No Direction Home

This humble blog was started to document our travels around the country during the summer of 2006, We have opted to continue updating it due to the requests from family & friends. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Live Music Review 2017

December 21, 2017


Paul McCartney

First Aid Kit 

Roger Waters

Live Music Review 2017

When I started to look over the list of shows that I saw this year, I felt that it might be tougher this year as it seemed like we attended a lot less shows during 2017. We certainly cut back on going to major festivals as we skipped Coachella, Lollapalooza and Folk’s Fest which I have attended fairly regularly over the years. But once I started compiling my list, it was evident that while the quantity may have gone done a bit, the quality of shows that we went to was as good as ever and it was tough once again to come up with a top ten.

Livi, Chris, Kathy, Renae and Keith

Grace VanDerWaal 

Toad the Wet Sprocket

As usual the list was totally subjective. It is almost impossible to fairly compare the many different types of live shows that I saw. Huge stadium shows like U2 and Guns n’ Roses can hardly be compared to tiny impromptu shows like G-Love performed before about 20 people by the pool at Coast or to shows in bars or at places like the Key West Theater. I try to judge each performance independently and not against one another to come up with what to me is both an excellent live showing as well as how much I enjoyed it personally. 

Vance Joy


With Charlie Sexton

Even people who attended the shows that I list would probably disagree, I know for a fact that two people who saw Roger Waters with me declared it the best show they had ever seen, and yet it only placed third on my year end list. All I can say that if you get a chance and go see any band or performer on the list you will almost assuredly be able to see a great show.

With the Wind and the Wave 

The Wind and the Wave

There are a number of repeat performers on my list, Paul McCartney has appeared multiple years and Roger Waters, Tom Petty and Cage the Elephant have all appeared on previous lists, but just because I love a band does not guarantee them a spot. In fact perhaps my favorite band, Counting Crows toured again this summer with Matchbox 20, but for the first time they did not crack the top 10. The show was good, but the repetitive set-list and the fact that they were once again upstaged by Rob Thomas left them on the outside this year.

Ryan Adams

Barton Hills Choir

Key West continues its magical renaissance in the area of live music. The wonderful Key West Theater hosted a wonderful full slate of great bands and it has become a regular hang-out for Kathy and I. The parade of excellent shows that we saw there this year included JJ Grey, Rickie Lee Jones, Ottmar Liebert, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Phil Vassar, Colin Hay, Lee Ann Womack, America, and John Hiatt. Other venues such as The Tennessee Williams Theatre, The Studios of Key West, The San Carlos Institute and the wonderful Coast have all brought excellent entertainment to our island.


At ACL with Jenn, Grant and Livi

John Paul White


Special shout out to Billy and all the folks at Coast. They brought Rorey Carroll and G-Love back to the island and hosted an amazing little two night benefit concert with Carroll, G-Love, Langhorne Slim and Rayland Baxter with shows at Blue Heaven and Coast that were fantastic. Of course the annual Key West Songwriter’s Festival brought the usual incredible talent to the island in early May including one of my favorites, Robert Earl Keen. 

Robert Earl Keen 


Coast Crew with G-Love, Langhorne Slim and Rayland Baxter 

Lea and G-Love

Now on to this year’s top ten list, presented in reverse order:

10) U2/ One Republic, Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, Florida, June 11, 2017. The list starts off with a bang as U2 brought its massive Joshua Tree anniversary tour to the stadium where the Dolphins play. One of the biggest tours of the year, U2 is one of the few bands who can truly excel in the large stadium setting and this show was a testament to that ability. The band played the 30 year old Joshua Tree album in its entirety and it still holds the power of the original tour that I saw in 1987. The spectacle of the show was tough to beat as the massive video screens were as large as any I have ever seen. The song selection was great as well and it was only due to the audio issues inherent with the stadium setting that kept this show from being further up the list.


9) Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers/Joe Walsh, Deer Creek Music Center, Indianapolis, Indiana, May 15, 2017. I admit that this listing is more from the heart than from the head. Seeing Tom Petty perform one last time before his untimely passing this fall was something I am so glad that I made happen. He just happened to be playing a show in Indianapolis while I was there for Indy 500 qualifying and I decided to catch the show. Having seen Tom Petty live more than 20 times over the course of my life, this show really was not one of the best I have seen, but even an average Tom Petty was better than about 90% of acts out there. He always enjoyed playing and it always came through in his performance.  It was a pretty special night. Sidenote- Joe Walsh was one of the worst opening acts ever.

Tom Petty

8) Gorillaz, Austin City Limits Festival, Austin, Texas, Sunday, October 8, 2017. Explaining the Gorillaz or their live act is almost impossible to do, formed in 1998 by Blur’s Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlitt, the band was simply a virtual cartoon band early on that has transformed into a rotating band of musicians who join Albarn and Hewlitt in their somewhat rare live performances. Their show at ACL was part of their Humanz tour and was to me one of the highlights of the 3 day festival that also saw headling sets by the likes of Jay-Z, the Killers, Solange, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Chance the Rapper and the XX. The Gorillaz had an eleven piece band including a six person choir as part of this show and it was pretty magical.

The Gorillaz

7) First Aid Kit, Austin City Limits Festival, Austin, Texas, Saturday October 7, 2017. It was tough to pick my favorite performance at the ACL festival, there was as always a number of excellent performances that I truly loved. Sets by The Head and the Heart, the Revivalists, Joseph, Angel Olsen, Grace Vanderwaal, Muna and Ice Cube were all excellent, but the Swedish Folk duo of sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg was my favorite. I first saw this band back on a small side stage back at ACL in 2010 and I was hooked, now they are playing a much larger stage in front of a packed in enthusiastic crowd. Their voices and harmonies are things of beauty and they were fantastic. I cannot wait to see them again. They also played a spiffy cover of Kenny Rogers, The Gambler, which was pretty awesome.

First Aid Kit

6) Hall & Oates, Tears for Fears, American Airlines Arena, Miami, Florida, June 7, 2017.  I would never have guessed that this show would rate so high on my list, it was totally unexpected. Having seen Hall & Oates many times over the years, they have always been good, but not spectacular. They are one of those bands where you will know every song and have a great time, but the concert itself is usually just above adequate. And actually that would have been the case again as Hall & Oates were really good though nothing terribly special, it was the opening act that carried the day. Having not seen Tears for Fears live since 1988, I really was not expecting much, but was blown away by how good they were. They look and sound pretty much as they did 30 years ago and that is something special. Their newer songs which I was unfamiliar with, held up well to the more established hits and it was really a spectacular evening and while Hall & Oates sounded like a fun nostalgia band, Tears for Fears sounded just as relevant now as ever.

Tears for Fears 

Hall & Oates

Hall & Oates

5) The Wild Reeds, the Hi-Fi, Indianapolis, Indiana, August 11, 2017. It is a rare occurrence that finds me going to a show that I have no idea about who the band is that is playing, but that was the case when on a one night stayover in Indianapolis I decided to check out the band at one of my favorite venues, the Hi-Fi. The Hi-Fi is a tiny bar in the Fountain Square section of Indianapolis that I always try to hit when I am in town, earlier in May I had seen Margaret Glaspy and John Paul White there and I was open to whoever might be playing. I was just blown away by the band, which hails from Los Angeles and was touring in support of their very first release, The World We Built. The magnificent three-part harmonies were like some sort of alternative twinged Dixie Chicks and the show was totally amazing. This is a band that I am going to look back on and say I am so lucky I saw them in such a tiny venue. I know you have never heard of them but I learned afterwards that Rolling Stone had listed them as one of 10 bands of 2017 that you need to know. I could not agree more and their show is one of the top 5 shows I saw this year.

The Wild Reeds 

4) Cage the Elephant, Gasparilla Music Festival, Tampa, Florida, March 11, 2017. Maroon Five has a hit song called, Moves Like Jagger, but if there is anyone performing today that can actually lay claim to having such moves it is not Adam Levine of Maroon Five, but Cage the Elephant lead singer Matt Shultz. This is a case of a band that I never really listen to, but have seen perform live a number of times and they never fail to disappoint. One of the most active, exciting and interesting bands, their live shows are legendary and this headlining set at Gasparilla was yet another example of a relatively young band earning their stripes by delivering a blistering set of raucous rock and roll.

Cage the Elephant 

3) Roger Waters, American Airlines Arena, Miami, Florida, July 13, 2017. Last fall, I saw the first show of the Us and Them World tour when Waters unleashed his full stage show at the Desert Trip concert, it was amazing but had not yet developed in to the full powerhouse of sound and fury that it had become by this summer when the tour made a stop at the American Airlines Arena in Miami. At 73 years old, Waters is playing classic Pink Floyd cuts to sold-out arenas. He has an excellent band behind him, and the sophisticated, innovative production of the show, with lasers, projections and versatile high-definition video screens, is unsurpassed. At one point, a lifelike projection of the iconic Battersea Power Station, from the “Animals” cover, ran the length of the arena, steam pouring from its stacks. He played two 60 minute sets full of both classic Pink Floyd and his own solo material to the delight of the crowd. It was a definitive rock show and certainly among the best I saw this year.

Roger Waters

2) Paul McCartney, American Airlines Arena, Miami, Florida, July 7, 2017. In the same location as Roger Waters, a week earlier, we had the good fortune to catch another masterpiece by Paul McCartney who has been a regular on my top ten lists the past few years as we seem to see him every year. I keep imagining that he will begin to slip at some point, yet the opposite seems to be happening. From the classic opening chord of A Hard Day’s Night through three hours and forty amazing songs, McCartney was in epic form. He played every classic Beatles hit and dug deep into his own solo career and Wings songs as well. The performance is more of the focus than the staging, but the pyrotechnics during Live and Let Die were as spectacular as any you will ever see at a rock concert. He played everything from the first song he ever learned with the Quarrymen, Roy Orbison’s, In Spite of All the Danger, up to his most recent release a collaboration with Kanye West and Rhianna, FourFiveSeconds. At 75, McCartney just seems to never age, maintaining the boyish playfulness that made him many people’s favorite Beatle and his impressive performance and classic songs make for just about a perfect concert going experience.

1) Blind Pilot/ Covenhoven, Chautauqua Auditorium, Boulder, Colorado, August 19, 2017.  I am sure this choice will come as a surprise to many, including many who may never have heard of the Portland, Oregon based folk rock quintet. Blind Pilot’s show at the venerable and beautiful Chatauqua Auditorium had none of the trappings of most of the shows on this list. No real staging or show, not even video screens and certainly no pyrotechnics, just a band and instruments played spectacularly well than transfixed the sold-out audience in a way that is rarely seen at concerts, where the crowd simply stays mostly quiet and listens intently. Blind Pilot plays that way and they play it very well. If you are not familiar with the band or their music, I would give it my highest recommendation.

Blind Pilot

So there it is, 2017 wrapped up in a nice tidy bow. There were a number of shows that might qualify as honorable mention, beginning with the first show we saw this year, Willie Nelson and family at the House of Blues in New Orleans. Willie is a living legend and he is always worth seeing though he has slipped a little since his heyday and his set was pretty short so he is just outside the top ten. Rickie Lee Jones and Colin Hay were my two favorite shows of the year at the Key West Theater, either could have slipped on to the list as both were excellent. Also deserving of mention were shows featuring the Wind and the Wave, Toad the Wet Sprocket, The Birdmen of Alcatraz, Joseph, John Paul White, Ghostface Killah and Prince’s former band, The Revolution.

Rickie Lee Jones 

The Birdmen of Alcatraz

Willie Nelson

Ice Cube

I hate to say anything bad about artists, but there were two shows that were major disappointments this year, which is not bad all things considered. Joe Walsh (who opened for Tom Petty) and Art Garfunkel. I like both of them, but maybe they were just having an off night or maybe they have just lost a step (or two), but I won’t be seeing either of them again.

Colin Hay