Rhett Miller of the Old 97’s surveys the scene at Main Street Garden Park. (Photo: Chuck Cox)
By Chuck Cox
Front Row Contributor
It’s time once again for my yearly list of the top 10 concerts in the Dallas/Fort Worth area I attended. Even though I went to fewer shows this year than last year (100, to be exact), the process of narrowing down my 10 favorites was painstaking. In fact, my initial list of finalists included 25 shows.
Every year that I make this list, it serves as a reminder of why I love live music so much. Think about it: one out of every four concerts I went to in 2016 I found good enough to be considered for my top 10. Of course, I also made some amazing shows out of town, like two Pearl Jam concerts at Fenway Park, The Revolution in Minneapolis and Temple of the Dog in Seattle.
But let’s focus on the best concerts that I saw in our own backyard.
1. Coldplay, AT&T Stadium, Aug. 27: Talk about a spectacle. My draw literally dropped at least 10 times as oneof the biggest bands in the world pulled out all of the stops for it’s a Head Full of Dreams Tour. I don’t know if I’ve ever been to a show that felt like more of a party. The music was great, too. Plus, the sound was also the best I’ve ever heard at Jerry World. It was a perfect evening. I might even venture down to Houston next August for a second helping at NRG Stadium.
2. Glen Hansard, Majestic Theatre, Sept. 24: You might think Glen Hansard is a mystery guest on this top 10 list. But if you have ever seen Hansard perform, you understand completely. The Irish singer/songwriter is a powerful force armed with an acoustic guitar and a cool accent. As far as the music side of it goes, Hansard’s show was the best I saw in 2016, no contest. The guy is so genuine and so amazing. Plus, his ode to Gene Wilder from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory was the stuff chill bumps are made of. So, so good.
3. The Cure, American Airlines Center, May 15: This is a band I’ve been wanting to see for a long, long time. I had heard so much over the years about how great The Cure is live. Robert Smith and the boys definitely lived up to the hype. I felt like I was in high school again listening to the band flawlessly play songs like “Pictures of You,” “Just Like Heaven” and “Fascination Street.” The career-spanning setlist for the three-hour set sounded absolutely amazing from start to finish.
4. Guns N’ Roses, AT&T Stadium, Aug. 3: Thank God you can never take rock stars at their word. Lead singer Axl Rose, bassist Duff McKagan and guitarist Slash made nice and reunited for a full-on stadium tour that’s still going strong. Even though I was excited to see GNR, I was pretty skeptical heading into this one. But GNR killed it. Axl looked and sounded fantastic. The setlist was also pretty damn solid, including eight of the dozen tracks from the band’s landmark Appetite For Destruction album. Be still, my high school days heart. Bonus: The Cult was the opener.
5. Leon Bridges, Music Hall at Fair Park, Sept. 18: This kid from Cowtown has made kicking it old school entirely too much fun. Bridges took the music world by storm with his debut retro R&B debut, Coming Home, in 2015. With style, charm, good looks, dance moves and musical chops, Bridges is absolutely the real deal. Seeing him play live for the first time was quite an experience. And the excitement in the air for what amounted to a hometown show was palpable. His only cover was Ginuwine’s “Pony.” To find out he used to play free shows every week at Sundown at Granada and never have caught one is a sizeable bummer.
6. Bruce Springsteen and the E. Street Band, American Airlines Center, April 5: “The Boss” celebrated the 35th anniversary of one of his greatest albums, The River, with a collector’s edition re-release and big tour. And in true Springsteen fashion, the celebration meant going above and beyond, especially with the live show. He played all 20 songs from the album, along with an outtake, and a 12-song greatest hits set afterward that was crazy good. It was only my second time seeing Bruuuuuuuuuuce, so it was the first time I got to hear “Dancing in the Dark” live. Very cool.
7. Frightened Rabbit, Granada Theater, May 18: Man, I love this band. Fresh off the release of their terrificPainting of a Panic Attack album, the Scottish quintet absolutely tore it up in front of a very enthusiastic crowd in the perfect sized venue. As good as Frightened Rabbit’s recorded music is, the band is so massively great live that the music takes on enormous power. The ballads are so deep and introspective lyrically, while the more up-tempo songs literally had one Granada usher dancing in the aisles. The new stuff fit in perfectly with the tried and true favorites, as well. Incredible show. Bonus: I’m going to Los Angeles in May to see Frightened Rabbit open for another one of my favorites, Band of Horses, at the legendary Greek Theater.
8. The Avett Brothers, Gexa Energy Pavilion, June 18: This band is another one of my favorites that always kills it live. Although it was extremely hot, this show was pretty special because it included a few tunes off the new True Sadness album. They played some of my absolute favorites, too, including, “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise,” “Kick Drum Heart,” “The Ballad of Love and Hate,” “Laundry Room” and “Murder in the City.” These guys pen lyrics that will absolutely give you all of the feels. And very few put on as great of a show as the Avetts. On a side note, Gexa was the first place I saw the Avett Brothers play live, opening for Dave Matthews Band.
9. Old 97’s Country Fair, Main Street Garden, April 16: As if the one-two punch of headliners Old 97’s and Drive-By Truckers wasn’t enough, this inaugural all-day festival had a slew of tremendous artists, including Lucero, Justin Townes Earle, Deer Tick, Nikki Lane, Brent Best and Madison King on the bill. Add the beautiful weather to the mix and you’ve got a tremendous concert experience in the heart of downtown Dallas. As an added bonus, we got to hear a couple of songs from Drive-By Truckers’ great American Band album, which was released five months later.
10. Adele, American Airlines Center, Nov. 1: Hello, top 10. One of the most popular artists on the planet made her way to Dallas for a pair of sold-out shows, and she brought her fastball with her. Adele has got the personality and the pipes to be a superstar for pretty much as long as she wants. She was really amazing, playing on the main stage and on a stage on the other end of the arena for a few songs. Adele said she had to take a lot of time off so she could come up with more real-life experience for new material for songs. I really got the feeling from seeing her life that she’s just about the most genuine superstar out there. Truly a great show.
Since this was such an above and beyond year for live music for me, I decided to thrown in five more shows as honorable mentions:
1. Robert Plant & the Sensational Spaceshifters, the Bomb Factory, March 15
2. Donovan, Majestic Theatre, Sept. 20
3. Band of Horses, House of Blues, Oct. 4
4. Black Sabbath, Gexa Energy Pavilion, Sept. 7
5. Mavis Staples, The Kessler, March 4
Here’s to another great year of live music in 2017. Happy holidays from the Front Row.