal band has an eclectic, heavy sound, with melodic vocals courtesy of Aaron Nordstrom. Live, they are articulate and tight. Their newest LP, Memento Mori, shows the technical skill and serious prose this band possesses. This is one band that is on the rise, and the live shows prove it. | Marc Farr