My Top 10 Concerts of 2017
As many of you know, I go to a ridiculous amount of shows (54 this year), and I’ve tried my best to narrow it down to a top 10. 2016 was a fantastic year, but I think 2017 might just nudge ahead of it in my mind. Check out the list below.
Honorable mention: Nails and Deafheaven
Most other years seeing two of my favorite new metal bands, Nails and Deafheaven would easily place in my top 10, but this year they were just outside of it. While both shows were amazing, it was not the best concert I’ve seen from either of them so they land just outside my top 10.
10. Slayer, Lamb of God, Behemoth
The most metal show on this list, this lineup was one for the ages. Seldom does a tour come around the US that contains this kind of bill. Behemoth opened with a short but crushing set, and while I have always liked them, the main draw was for Lamb of God and Slayer.
LOG killed it as always, and they managed to pack in a tight set that drew from their whole discography. It’s hard being a middle band on a bill like this, but they did a remarkable job of keeping the crowd going. Slayer… there doesn’t need to be a whole lot said here other than that the recent addition of massive walls of pyro enhances their live show. Since Tom Araya is old and cant move now the addition of the flames and a stellar light show helped to enhance the songs. Of course, it goes without saying that the setlist was superb and covered all the classics and the mix was great too.
The fact that Metallica, one of my favorite bands of all time, is so far down on this list is indicative of the quality of the shows I attended this year. I was quite bummed at the start of the year when they announced a massive US tour that did not include a bay area date, and I was even more bummed they announced they were headlining outside lands as I did not end up going.
I was fortunate enough to score a ticket to the Band Together benefit concert at AT&T Park that featured Metallica as the headliners, and while the band played and sounded the best out of all the times I’ve seen them, it was a greatest hits set of mostly black album material and was relatively short. Still, hearing the classics bashed out in front of a packed stadium is pretty awesome, but still short of some of the other times I’ve seen them.
8. Red Hot Chili Peppers
After the success of the first Band Together benefit concert, another one was announced, and I somehow managed to get a ticket. I had always wanted to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but they are so popular that getting a ticket to their arena tour earlier this year was just impossible. Few bands put on the energetic show that I witnessed by the RHCP.
The kind of chemistry between Josh Klinghoffer and Flea is otherworldly as if they have a psychic connection with each other. They would just start jamming on something cool in between songs in addition to adding some improvisation to the songs. The setlist was carefully balanced between old and new material, and while I was a bit disappointed they didn’t play more stuff from albums like Blood Sugar Sex Magic and Californication, they still included some awesome deep cuts like “Don’t Forget Me” from By the Way.
Normally a show like this would top my list, but again, 2017 was just one of those years. Outside of a couple of other bands on this list, no one else puts on the visually stunning live show that Tool does. While I’ve seen them a bunch of times this decade they never get old: their musical chops only seem to grow with age.
The band doesn’t move around much at all as they let massive LED screens do the visual side of things while they focus on playing their technically complex songs. While the set was relatively similar, they included one of my favorite songs “The Pot” along with a brand new music video to accompany it.
Maynard James Keenan continues to be one of the best singers in metal/rock and age has not dulled his delivery very much at all. The addition of a new song, in the form of the instrumental “Descending” was also a big plus. I cannot wait to see what Tool does next with this new record they’re supposedly done with.
6. Julien Baker
Julien Baker has become one of my favorite artists over the past nine months and finally getting to see her live was fantastic. The simplicity of Baker’s setup and guitar playing style lends itself to big concert halls as her shimmering guitar lines, and howling vocals filled up the room.
I’ve found a strange emotional resonance with her songs: they seem to speak to me in ways that most modern music does not. I could go on and on here about how incredible this show was and how much it helped me get over recovering from my recent knee surgery, but I’ll keep it short, if you want to read a more in-depth review by me, check it out here.
5. Green Day
20+ song set at the Oakland Coliseum
What more needs to be said? Oh yeah, Green Day still kick ass, and they still put on one of the most raucous and wild shows of any band in the world. I loved the energy and passion the band put into every single song and the way they fired the crowd up.
It’s not easy getting an entire stadium to go wild for you but Green Day has mastered the art of working the crowd. Between Billie Joe Armstrong’s personal anecdotes about growing up in West Contra Costa County and dreaming of playing places like the Coliseum to the carefully balanced set, the show felt like a special kind of homecoming show.
4. Iron Maiden
I’ve seen Iron Maiden so many times on so many different tours with so many different Eddie’s that I’ve come to expect a certain level of excellence from them.
Seeing them bring The Book of Souls tour to Oracle Arena was sooooo damn cool. As usual the band was on point the entire night and while many fans would rather see only the old hits, I have to commend the band for playing a bunch of new material. Of course, throwing out old classics like “Children of the Damned” made that go over easier. Plenty of fire and crazy lights and a giant animatronic Eddie made for an epic night of metal.
For about the past 10 or so years the trendy thing for classic bands to do is to play one of their classic records in its entirety, a tactic that can either be incredibly satisfying or incredibly disappointing. To their credit U2 pulled out all the stops to make their performance of The Joshua Tree one of the best shows I’ve ever been to.
The band started out in a small b stage that came out into the audience as they played some of their earliest hits and that really seemed to rev up the audience. What amazed me the most about the Joshua Tree performance was that the towering LED screen had all of these amazing videos from Anton Corbijn that seamlessly flowed with the music.
This unity between visual and sound enhanced the show significantly. Hearing many of my favorite U2 songs blasting through the cold air of a packed Levi’s Stadium was pretty awesome as well. The only real slip up was when Bono pulled out his iPhone halfway through the set to talk about how amazing Apple is… it felt like a shameless pitch in the heart of Silicon Valley and just came off as dumb.
Big stadium tours have their charm and despite the logistical nightmare of having 30,000+ people at a concert together, the kind of spectacle is unbelievable when done right.
2. Coheed & Cambria
Coheed are one of my all-time favorite bands and their 3rd album, Good Apollo I’m Burning Star IV: Fear Through the Eyes of Madness is my favorite record by them. So when I heard that they were doing another one of their Neverender tours (where they play an entire album) I was beyond excited.
If you have never listened to that album please do, its one of the most musically diverse releases of any rock band in the past 15 years. Hearing these songs live was a real treat as I’ve grown up so much over the past 10 years I’ve been a fan of the band. Instead of feeling nostalgic over the amount of time that had past, I instead felt ecstatic to hear Coheed rip through these songs as they were clearly playing at a supremely high level. The energy surging through the crowd the whole night was magical and to their credit Coheed really pulled out all the stops to ensure that these songs rocked.
While I went to a lot of great shows this year, my top show was never really in question, even before I even stepped foot in Las Vegas on my trek to see Rammstein I knew that this was going to be one of the best moments of my life.
For those of you who may be puzzled as to why I would say this, you can just type in Rammstein live on youtube to understand why this band is so highly regarded by me and everyone else who has ever seen them live (or just watch below). The light show, the songs, the explosions, everything came together so spectacularly that words alone do not do the concert justice.
I had been aching to see Rammstein for a very long time, and once I saw that they were playing in Las Vegas, I knew I had to find a way out there to see them. Their groove oriented industrial metal fits so perfectly in an arena setting, as does their ridiculous stage show.
There was never a dull moment, only great song after great song. 20,000 fans singing along to every word despite being an audience full of Americans (Rammstein songs are mostly sung in German btw) was one of those special moments. It was indeed a dream come true.
Rammstein has put a lot of work over the years into developing the kind of stage performance that leaves fans craving for more, which is why they can sell out places like Madison Square Garden in a matter of minutes. To finally witness the live spectacle with my own eyes and ears was unbelievable as was the entire nutty weekend is Las Vegas.
I’ll repeat it and it’s not hyperbole, Rammstein is the best live act in the world right now.
There is no debate.
Even if you don’t like German industrial metal, the wild pyro, the costume changes, the ever-shifting stage, all of it combined makes for an experience that captivates.
I’m thankful to have been able to experience so many great moments this year, as each one of these shows left its own imprint on me.