My Top 5 Concerts of 2017
Something that I will always remember about 2017 (aside from getting married–that was sort of a big deal) are the phenomenal concerts I was fortunate enough to attend. Literally some of the most fantastic concerts I have seen yet happened this year. Just for fun, and since I did not mention all of them on Along Comes Mary, I thought I would do an end of the year recap–enjoy and I hope you share with me your concert highlights of the year!
My husband had bought me tickets to English artist/musician/what-can’t-she-do genius, Polly Jean Harvey’s May gig for Christmas. When we ended up planning our courthouse wedding and honeymoon in Maui also in May, I knew one thing was certain: I must be home in time to see this concert. As expected, PJ and her nine piece band in support of her latest record, the Hope Six Demolition Project, did not disappoint in the least. PJ Harvey has been creating some of the most unique combination of rock/punk/jazz/blues records since 1992. Performing nearly every track from Hope Six, she pulled out all the stops while adding a dynamic theatrical element to this tour. If you’re unfamiliar with her work, I recommend starting with 1995’s To Bring You my Love.
Read more about this concert HERE.
BLONDIE AND GARBAGE: RAGE AND RAPTURE TOUR
God love the Los Angeles Philharmonic. As of late, several of their brilliant shows that once would have fallen under their leased events are actually in partnership with them. Meaning, you can see rock legends like Blondie and Garbage for under twenty dollars. When I was a kid, I went through a roaring Blondie phase. I wanted to grow up and name a daughter Deborah after Debbie Harry. Then, since my teens, Garbage lead singer, Shirley Manson and drummer, Butch Vig (the mastermind behind 90’s grunge records like Nirvana’s Nevermind) have been huge idols of mine. What happens when these bands collide for one magical summer? The Rage and Rapture tour.
Garbage takes me back to my angst youth. My desire to be tough. My longing to be heard. And, having seen them 5 times now, I must say, this Hollywood Bowl evening was by far the best yet. Between opening with the politically driven, No Horses, to ranting and raving through their most beloved hits like I Think I’m Paranoid and Vow, and even performing one of my favorites from them, Cup of Coffee, this concert made me so ALIVE. As Shirley sang one of their new songs, Empty, I felt anything but. So strong and mighty, Garbage had set the bars high for their inaugural show at the Bowl, and certainly made up for the mishaps they dealt with at their 2015 20th anniversary show at the Greek (Curtains falling on guitarist Steve Marker, sound issues, Shirley needing whiskey shots. It was awesome and a hoot, but….).
Then, Blondie was the icing on the cake. Their conjunctions of playing live while screens behind them play past clips of near identical performances from many years past was one of the most clever effects I have seen. Queen Deborah, like Shirley, is a force to be reckoned with, and her speech before Dreaming during the encore resonated with me so much. She encouraged us to keep on dreaming, since “dreaming is free” and for us all to sing that along with her. My only surprise with this show is that the women did not grace the stage together for a duet, or at-least a shot of whiskey.
My second show at the Hollywood Bowl in 2017. I have been a fan of 80’s synth/goth/electro-pop Gods Depeche Mode since a dear friend of mine burned me their 1993 album, Songs of Faith and Devotion, back in the early 2000’s. At the time, she, like many Depeche Mode fans, had seen them a near dozen times. After my first taste this past October, I have been yearning to see them again, so I understand the addiction.
I went to this show as a casual fan, and am now a FAN. A lot of that shift is due to band member, Martin L. Gore. Gore shared the spotlight with lead singer, Dave Gahan, singing lead on three of the songs that evening. That voice. Those lyrics. The passion. Of course, I came home and started learning all I could about their background and songwriting process and was floored to discover that nearly every Depeche Mode track is written solely by Gore. His poetic, fierce and passionate creations have not weakened at all in my opinion, over the band’s course of almost forty years. I have not felt in such awe of a songwriter since I first discovered Tori Amos. When I realized Amos also produces and composes her songs completely on her own, I just recall scratching my head in wonder; how can some people be so talented? Write such masterpieces?
It’s no surprise that Depeche Mode’s 1997 single, Home, is in my top five of most played songs on Spotify this year. I have listened to it probably close to everyday since I saw Gore perform it in October. His words of longing and self-discovery scream to me.
And, speaking of Tori…..
This year was a strange one for my relationship with my beloved idol, Tori Amos. I think probably everyone who knows me even a bit, knows that she has been my #1 favorite musician since I was 15. I have seen her numerous times, and met her, too. While fans and critics alike adored this year’s Native Invader, it just did not resonate with me. While that has never stopped me before from buying as many concert tickets as I can, and attend as many meet and greets around, I was much more casual about her tour this year. I was thrilled, however, to get to her San Diego show at the gorgeous Balboa Theatre and managed to arrive just in time to be apart of the last group in to see her. I had a lovely little chat with her (and she’s sweeter than ever) and saw some wonderful friends.
While the tour has found her sets much more condensed than past (Usually averaging about 75 minutes. One was under 70 minutes, sadly, since she was fighting a nasty cold), her voice is still breathtaking and she gives her ALL on the Bosendorfer. With Native Invader having much of a political and environmental bent, I loved the incorporation of her “Fake Muse Network” segment when she did her cover songs.
I love to see her having fun. Which she clearly looked to be as she sang the sing along classic, Leather, and Posse Bonus, a tongue-in-cheek ditty from 2007’s American Doll Posse. Her snowy mountain backdrop as she sang another classic from Little Earthquakes, Winter, was also stunning.
Yet, I am surprising myself here. I have given this a lot of thought, and just no other show this year (or perhaps in general–ok, close) could compare to….
Much like Depeche Mode, I have always been a casual Green Day fan. I don’t even own any of their records, but I enjoy them on the radio. I had always heard if you want to see a great punk/rock concert, seek out these Berkeley boys for an amazing time. So, when I was cruising on Goldstar one September afternoon and saw I could nab nose bleed seats for their final Radio Revolution tour show at Pasadena’s Rose Bowl, I texted Mike and decided, why not? Should be fun. Little did I know, I would have one of the best times ever at a rock show.
Stage diving, political rants, sing alongs, fire. These were just a few of the elements that went down over the course of this near three-hour set. I have never seen someone with as much energy as Green Day’s leader, Billie Joe Armstrong. He chats as if he’s with a group of pals in the living room and not in a 20,000 seat arena. He brought up countless kids from the mosh pit to duet with him, and even gave one girl his guitar as long as she promised to practice. He threw them back into the crowd, often diving right in with them. He spoke devotedly about the state of our country, and dedicated the show to the hurricane victims in Texas and Florida.
The energy the band gave to every single song was over the top. All the favorites were played: Holiday, Boulevard of Broken Dreams, When I Come Around. Some may feel these dive bar punk rockers “sold out” when they hit commercial success, yet they play just the same. Just to a much larger (and delighted) crowd. Think no further than punk legends the Ramones or Sex Pistols.
The encore finale was a fitting (and acoustic) Good Riddance (Time of Your Life), followed by more fireworks from behind the stage. As we all sang along to Billie’s words, “I hope you had the time of your life”, I think it’s safe to say that we did.