Photo of Japandroids’ Brian King by Karl Beck. Click here to see more photos as well as Karl’s list of his favorite concerts of 2017.
In chronological order…
Drive-By Truckers – The Pageant – St. Louis – January 27
A cathartic, socially conscious, and rocking show that was spiritually necessary the week after Trump’s inauguration. Their show of soul and proud, vociferous voice of equality was a roaring fire—a display of America at its best that mattered more than ever in the face of America at its worst.
Craig Finn + Japandroids – The Ready Room – St. Louis – March 5
“There’s no high like this / adrenaline nightshift.” Sometimes you just need to get pummeled by sound. Sorry, Future Mike—I always aim to do you right, but your shitty Monday was worth this level of collective catharsis on a Sunday night. You can always go to bed at 9:00 pm tomorrow, but you can’t go back in time to see something like this. Plus! Finn came out at the end of the night and joined Japandroids to cover some AC/DC and absolutely destroy the crowd.
Echo & the Bunnymen – Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre – St. Louis – July 22
On the hottest day of the year (108 degrees F), precious Echo graced us with their presence at Riverport. The heat kept the crowd even more sparse than it would have been otherwise (this show should have been at a mid-size theater) but those who showed up were mad fer it. True to form, Ian McCulloch wore his signature heavy jacket and shades, and spent the entire set chain smoking. Perhaps not the best idea, as he had to stop the set and take several breaks, and at one point was brought oxygen on stage. Echo’s show was cut short at just under an hour, but what we got was pure gold. The band sounded as tight as ever, and McCulloch sang expressively and with more force than you’d expect given his heatstroke related stress. I’d been waiting for this moment for years and years and even as an imperfect night, it was pure, sweaty magic.
Green Day – Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre – St. Louis – August 14
This was my second time seeing Green Day in less than a year and they were as tight / shit-hot as ever. A set packed with American Idiot + Revolution Radio material was sweaty hot inclusive catharsis in Trump’s hijacked America. Billie Joe was a tireless, Freddie Mercury grade crowd rousing frontman. He pulled three kids up on stage to sing and play guitar. “Minority” + a big pile (huh huh) of Dookie faves and “2000 Light Years Away” went over so well. An epic “Jesus of Suburbia” in the encore only underscored that Tre Cool & Mike Dirnt are America’s most unheralded rhythm section.
Green Day keep making vital new records, but the fact that I saw plenty of fans here that were probably not born when I discovered these guys in 1994 did remind me of the classic rock-ization of my teenage favorites. But it’s like teenage me loving The Who. It’s heartening and thrilling! And the aptness of the parallel between those two groups wasn’t lost on me. This was the sort of show that recharges your depleted spiritual batteries & keeps you going.
MAHA Festival – Omaha, Nebraska – August 19
Gathered the troops and took a road trip to Nebraska for this festival I’d never heard of before. The lineup was dense with awesome—Torres, New Pornographers, Belle & Sebastian and Run the Jewels were personal highlights, and I also really enjoyed Priests’ and Built to Spill’s sets. Great company, the food lineup was varied and tasty, the beer plentiful and affordable (special shout out to the vendor with the portable keg of Boulevard strapped to his back wandering through the crowd dispensing pints during the New Pornos set—that was heaven!) and I was impressed by the general organization and ease of navigation of the whole thing. I also liked that the festival was a single day, from noon to midnight. Fests can be a giant hassle, but this one was compact, genial and a total breeze. Good show, Omaha!
Seu Jorge – The Pageant – St. Louis – September 12
It hurt so much to lose David Bowie in 2016. So it made me extra excited when Seu Jorge brought his Life Aquatic em português tribute to our dear departed art alien to St. Louis after all. Tais belos canções and a delicate, moving set, just Jorge sat down on stage with an acoustic guitar, his perch ringed with candles. He even told a number of hilarious and moving stories in between songs (including one particularly moving one about his late father), despite English not being his native language. The only way this show could’ve been more perfect would have been if the Pageant bar would’ve had the foresight to serve caipirinhas.
Get Up Kids + Descendents – The Pageant – St. Louis – October 6
KC’s finest, the Get Up Kids, were an excellent opening act that I’d have paid money to see on their own. While never fashionable, their songs have always been very well written. Their hooky, wistful, ennui-filled emo-punk really appealed to me as a collegiate journal-writer, and I’ve been highly pleased to discover a base layer of maturity to their music that gives them both nostalgic appeal and relevant-now appeal. And Descendents were coffee-fueled punk legends. Nerd heroes. It was a thrill to finally catch them live after twenty years of waiting. Props for right off the bat acknowledging STL’s ongoing police brutality problem. Their tone deaf, ableist new album title aside, this was a massive night and a long held dream come true. Hope it’s not another two decades before I get to see them again.
Hamilton Leithauser – Delmar Hall – St. Louis – October 23
Leithauser brought his mix of Walkmen-inflected indie, Texas roadhouse rock and retro-modern torch song stylings to St. Louis’ best new venue, Delmar Hall, and it was a magical night. Sonic Edward Hopper “Nighthawks” vibes. He kept pulling capos and harmonicas out of this magical jacket he would take on and off all night long. The entire show felt soaked in neon-lit 1950s NYC noir and yet still very 2017. His passionate vocals and stage presence gave him a command of the crowd that was nearly unrivaled in any other show I saw this year.
Wilco – The Pageant – St. Louis – November 13
Wilco will love us, baby! I try to catch Mr. Tweedy and co. every time they play a “home” show. Even better when it’s at a relatively small venue and with a group of your best friends. I’ve been listening to this band for 20-something years and they’re both a comforting constant and an artistic force that explores and evolves along with you in life, and this show was no exception. A few standouts: an ever more epic “Impossible Germany”; local love smile inducing “New Madrid”; the respectful yet drum solo-tastic/bonkers “Via Chicago.” This was one of the best Wilco shows I’ve seen and an invigorating display of a band at the peak of their powers.
Julien Baker – Delmar Hall – St. Louis – December 2
In which a young woman in a dollar store black t-shirt held an entire club enraptured. Baker was such unfettered emotion, her expressive, gripping voice going from a whisper to a powerful crescendo so quickly it caught me off guard. “Sprained Ankle” + “Televangelist” and “Hurt Less” had me utterly verklempt. The latter had me in grateful tears. This show was beautiful catharsis and communion. And while I expected Delmar Hall to be maybe a third full, it was jam packed. And half the crowd was attentive, respectful, mega into it dude dudes. That’s a victory right there. What a show!
Son Volt – The Pageant – St. Louis – March 18
The Shins – The Pageant – St. Louis – May 19
Ryan Adams – The Pageant – St. Louis – August 1
LouFest 2017 – Forest Park – St. Louis – September 9-10
Father John Misty – Peabody Opera House – St. Louis – September 22
Frightened Rabbit + Broken Social Scene – The Pageant – St. Louis – September 24
Luna – Off Broadway – St. Louis – November 4