Best of 2016: Concerts

Kurt Vile & The Violators play to a too-small Brooklyn Bowl crowd.
Photo: Erik Kabik
Jason Harris, Spencer Patterson, Mike Pizzo, Mike Prevatt & Leslie Ventura


1. The Cure (May 19, the Chelsea) Everything you heard about this tour was true. Robert Smith & Co. set out to challenge themselves every night, keeping their nearly-40-year catalog not only relevant, but essential.

The Cure

The Cure

2. Guns N’ Roses (April 8, T-Mobile Arena) Turns out, a broken foot was just what Axl Rose needed to focus and produce powerful vocals during a reunion with real weight behind its bombast.

3. New Order (March 21, the Chelsea) The seminal synth outfit’s last Vegas visit ranked as my 2013 concert of the year, and the return continued its exercise in precision, filled with some of the best dance hits ever recorded.

4. Coldplay (September 1, T-Mobile Arena) Showmanship combined with sincerity helped me understand why so many live and die with these British pop-rockers.

5. Phantogram (September 29, Brooklyn Bowl) Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter have honed their craft so tightly, their production—as much performance art as live show—has become a must-see.


1. Electric Wizard (August 28, the Joint) Psycho Las Vegas’ second-night headliner epitomized the rock fest’s considerable musical weaponry—hypnotic heaviness that relented only when the English foursome left the stage.

2. Ty Segall and the Muggers (March 12, Bunkhouse Saloon) Neon Reverb’s final act provided an emphatic capper, a manic set that signaled the revived DIY Downtown gathering’s best days might be ahead.

Electric Wizard

Electric Wizard

3. Phish (October 31, MGM Grand Garden Arena) A strong four-night showing by the jam-band icons peaked with Set 2—a well-considered rendition of David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars—and sets one and three were far from forgettable, too.

4. The Cure (May 19, the Chelsea) The goth legends’ marathon, 32-song performance sagged toward the end … which means we still got two hours of pure Cure magic.

5. Kurt Vile & The Violators (August 15, Brooklyn Bowl) The Philly man’s first headlining gig here didn’t draw enough bodies, but he sang and played guitar like he either didn’t notice or care.


1. Bad Boy Family Reunion Tour (October 1, MGM Grand Garden Arena) Diddy was a magician, constantly impressing us with his next trick, which mostly took the form of guest appearances from all your favorite late-’90s hip-hop and R&B stars.

2. Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals (July 29, House of Blues) Before his music was heard in ads for Google and the NBA, 2016’s breakout star solidified DJ 88’s Pop-Up Series with an electrifying performance.

Anderson .Paak

Anderson .Paak

3. Drake (September 11, T-Mobile Arena) An incredibly long concert (it also featured Future) put into perspective the number of massive tunes in which Drake has been featured over the past decade.

4. The Art of Rap Tour (July 23, Downtown Las Vegas Events Center) Part spectacle, part trip down memory lane, featuring old-school favorites from Public Enemy to Mobb Deep to Kurtis Blow.

5. Kanye West (October 29, T-Mobile Arena) Kanye’s pre-breakdown, suspended-stage exhibition made for the year’s oddest performance, and the energy in the room was undeniable.


1. Bob Dylan (October 13, the Chelsea) As if the Nobel Prize he won a mere 12 hours earlier wasn’t enough, a lively Dylan affirmed his greatness with a 17-song master class, buoyed by his flawless band and a ravished crowd.


2. Phish (October 31, MGM Grand Garden Arena) The final night of a four-night stand ended with another Halloween epic, its apex a perfect, poignant performance of Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust—and its closer, a tearjerking “Space Oddity.”

3. Explosions in the Sky (August 28, Brooklyn Bowl) The Austin post-rock standard-bearers threw convention out the window and stunned with unpredictable and ardent instrumental arcs that recalled classical movements.

4. Morrissey (January 2, the Joint) Unlike The Cure, the Mozzer didn’t play it Vegas-safe during his performance, epic by his standards and largely without his setlist standards, showing he and his versatile band at their very best.

5. Kurt Vile & The Violators (August 15, Brooklyn Bowl) If you stayed home to watch the Olympics, you really missed out on the wondrous Vile and his Violators giving the, sigh, couple-hundred of us his all.


1. Bob Dylan (October 13, the Chelsea) Known for being hit-or-miss live, Dylan gave us the goods this time, a short-but-sweet set spanning his brilliant career.

The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones

2. The Rolling Stones (October 22, T-Mobile Arena) Fresh off back-to-back Desert Trip performances—and one canceled Vegas show—the septuagenarians delivered a performance packed with standouts, like a 10-minute “Midnight Rambler, and a teaser track from December’s Blue and Lonesome.

3. Sia (October 7, Mandalay Bay Events Center) The pop singer stunned fans with her immaculate voice, emboldened by dramatic videos synced with choreography featuring Sia’s “mini-me,” breakout dancer Maddie Ziegler.

4. Yuck (March 22, Bunkhouse Saloon) With a new singer and new album, the ’90s-influenced indie-rockers sounded fresh, but opener Big Thief really brought the house down with haunting ballad “Masterpiece.”

5. A Night for Ziggy Stardust (February 13, Bunkhouse Saloon) The local scene paid tribute to a fallen hero, with the final song of the night—“All the Young Dudes,” performed by the 11th Street Band—summarizing the emotional evening.

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