Concerts resumed the second half of 2021 as pandemic fears waned and life returned to a mandated normal. Some states enjoyed live shows sooner than others but by the end of summer people seemingly filled arenas and theaters across the country.
My attempt at getting in at least 10 concerts this year for a Top 10 Best Concerts of 2021 failed miserably. I managed half that amount. But even if I attended those shows I wanted to see, but didn’t, I still would have fell short.
Guns N’ Roses was one of the first bands to announce a return to touring but a last-minute decision was ultimately decided by the ongoing violent protests that now define Portland. Tickets sold so poorly for Guns N’ Roses I could have attended for less than $30 as the pricing fluctuation dipped that low the day of the show. A few weeks later Megadeth stopped by and I just didn’t feel like going. And, Jimmy Eat World was simply too far and expensive.
So I rest with six.
Clearly, calling these six the best concerts of 2021 comes across pretty thin and ultimately serve as a simple recap of the live events attended or watched. However, as it turns out, the six offer an interesting mix featuring one of the best concert venues, one of the worst, a livestream and an unconventional concert setting that began last year with hopeful expectations by promoters but I think has run its course.
Top Concerts of 2021
6. Bon Jovi – Encore Drive-In Nights
The Encore Drive-In Nights series featuring a pre-recorded live performance shown at drive-ins across the country began in 2020 with Metallica. The attempt to bring music to the locked down masses offered an interesting approach that audiences embraced. Metallica added additional shows so did Bon Jovi. But Jon Bon Jovi doesn’t have the vocals he once had which came through loud and clear for the band’s Encore Drive-In performance.
From the review: The best songs of the evening were the five played off Bon Jovi’s latest album 2020 but overall everything else sounded off key and/or off pitch with an inconsistent timbre.
Read the entire review: Bon Jovi Hits Few High Notes During Encore Drive-In Performance
Everclear didn’t make the Top 10 Concerts of 2017 because of a glitchy performance for their So Much for the Afterglow: 20th Anniversary Tour. This time around they embarked on a short tour of the West Coast, played at the Crystal Ballroom, the same as last time and still had sound issues. I had to admit, halfway through, it was nice being at a concert even if at one of the worst places to see a show.
From the review: Trouble began brewing on the sixth song (I have no idea what they played) as Alexakis vocals were nearly totally drowned out by the rest of the band as the thumping bass and guitars took prominence
Read the entire review: Everclear Distills in Portland But Needs Filtering
4. The Purple Hulls
A bluegrass band-ended the concert drought for me in July and in a strange twist book-ended the pandemic as the previous “live show” attended before the shutdown was the Grand Ole Opry, where this act would fit perfectly on stage at the longest running radio broadcast show. I own not a one bluegrass album but live, this music is something else.
From the review: Often mesmerizing, the rhythms laid down and the fretboard work by the Clark twins and brother Ben tend to leave you wondering just what it is you’re doing with your own life.
Read the entire review: The Purple Hulls Serve a Dish of Bluegrass to Portland
3. Toad the Wet Sprocket – Starting Now Tour
The 90s alternative rockers returned to Portland with their new album in tow at Revolution Hall, one of the best places to see a concert. A relaxing show filled with hits, deep album cuts and several off Starting Now, Toad the Wet Sprocket has found new life and gave fans a bit of tangible existence even if just for a few hours.
From the review: More than 30 years after forming and 25 years since college girls swooned to their hits, Toad the Wet Sprocket remains steadfast to their music and even relevant, sounding as current today as they did in their 90s heyday.
Read the entire review: Toad the Wet Sprocket Brings a Casual Affair to Portland
2. Metallica – 40th Anniversary Show
Metallica celebrated 40 years together with a two concerts live for those who scored tickets and broadcast worldwide for those who didn’t. Both nights featured a 16 song, two-hour setlist as the band took at least one song off every album starting with their debut Kill ‘Em All to their latest Hardwired…to Self-Destruct in ascending order then on night two, started with the present in descending order to the debut.
From the review: Just when you think the heavy metal giants cannot find a way to raise the bar, again, somehow, someway when it comes to delivering an authentic representation of who they are and what they want to accomplish, they break new ground.
Read the review: Metallica Celebrates 40 Years with Two Epic Concerts
1. Athey Music – Album Release Concert
Didn’t see this one coming. When I heard Athey Music planned a true concert setting for their debut album release show held at their home church where they formed, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Walking in the transformed sanctuary was the closest I’ve been to an arena show in two years with the stage set up, lighting and fog effects. Then they went out and performed…
From the review: Athey Music may only have a localized if not home-church centered fan base at the moment, but with a little effort and marketing – if wanted – this collective has the talent and message for a broader stretch outside their base.
Read the entire review: Athey Music Celebrates New Album with Spirited Show