Best Shows Of 2016

5. Boris + Earth @ The Regent (Los Angeles) 08/26Japanese experimental group Boris have had a truly all-encompassing career of creativity thus far, delving into so many different styles of heavy music and doing such great justice to each of them that a listener couldn’t be blamed for assuming that the band was pursuing only one of those styles full-time. On this occasion, Boris played a sold-out show at the Regent to perform their 2005 album ‘Pink’ in its entirety. The three members were absolutely in the zone, and hardly anyone would have complained if this show never ended. In addition to the ‘Pink’ set, they also played an unprecented encore, inviting support band Earth to join them for an Earth cover, treating this audience to something they’d probably never experienced before. Prior to the Boris set, Earth themselves played a splendid 60-minute set of their signature minimalistic doom. Boris plus Earth equals post-concert bliss.

4. Castle + Mos Generator + Ironaut + Others @ Complex (Glendale) 12/04Towards the end of yet another prolific year that saw them release a new album and tour endlessly through North America, Europe and beyond, San Francisco Bay Area doom metal/occult rock trio Castle put on a magical show at Complex, leading an all-killer, no-filler lineup. Castle’s tour mates for this short West Coast run, Mos Generator also put forth some masterful jams, while local openers Ironaut and Others both pulled their weight to show that they belonged. Amidst the vast plethora of shows that took place at Complex, a venue that dominated the LA area metal concert calendar this year, this was by far the best, compelling attendees to stay inside the building and watch all bands, a rare occurrence in itself. From the start to the finish, the stage was graced by immensely talented musicians, Castle in particular proving that when it comes to being in a band, there is no substitute for venturing out and playing as many shows as possible, such was the class with which they played their tunes. An absolutely stellar show from the first note to the last.

3. Black Sabbath @ San Manuel Amphitheater (San Bernardino) 09/24Metal godfathers Black Sabbath made the final California appearance of their career as headliners of this year’s Ozzfest in San Bernardino, and playing 14 of their most loved classics, they delivered just the kind of show a fan could expect and hope for. But even on a stage this big, their setup was remarkably simple and it was all about the music, which made it all the more special, as they showed the real power of no-frills live music played through old-school amplification. Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler showcased themselves as the legends they are, and Ozzy Osbourne, having garnered mixed reviews for his vocal delivery on the band’s ‘The End’ tour, clearly had one of his better nights and was in his element. Meanwhile, drummer Tommy Clufetos was the actual lifeblood of this performance, and if you ever wondered what it would be like to see Black Sabbath in 2016 with a drummer that looked and sounded like Bill Ward from the ’70s, you experienced it here. You see countless metal bands and then you see this band, and you come to the realization that this whole genre exists because of them. This Black Sabbath set was a concert experience like no other, as metal came full circle.

2. Iron Maiden @ Mandalay Bay Events Center (Las Vegas) 02/28To perform a large chunk of their audacious 2015 double LP ‘The Book Of Souls’, metal greats Iron Maiden embarked on a world tour in their new and improved Boeing 747, starting out in the US and landing in Las Vegas in the first week. A band that’s unmistakably getting better with age, and probably even aging backwards, Iron Maiden presented this show not only through flawless performances but also with enhanced production values, an aspect they continue to invest more and more into every time they tour. For a band this old, the quality and longevity of the vocalist is the single biggest factor in their success or failure and is invariably the weakest link, but certainly not in the case of Iron Maiden, as Bruce Dickinson proves that he is still the best singer and frontman in metal, hitting all the vocal highs, lows and mids, and also taking his passion for art and quirky fashion sense to new extremes, performing in a hoodie even as he ran around on a high-temperature stage lit with pyrotechnics. For fans that weren’t sold on the band’s newest studio album, the epic renditions of the new songs blended in with classics such as ‘Powerslave’ and ‘Children of The Damned’ surely won them over. Whether they’re recreating a theme from their history or promoting a new album, an Iron Maiden show always serves as the most perfect embodiment and representative of metal, and the same can be said about their Las Vegas stop on ‘The Book Of Souls’ tour.

1. Guns N’ Roses + The Cult @ Dodger Stadium (Los Angeles) 08/18While hard rock and heavy metal was kept alive and carried forward in 2016 by plenty of great bands old and new, the genre certainly needed someone to re-instill the kind of excitement and unpredictability that would get every single person talking. Guns N’ Roses, announcing the aptly titled ‘Not In This Lifetime’ tour presenting a lineup that featured Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan playing together for the first time in almost two decades, did just that. Will they live up to the hype? Will Axl Rose be able to sing? What songs will they play? Will they cancel shows and walk off stage mid-concert? How late will Axl Rose show up for the concert? These were the questions that came up immediately, but Guns N’ Roses silenced all critics and detractors as this was the best they’ve ever sounded. Towards the end of the US leg of the ongoing world tour, GNR orchestrated a grand homecoming at the Dodger Stadium, along with The Cult as opening act. Playing for nearly three hours, a set comprising all the hits and so much more, complete with stadium-level stage production, Guns N’ Roses succeeded in delivering the best concert of 2016, and their ‘Not In This Lifetime’ tour has all it takes to last our entire lifetime.

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Guns N' Roses - photo by Kat Benzova
Guns N’ Roses @ Dodger Stadium – photo by Kat Benzova