Best Concerts of 2016 | Mike Rengel

It’s rare to get a night when college-aged you is happy and pushing-40 you is happy. This was so it.

NB: The Top 10 contains 11 shows. What are you gonna do? Here they are, in chronological order.

Craig Finn + Titus Andronicus | 03.05.16, Off Broadway, St. Louis

Sometimes a person needs some fucking rock therapy. You need a Stones and Who–inflected punk-rock opera about mental illness and a frontman who talks about what goes on in off-kilter brains like mine. And yours. You need concentric semicircles of ragers and mosh pits. You need great friends in tow. You need to jump and sweat ’til your t-shirt is drenched and your hair’s slicked all the way back. The excellent local beer is cold, but gets warm in 10 minutes because a mass of passionate humans. You have to pump your weedy little fists and jump into the leaping, body slamming fray to a gorram transcendent Titus Andronicus/Craig Finn tag team cover of “Bastards of Young.” My chiropractor didn’t like the aftereffects. But that’s OK. There’s a fine line between respecting your boundaries and remembering you’re not even close to dead yet. I was half deaf for two days afterwards, asking folks to be forgiving if I didn’t hear them calling my name. But rest assured I was fortified and smiling.

Savages | 04.08.16, Ready Room, St. Louis

Savages were all unsanded edges: so severe, so visceral, while still forging a legitimate bond with the audience. It was a communal experience via expert use of negative space and sound. Best bass ever. “I adore life.” Put that on my tombstone, yo. Life affirming in the face of entropy.

M83 | 07.25.16, The Pageant, St. Louis

A Francophone Haçienda in space, full of the retro-futuristic, white-boy-dancing squonks and beats that tap into the sincere love of 1980s synth-pop that lives in the very core of my mind. This show was possibly even better than the 2011 one that lit up the inside of my brain like the way “Graveyard Girl” sounds.

The Church + Psychedelic Furs | 08.04.16, Ready Room, St. Louis

Steve Kilbey and the Church brought the beardy, shapes-throwing new-age cool. Material from last year’s fab Further/Deeper swam beautifully alongside classic hits and sprawling deep cuts. Even the absence of the mighty Marty Willson-Piper didn’t put a dent in the massive vibe. Then there was Richard Butler as Michael Caine’s hipper younger brother. The Furs brought the house right down by virtue of playing a hits-stuffed catalog with enthusiasm, energy, and a sense of truly enjoying being there and plying their craft. Plus, multiple kinds of saxes all night long and my fave Furs song, “Heartbreak Beat”! I got an R. Butler side-five. We had a brill, utterly smile-inducing time despite the Ready Room full up like it was trolling the fire marshal. It’s rare to get a night when college-aged you is happy and pushing-40 you is happy. This was so it.

Paul McCartney | 08.13.16, Busch Stadium, St. Louis

Paul was live. I’d been waiting for this day since grade school. I missed out on the Busch Mk. II show in 1993 and was shut out due to demand for the arena gig in 2012, so to be here in my ballpark, hearing him play these enduring songs with vigor, meant so much. It was doubly brilliant getting to go with my mom, who introduced me to the Beatles, and 30 years ago lit the inextinguishable fire that is my love for music. Bonus fab also being able to attend with my fellow Beatle scholar and McManiac Tom Lampe.

Wilco | 08.17.16, The Fox Theatre, St. Louis

Seeing Wilco live never gets old! Especially in the grand environs of the Fabulous Fox. There was no shortage of memorable moments, including a powerful “Art of Almost,” plus “Handshake Drugs,” “Via Chicago,” and the opening foursome of Star Wars songs. And closing out the main set with “Box Full of Letters,” “Impossible Germany,” and “The Late Greats” bookending “Heavy Metal Drummer” and “I’m the Man Who Loves You” was fab. Props to us getting “I’m Always in Love” and “We’ve Been Had” (!). But it was “Jesus, etc.” that gave me the most feels on a night not at all short on feels.

LCD Soundsystem | 09.11.16, LouFest, Forest Park, St. Louis

I danced myself squeaky clean. Well, my feet were mud encrusted, but still. James Murphy’s set was the joyous, cathartic culmination of two days and evenings of music and community at LouFest 2016. The Sunday night headliner was another white whale that was the unforgettable experience I craved.

Beck | 09.23.16, The Peabody Opera House, St. Louis

My first time seeing Mr. Hansen in the flesh was an Oreo of awesome! Up-tempo grooving opening and ending sets, with a creamy center of my favorite sad bastard stuff from “Morning Phase” and “Sea Change,” but with interesting arrangements that really made it all work within the context of the rest of the set. It was a bizooty-shaking set, anchored by his super tight live band, which featured longtime R.E.M. sideman Joey Waronker and onetime Jelllyfish member Jason Falkner.

Green Day | 10.26.16, The Pageant, St. Louis

On the heels of their fired-up, refocused comeback album Revolution Radio, Green Day announced a surprise tour of venues much smaller than they’d usually play. So when a date at The Pageant (St. Louis’s 2,000-capacity theater-sized venue) was announced, I initially thought it was a fake, like one of those “Vanilla Ice at Ted Drewes” Facebook goof events. But then it turned out to be real. Of course, I figured there was no chance in hell I’d be able to get tickets. Leave it to PLAYBACK Fearless Editor, fellow Green Day fanatic, and all around super pal Jason Green to procure a pair of tickets and generously offer me the spare. So we drank a belly full of beer, and stood in the multiple, gigantic lines that stretched from The Pageant’s box office almost all the way down the block to the intersection with Skinker. (All tickets were will call, to try to prevent scalping.)

So after procuring tickets, then waiting again to actually get inside, we were face to face with Billie Joe & Co. The house was packed, but it never felt claustrophobic. Green Day came on stage to rapturous applause, cutting through a thick, electric atmosphere with guitars louder and sharper than I think I’ve ever heard. The set was a 2.5-hour bonanza of new material (just as strong live), Dookie crowd-pleasing faves, deep cuts, and old Lookout! Records–era gems. There was a palpable sense of the band having probably even more fun playing this show than we were watching them. It was, for every single reason, an unforgettable show.

Marillion | 10.29.16, Hard Rock Rocksino, Cleveland

Marillion were/are wave after wave of emotion, a group that genuinely values the connection they have with their audience as we do ours with them. It’s an earnest, powerful experience every time, and this might have been them at their best yet. The set was heavy on recent material (a good thing, given the quality of their newest albums), but also deftly wove in older cuts that made all of the lifers in the audience smile like fools. (“Sugar Mice” in the encore about had the entire room misty eyed…it sure did me.) All of the feels! And not merely a concert, but a community.

Pet Shop Boys | 11.05.16, Civic Opera, Chicago

I’ve loved Tennant/Lowe for 20 years. Sometimes I need the Release of an Alternative Disco to dance my cares away. Sometimes I require a soundtrack for my Introspective Behaviour. Their Discography has long hit both marks. And this show delivered. Seeing the masters of ironic synth-pop, vital as ever, at such a surreal, yet fantastic venue, was one of those “bucket list” experiences. I was dancing in my seat the entire time, and the couple of times I stood up, I was worried I’d tumble from the balcony to my death. But what a way to go! He died as he lived: uncoordinated, enthusiastic, and surrounded by craft beer, friends, and music.


Honorable Mentions

The Jayhawks | 06.26.16, The Pageant, St. Louis

Chill, older-skewing Sunday evening crowd and vibe, but enormously soulful. The kind of show that puts an inerasable smile on your face, and that you can still feel resonating within you the morning after.

Car Seat Headrest | 09.05.16, Ready Room, St. Louis

Ra Ra Riot + Young the Giant | 09.29.16, The Pageant, St. Louis

Dance yrself clean, part deux.

Sloan | 11.12.16, Blueberry Hill Duck Room, St. Louis

The post–election blues buster I sorely needed. Thanks, Canada!

Henry Rollins | 11.16.16, The Pageant, St. Louis

Hilarious, astute, self-deprecating, serious, political, and personal: Rollins’ spoken word was another sorely needed post–election depression/freakout release and salve.

Rough Shop 13th Annual Holiday Show | 12.10.16, The Focal Point, St. Louis

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