Nov 28 2017

Please Don't Stop the Music: The Best Concerts in 2017

By: Greg Roques

Touring concerts were hard to come by when I was younger. Whenever an A-list music act was crossing the country, New Orleans was like the small kid unable to intercept a ball thrown between its two larger brothers, Houston and Atlanta. My only chance to see the latest indie/alt-rock acts seemed to come when Jazz Fest and then new-kid-on-the-block Voodoo Fest rolled around.

No more. Thanks to a stellar lineup courtesy of Live Nation, I’ve been making up for lost time in 2017. Here is a recap of some of the top performances to come through the Crescent City this year.

Rock legend Billy Joel electrified the Smoothie King Center on February 17, with a marathon set that included compulsory classics “Uptown Girl,” “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” and “Piano Man.” Unexpectedly, though still entertaining, Joel also seasoned his show with several cover tunes, including “House of the Rising Sun,” AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell,” as well as New Orleans-nods “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong and a short instrumental of “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

March welcomed Stevie Nicks with opener The Pretenders to the Smoothie King Center. I attended this show mostly at the urging of my wife, who is well-versed in Nicks’s solo work. I’m glad I did. Her performance included a handful of Fleetwood Mac hits, including “Gypsy,” “Rhiannon,” and “Landslide” (one of my favorites), as well as “New Orleans,” an ode to our city that Nicks wrote in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Rounding out the first quarter of 2017 was Trombone Shorty’s 3rd Annual Tremé Threauxdown at the Saenger Theatre, the first Saturday of Jazz Fest. Even though I knew I would be seeing him again one week later for his always-energized Jazz Fest conclusion, I had heard stories of the great guest appearances from years prior—plus, Jazz Fest night shows are the best. Shorty didn’t disappoint, being joined by hip- hop heavyweights Wyclef Jean and Usher. 

Please Don't Stop the Music: The Best Concerts in 2017

Kicking off the second weekend of Jazz Fest were The Pixies. Age has not taken the wind out of these alt-rock pioneers, whose 30-plus song set at the Saenger thankfully made space for choice cuts “Wave of Mutilation,” “Where Is My Mind?”, and “Monkey Gone to Heaven.” 

As summer opened its sunny arms, granting gifts of beach trips and longer days, Champions Square too opened its … square for seasonal events. Champions Square is my favorite music venue, probably because its spacious outdoor landscape reminds me of being at a music festival. The locale also attracts a fair amount of faded—yet still beloved—veteran acts from my early college days. 

English space rockers Muse landed in Champions Square in June, touring behind their excellent new album Drones. The performance featured all the greats spanning the entirety of their output, including “Stockholm Syndrome,” “Time is Running Out,” “Starlight,” and “Undisclosed Desires,” closing out with “Knights of Cambodia.” Adding to the experience was Thirty Seconds to Mars, who kicked off the evening with a quick, eight-song set almost entirely compiled from their previous two efforts, This is War and LOVE LUST FAITH + DREAMS. The exception and show highlight—other than frontman Jared Leto’s ridiculous ZZ Top-meets-Ziggy Stardust getup—was an acoustic update of their early 00s emo-anthem “The Kill,” stripping away its angst for a more mature, pensive tone.

Please Don't Stop the Music: The Best Concerts in 2017

Coasting on the coattails of this incredible performance were 90s pop-rockers Third Eye Blind, championing their inaugural eponymous EP in its entirety one week later. While their career-defining debut was just as enjoyable as when I first heard it at the start of high school, the real pull for this show was special guest Silversun Pickups. Though their secondary slot cast them with a svelte setlist—which, sadly, didn’t have room for “Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)”—the show featured well-known singles “The Pit,” “Circadian Rhythm (Last Dance),” and “Lazy Eye.”

Also performing the pinnacle of their portfolio was U2, who performed the Joshua Tree to a packed house at the Superdome on September 14. I never thought I would have the opportunity to see U2, much less in New Orleans. Bono’s voice, as well as that of opener Beck, sounds so good live that you would swear he was lip-synching. Like Nicks and Joel, the band paid homage to the Crescent City, performing their post-Katrina Saints comeback cover “The Saints are Coming,” as well as updating the crowd on guitarist The Edge’s Music Rising initiative, which provided musical instruments for bands and schools following the historic storm. 

Please Don't Stop the Music: The Best Concerts in 2017

My favorite show of the year, however, was Arcade Fire at the UNO Lakefront Arena on September 26. What was so unique about this show was that the stage was centered in the middle of the arena, ensuring everyone had a full view of the performance. Also memorable was their closing performance of “Wake Up,” accompanied by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, who subsequently second-lined with them through the crowd on their way out.

Closing out the year were hip-hop chart-toppers Bruno Mars on October 21, and Jay-Z, who turned lemons into lemonade on his confessional 4:44 Tour on November 9. 

2017 served up an exceptional lineup of live music for New Orleanians to see. Here’s looking forward to 2018. 


Photos by Steve Hatley and Finn Turnbull

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