Saturday, June 15, 2019

The year’s most memorable local concerts

Published: 12/22/16 @ 12:00

I’m not going to rank the best local concerts of 2016, because I haven’t seen them all. Plus what one considers “best” usually has a lot to do with how it exceeded pre-show expectations.

Elton John’s March 22 concert at Covelli Centre was his third in six years at the downtown Youngstown arena. It was largely the same as his previous two shows, and it was fantastic. Wouldn’t expect any less.

Then there was Bryan Adams’ Sept. 13 show at Covelli. I went to it with a workmanlike attitude but came away pleasantly surprised at how much fun it was. That’s what made it memorable.

Here is my list of the seven most memorable concerts of the year in the Mahoning Valley (and vicinity):

  1. Michael Franti - This might not be fair, because the show was outdoors in a beautiful setting on a perfect Sunday afternoon in June, at the LaureLive Music Festival in Geauga County. And I had no idea what to expect. But Franti delivered a set so infectiously fun and – literally – bouncy that it outshined the sunny skies. His appearance came the day after the nightclub shootings in Orlando, Fla., that left 49 dead, which made Franti’s message of peace and brotherhood all the more timely.

  2. Keith Urban - Yes, the pop-country (and that ain’t the same as bro-country) superstar’s talent is nothing new to millions, but I underestimated him. It was astounding to see Urban, who is at the peak of his game, in our own backyard (Covelli, Nov. 13). The Aussie is equal parts showman and guitar player. The concert also gave Youngstown its first look at rising star Maren Morris (“80s Mercedes,” “My Church”), who opened.

  3. Joe Bonamassa - For a lot of rock bands, the guitar solo is the interlude that bridges the verses, and nothing more. At a Joe Bonamassa concert (like the one at Covelli on Nov. 28), it’s the part of the song that you wait for, the highlight. Bonamassa is a guitar god, and not just because every ax he strapped on was a signature model with his name emblazoned on the fret board. The blues master has to be seen live to be fully appreciated. Bonamassa is no stranger to Youngstown; as he noted on stage, he started coming here many years ago, when he would play The Cellar in Struthers. He’s moving up to bigger buildings because his army of enraptured fans is growing.

  4. KISS - Before KISS’s Aug. 26 concert at Covelli, it had been roughly one million years since I last saw the legendary act. Everybody knows what an over-the-top stage show KISS puts on. Still, it was pretty awesome.

  5. Bryan Adams - Most fans probably came to Adams’ Sept. 14 concert at Covelli for the nostalgia of hearing all those ’80s hits, and he certainly delivered them. But Adams, whose voice and playing are as distinctive as ever, isn’t living in the past. There were new songs, and some surprisingly wry humor. A sharp concert.

  6. Carrie Underwood - The pop-country princess brought the party to Covelli Centre on St. Patrick’s Day, in typically dazzling fashion. Underwood always makes the most of whatever building she’s in by packing it full of lifts, lights and other contraptions that make for a spectacular show. On this tour, her stage practically took up the entire ice. It was clearly designed for arenas much bigger than the one-level Covelli, but that just made her concert more intimate.

  7. OAR - I missed OAR, which features Liberty native Jerry DePizzo on sax, when the band played Packard hall in Warren on Feb. 4, but I caught them at LaureLive. It was the first time I’d seen the upbeat act, and it was a blast.

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