There is no doubt that 2016 has been a great year for concerts. In my experience, the past year has been comparable to 2014 as far as concert availability goes. I could give a detailed account of each concert, but I doubt anyone would make it through the entirety of my synopsis (because no one cares, that much), but I will briefly give my suppositions of the 5 Best Concerts of My Year and Best Venue (2).
For reference as to what concerts I had to choose from here are the concerts I attended in 2016:
Judah and the Lion; War Memorial Auditorium: Nashville, TN (February)
The Beach Boys; Tennessee Theater: Knoxville, TN (March)
Hall and Oates; Lakewood Amphitheatre: Atlanta, GA (May)
Kenny Chesney; PNC Music Pavilion: Charlotte, NC (May)
Train + Andy Grammer; Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre: Alpharetta, GA (August)
Michael McDonald + America; Woods Amphitheater at Fontanel: Nashville, TN (August)
Billy Currington; East Tennessee State University Campus: Johnson City, TN (August)
Frankie Ballard; Old City Courtyard: Knoxville, TN (September)
Gavin Degraw + Andy Grammer; The Ryman: Nashville, TN (October)
The Fray; War Memorial Auditorium: Nashville, TN (November)
Frankie Ballard; Exit/In: Nashville, TN (November)
Chris Young + Dustin Lynch; Thompson-Boling Arena: Knoxville, TN (December)
Cole Swindell; Cotton Eyed Joe: Knoxville, TN (December)
Disclaimer: Noticeably, most of the concerts that did not make it in my top 5 of the year are concerts by artists/bands that I have seen multiple times in past years; therefore, their failure to make the list does not mean that they weren’t fantastic shows in their own right…
Top 5 Concerts of 2016
Kenny Chesney in Charlotte, North Carolina
By far one of the most highly anticipated concerts of my year. It was my first time seeing Kenny Chesney live and it therefore was a biggie. Although the entire concert took place during a torrential downpour, at an outdoor venue, I would not trade the experience. Kenny Chesney’s shows are on such a high caliber. The songs within the set are hit songs spanning over twenty years. Much alike a Jimmy Buffett concert there is an aura around the event that is something like a tropical vacation; it is like being a Parrot Head for a night, being a part of the No Shoes Nation brings concert-goers together. KC’s songs can’t be beat, atmosphere can’t be beat. #noshoesnation
Best Concert Memory: Much to my aggravation we were very late to this concert due to mechanical problems with my Volkswagen; therefore we missed the opening acts and at least three of KC’s songs. As my sister and I ran through the rain, (rain so hard and water standing so deep that it was running over our feet), trying to find the openings into the outdoor theatre and the section our tickets were for, I could see the lights from the show and hear “Reality” (from “Hemingway’s Whiskey” album) being performed. It felt like a scene from a teen/chick-flick with two best friends rushing to see their favorite band in crazy circumstances (something like Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen starring Lindsay Lohan).
The Fray in Nashville, Tennessee
Unlike any other show of 2016 I had waited for many years to see the Fray. Every time in the past five years that they have had tour dates near something has hindered me from going. I am still in awe; they were fantastic. Out of every concert I have ever been to (aside from the first time I saw Sam Hunt in 2015) the intro to their show was the best I have ever seen. The Fray opened with their new song “Singing Low” (eep!) and they maintained silhouettes throughout the duration of the song, it was powerful. Powerful is a good description of my perception of their show. Singing “You Found Me”felt nearly spiritual among so many other fans and the band.
Judah and the Lion in Nashville, Tennessee
Energy, energy, energy. Judah and the Lion shows are exhilarating in the best way. Judah and the Lion is the underdog amidst every other artist/band I have seen this year; not that they aren’t incredible: they are. When I went to see Judah and the Lion this past February, sadly I hardly knew any of their songs, which is very rare for me. But when you enjoy a show as much as I did their’s without knowing any of the set, that says something. They truly put on a show. They are honing the craft of concerts. Notably I remember the day after the show searching for any date of theirs that might be doable to attend again within a few days.
The Beach Boys in Knoxville, Tennessee
I love the Beach Boys and I love the era they represent. The beautiful Tennessee Theater only enhanced the magic of the concert. It felt like a trip back in time, to an era I will never have the ability to live within (sadly). It was the longest set of any band I have ever seen, somewhere around forty songs. It felt like a dance party; everyone was having the time of their life for the duration of the show. C’mon, “409”, “Kokomo”, “Surfin’ Safari”, “Do You Wanna Dance”, “Fun, Fun, Fun” it doesn’t get much more fun than that.
Best Concert Memory: My sister, mamaw, and I went together and we danced until we were exhausted. I can honestly say it was one of the most fun concerts I have ever been to. Sis and I tried to do the twist as impressively as our mamaw but it just was not possible! Such a great experience!
Cole Swindell in Knoxville, Tennessee
This seems to be the most unexpected show to make my list. It may have something to do with the fact that I was a little overjoyed to have met him before the show in a meet and greet– so sweet and such a pretty smile! There is just something about a good country show. My enjoyment is likely due to the fact that I was raised in a small town, have lived a stereotypical small town life, and heavily relate to Cole Swindell’s songs. Enjoying the show was as natural as loving your roots. Aside from myself, Cole Swindell appeared to be having a blast. His emphasis on staying loyal to his “down-home tours” and the rowdy nature of the Cotton Eyed Joe meshed well. I also discovered some new songs of his to love, namely “Chevrolet DJ” and “Broke Down”.
Prior Concert Comparison: The first time I saw Cole Swindell live was at Luke Bryan’s Farm Tour in 2014. This is only significant in that I went to see Luke Bryan but left as a fan of Cole Swindell. I was all about his new music of the time. I have found that when you enjoy the opening act more than the headliner, take note, they might just become one of your favorite artists/bands. This was true for me when I discovered Andy Grammer at a Train show in 2012.
Best Venue (2)
I could not choose just one because you should be aware of both!
The War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville, TN
As I reflect, I am realizing this recap is a touting of underdogs. This venue seems unlikely to be considered “best” when competing with The Ryman, beautiful outdoor amphitheaters, and arenas, but there is something special about it. The term “auditorium” sounds lame and unlikely to be considered a “cool” venue but the WMA is an exception. With a beautiful neoclassical exterior and an elegant ballroom-like interior, the War Memorial Auditorium has become one of, if not my favorite venue.
The Woods Amphitheater at Fontanel in Nashville, TN
I could not choose between the two aforementioned venues because they are two different styles yet both unique and lovely. The Woods is by far the most impressive, lovable outdoor amphitheater I have been to. It is located in a cubby in the woods. It has such a distinct atmosphere. Whereas most amphitheaters I have been to have no personality whatsoever and appear to have been a cookie-cutter model, the Woods seems unique. It has upscale outdoor accommodations with a neighborhood feel.