Monday, April 23, 2018
  • Soundcheck

Best of 2017: Green Day, Katy Perry, Eric Church top Tampa Bay’s best concerts (Part 1)

(All week on Soundcheck, we're looking back at the best Tampa Bay concerts of 2017. Up first: Times Pop Music/Culture Critic Jay Cridlin.)

You can't reflect on this past year of Tampa Bay concerts without mentioning U2 or Paul McCartney. Those were Tampa Bay's biggest, most epic shows of 2017, as U2 masterfully recreated The Joshua Tree at Raymond James Stadium and McCartney bounced through three hours of hits at Amalie Arena.

And yet neither made my list of my favorite shows of the year.

Honestly, 2017 was just that stacked with so many amazing concerts. I crossed a ton of acts off my personal bucket list this year, and more than one of them made this list. Here, in chronological order, are my 10 favorite Tampa Bay concerts of 2017.

Rachel Platten (Jan. 7, College Football Playoff's Playoff Playlist Live, Curtis Hixon Park, Tampa): The weekend before Clemson toppled Alabama in the National Championship, the College Football Playoff staged a free outdoor concert in Curtis Hixon Park that was marred, at various points, by underwhelming headliners, overwhelming crowds and dismal weather. With frigid winds gusting off the Hillsborough River, the Saturday show was by far the coldest I've ever been covering anything in my life. But then came Rachel Platten, a beacon of brightness and positivity who admitted she was just as freezing as the rest of us. But her enthusiastic set was an incredible winter warmer, whether she was covering Snoop Dogg's Gin and Juice or rousing the crowd with her own anthem Fight Song. She alone made the whole weekend worth it.

Tony Bennett (March 2, Mahaffey Theater): If anyone ever tells you you're too old to do anything, point them to Mr. Tony Bennett. At 90, the legendary crooner spent an hour and a half on his feet, at one point even jogging out for the encore, delivering often daring vocal performances and more than a career's worth of iconic songs. Amazingly, he's not even close to slowing down; he'll be back at the Mahaffey on Feb. 9. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Spoon (May 1, Ritz Ybor): Playing here for the first time since opening for Superchunk at the State Theatre in 2001, the Austin indie rockers brought all the jittery energy of their pepped-up new album Hot Thoughts to life on a Monday night in Ybor, with wiry singer Britt Daniel dropping to his knees and delivering his electro-blitzin' gospel like a master. It was a clinic of dance-rock you can thankfully relive when Spoon plays Tampa's Gasparilla Music Festival in March.

Eric Church (May 4, Amalie Arena): Eric Church does things his way, consequences be damned. So apologies if you were hoping for a tight 90-minute set of hits in Tampa, because Church had other plans — three and a half hours, two sets, 37 songs and one unforgettable night. A day after turning 40, Church snarled and ripped at his guitar, pumped his fists and screamed at the audience, creating a live, loud hybrid of rock and country.

The Weeknd (May 12, Amalie Arena): Even though he's only been a proper live performer for about five years, the Weekend has always had the goods to melt your face in concert. But I've never seen him as good at being a pop star as he was in May in Tampa. Popping, strutting and crooning beneath a shape-shifting stadium-sized spaceship, the Starboy thrilled the sold-out crowd with his pummeling odes to excess, never more so than on the heart-stopping, blood-curdling opening drop of The Hills.

Roger Waters (July 11, Amalie Arena): Through Pink Floyd, Roger Waters claims to have basically invented stadium rock. After his eye-popping spectacle of a show in Tampa, it's hard to disagree. Waters was unflinching and sonically unyielding from start to finish, filling the arena with mind-bending effects both practical and visual, and pulling no punches when ripping the political establishment. The set had brains, beauty and an incredibly muscular band. If this is Waters' last major tour of this scale, it was a hell of a way to go out.

Lionel Richie (Aug. 11, Amalie Arena): From the moment Richie strode out in a glorious silver blazer, arms and smile spread a mile wide, it was impossible not to beam and sing along. There is no limit to the positivity he exudes on stage; every song really does make you want to dance all night long. But no concert this year brought me as much pure joy as Richie. Hands down, this was my favorite show of 2017.

Green Day (Sept. 5, MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre): How it's taken me more than 20 years to finally see Green Day, I couldn't possibly tell you. But I was not expecting anything close to the epic, career-spanning spectacle of a show they delivered. Every song exploded with boundless energy as Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool performed like the exuberant East Bay groms they once were. Didn't matter if it was an early cut, a big hit or a song from last year's Revolution Radio, it all felt genuine.

Arcade Fire (Sept. 22, USF Sun Dome): Did this night really happen? Did one of the most acclaimed bands of this century, legendary live performers and festival-circuit staples, actually come to Tampa after so many years of avoiding us, only to have fewer than 4,000 fans turn out for a career-spanning set of spectacular, disco-tastic power ? And then did half the band seriously jet down to Crowbar in Ybor City, where multi-instrumentalist Will Butler held court and chatted amiably about voter rights in Florida, as lead singer Win Butler, drummer Jeremy Gara and violinist Sara Neufeld all performed for fewer than 200 fans? No one ever thought Arcade Fire's long-awaited Tampa debut would go anything like this, and yet it did. And it was magical. Cherish the memories, those who were there, because a night like this will probably never happen again.

Katy Perry (Dec. 15, Amalie Arena): Perry's Witness: The Tour was a circus-sized feast for the senses featuring perhaps the largest stage — and some of the largest props — ever squeezed into Amalie. It was a show so eye-popping you almost couldn't take it all in at once. Nothing against the stellar Lady Gaga, who'd played the same building just two weeks prior. But if I could re-live one 2017 pop show all over again, it would be this one.

Honorable mention: Nothing More (98 Rockfest, April 28, Amalie Arena), Third Eye Blind (June 10, Coachman Park), U2 (June 14, Raymond James Stadium), Paul McCartney (July 10, Amalie Arena), Foreigner (Aug. 2, MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre), Jade Jackson (Aug. 27, Jannus Live), Against Me! (Big Pre-Fest in Little Ybor, Oct. 25, the Orpheum), Lady Gaga (Dec. 1, Amalie Arena).

— Jay Cridlin

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