I’ve seen close to 100 bands play across the world in 2016. Some of them mindblowing and there were a few duds along the way, but all of them were certainly worth a shot. Here is a list of the top 16 shows that completely blew my mind. Many of these were artists that I’ve seen for the first time or had discovered as an opening act that I had never heard of. Either way, these are the ones that mattered in 2016.
1. Yak at the Ally Pally – I had never heard of these guys before going to see The Last Shadow Puppets where they were the opening act here in London, but they absolutely blew me away. Imagine the Sex Pistols crossed with MC5 and Nirvana. I only wish I could have seen them again, but my press request was denied. Ugh. Maybe in 2017????
2. Tool at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – I left CES (Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas) one day early so that I could see night 2. There was only one other photographer in the photo pit that night and we only had ONE song to shoot. Luckily that song was a 12-minute jam of the Zeppelin classic “No Quarter”.
3. The Return of Saigon Kick – One of my all-time favorite bands reunited for a few shows with original members Matt Kramer and Jason Beiler. I was devastated when I discovered that I could not make it to one of the club dates but incredibly excited that they would be playing on the Monsters of Rock Cruise. Rounded out by Stephen Gibb on rhythm guitar and Jonathan Mover on drums, it was as if the band had never taken a break. I enjoyed the show so much that I would have been embarrassed to be sitting next to myself if I had to. It was spectacular and I’m very much looking to relive that experience again on the Monsters of Rock Cruise in February.
4. Warrior Soul at The Barfly – I would be lying if I said that part of the reason I moved to London was to see Warrior Soul again. Kory Clark and company are in fine form as they absolutely blew the roof off of the Barfly kicking off the Camden Rock Festival in London.
5. Metallica – AT&T Park – It’s Metallica on Super Bowl eve, enough said.
6. AC/DC – Cleveland – Axl Rose owned that fucking stage and made everyone in that arena a believer. It was magical.
7. Tom Chaplin – I get a lot of shit for loving Keane, but the bottom line is that this is one of the finest voices in music today. His new album is absolutely brilliant and to see him in such an intimate venue is once in a lifetime.
8. Behemoth at the Regency Ballroom – The heaviest and most evil thing I’ve ever heard in my life backed by one of the most remarkable stories of inspiration and resilience from singer/ songwriter/ guitarist frontman genius Adam Darski (Nergal).
9. Feeder at the Roundhouse, London – I would have never been able to see these guys live if I hadn’t moved to London. One of my favorite bands who continue to make brilliant records time and time again.
10. Hey! Hello! at the 02 Forum Kentish Town, London – Ginger Wildheart’s pop metal side project has taken on a life and legacy of its own. Big harmonies, monster riffs, and incredible cirque-de-soliel guitar god stylings from one of the best in the biz Paul James.
11. Die Antwoord at the House of Blues, Boston – One of the strangest shows I’ve seen all year. Generally not my style of music, but I will tell you that I have never in my life felt such energy in one room. These two are the real deal and once you hear their distinctive sound, you’re hooked. You have been warned.
12. Starsailor at the Indigo at the O2 – The band that should be bigger than any Brit-pop band from the 90’s and 2000’s sounds better than ever and prove that they still have plenty of brilliant hooks in their songwriting arsenal. Singer James Walsh has one of the best voices on the planet.
13. Biffy Clyro at the O2 – It blows my mind how one band can be so massive in one country while remaining virtually unknown in another. That’s the case with Biffy Clyro. I’ve never heard of these guys until moving to the UK, but now they are a favorite. The band sold out the O2 (20k screaming fans) and put on a rock show for the ages.
14. Kula Shaker at the O2 Forum, Kentish Town London – The 20th anniversary of the landmark album K performed in its entirety along with some new tracks from the band’s brilliant 2016 release. A once in a lifetime gig for me.
15. Mother’s Cake at the Voodoo Lounge in Dublin, Ireland – I stumbled upon these guys completely by mistake but holy hell are they good. Imagine Zeppelin crossed with the Chili Peppers. These guys are the real deal and have a new album coming in 2017 that will hopefully put them on the map outside their home country of Austria.
16. Glen Matlock at the Brooklyn Bowl – London – One of my all-time favorite bands is the Sex Pistols, and while I have not seen them live, I’ve seen three of the four members individually. Glen Matlock is my favorite as he pulls together his punk roots and pushes them forward with a rockabilly flair.
Bonus – I wanted to keep this to 16 for the year, but I absolutely have to mention Slayer at the Jacob’s Pavillion in Cleveland (Opening night of the tour). These guys are still going strong and I would argue that they sound better than they did during their heyday. The latest album is an absolutely gem as well. Slayer never left their roots much like many of the others who have had to do a dramatic return to find success again. Slayer stays true to their fans and the legions of fans reciprocate.