Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Best Concerts of 2016 (Part One)

We see a lot of shows ... 

Upwards of 30 this past year alone ...

And we're already making our list of new shows that we wanna see for 2017!

Here is our annual list of the Best Concerts of 2016 ...

A few quick notes ...

We still have one show left to see this year ...

That's The O'Jays with The Chi-Lites and Comedian Damon Williams on New Year's Eve at The Star Plaza in Merrillville, IN.

I am anticipating this to be an incredible show ... but while technically still 2016, our review of this concert won't appear until 2017 (and only via email as by then the website will be fully committed to our new 1967 Series).

As such, we'll be pushing this one into the 2017 rankings.

There were a couple of MAJOR acts that didn't make our list this year ... which gives you some idea as to how stiff the competition was.  (Sorry, Eric Burdon, Brian Wilson, Steven Wright and Dr. Demento!)

Also, please note that you will find that MOST of these concert events (16 out of the Top 20 shows!) took place at The Arcada Theatre ... THE place to see a show in Chicagoland these days.  We are forever indebted to CEO and Host Ron Onesti for his continued support and generosity in allowing us to cover these concert events.

And finally, for the first time EVER, a "second generation" band tops the list ... yes, they were THAT good ... so we strongly suggest you check them out when you get the chance.  (And since Jeff Lynne STILL hasn't committed to a full-fledged US Tour, it may be the closest you'll come to seeing an ELO show in concert.)

And now, on with the countdown!

#20 - Bobby Rydell - The Arcada Theatre
We had the privilege to interview Bobby earlier this year ... in fact, we ran a week-long tribute to this late '50's / early '60's Teen Idol.  It was during our interview that his show at The Arcada Theatre came around to being booked ... so we couldn't wait to see it and finally say hello in person after the concert.
Several fans complained that Bobby didn't do enough of his own hits during the concert ... in fact, he only did four ... preferring instead to concentrate on what he calls "The Great American Songbook".  He did tributes to both Bobby Darin and Frank Sinatra as part of his act, backed with a full orchestra ... but Bobby Fans wanted to see him perform HIS hits instead.
Even so, he totally nailed the "Big Band Sound" of the era ... and, as such, it still ranks as our 20th Best Concert of 2016.
You can read the full review here:

#19 - Rita Coolidge - The Arcada Theatre 
You'll find a few acts near the bottom of this list that concentrated on music other than their own hits for the bulk of their concert performance ... Rita Coolidge was another one.  That doesn't mean what she DID perform didn't captivate the audience ... it did.  Rita was in fine voice throughout the show and it was a real pleasure to finally catch her act after all these years.  (I loved the way she referred to Kris Kristofferson as her "favorite ex-husband" while updating the audience on his recent health issues.)
You'll find our Rita Review as part of this posting below.  (We had the chance to see a couple of shows that same weekend and opted for Rita over Foreigner, knowing that we were going to see Lou Gramm's performance at The Arcada later in the year.  In hindsight, I regret not being able to see Foreigner WITHOUT Lou Gramm ... as HIS show was SO loud I found it impossible to enjoy the concert.  In fact, we left early ... we just couldn't take it anymore.)
As such, Lou (who I have waited 35 years to see) didn't even make our Top 20 Year End List.

#18 - The City Lights Orchestra - Centennial Park West, Orland Park
Every year we try to get to one of their shows ... usually an outdoor "in the park" event that takes place way out on the south side.  That's OK ... because it's well worth the ride.    Conductor Rich Daniels and his stable of revolving vocalists always provide a VERY enjoyable afternoon / evening of music, encompassing a WIDE variety of pop and show tunes.
Bruce Mattey has been a long-time participant and this year (with a little bit of encouragement from us!) he persuaded the rest of The New Colony Six to join him on stage for a short set that featured not only a few of their biggest hits but also a quick medley of hits of many of the other Chicagoland artists that ruled the charts here in the late '60's and early '70's.
We didn't do a formal review of the show on the website because they don't really qualify as an "oldies act" ... but that doesn't mean that we didn't thoroughly enjoy their performance ... we did ... and are already looking forward to next year's show ... ALWAYS the perfect way to cap off the summer!

#17 - Dionne Warwick -  The Arcada Theatre
Dionne is another artist we have longed to see for decades.  (I have been trying to get Dionne booked for a Chicagoland appearance for the past 2-3 years ... and was SO glad that Ron Onesti finally landed her for The Arcada.)
It was an interesting show, to say the least.  
Dionne performed exactly a one hour set ... and reprimanded the audience on a couple of occasions for not following her earlier instructions about no videotaping, even stopping the show at one point and making one fan "put the camera away".
Still, she was in great voice and did a wide assortment of her greatest hits (although a couple were new "contemporary" arrangements that didn't quite measure up to the originals.)  Regardless, an artist worth seeing if you get the chance.

#16 - Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr. - The Arcada Theatre
I'm starting to sound like a broken record here!
Another act we have waited decades to see ... and another act that filled half their set with material other than their own, leaving out many of the songs the audience came to see and hear.

It's a shame ... because they put on a class act every step of the way ... they just didn't give us what we really wanted and expected in a concert setting.
I have to say that Billy's voice has aged better than Marilyn's, which was a real shocker to me, as I have always felt she had one of the greatest voices in pop music history and never really got her due.
Again - an enjoyable show - but disappointing more for what WASN'T there than for what they performed.
Without giving too much away (we've already let the cat out of the bag in our preamble!), this review encompasses both Marilyn and Billy's show as well as the one put on by The Orchestra, the concert we're calling The Best Show of 2016!
(As such, the link will appear again tomorrow when we count down The Top Ten.)
But that's OK ... these guys deserve an extra round of kudos for the excellent show they put on at The Arcada Theatre this year.  We loved it!

#15 - Toto - The Arcada Theatre
One of Frannie's all-time favorite bands, she saw them back in their hey-day of the late '70's and early '80's.  We've seen former vocalist Bobby Kimball a couple of times now but had yet to see the rest of the band.
Musically, they were outstanding ... if a bit self-indulgent. 
As mentioned in my original review, if they had cut the concert time in half, they very likely would have been voted The Best Concert We Saw In 2016 ... but it was just too much of unfamiliar material and long, self-serving extended jams that eventually wore us out.
As such, they come in at #15 instead ... and that's a shame ... because they were considerably better than that ... and deserved more ... but so did WE as a audience.  (Or would that technically be less???)

#14 - Felix Cavaliere's Rascals - The Arcada Theatre
Prior to this show, we felt we may have seen Felix Cavaliere too many times to truly enjoy whatever it was he was going to present this evening.  And, quite honestly, after seeing the full-blown Rascals Reunion (albeit, short-lived) a few years ago, what was the point of going again ... the sum of all the parts was always going to outweigh any individual performance.
But I've got to say that I was pleasantly surprised.
Felix seemed rejuvenated for this performance ... and he really made it a fun show to watch.  HE was having fun ... and it was infectious.  Without question, the best solo show I've ever seen him do ... totally enjoyed it!

#13 - Tommy James and the Shondells - The Arcada Theatre
Tommy sells out The Arcada Theatre every time he performs there ... and this show was no exception.  Chicago has ALWAYS loved Tommy James ... and that love continues to this day.
While he essentially did the same show he did the last time we saw him, he's just such a fun performer that you can't help but have a good time.  (Again, infectious, feel-good pop music ... Tommy belongs in The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame far more than half the artists that are already in there!)  And he is a genuinely appreciative artist, too, who loves giving the crowd his very best each time he takes the stage.

#12 - The New York Bee Gees (Peter Mazzeo, Tom Flyntz and Manny Focarrazzo) with special guest Rainere Martin as Donna Summer) - The Arcada Theatre   
Another surprise addition to the list this year ... a "cover band" devoted to preserving the music of The Bee Gees ... and, just to make sure the disco years are aptly covered, they've also got Rainere Martin doing her Donna Summer impression, which is good enough to headline a show of her very own!
They opened up the seating area to create a disco dance floor ... and it was packed throughout the evening's performance.  And let me tell you, watching these couples get up there and strut their stuff just like they did some 40 years ago was every bit as much fun as the show itself!
After the show, I got to visit with Fake Barry and Fake Donna and just had to tell them that they REALLY know how to throw a party.
It was a last minute decision to go to this one ... but I'm glad we did.  Fun for the whole family ... and highly recommended!  We were thoroughly entertained.

#11 - Little Anthony and the Imperials - The Arcada Theatre
I saw Little Anthony and the Imperials a couple of years ago and was blown away by the show ... so had to go back again this year so that Frannie could experience it, too.
It's hard to believe that Anthony is about to turn 77 years old ... his voice is still incredible, hitting all the original high notes ... and he is powerful and moving as ever.
Another one that's highly recommended if it ever comes your way.

Please join us tomorrow as we count down our Top Ten Concert Events of 2016