2016 was not the best year for a lot of people, but it did stand out in one good way for Laura and me, in that we saw more concerts than we ever have in a single calendar year. So let's take a break from Trump and review.
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at the Verizon Center, 1/29. This was near the start of the "River" Tour, in which the band performed the complete double album, which would have been enough to rank this as the greatest show I have ever seen. That was just the first half; at the conclusion of "Wreck on the Highway" Bruce said "Let's go for a ride" and off we went through the forty-year songbook to finish out a three-and-a-half-hour show. Did 67-year-old Springsteen body-surf? Of course he did. Did he take any break longer than thirty seconds? No, he did not.
Dolly Parton at Wolf Trap, 6/1. Described by Bryan as "the funnest show I have ever seen!" despite the fact that he fell asleep during "9 to 5". She just turned 70 but you wouldn't know it. More corn than an ethanol plant but a great show from an immensely talented artist and her longtime band.
Amusing side story: Bryan and I arrived late to the show after a baseball game, and we had an extra ticket that I planned to sell outside the gate for face value. So I approach the first guy near the gate who is obviously looking for a ticket and initiate the deal. He says he doesn't have any cash but can pay me after hitting the ATM on the grounds. Shortly thereafter we learn that there are no ATMs at Wolf Trap. He gets flustered and I express some exasperation, so he offers to buy the ticket's price in merchandise. "OK, let's see the merch," say I, and off we go. I pick out a couple of T-shirts, he buys them, then, with a quizzical expression, says "Wait, this isn't the Dylan show?"
Howard Jones/Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark/Bare Naked Ladies at Wolf Trap, 6/15. Earlier I referred to this show as the "One of These Things is Not Like the Others" Tour, with BNL being the odd men out on an otherwise solid '80s bill. Nevertheless it was a fun show, with OMD being the standout set.
The Cure at Madison Square Garden, 6/19. This was my first time at MSG for any event and it was a great show. Robert Smith brought the angst in quantity.
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at Nationals Park, 9/1. Earlier in the summer I was in the car with Fiona and we heard a commercial for this show. When it finished Fiona said, "Nationals Park would be a good place to see Bruce Springsteen" (she saw Taylor Swift there). I paused a moment then asked "You want to go?" and she said "Sure." Tickets went on sale the next day so we picked up some upper-level seats.
This was still advertised as the "River Tour" so I put the album on her phone and advised her to listen to it in preparation. However, the band not surprisingly had since tired of starting every show the same so they were no longer playing the album straight through. This was apparent immediately but the "downside" of not seeing "The River" performed again was a three-plus-hour tour de force of all sorts of his work.
"Weird Al" Yankovic at Wolf Trap, 9/11. I've been a fan of Weird Al since Dr. Demento played his solo-accordion "My Bologna", recorded in the acoustic triumph of a university men's room. His stage show was a great combination of old and new material, with frequent costume changes and foolishness. The kids enjoyed it too but perhaps not as much as the guy behind us who was alternately guffawing and belting out the lyrics.
The Proclaimers at the Birchmere, 9/15. I have been fans of the Scottish identical twin duo since their first album in 1987, and they frequently appear at one of our favorite area music venues. They usually bring a variety of accompanying musicians but the real performance is in the incredible vocal harmonies they produce. Definitely see them if they are touring anywhere near you.
Billy Bragg and Joe Henry, Shine a Light Tour, at the Birchmere, 9/27. I've loved Billy Bragg since the early '80s although I lost track of him until about ten years ago, and when I learned he had done a collection of railroad songs and was touring it was definitely a TAKE MY MONEY ALL OF IT YES situation. Laura is not such a big fan so I went with a friend who got there early to ensure a good (first come first served) table. The show, the first of the tour, lived up to expectations, although BB seemed to take (nonverbal) issue with the way JH tuned his guitar at one point.
Bonus Train Nerd Fact: All but one of the songs were recorded either on a train, in a station or on the station platform itself.
This concludes our musical interlude. We now return to weeping for our country.