With a trio of venues added to Atlanta’s musical landscape this year – the Coca-Cola Roxy and, at least for a few shows, Mercedes-Benz Stadium and SunTrust Park – the always-robust concert offerings swelled.
Whether it was an intimate gathering (Avery Sunshine at City Winery), a warm dose of nostalgia ( Rick Springfield and Richard Marx at Atlanta Symphony Hall ) or a searing new voice ( rapper Russ at Music Midtown ), a diverse listening experience wasn’t difficult to find.
As for those stadium shows, Billy Joel and Garth Brooks performed with the vigor and polished professionalism that has made them eternal superstars. I relished both of their concerts; however, given that many fans endured a well, not exactly satisfactory experience in these sports emporiums that were untested as music settings ( STP for Joel , MBS for Brooks ), I eliminated them from contention for my list of the 10 most memorable concerts of the year. Metallica, the second concert at STP, gets a mention because its massive production managed to overpower the stadium’s shortcomings.
So, here is my always-ruminated-over list. Surely you will have your own opinions — and feel free to share them with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A toast to rocking in 2018!
10. Lecrae, Oct. 5 at Tabernacle: For unadulterated authenticity, Atlanta’s Lecrae is always part of the conversation. He’s still navigating the gray area between being pegged as a Christian rapper and as an artist whose faith guides him, but he’s also still a magnetic stage presence, a nimble lyricist and a singer whose talent truly hangs on honesty.
9. Arcade Fire, Sept. 21 at Infinite Energy Arena: The sound wasn’t always stellar and the tinted lighting often obscured the band’s faces. But there was no quelling the unfettered musical joy that this pack of musically quirky Canadians brought to the stage for two hours.
8. Zac Brown Band, May 12 at Verizon Amphitheatre: Atlanta’s country superstars launched their “Welcome Home” tour with a pair of shows that crisscrossed the breezy new (“Family Table,” “2 Places at 1 Time”) with the many fan favorites (“As She’s Walking Away,” “Knee Deep”) and still kept room for their traditionally awesome covers (a mighty, potent “Whipping Post” on this night).
7. Midnight Oil, May 6 at Center Stage: Not only was this the first night of the Australian rockers’ “The Great Circle” tour, but the band’s first visit to the U.S. in 15 years. Mad scientist lead singer Peter Garrett led a sold-out crowd through a parade of songs from their 11-album career (“Beds Are Burning” and “Forgotten Years” among their hits) with unwavering fervor and wrist-snapping glee.
6. Lady Gaga, Nov. 28 at Philips Arena: The spectacle was grand, and certainly, hordes of her fans loved the visual flair she brought to modern pop classics “Poker Face” and “Just Dance.” But Gaga captivated when at her most musically naked – sitting at a piano and belting a slow-burn rendition of “Born This Way.” Perhaps the finest live music moment of the year.
5. Bleachers, May 14 at Shaky Knees Festival: Jack Antonoff can’t possibly sleep much between producing for Taylor Swift and Lorde and crafting his own musical gems with his ‘80s-leaning band, which showcased its Fleetwood-Mac-meets-Bruce-Springsteen influences in a fun, caffeinated set.
4. The Avett Brothers, June 8 at Fox Theatre: At the first of their three-night stand, the Americana-bluegrass-folk-rockers engaged in their soulful musical calisthenics, spiking their show with homages to Chris Cornell (a haunting “Black Hole Sun”) and a divided nation (their sumptuous rendition of George Harrison’s “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)”), while also summoning the glory of their Grammy-nominated “True Sadness” album.
3. Green Day, March 10 at Infinite Energy Arena: Playing Atlanta for the first time since 2010, the trio of Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool slashed through 2 ½-hours of kinetic rock splashed with a still-relevant punky attitude and more melodies than might have been expected.
2. Ed Sheeran, Aug. 25 at Infinite Energy Arena: Some were incredulous that the unassuming Brit with the ginger locks and scruffily academic look commanded an arena for not only one sold-out show, but two (and, he goes even bigger in 2018 with a Nov. 10 date at Mercedes-Benz Stadium ). But for his “Divide” tour, the singer-guitarist amped up his show with a stage production that included vertical video reels and a triangular platform of tilting lights. And of course, plenty of those simple, heartfelt songs.
1.Tom Petty, April 27 at Philips Arena: It was impossible to know, of course, on that April night, five dates into their 40th anniversary tour, that this was the end. Six months later –and mere days removed from the tour’s finale - Petty was shockingly, inexplicably, gone . He left his handprint on the beating hearts of every rock music fanatic. In my review of the concert I noted, “If this was goodbye, then we can all thank Petty and the band for one more good ol’ day for the memory bank.” We will always be grateful.
Other shows that made an impression: Mary J. Blige, Aug. 8 at Wolf Creek Amphitheater ; Harry Styles, Oct. 8 at Coca-Cola Roxy ; Trans-Siberian Orchestra Dec. 9 at Infinite Energy Arena ; Stephen Stills and Judy Collins, Aug. 9 at Atlanta Symphony Hall ; Paul McCartney, July 13 at Infinite Energy Arena ; Metallica, July 9 at SunTrust Park .
For more music news, concert reviews and interviews, visit The Music Scene blog at MyAJC.com.