Philadelphia hosted a massive amount of incredible shows this year. Reunions, underplays, and classic favorites all populated my concert calendar in 2016, and it was a challenge to narrow it down to my favorites. I managed to do it, though, so here they are, in chronological order…
Lamb Of God – Electric Factory, January 16th
“Randy threw his lanky frame in every direction and the crowd followed suit. Tornadic pits broke out for “Walk With Me In Hell” and “Set To Fail”. Drummer Chris Adler has a way of making even the most intricate passages look like child’s play, and he was stunning to watch. Willie Adler, John Campbell, and Mark Morton held their own, concentrating more on their instruments than on stage acrobatics. They weren’t bored, just focused: they were there to play guitar instead fling themselves off of the risers in a fit of mania. That was Randy’s job. The screens provided more visuals: loops of riots, candles, and snake charmers.” Check out my review here.
Brian Fallon & The Crowes – Electric Factory, March 8th
“Fallon holds the ability to sing simultaneously with rage and with grace, and here we heard all sides of him. He hollered out “Go Tell Everybody” and cooed through “Steve McQueen”, showcasing Americana influences that were only hinted at on old releases. “Nobody Wins” spelled out his personal reinvention with the line “I lost most of myself pleasing everyone / I had to learn how to begin again”. He paid tribute to the songwriters that came before him with a snippet of Tom Petty during “Ladykiller” and a cover of Bruce Springsteen, to whom he’s been compared ad nauseam.” Check out my full review here.
The Who – Wells Fargo Center, March 14th
The Who’s 50th anniversary tour had been postponed in 2015, so this show was a long time coming. The setlist covered just about every hit from their extensive career, powered by the screams of Roger Daltrey and the windmills of the original guitar-smasher, Pete Townshend. This was likely their last major tour, and to see these songs brought to life was nothing short of inspiring.
Kvelertak – Underground Arts, April 14th
As I stated in my list of favorite albums of 2016, Kvelertak never give in to instant gratification; instead, they allow the crowd to simmer and bubble until the time is right to detonate. The triple threat of guitars sing over the band’s frenetic rhythm section. It’s engrossing enough to make you scream along with Erlend Hjelvik – even if you don’t know a word of Norwegian.
Murder By Death – Union Transfer, April 23rd
This is one of my absolute favorite bands to see live, and Philadelphia has become like a second hometown to the Indiana natives. Murder By Death always create setlists that run the gamut from old to new, dark to joyous, and soft to shredding. Their brand of Americana is one that pleases both rock and folk fans, and their live shows never get old.
Pearl Jam – Wells Fargo Center, April 29th
This was the second of their two nights in South Philly. In a move that surprised even the hardcore fans, they played their debut album Ten in its entirety, and this happens to be my favorite Pearl Jam album. The remainder of the set was an engaging mix of singles, covers and acoustic jams that tallied up to 32 songs total.
Peter Gabriel & Sting – BB&T Pavilion, June 26th
I walked into this as a huge Peter Gabriel fan and casual Sting fan, and I walked out completely blown away by both of them. Instead of separate co-headlining sets, the Rock Paper Scissors Tour featured the two songsmiths oscillating back and forth throughout a magnificent set of music. Sometimes one would cover the material of the other, and sometimes they would duet. Their tag team effort made for a one-of-a-kind evening.
Lazer/Wulf – Kung Fu Necktie, August 25th
Lazer/Wulf’s style of progressive metal is impulsive, which makes it really fun to listen to. Sonic twists and turns and whiplash-inducing tempo changes make this Atlanta trio wildly impressive live. If you haven’t heard The Beast of Left and Right, do yourself a favor and download it now (or better yet, support your local record shop and pick up a physical copy).
AC/DC – Wells Fargo Center, September 20th
This is another show that was postponed for a few months, but it was certainly worth the wait. Singer Brian Johnson was sidelined from the tour after being diagnosed with severe hearing loss, so AC/DC recruited Axl Rose to take his place. I was skeptical of the GN’R frontman, but he fit perfectly with the rest of the band. His voice is more compatible with songs from the Bon Scott era, but no matter what he was singing, he stayed true to the melodies and was careful not to steal Angus Young’s spotlight. Angus was electric, ripping away at his guitar like it was the last time. In fact, this was their last show for the foreseeable future, and I feel lucky to have seen Angus tear it up before the band’s career comes to a close. (It was also the final show for bassist Cliff Williams, who chose to retire from the road after this tour.)
Green Day – Tower Theatre, September 29th
The Tower was barely able to contain Green Day, who had returned from a short hiatus with a sober frontman, a new record, and a load of unbridled energy. I’ve seen the band a number of times, but never in a venue as intimate as the Tower. I’m a fan of every chapter of Green Day, from Kerplunk to now, and here they played it all, leaning heavily on Dookie and American Idiot. They also treated us to four new songs from Revolution Radio, which at the time was not yet released.
BONUS: Metallica – Webster Hall, September 27th
This didn’t take place in Philly, but I would be remiss if I didn’t include this unforgettable show on my list of 2016 favorites. Metallica played a handful of small clubs ahead of the release of Hardwired… To Self-Destruct, including Webster Hall in NYC. Without the distraction of arena pageantry like screens and pyrotechnics, Metallica – and the fans – were able to focus on the music. This night marked the 30th anniversary of the death of Cliff Burton, which added an emotional layer to an otherwise loud and raucous night.
The Loved Ones – Union Transfer, February 20th
Iggy Pop – Academy of Music, April 15th
Guns N’ Roses – Lincoln Financial Field, July 14th
Heart / Joan Jett / Cheap Trick – BB&T Pavilion, July 31st
Black Sabbath / Rival Sons – BB&T Pavilion, August 19th