BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene
A trove of superstars — from Beyonce to Adele, Bruce to Prince — visited Atlanta in 2016, so narrowing down my list of the top 10 concerts of the year was more challenging than usual.
Our healthy festival lineup also dropped dozens of worthy performances into the mix.
Here is my much-ruminated-over list of the most memorable concerts of the year. Surely you will have your own opinions — and feel free to share them with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s to another round of great shows in 2017!
Combining the sex appeal of INXS with the glossy production and poetic ramblings of some of the best influences of the ’80s New Romantic movement, the young quartet from Manchester, England, continues to thrive as an intoxicating live presence. Most of that is due to heavy-lidded frontman Matthew Healy, but mellifluous songs such as “Chocolate” and “The Sound” don’t hurt, either.
No matter how many times you’ve seen Aerosmith tear up a stage — and in their prime, Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry were world class rock animals — there was something special about seeing the loose-limbed yelper in a small venue. He took his country detour seriously, and backed his new sound with the Nashville pros of Loving Mary.
Lots of heritage acts bulk up their bank accounts with frequent tours — Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, Billy Joel, Tom Petty, Neil Diamond — but not as many make a concerted effort to fill those live shows with not only new material, but fresh and vital new material. The long-ago teen idols continue to prove that being good is the best revenge.
It’s easy — and lazy — to toss Def Leppard into the same ’80s hair band cauldron as Winger, White Lion, Warrant and other bands that start with a letter other than W. At their core, Def Leppard’s songs are expertly crafted pop-rock — the overplayed strip club anthem “Pour Some Sugar on Me” excepted — that the band presents with more zip and vigor than they did 20 years ago.
Some might argue that Queen Bey’s original visit to Atlanta in May (she returned for an encore in September) deserves a higher ranking on this list because, well, she’s Beyonce. That’s true. She is. And, she’s an exceptionally hard-working performer who would sweat and strut to infinity to please her fans. But, while there were elements of her Formation tour that surpassed her 2014 joint tour with Jay Z and 2013’s the Mrs. Carter Show World Tour — specifically, that awesome rotating cube — there was one thing missing: fun.
It turned out that this riveting performance opening for Hall & Oates would be the last time Atlanta fans saw the inimitable Jones onstage. If she hadn’t mentioned the pancreatic cancer that had returned — and led to her death in November — concertgoers would have been none the wiser, as Jones whipped up her usual frenzy onstage, kicking off her shoes and belting soul-funk gems “100 Days, 100 Nights” and “Long Time, Wrong Time.”
Goddess, thy name is Stevie. After spending three years confined to the parameters of Fleetwood Mac, Nicks broke free with her first full solo tour in ages. Clearly a love letter to longtime fans, the show concentrated on deep cuts such as “Starshine” and the Buckingham-Nicks gem “Crying in the Night” while plying casual fans with her solo smashes and a smattering of Fleetwood Mac. That Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders shared the bill only enhanced this robust night of rock chick worship.
The luminous Day appeared in Atlanta several times throughout 2016, but this cozy gathering allowed those new to her sumptuous R&B-soul music the chance to revel in her vocal power. The visceral tunes from her “Cheers to the Fall” album are worth your time alone, but it’s the entire Day package — the silk pajamas, the elegant head wrap, the noted respect for musical trailblazers — that will make you remember her.
From the time Adele announced her tour to the first of her two sold-out shows in Atlanta, more than 10 months passed. Artists with an ephemeral shelf life might have worried about interest dropping off. Not Adele. And not her fans. Yes, Adele’s voice is fantabulous, a warm, gliding instrument full of emotion. But, even those who don’t appreciate “Hello” or have tired of “Someone Like You” easily could be swept into her orbit because she’s so fun, so funny and so, so real. More, please.
Oh, Prince. Fans were surprised that the musical genius rescheduled his Atlanta shows a week after abruptly canceling due to “the flu.” How fortuitous, since exactly a week after performing two shows in one night, Prince would be gone. He wasn’t perfect at the first show — which barely hit 90 minutes — but even a weakened Prince was an inspiring Prince. His musical quirks — combining “Linus and Lucy” with “Little Red Corvette,” a stripped down “Pop Life” — were on full display. Word is that the notorious perfectionist was so pleased with the sound and songs from the Fox shows, he wanted to release them as a live album. At least, Atlanta gave him some peace.
Other shows that made an impression: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band Feb. 18 at Philips Arena; Van Morrison April 24 at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre; Paul Simon May 3 at the Fox Theatre; Guns ’N Roses July 27 at the Georgia Dome; Dixie Chicks Aug. 14 at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre; Logic Sept. 17 at Music Midtown.