Man we covered a ton of shows this year! The most shows, the coolest shows and the biggest shows. A few were disappointments but many made it to our List including Ed Sheeran, U2, The Weeknd and others (we tried hard to keep it to a Top Ten list but we failed miserably). We could have included so many more concerts but were especially looking at the show/stage production visuals, sound, crowd vibe (and not just the artist caliber, etc.). You can see all our concert photos and reviews on Austin 101.
Shows we’re bummed we missed: So many shows might have made it to the top but we didn’t cover either because the artist didn’t allow photographers, the tour canceled, we couldn’t make it to the venue, or perhaps they didn’t come near Austin, Texas our home base. Coldplay (due to Hurricane Harvey), Bruno Mars, Tom Petty, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, Garth Brooks, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fleet Foxes, Greta Van Fleet, Guns N’ Roses, Depeche mode, Harry Styles, Pete Townsend, Kesha, Jay-Z, Metallica and more.
Bono and gang have been at this for decades and this Joshua Tree Anniversary tour was highly anticipated and it delivered in a huge way. The gang proves why they have been as one of the ‘Top Bands of All Time’ list for decades. The stage, videos on-screen, and the way Bono jumps onto the drum set makes any U2 show visually awesome. From photos of Joshua Tree to war and social injustice the group continues to stand for something. The fact that these guys are all alive, doing well, still together and continue to make great music and evolve is a gift. If you missed it, they’re already selling tickets to their 2018 Innocence and Experience tour.
This Canadian can put on an unforgettable performance. The set and stage itself was the biggest, most elaborate and probably the most expensive we saw all year. For the acclaimed Starboy World Tour there was an epic spaceship looming over the stage like from Star Wars and he emerged from below. The set design was by Es Devlin combing origami and futuristic destroyer that moved up and down melding analog music with futuristic electronica. Other times he appeared as a hologram under green laser lights. What’s amazing is during this mega set, The Weeknd creates an intimate atmosphere connecting with fans along the stage. The tour was so successful, a second fall leg was added.
Dead and Company
This modern melding of newbies John Mayer, Otiel Burbridge, Jeff Chimenti playing with original Grateful Dead members Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, Bill Krautzmann is a sight to behold. The entire show is an omage to the peace and love movement in the sixties. A plethora of tie-die, reefer, and Deadheads touring with the band feels like a resurgence of that time. The visuals were complete with psychodelic kaleidoscope, LSD-enhanced images to match the mood of the music. Those originally hesitant about Mayer’s ability to fill in for Jerry Garcia became believers after seeing him perform live.
Ed skipped Austin this time so we caught him in San Antonio and it was one of the most anticipated tours and returns due to his several year hiatus. The Platinum-winning Sheeran dropped huge tracks early in the year hitting #1 with Shape of You and Castle on the Hill. Recently releasing the acclaimed #1 Perfect duet with Beyonce clinches his year and his album Divide was nominated recently for several Grammys. We love him even more for the kind, amazing person and artist he is and for his taking time away from the social media haze (more than once taking a year or more on an intentional break).
Another of our most anticipated returns (made longer by her pregnancy at 50 and postponing the tour) Janet did not disappoint. The fact she was one of the biggest stars in the 80’s (big hits like Rhythm Nation) and is the youngest from the legendary Jackson clan, we knew this was a must-see show. She looked amazing and sounded vibrant. Promoting her Unbreakable album (2015) this artist, like U2 and others, shows social injustice, war and other current issues on large LED screens as part of the dialogue of the show. With great back-up singers, choreography and sharp dancers it’s like she hadn’t been away at all.
These two headliners each pulled off epic full sets complete with pyrotechnics and ethnic dancers. The stage production was one of the biggest of the year and they each used the complete long distance of the stages on ever side. This was by far one of the loudest shows we covered all year. Both ooze personality, sexiness and energy. It was a serious cardio adventure the entire night.
Winning pretty much every award in the last couple years, Stapleton has made a name for himself in country music not just as an A lister songwriter. Performing alongside his wife, he’s a staple on all the prime-time music award shows. A long-haired rocker in a cowboy hat. His hit “Tennessee Whiskey” isn’t his only one. He’s co-written six #1 songs for Kenny Chesney, George Strait, and more). His sound is deep and totally unique.
We got lucky to cover Mayer twice this year, once early in the year on his highly successful solo tour and then recently for the last show of 2017 with Dead and Company (Mayer had emergency Appendix surgery postponing remaining December shows). No longer the uppity kid from Connecticut with a major ego, he’s now more mature and his guitar skills shine more and his shows do too. He’s often regarded in iconic musician guitar circles as one of the best in around.
Florida Georgia Line with Nelly
Like many artists these days, the multi-award winning FGL country-music duo collaborated on tour. This time with 90’s R&B/hip-hop legend Nelly for a great show in Austin at COTA. The light show and sound were incredible and the crowd loved the genre-mixing cross-over show.
Although meticulously organized and planned, Mother Monster effortlessly broke away from the show’s script to bond with her Little Monsters. At one point, Gaga saw a drawing that one of her fans held in the audience portraying her and her late friend Sonja Durham. She paused to retrieve the art-piece and began reminiscing about her friend that passed away in May after battling breast cancer as she followed with a heart-felt rendition of “Edge of Glory”. Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images.
Another music legend graced Austin this year. Sting is one of the lucky solo careers blazed from an epic band. He’s never looked better or fitter (or sexier). His show was not only packed with his famous hits like “Walking on the Moon” and 80’s single #Englishman in New York”, but with new hit ballad “The Empty Chair” which was a chilling tribute from the Oscar-nominated song from the movie “Jim-The James Foley Story”. The story is a documentary about the life of the American photo-journalist killed by terrorists.
This Eagles’ legend (now playing with the re-formed group) put on a helluva show during his solo tour. Still looks and sounds like a rock star. He’s been called one of rock’s greatest guitarists and we saw first hand how incredible and intimate his playing is. At times he seems to forget he’s in the middle of a sold-out performance and just jams on. Walsh is so iconic that he plays with greats like Ringo Starr, Tom Petty, Foo Fighters, The Eagles, The Who, John Mayer and more. The concert was transcendent. One of the most engaging and energetic shows we saw this year, we were taken back in time to his Colorado 70’s hit “Rocky Mountain Way” and “Life’s Been Good”.
Sold-out in San Antonio, this sexy rock legend is fit and sounds as good as ever. Long jams and tons of crowd interaction made this venue electric from start to finish. We were totally impressed with the Carlos’ cardio endurance and epic guitar riffs. Hopping to Vegas for his House of Blues Residency keeps him playing constantly and on top of his game-fresh and sharp. He played all the great 70’s, 80’s, 90’s hits like “Black Magic Woman”, “Smooth”, and “Maria Maria” with high-volume crowd sing-alongs. This show left an impression on us for days.
We were lucky in Austin to be a stop on this amazing tour. Few besides die-hard fans know he’s been a musician for some time. In between filming his hit show Designated Survivor, he manages to do a full-on tour. This show was a sold-out intimate setting at the hip 3Ten (part of ACL Live) for only a few hundred. Switching from acoustic to electric throughout the show, he tells intimate stories of meeting Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and other legends. His Americana sound is influenced by many and he looks the part too.
George Clinton’s Funkadelic
This show was so huge, it lasted 3 days! It was part of Austin’s hip Empire Control Room’s “Funkiversary” 4 year Anniversary celebration with Dam Funk. The small setting was electric and filled with the coolness of funk-music legend Clinton and sexy dancers. The crowd and show was off the hook and we were all exhausted by the end. (Photo: Nick Berard).
We had to include some legendary metal bands to our ‘Best of’ list. These guys can still rock and have the full beards and hair to prove it. Guitar mastery is profound throughout this show. Metal-heads were in full costume and delighted that metal is not dead in Austin. Long-haired, mosh pit, skull-crushing music-lovers were in metal heaven.
This show was one of the most highly anticipated in Austin for the entire year. Harvey’s a top songwriter and hasn’t played in the U.S. in many years. PJ brought her 10-piece band to only four sold-out U.S. tour stops. Playing to sold-out legendary Austin venue Stubb’s Amphitheater, the buzz turned out to be authentic and accurate. From decades ago opening for bands like U2, Harvey has mastered her unique sound with choreographed moves and adding playing saxophone to her many talents.
Runner ups: Trey Anastasio, Grace Potter, Kaleo, Dierks Bentley, Tori Amos, Blink 182, Alt-J, Wiz Khalifa, Buckingham and McVie, Dead Kennedys, Japandroids, Arcade Fire, Don Henley, St Paul and the Broken Bones, Bush, Stevie Nicks and Pretenders, Ringo Starr, Lukas Nelson, Donald Fagen, Don Felder, Styx, Coheed & Cambria, iHeart Country Music Festival.