In many ways 2016 has been a bonafide bummer, but live performance still proved to be a guiding light – and a cathartic release – for people looking to experience art, community, music and laughs. The last 12 months found some amazing bands, hilarious comedians and genius performers doing what they do best everywhere from intimate clubs to major music festivals. Here’s a look back at some of our favorite shows of the year, as we eagerly anticipate an even more inspiring 2017.
Nothing puts you in the holiday spirit like a good show, and Melissa Etheridge’s performance at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts on Dec. 13 had fans ready to truly rock around the Christmas tree. Original holiday music, classic carols with a Memphis Blues twist, and some of Etheridge’s biggest hits were among the many gifts the legendary singer-songwriter bestowed on fans throughout the night.
In the days after the 2016 election – which was a disastrous disappointment for Rebelles everywhere – it felt like we may never laugh again. Enter Bridget Everett, who brought her unique version of burlesque comedy to The Vic Theatre on Nov. 12. The show proved to be a fun-filled, hilarious escape from the doom and gloom of the 24-hour news cycle.
A generation of young women reveled in the powerful femininity and country-inspired pop melodies found in Jenny Lewis’
“Rabbit Fur Coat” when the album was first released in 2006. Ten years later – with the Watson Twins at her side – Lewis performed the modern classic from start to finish during an unforgettable show at The Chicago Theatre in September.
Riot Fest 2016 featured a stacked line-up of fierce female musicians, including Juliette & the Licks, Sleater-Kinney and War on Women – more on their set later – but one of the best performances of the weekend came compliments of The Julie Ruin. Fronted by original Riot Grrrl Kathleen Hanna, The Julie Ruin’s show was the perfect combination of hard and soft.
On April 6, Ani DiFranco stopped by Park West to deliver a soul-baring performance to a packed house of devoted fans. One of the many highlights of the night came when she performed “To the Teeth” with the updated lyrics, “Open fire on Fox News, CNN and NBC.”
Christine and the Queens seemed to be on the precipice of superstardom when Héloïse Letissier brought her talented band and captivating dancers to the Vic Theatre this fall. A Time Magazine cover, New York Times rave and a breakout performance on “The Tonight Show” further proved Letissier’s unique talents and made her an artist to watch for in 2017 and beyond.
Nobody can match the cool girl swagger and rock star energy of L7. Case in point, the recently reunited group’s ferocious show at Metro on Aug. 6. Donita Sparks, Suzi Gardner, Jennifer Finch and Dee Plakas left it all out on the stage that night performing a setlist comprised of “Smell the Magic,” “Andres” “Sh*tlist,” “I Need” and many more.
Back on June 5, Sarah Silverman curated a night full of foul-mouthed laughs – featuring her funny friends Todd Barry, Todd Glass and Dwayne Kennedy – to close out the 3rd Annual 36th Annual Comedy Festival. A creative lunch with Kanye West, the pain of laser hair removal and the pristine acoustics of the Civic Opera House, where the show took place, were among the hilarious topics she discussed throughout the night. Photo courtesy of 3rd Annual 26th Annual Comedy Festival
When War on Women rocked the Rebel Stage – or should we call it the “Rebelle” Stage – at Riot Fest with a set full of self-described “feminist bullsh*t songs,” Shawna Potter and company shined a light on the next generation of hardcore, issue-driven rock. Each song was more intense than the last – yet still completely inviting – as the Baltimore band addressed social issues with well-executed outrage.
In the social media driven era of 2016, it seems all but impossible for an artist to keep any of the mystique that has benefited visionaries like David Bowie, Patti Smith or Prince, yet somehow FKA twigs presented an otherworldly quality during her headlining set at the Pitchfork Music Festival that was at once hypnotic and wholly original. Her wispy vocals and intoxicating melodies seduced everyone within earshot as she ran through a stellar setlist that included “Two Weeks, “Video Girl” and “Pendulum.” It is only a matter of time before FKA twigs is a household name recognized for her singular brilliance.