2018 was another year full of concerts. In fact, I saw more concerts in 2018 than I have ever seen before! My final concert total was 74 shows, which consisted of 132 different artists, at 36 different venues, in 7 different states.
People always ask me what my favorite concert of the year was. That’s actually a very tough question. Every show is a little different, so comparing them all is like comparing apples and oranges.
Last year, I decided to put some of my most memorable concerts into several different categories. You can read the list from last year here:
I’ve done the same thing this year, with a few changes. This post is a bit long, but if you make it all the way to the end, I did pick my Top 5. So, keep reading for the Tips2LiveBy Concert Awards of 2018!
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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?
Ripe: We discovered Ripe a couple of years ago at a music festival, and we’ve been fans ever since. Their energy is off the charts. The music is fun and makes you want to dance. Plus, the guys are really nice and usually hang out after the show for pictures.
The Glorious Sons: My husband turned me onto this band. We saw them open for Welshly Arms this year. Based on the number of people that left after they played, they were definitely the main attraction even as the opener. We are seeing them play a headlining show in February at a small venue and I can’t wait!
The National Reserve: I started working with a public relations firm that represents several lesser known artists this year. One of the bands they sent my way was The National Reserve. This is definitely a band to check out!
Adam Ezra Group: A good friend of ours (who is also a musician, so we trust his opinion) suggested we check these guys out. We were so happy we did! Not only are they great musicians, but they have a really good message with their music.
Liz Brasher: Liz was the opener for Red Wanting Blue this year. I often find it hard to get into solo acts, but Brasher is the exception. Her voice is amazing and can fill a room.
Diet Cig: This band exhausted me, but in a good way. They opened for Rubblebucket (who is also high energy) and really blew me away. Lead singer, Alex Luciano, is quirky and fun, but also super talented.
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 out there that still just go all out with great rock music during their concerts. Check these bands out before the genre quietly dies away. And, make sure you buy some earplugs before you go. My favorite brand is Vibes (just click on the link to get yours!).
Foo Fighters: The Foo Fighters were on my concert bucket list, and I finally got to see them this summer. This is the epitome of a rock concert. Dave Grohl screams more than he sings (and he drops A LOT of f-bombs). Don’t go to one of their concerts if you plan to just sit back and relax. They rock out!
The Struts: Earlier this year, someone posted in a music-related group on Facebook, that there were no up and coming rock bands. They are wrong. The Struts are a great young rock band, and they are definitely up and coming. In 2018, they opened for the Foo Fighters. I predict they will be headlining their own stadium shows soon.
The Glorious Sons: If you want an intense experience, get on the rail during a show with The Glorious Sons. Canada has produced some great rock bands, and The Glorious Sons are the next great export from our friends to the north.
As The Crow Flies: The Black Crowes hit their peak in the early 1990’s. The band broke up and the guys went their separate ways. Luckily, lead singer Chris Robinson got some musicians together and played a few shows this year under the name As The Crow Flies, and they brought back all of the amazing songs from The Black Crowes. They rocked in the 90’s, and they still rocked in 2018.
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.
Depeche Mode: This was one of my favorite bands when I was younger. In 2017, they released a new album and went on tour, but they didn’t have a stop in Philadelphia. So, we went up to NYC to see them at Madison Square Garden. In 2018, they announced some additional North American dates, including a Philly date. So, of course I went again. They put on an amazing show that is packed with all of their hits.
Phil Collins: Due to health issues, Collins doesn’t move well anymore. He actually sits in a chair during the show. But, his voice still sounds amazing and he puts on a great show. This was one of those concerts that was a little bittersweet, as I have this feeling that it might have been my first and last chance to see him live.
Violent Femmes: Lead singer Gordon Gano looks more like a soccer dad than a punk rock musician these days, but the Femmes still put on a great show. While you get some of their newer stuff that is a bit more mellow (they even do a polka), you also get classics like “Blister in the Sun” during one of their concerts.
Kick: I loved INXS as a kid, but I never got to see one of their concerts when Michael Hutchinson was still alive. So, when INXS cover band Kick came around, I gave them a chance. This show took me back in time with all of the hits. Cover band or not, if you are an INXS fan, you should check Kick out!
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.
Justin Timberlake: Going to a Justin Timberlake show is as much about the dancing and special effects, as it is about the music. I mean, grass grew out of the stage floor for this show!
U2: Unfortunately, U2 has made their concerts more choreographed than spontaneous. This is mostly due to the videos and special effects. Personally, I preferred their 2017 tour, where they played The Joshua Tree album and limited the special effects.
The Struts: Lead singer Luke Spiller is fabulous and so are his outfits. He’s a blend of Mick Jagger and Freddie Mercury, which means his stage presence is off the charts. His outfits match that personality.
The “I Would Follow You To The End Of The World” Award
Not only do I go to a lot of shows, but it’s not beyond me to get in the car (or on an airplane) just to go to a show.
Dave Matthews Band: My husband and I have been traveling to see Dave Matthews Band for several years now. This year, we saw them in concert 14 times (plus one Dave Matthews solo show) in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Oregon and Washington. In 2019, we already have a trip planned to see them in Europe – 9 shows, 9 cities, 8 countries – all in 13 days!
Red Wanting Blue: These guys are one of my favorite bands. They are based out of Ohio, and they have never gained traction on the east coast like they have back in Ohio. So, we were excited to have a chance to see them in 2018 when they played the one show that was close to Philly. So excited, in fact, that we made the decision to hop in the car and drive to NYC the next day to see them again.
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.
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats: I saw these guys when they first hit it big a few years ago. They always put on a good show. High energy and tons of fun.
Carbon Leaf: This band tours a lot. They just wrapped up their 25th anniversary tour. Nothing will surprise you during their concerts, but you are guaranteed a good show.
Dave Matthews Band: Another band that has toured almost non-stop for over 25 years, these guys know how to play a live show.
Lake Street Dive: I’ve been following Lake Street Dive for a few years now, and they consistently put on a great show. Lead singer Rachael Price will blow you away with her voice.
The “Ruth Bader Ginsburg” Award
She fell and broke some ribs. They found tumors on her lungs. Despite all that, at age 85, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is still a bad ass! These bands may be past their “rock star” prime, but they still have it!
Smashing Pumpkins: When a band plays all out for over 3 hours and still sounds fantastic, they still have it!
Blue October: This is a band that has been around a while, but is enjoying some new found popularity with the release of their latest album and hit song “I Hope Your Happy”.
Arrested Development: While you may not have heard any new music from Arrested Development for a while, they are still out touring and putting on great shows.
Blues Traveler: John Popper has had his issues over the years. When they started their 30th anniversary tour in 2017, we saw one of their first concerts of the tour. Popper had a bit too much to drink during the show and couldn’t even sing the words correctly to the last few songs. I decided to give them another shot in 2018 when they came back around. While Popper still drank quite a bit during the show, he seemed much more together and put on a great performance.
Phil Collins: As mentioned above, he may have to sit during the show, but he can still sing!
Dave Matthews Band: The band went through some turmoil in early 2018 when they fired original member Boyd Tinsley. When I saw them at the beginning of summer in Bristow, I wasn’t sure how things would be. While they were a little rusty during that show, by the time they wrapped up 2018 with their fall tour, they were on fire! With the addition of keyboardist Buddy Strong this year, they have a new found passion and energy that was great to see in 2018. Sorry Boyd fans – they are better live without him!
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 the songs.
The Struts: Every show is high energy thanks to lead singer Luke Spiller.
Ripe: This is the second year in a row I’ve given this award to Ripe. It’s a dance party every single show!
Florence + The Machine: Lead singer Florence Welch dances, spins and runs around the stage non-stop during their shows. She even jumped off the stage onto the floor and ran around in the crowd! She may be a nightmare for the security personnel, but the fans love her!
Bishop Briggs: For such a petite person, she can fill a whole concert venue with her personality. Briggs does not stop moving during her show. Her concerts are typically a bit short, but they are packed with non-stop music.
The “I Thought I Was Staying At A 5-Star Resort” Award
Sometimes, you are told by a friend that a resort is amazing, so you book it. And then when you show up, it’s underwhelming. These concerts were ones that we were told we had to go to, and they were frankly a little underwhelming.
Foo Fighters: I know I will get grief for this, but I was totally underwhelmed with this show (except for The Struts who opened). I was expecting one of the best concert experiences of my life, and this didn’t even make my top 10 of 2018. It was good, but not great.
Mumford & Sons: I have seen Mumford & Sons twice before and loved them. That’s why I was pretty disappointed when I was underwhelmed by their show this December. Musically, they were good, but I think they struggled a bit translating to a big arena show.
Umphrey’s McGee: Since we like Dave Matthews Band, a lot of friends had recommended seeing Umphrey’s McGee. Maybe it was because I wasn’t familiar with their music, but I honestly found their show boring.
U2: This one pains me. I love U2. I’ve seen them more than a dozen times. I usually love their concerts. But, they have become WAY too choreographed.
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 these are a special surprise. We had a couple of those this year.
Andrew McMahon: I have seen Andrew McMahon In the Wilderness before and enjoyed their show. But, this was an Andrew McMahon solo acoustic show, done in the theme of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised. McMahon is quite a showman and totally pulled this show off.
Lindsey Stirling & Evanescence: Number one, this pairing of artists doesn’t seem to be a natural fit. Number two, I’m not a big fan of either. But, both artists turned out to be fantastic in their own ways. This show was super entertaining!
AWOLNATION: I have always like AWOLNATION, but they seemed more like a “radio” band than a live band. After seeing them live, they have me convinced!
Lucius: I first discovered Lucius when they were the back-up singers for Roger Waters. I wasn’t sure I would like them in their own show, but I was wrong. They captivate you with their voices.
The “You’d Have More Fun Flushing Your Money Down the Toilet”
My mantra is “just buy the tickets”. This year, I give you one exception to that rule.
The Shadowboxers: Luckily, this was just the opening act for Justin Timberlake, because I don’t think I could have sat through more than 30 minutes of this. Bad. Just bad.
The Tips2LiveBy Top 5 Concerts of 2018!
It was tough to pick just 5, but here are my favorite concerts of the year. Drum roll please!
#5 – Red Wanting Blue (Sellersville Theater – Sellersville, PA): Red Wanting Blue is one of the best live bands out there that you may not have heard of. They rock it out every show! This show was so good, that we jumped in the car on a whim and drove to NYC the next day to catch it again.
#4 – Phil Collins (Wells Fargo Center – Philadelphia, PA): This concert was so much fun! Collins played all of his hits. Plus, his 17 year-old son played the drums and was amazing. A great band and back-up singers added to this show. Phil still has it!
#3 – Dave Matthews Band (John Paul Jones Arena – Charlottesville, VA – N1): I’ve seen around 80 DMB concerts in my life, and N1 of C’ville was my favorite of all time. The band is rejuvenated this year with the addition of Buddy Strong. If I could have switched encores from the C’ville two night stand and had “Two Step” into “Halloween” on N1, the show would have been perfect!
#2 – Smashing Pumpkins (Moda Center – Portland, OR): I had to drag my husband to this show kicking and screaming. In fact, the only reason I got him to go was because we happened to be in Portland, OR for a run of DMB shows when they played at the Moda Center. My husband had seen them years ago, and Billy Corgan was a mess. Well, either someone told Corgan not to speak during the show, or he is finally able to control himself. He only spoke once, but just played and played and played! It was amazing (and my husband now ranks this as his third best show of the year).
#1 – Blue October (The Queen – Wilmington, DE): We have a friend that has been telling us about Blue October for a few years. I wish I would have listened to her years ago. This band is a must see live! I was so mesmerized at this show, that I took very few pictures or notes. Lead singer Justin Furstenfeld has a voice like no one else. We already have tickets for when they return to the area in April. The countdown is on!
Bonus! Kevin’s Top Five: My husband and I have similar tastes in music, but his list is slightly different than mine. Here is his Top 5: #5 Imagine Dragons, #4 Phil Collins, #3 Smashing Pumpkins, #2 Blue October, and #1 DMB – N1 C’ville.
So, there you have it! If you’ve made it all the way through this long post – thank you! I hope you enjoyed it. Of course, stay tuned in 2019 and discover some more great live music with me!
What did you think of my concert awards? What were your Top 5 concerts of 2018? Let us know what you think by commenting below or e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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