Year in Review: The year's top concerts

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Counterfeit Madison and friends, Till Dynamic Fare, Feb. 12

To paraphrase the Beatles, Sharon Udoh, aka Counterfeit Madison, got by with a little help from her friends during a tape release show for her most intimate recording to-date:Palms Were a Bad Choice. Highlights abounded, with Saintseneca's Zac Little previewing stripped-down versions of songs that would later grace his band's new albumSuch Things, and Old Hundred's Blake Skidmore easing through stately, steady tunes about gracefully navigating shaky ground. In her time onstage, Udoh turned out deeply personal songs about building up emotional walls, only to tear them down as the evening progressed. -Andy Downing

Elder, Ace of Cups, March 10

The Boston trio, performing here behind the career-bestLore, proved consistently revelatory in concert, displaying a technical proficiency and a knack for pacing that belied their relatively tender ages (singer/guitarist Nick DiSalvo, for one, was only 25 when the band visited Ace of Cups). Rather than simply pummeling the audience, the three musicians allowed songs to build and swell, patiently shifting from airy, graceful passages to brutal assaults. –AD

Earl Sweatshirt and Vince Staples, Park Street Saloon, April 2

The two rappers made for a hip-hop Odd Couple of sorts, with the esoteric Sweatshirt playing the laid-back Oscar to Staples' more tightly wound Felix. It's a feel that extended from the pair's appearance (Staples was clean-shaven and dressed in a well-tailored wardrobe, while the comparatively rumpled Sweatshirt sported facial scruff and a longer 'do) to their respective lyrical styles. Sweatshirt occasionally lingered behind the beat, moving at the pace of a tourist taking in the sites, while Staples delivered his words with military precision. –AD

Lightning Bolt and METZ, Double Happiness, April 16

It's rare for the drummer to take center stage, but that's precisely what happened during this claustrophobia-inducing double-bill (seriously, it would have been nice if Double Happiness could've expanded to Quadruple Happiness on this evening, at least). Lightning Bolt's Brian Chippendale and METZ's Hayden Menzies both anchored their band's respective sets with equal parts pace and power, and combined the two likely managed to lower the venue's foundation by a solid two or three inches.

Stevie Wonder, Schottenstein Center, April 1

Rolling Stones, Ohio Stadium, May 30

Paul McCartney, Nationwide Arena, Oct. 13

A trio of music legends visited the city over the course of 2015, and each set impressed due to the performers' collective unwillingness to coast on reputation alone. Wonder drew heavily from his 1976 masterpieceSongs in the Key of Life, yet managed to make songs like "Black Man," a deeply funky tune that wrestled with issues of class and race, come across like a commentary on modern times. The Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney, in turn, delivered crowd-pleasing sets heavy on audience favorites, flaunting a youthful energy that ran counter to their advanced years. –AD

Meg Myers, The Basement, May 18

Myers' unique brand of '90s-influenced soft-loud-soft music is right in my musical wheelhouse, and she evokes some of the greats of that time - some Tori, some Alanis, and, dare I say, some Reznor in the performance. Her first headlining Columbus date was a sell-out at the Basement, no doubt fueled by heavy play on CD 102.5. The raw intensity of her performance was thunderous in that small space ... and probably a sign she won't be playing someplace that intimate in 2016. - Brad Keefe

St. Vincent, Nelsonville Music Festival, May 30 & Fashion Meets Music Festival, Sept. 6

Annie Clark is god, and she proved it in two festival-closing shows that bookended the summer. Nelsonville Music Festival has become a de facto staple for Columbusites, and her shredding performance - seriously, her guitar-playing style reminds me of Prince - brought NMF to a glorious close. She did the same for FMMF, and somehow Clark and her fantastic band were even better that night. - BK

Royal Blood, Newport Music Hall, June 4

The Brighton, England duo was riding a wave of accolades and festival-stealing slots when it rolled into the Newport. It was an evening of a different kind of drum and bass, and the blues-tinged riffs were raining down hard that night. It was the definition of a rock show. - BK

Nes Wordz, 2x2 Hip-Hop Festival, July 25

Everyone welcome 2x2 Hip-Hop Festival, the best new music fest to hit the city in recent times. The daylong affair, which is set to return for a second go-round this summer, featured numerous highlights (Copywrite paying homage to the late Camu Tao, J. Rawls schooling audiences on Columbus hip-hop history, Dominque Larue flashing verbal dexterity and a seamless stage presence, and so on), but the standout, for me, was a late evening performance from Nes Wordz, who attacked the stage as though he were hopped up on gallons of Five Hour Energy, spraying the audience with endless streams of words and water (the MC must've drained a dozen or more bottles during the set). Visceral. –AD

Deftones/Death from Above 1979, LC Pavilion, July 28

To me, the greatest blessing of the year in Columbus concert booking was this one-off stop on an off night on a tour with Incubus. A reunited and rejuvanated DFA1979 got to rip through a longer setlist than their Incubus stops, and Deftones slayed a sweaty and appreciative crowd. Added bonus? No Incubus. - BK

Die Antwoord, LC Pavilion, Aug. 10

The rave-rap duo from South Africa drew a huge crowd to the LC's outdoor space - thankfully, as the show was originally booked indoors. I initially thought they were just a bizarre novelty act, but there's an undeniably wild and fun energy in their live performance. It was also probably the only show of the year to feature projections of ejaculating anime penises, so there's that. - BK

Charli XCX, LC Pavilion, August 12

The co-headlining "Charlie and Jack Do America" tour with Bleachers was eventually cut short due to those ubiquitous "personal reasons," but thankfully after its Columbus stop. The 23-year-old indie-pop queen rolled through an endlessly energetic set in front of a wall of Marshall stacks and a huge inflatable heart, apropos for a performance that brought plenty of punk to the pop. - BK

Sleater-Kinney, Newport Music Hall, Dec. 5

Though newly reunited, the three musicians in Sleater-Kinner appeared disinterested in nostalgia here, kicking off the evening with "Price Tag," a timely anthem steeped in minimum-wage angst that also opens the trio's comeback turn,No Cities to Love. Though the band regularly dipped into its past ("The Fox," a thick tangle of fuzzy guitars off the 2005 albumThe Woods was a clear highlight), the entire show built around a momentum that propelled the players endlessly forward. –AD