Concerts are a huge part of my life! If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I go to a LOT of concerts. In fact, my final count this year was 52 shows, which consisted of:
- 9 festival type shows
- 130 different artists (more than 100 of which I’ve never seen before)
- 27 different venues
- 5 different states
You can read more about my concert addiction here:
When people find out how many concerts I’ve been to, the first thing they ask me is “What was your favorite?”.
That’s actually a really hard question to answer. First, with very few exceptions, I go to see concerts for artists that I love, so picking one favorite over another is tough. Second, concerts are good for different reasons. Some concerts are good because they are total sensory experiences. Other concerts are good because the music is amazing. Still other concerts are good because of the venue.
I asked my husband (who is also my concert buddy) the same question, and he was stumped as well. So, while we were on our 8 ½ hour drive back to Toledo at Thanksgiving, we went through EVERY show we went to this year, and put them in categories.
This post is a bit long, but if you make it all the way to the end, I did manage to pick my Top 5 concerts of 2017.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Tips2LiveBy Concert Awards of 2017!
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THE “CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET?” AWARD
Concerts are a great place to discover new music. Over the years, we’ve discovered a lot of bands that are amazing live, and have just never gotten the mainstream success. You may not have heard of these bands, but they are bands you need to check out! Or maybe I should keep them to myself!
Rubblebucket: We discovered this band in 2016 when they opened for Lake Street Dive, and we’ve gone to see them every chance we get since! Lead singer Kalmia Traver is quirky, but extremely talented. The horn section adds to the fun of this band. They had some small success with their single “If U C My Enemies” earlier this year. I’m hoping for bigger things with their upcoming album.
The Trews: Ok, if you are from Canada, you’ve heard of these guys. Unfortunately, they have never gained the same popularity in the States. We discovered The Trews at a 2016 New Year’s Eve show in Cleveland, OH when they opened for Red Wanting Blue. We got to see them twice in 2017, and can’t wait to see them again. These guys have been around since 2002, and still rock hard at every show!
Crystal Garden: If you are a Dave Matthews Band fan, you’ve probably heard of Crystal Garden. They were started as a side project of Boyd Tinsley’s (violinist for DMB), and he was featured on several songs with them during their tour this year. As DMB fans, we admittedly checked them out live for the chance to see BT after the show (which we did). However, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this band. I think they have a lot of potential, and the backing of DMB fans to go with it.
Ripe: This band is probably one of our best finds of the year. Out of Boston, we discovered them at the Levitate Music Festival this summer. They were so much fun, that when I heard they were coming to a tiny venue in Wilmington, DE, I jumped on tickets. These guys are pure energy, and they are musically talented to go along with it. I predict big things for this band. Catch them at a small venue while you can!
Grant Stinnett: This is another artist we discovered as an opener (he opened for The Trews and dada). This guy is probably one of the most talented bass guitar players I have ever seen. He does amazing things with the guitar. He’s also an amazing songwriter. I’m not typically into the acoustic singer/songwriter types, but Stinnett is worth your time to check out.
Carbon Leaf: This is another band that has been around a long time, and just never hit mainstream. We saw them for the first time last year, because Red Wanting Blue was opening for them. We liked them enough to give them another shot this year. I’m so glad we did! The show was one of my favorites of the year, and the guys in the band are just genuinely nice guys. They hung around after the show to do a meet and greet with the fans. They record and release all of their music independently, so it’s a little hard to find. I definitely suggest you seek it out.
THE “MAKE SURE YOU TAKE YOUR EARPLUGS” AWARD
These days, it’s getting harder and harder to find bands that just play good rock music. Concerts today are all about the stage production and lip synching, not true music. Luckily, there are a few bands still out there that just go all out with great rock music during their concerts. Check these bands out before the genre quietly dies away.
Gov’t Mule: This band is mostly about lead singer and guitarist Warren Haynes. A classic “jam band”, I wasn’t familiar with a lot of their music and wasn’t sure if I would like them live. But, they rocked the Tower Theater in Upper Darby non-stop for a couple of hours, with lots of amazing music.
Kings of Leon: Kings of Leon has been on my bucket list for a long time. I finally got the chance to see them when they were the headliner at a festival show, which meant I got a shorter than normal set. My new bucket list goal is to see them at a full headlining show. Unfortunately, the day of the festival was cool and rainy, and most of the crowd was under the age of 21. The audience cleared out for their set, but they missed a really great show!
The Trews: These guys rock. They rock hard. At every show.
Sammy Hagar and the Circle: Sammy Hagar is 70 years old and he rocks out at his shows like he is 20. This is also while he is swigging copious amounts of tequila on stage. I’m not a huge Van Halen or Hagar fan, but I am glad I got to see this show. Sammy still has it!
A Perfect Circle: While there is no evidence I attended this show (cell phone pictures and video were not permitted), I went outside of my comfort zone to see this. Fronted by Tool lead singer Maynard James Keenan, don’t expect any flash or much crowd interaction. It’s just a bunch of guys on stage doing their thing. But they can definitely rock!
THE “60 IS THE NEW 40” AWARD
I call the music that my parents used to listen to “oldies”, so I like to refer to the music from my youth as “retro”. I didn’t get to go to concerts when I was young, so I’ve been slowly making up for it now, and catching some of the artists that I loved as a kid.
Tears for Fears: This was probably one of my greatest concert experiences of all time. Not because the show was one of the best I’ve seen, but the mix of emotions I had seeing this band were all over the place. Tears for Fears was my favorite band for a good chunk of time in my youth. I never had the chance to see them live. This summer, not only did I see them live, but I was on the rail standing directly in front of lead singer Roland Orzibal. And they were good. Really, really good!
Depeche Mode: I got into Depeche Mode during my “skater” phase in the ‘80s. Depeche Mode, The Cure, The Violent Femmes – all of them were being played on my cassette player non-stop! We traveled to NYC to see Depeche Mode at Madison Square Garden. We had great seats on the floor. The show was spectacular. Dave Gahan is a great front man and the band sounded amazing!
Adam Ant: I was a little worried about this one. I had seen You Tube videos from other concerts that weren’t good. Then, the lead guitarist for the band died the night before the show and it was postponed. Luckily, they re-scheduled and we were able to make the new date. This was a 1980’s dance party. I was on my feet singing and dancing the whole night. After playing his “Kings of the Wild Frontier” album in its entirety, Adam Ant played all of the hits. Loved it!
THE “OSCAR FOR BEST COSTUME AND SPECIAL EFFECTS” AWARD
Some bands get up on stage and outside of a few lights, just play music during their concerts. Some bands turn their concerts into a huge spectacle with lights, lasers, pyrotechnics, video and costumes.
Queen: Of course, Queen is no longer the Freddie Mercury version of Queen, but Adam Lambert as been fronting the band for the last couple of tours, and does a great job. The Queen show is full of crazy costumes (mostly from Lambert) of course. But this past tour, they also utilized a really cool video screen that featured a large hand that appeared to be coming at you in 3-D throughout the show.
U2: Nobody does video screens better than U2. This past summer, they toured to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their “The Joshua Tree” album. The video during the show used images that were tied to those songs, and often images that were used during the original show.
Roger Waters: Roger Waters is also known for his elaborate video screens at shows. On this tour, not only did he utilize the large screen at the back of the stage, but a second screen that dropped down from the ceiling and hung above the floor seats. The screen showed various images throughout the show to go with the stories being told by the music.
Coldplay: Coldplay are the kings of the total sensory experience during a show. They use lights, video, lasers, pyrotechnics, giant balloons and lots of confetti during their concerts. They also give everyone a wristband to wear during the show. The wristband lights up at certain points during the show, to create a light show in the seats as well.
Empire of the Sun: Before seeing this band at a festival, I had heard a few of their songs, but knew nothing about them. These guys win the award for craziest costumes. Their set also included dancers who were in various outfits that can’t even be described.
THE “I’D RATHER DRIVE A HONDA THAN A PINTO” AWARD
Like a car that you’ve had forever and you know is going to start every single time, there are some artists that you know will always put on a good show. You go to their concerts because you know you can depend on them. You may not leave feeling like it’s the best show you have ever seen, but you will always leave feeling like you got your money’s worth.
Sting: I’ve seen Sting solo a couple of times, with Peter Gabriel once, and with The Police once. Sting is a legend. He has more hit songs than most artists could ever dream of having, and he’s great live. This year, we saw him in a small venue and got to be very close to the stage. It was an experience just being that close to him. He’s someone I will always pay to see.
Colin Hay: You may not recognize the name, but Colin Hay was the lead singer of the ‘80s band “Men At Work”. This was our second time seeing him, now that he is performing solo acoustic shows. He’s a very talented singer-songwriter. He’s also a really funny guy, and his shows are always entertaining.
Sammy Hagar: See my comments above. And remember, he’s 70 years old!
Spokey Speaky: This is a local reggae band out of Wilmington, DE. We have seen these guys at local festivals, at small venues, and even at our friend’s winery! They are good every time you see them.
Carbon Leaf: This band has been doing their thing for almost 25 years, and they are good every time.
Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds: Before I get attacked by all the Dave Matthews fans for not making this one of the best concerts I saw this summer, let me explain. I have seen Dave Matthews (either solo, with the band, or with Tim Reynolds) well over 60 times. He always puts on a good show. We saw Dave & Tim four times last year. The concerts were good, as they always are. But, I miss the full band. When they are back next year, let’s hope they are great and make a different category.
THE “BAND WHO DRINKS THE MOST RED BULL” AWARD
Concerts should be fun! Some bands just give you everything they have every single time. These are the bands that keep you on your feet the whole time, even if you don’t know all of the songs.
Rubblebucket: See my comments above. They go all out every time!
Bleachers: We saw Bleachers at a festival show, and they blew away the other acts with their energy. They were so much fun, that front man Jack Antonoff got away with wearing a NY Mets jersey at a Philadelphia show, without any jeering from the crowd. That’s how you know a band has won the audience’s hearts.
Bastille: We’ve seen Bastille three times now, and they are a ton of fun. Lead singer Dan Smith – who is a self-proclaimed horrible dancer – still dances through the whole show. One of my favorite concert moments from this year, was when Smith decided to go up in the balcony at The Fillmore and stand on the railing leaning precariously over the crowd. Seeing the guy from security holding onto the back of Smith’s pants to make sure he didn’t fall was a classic!
Coldplay: Even if you are a “hater” of Coldplay music, you need to see them live. You won’t regret it!
Ripe: See my comments above. These guys are one big dance party!
Trombone Shorty: This was my first time seeing Trombone Shorty, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. After leaving the show, I felt like I had experienced a Mardi Gras party on the streets of New Orleans. Not only is he a talented musician, but he puts on a great show!
THE “TIGER WOODS” AWARD
Tiger Woods was a great golfer, but after all of his health problems, he just can’t seem to regain his old form. Sometimes bands that hit their heyday many years before, continue to tour. In some cases, they still know how to put on an amazing show. But in other cases, they should have faded off into the sunset and left well enough alone.
Hall & Oates: I saw Hall & Oates about 10 years ago or so, and thought they were great. I was never a huge fan, but they are a band that you forget how many hit songs they had until you see them live. This year, they were the headliners for their own Hoagie Nation Festival. Maybe I was on such a high from seeing Tears for Fears before them, but Hall & Oates sounded like they were bored. Which, in turn, made me bored. We NEVER walk out of a show early, and we walked out of their show.
Collective Soul: These guys opened for Sammy Hagar this year. Thank goodness Sammy came on and saved the day, because Collective Soul almost put us to sleep. This is a band that in reality only had 2 or 3 hit songs, which unfortunately were just as boring as their new stuff.
THE “I HAD NO IDEA BRUCE WILLIS’ CHARACTER WAS DEAD THE WHOLE TIME IN THE SIXTH SENSE” AWARD
When you go into a show not expecting a lot, and the act knocks your socks off, that’s a huge success. Concerts like this are a special surprise. We had a couple of those this year.
Carbon Leaf: See my previous comments. This was a band we thought we liked when we saw them headline a Red Wanting Blue show last year. We decided to give them another shot, since they were playing one of our favorite small venues. They blew us away. I will go see this band every time!
Andrew McMahon & The Wilderness: This band was one of several at a festival show we saw this summer. This actually started out as a “hit the bathroom and get some beers” act during the show for my husband, but he quickly changed his mind. Andrew McMahon puts on a great show. He is talented and really interacts with the crowd. Anyone who rides into the crowd on a giant inflatable duck raft belongs in this category.
Macklemore: I did not want to go see this show. I don’t like rap/hip hop. This was my husband’s show, but for the sake of my loyal readers, I went along to cover the show. Turns out (spoiler alert), this was one of the best shows I saw all year.
THE “CLEVELAND BROWNS” AWARD
The Cleveland Browns get the number 1 draft pick every year, and every year they have a disappointing season. They tell you it’s going to be different this year. You hope it’s going to be different if you are a fan. But, it never is. There are some concerts that you expect to be great (or at least good) and just aren’t.
Chris Robinson Brotherhood: These guys opened for Gov’t Mule. If the name Chris Robinson sounds familiar, it’s because he was the lead singer of The Black Crowes. I really wish they would have done a Black Crowes song. Anything but the long and rambling jams they did. It was not good.
The Killers: The Killers were the headliners of a festival show we saw. This band has a lot of hits, and I had heard that they were great live. They started their set with “Mr. Brightside”. Brandon Flowers sounded horrible. He couldn’t hit the notes, and sounded out of breath. I gave them the benefit of the doubt, as that seemed like it could be a hard song to sing live. Unfortunately, the vocals only got worse. To top it off, the rest of the band seemed like they didn’t even want to be there. Bad. Very bad.
The Original Wailers: This band should not be mistaken for The Wailers, who are actually the REAL original members and fantastic. The Original Wailers reminded us of the house band that plays at the resort we stay at in Jamaica. Seek out The Wailers. Skip The Original Wailers.
The Revivalists: Sorry Rev Heads. I have given this band two shots. I’m not willing to give them a third. Fans of the band keep telling me how much energy they have and how fun their concerts are. I just don’t see it. Boring. Both times.
THE “YOU’D HAVE MORE FUN FLUSHING YOUR MONEY DOWN THE TOILET” AWARD
My mantra is “just buy the tickets”. This year, I give you two exceptions to that rule.
Matisyahu: We had heard that Matisyahu is either great or horrible live. We got horrible. Instead of a high energy reggae show, we got some bizarre jam session. Songs were so long, I could have walked down the street, gotten a cheese steak at Jim’s, come back and it would still have been the same song. The last 15 minutes of the show were great. The first 90 minutes were boring.
Morrissey: I know. I’m a sucker. I bought tickets for a Morrissey show and actually expected he wouldn’t cancel. In fact, we bought our tickets the afternoon of the show, and we still got screwed. He cancelled the show (as well as the next two shows) due to illness of someone in the touring company. Fine. Everyone gets sick. But at least make an effort to re-schedule the show. I’m a big fan of the Smiths, and I really wanted to see Morrissey, but I won’t give him my money again.
THE “YOU SHOULD HAVE GONE IN EARLY INSTEAD OF TAILGATING IN THE PARKING LOT” AWARD
I have another concert mantra…. “Always see the opener”. We have discovered some great bands that way.
The Trews: See my previous comments. Have you figured out I love this band?
The Lumineers: These guys opened for U2 this year. They are headliners in their own right, but when U2 calls and wants you to be their opener, you do it. The first time we saw The Lumineers was when they opened for Dave Matthews Band several years ago. They are fantastic live and worth catching.
Vintage Trouble: This band opened for Trombone Shorty. If the Trombone Shorty set was a Mardi Gras party, these guys kicked it off with an old school Motown party. So talented musically and a lot of fun to watch.
Lake Street Dive: This is another band we discovered through Dave Matthews Band. We saw them several times last year – as openers for DMB at The Gorge, as well as headliners in a couple of small venues. This year, they were one of the acts at the Levitate Music Festival, and one of the main reasons we went to the festival. They were the highlight of the whole weekend.
Andrew McMahon & The Wilderness: See above comments.
So, thanks for sticking with me so far. It’s now time for what you all have been waiting for.
THE TIPS2LIVEBY TOP 5 CONCERTS OF 2017!
#5 – Macklemore: I would have never believed you if you would have told me this show would have been in my top 5 of the year. But he was so good! It wasn’t that I loved the music, because I didn’t. The show was just a great show. I think one of the main reasons that I loved the show was because of Macklemore himself. He was one of the most humble and appreciative artists I have ever seen live, and I didn’t expect that out of him.
#4 – Mumford & Sons: This was our second time seeing this band. We saw them when they first starting getting popular, and this year when they have hit it big. Despite a lengthy storm delay and Marcus Mumford having a little too much to drink during the delay, this was one heck of a show. The music just brings you in.
#3 – U2: I’ve seen U2 many, many times. This tour was one of their best in my opinion. The Joshua Tree is one of my favorite albums of all time, and to hear the album in its entirety was a mind-blowing experience for me. Bono’s voice is still strong. The Edge can still play guitar like no one else. Larry and Adam are always solid. U2 is one of the biggest bands of my lifetime, and deservedly so.
#2 – Depeche Mode: This was my last remaining bucket list shows, and it didn’t disappoint. They played a great mix of old and new. They gave everything they had for 2+ hours. It was amazing!
#1 – Coldplay: This was the third time I had seen the “A Head Full of Dreams” tour show. I saw it once in Philly last year, and we saw it twice this year (in DC and NJ). I would go see this show 100 more times. I know that they play the same songs every night. I also know that Chris Martin makes a lot of the same silly jokes every night. It doesn’t matter. This is the best show out there. Chris Martin goes all out at every show. You can hate their music and think they are sell outs, but this band cares a lot about its fans and gives their all every night. They might not be the most talented musicians out there, but they know how to entertain a crowd.
Now that 2017 is wrapped up, it’s time to start planning for 2018. So far I have tickets for Foo Fighters as well as a few smaller bands. Everyone is also expecting Dave Matthews Band to be back in full tour mode in 2018, so you can bet we will be seeing them multiple times. Just remember my mantra – #JustBuyTheTickets!
Have questions about any of the shows I saw this year? What were your favorite shows of 2017? Comment below or e-mail me at email@example.com.
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