(All week on Soundcheck, we'll be revisiting our favorite Tampa Bay concerts of 2016. Today's picks come from designer Tara McCarty.)
Rihanna (March 13, Amalie Arena): Her presence is accompanied by a very natural swag, a carefree excitability that ripples through the crowd almost as quick as her voice. She's not overly friendly on stage or gushing toward her fans, but it is very clear that being on stage performing for people makes her happy. Highlight: Bouncing from the goosebump-inducing Stay to snarling into the microphone with B---- Better Have My Money to venting with the crowd in FourFiveSeconds to dripping with old-timey seduction to Love on the Brain, I was floored by the vastness of her voice.
Ben Folds and yMusic (April 20, Mahaffey Theater): Folds has been on my bucket list for a while. This tour ingeniously paired his soft, sing-song voice with the toots and whistles of the six-member orchestral band yMusic. Highlight: When he sat atop his piano, in the middle of all the band members, legs dangling, and sang Not the Same.
Beyonce (April 29, Raymond James Stadium): The second stop on the most anticipated tour of the year, if not in the country (thanks, Adele) definitely in Tampa Bay, six days after Lemonade dropped, was without a doubt the highlight of my year in concerts. Highlight: Despite the hype surrounding Lemonade and drama involving Bey's marriage with Jay Z, I still can't get her soul-choking performance of 1+1 out of my head.
Kesha (Oct. 25, the Ritz Ybor): I think Kesha is brushed off a lot as a terrible singer, not to be taken seriously. But after witnessing her sing a beautifully "deconstructed" version of Blow and the stick-it-to-Dr.-Luke anthem cover of You Don't Own Me, I know no one else who saw what I saw could ever say she has no talent. Highlight: Jumping up and down in high-heeled booties to Take It Off, hands in the air, completely lost in everything this adrenaline-packed party jam stands for.
Honorable mention: Sia (Oct. 30, Amyway Center): It wasn't intentional, but being in Orlando to hear her sing and watch the accompanying performance of The Greatest in honor of the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting was very touching.
-- Tara McCarty