It’s fitting that the final year of the 2010s gave us so many farewell tours.
Kiss, Bob Seger, Peter Frampton, George Clinton and Slayer all brought what they say will be their final tours through Tampa Bay this year, and for the most part, they were all pretty great shows. The best of them all was Elton John, although technically, since he’s coming back in May, that shouldn’t count as a farewell show, should it?
Either way, Sir Elton was excellent enough to score a slot on our list of the best Tampa Bay concerts in 2019. Here are the greatest shows we covered this year, in chronological order.
Seal with the Florida Orchestra, Feb. 9, Mahaffey Theater: The Florida Orchestra’s annual gala booked its second straight pop headliner in Seal. While their collaborative efforts on the British singer’s pop standards were a little meh, they hit true synchronicity on Kiss From a Rose — and then Seal and his band blew the roof the Mahaffey with an energized performance of his hits, several of which he delivered from the aisles and audience.
Blake Shelton, March 8, Amalie Arena: It was impossible not to love the concept behind the country king’s tour, which featured performances from Lauren Alaina, Trace Adkins, the Bellamy Brothers and John Anderson. Shelton was his usual pot-stirring’ ring-masterin’ self, but the real joy was hearing all those other vets chime in with hits like Swingin', Honky Tonk Badonkadonk and If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body Would You Hold It Against Me. Shelton sure seemed to love it, too.
Hozier and Jade Bird, March 20, Mahaffey Theater: The Irish singer-songwriter and his magnificent band took a sold-out Mahaffey to church and beyond, blending blues, folk, pop and alternative rock into a holistic and heavenly revival. Bonus: the charming, acoustic opening set by British newcomer Jade Bird, weeks before the release of her self-titled debut album.
The Church, April 24, Palladium: Too few fans made it out to this rare local appearance by the Australian alt-rock veterans, who were celebrating the 30th anniversary of their seminal album Starfish. But it was worth it to hear Steve Kilbey and company power through electrifying versions of Under the Milky Way and Reptile, plus other ’80s gems like Constant in Opal and Ripple.
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Beck, Aug. 29, MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre: Roosting atop a stacked bill that included Cage the Elephant, Spoon and Sunflower Bean, the alt-rock superstar brought tons of fun and funkiness to his first Tampa show in 22 years, regaling long-suffering fans with emphatic versions of hits they’ve been waiting ages to hear. Personal note: I’ve been waiting more than half my life to see Beck live, and he did not disappoint. This was my No. 1 concert of the year.
Joyner Lucas, Aug. 31, Amalie Arena: Say what you want about Chris Brown, but he’s never had a hard time filling his tour cards with awesome openers. Lucas stole the show at this one, announcing he was extra pumped to play such a huge show in a city he once called home before breaking big. “This is the place to be broke and f---ed up,” he said. The lyrically dexterous rapper tore through the thoughtful Devil’s Work and I’m Not Racist, then came down from the stage and rambled throughout the arena and crowd on Lucky You and I Love. His set wasn’t long, but it was transfixing.
Lizzo, Sept. 10, Yuengling Center: Tampa made Lizzo a milkshake. She, in turn, brought all the girls to the yard. Playing her first-ever headlining arena show, the year’s breakout pop star delivered an empowering sermon of self-worth and empowerment to a Yuengling Center filled with friends on girls-nights-out. From Juice to Truth Hurts to Good as Hell, she encouraged fans “to aspire to be the person the world looks up to.” On this night, though, they all looked up to Lizzo.
The Who, Sept. 22, Amalie Arena: Rock stars with orchestras can be hit and miss — for each one that works, there’s another that feels half-baked and overstuffed. Not this one. Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey not only brought a 48-piece backing orchestra, they gave it something to do, infusing Eminence Front and Baba O’Riley with unmatched oomph. The Who never had a problem sounding small before; the fact that this show made them sound so huge was a major accomplishment.
Elton John, Nov. 4, Amalie Arena: After nearly two years of waiting, Tampa finally got its farewell tour stop by Elton John ... and it turns out it wasn’t even a farewell, since he’s coming back to town in May. Nevertheless, this explosive, energetic and unexpectedly loud show by one of the grandest showmen in rock was deserving of all the hype. If you can afford tickets to the show next spring, don’t miss it.
The Killers, Nov. 21, the Orpheum: After a decade’s absence from Tampa, the Killers sure made a splashy return. The night before headlining 97X Next Big Thing, they played a full warmup set for a few hundred fans at the intimate Orpheum, dropping a bunch of Hot Fuss classics alongside later fan favorites like The Man, Runaways and A Dustland Fairytale. Considering they’d just headlined Glastonbury a few months earlier, and have a sold-out European stadium tour booked next summer, it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to hear one of the world’s biggest alt-rock bands in such cozy quarters. The lucky few who scored tickets won’t forget it.