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My Top 10 Live Music Experiences of 2016

This year I decided against picking my favorite albums from 2016. The truth is that I have way too many albums left to listen to and didn't feel like trying to do a mass listening of them all like I did last year. Instead, I've decided to pick some of my favorite music related things - starting with this. My top 10 favorite live music experiences from 2016. Some of these are regular concerts and some aren't. I will say that while there were a few other great shows I went to this year, it was actually very easy to narrow it down to my ten favorite experiences. These were all shows that just stood out to me. I went through and made some photo collages of some of the pictures I took at most of these events. Six, to be exact. Out of the remaining four, two of them were musicals I saw. One was a show where I only got a few pictures that were, frankly, terrible. The last was a show where I could have taken pictures, but was too caught up in the show. Although looking back, I wish I would've gotten a few.

No matter. Without further ado, here are my top 10 favorite live music experiences from 2016.

1) Matilda the Musical in January. I went into this show not knowing any of the songs. I knew the general story, having seen the movie - though those of you who have seen the musical know that it was based more on the book. In hindsight, I wish I would have listened to the soundtrack ahead of time. Even still, I really enjoyed the show. It was entertaining and emotional at times - I did actually tear up multiple times. Great cast, great music. I definitely recommend checking it out if you get a chance to. Or at least checking out the soundtracks. Lots of great songs on there!

2) The UMG Ryman Showcase in February. Arguably the coolest event I got to go to this year. In fact, I'd say that it was definitely the coolest event I went to this year. The UMG Ryman showcase takes place every year during CRS (Country Radio Seminar) week here in Nashville. I got to go thanks to a wonderful family friend. This event is when the UMG label group brings out a selection of their artists to try and persuade country music radio stations to play them. It's almost like a business meeting, in a sense. Most artists come out and do exactly one song. This can be their current single or, more likely, their upcoming single. Other times it's simply a new song that may or may not be a single. It seems that whoever closes the show will do two songs. This year it was Keith Urban. This event is, in a word, incredible.


3) The Phantom of the Opera on March 10th. It was the first time the show had been in Nashville in 14 years and my 3rd time seeing the show. It'd been way too long since I'd seen it last. To say that I was excited about it would be a vast understatement. I was so excited that I decided to dedicate a week to all things Phantom related. You can find all of those posts right here. The show? Outstanding. Chris Mann was the Phantom and he was absolutely incredible. I'm pretty sure I said it in my write-up of the show, but I can't remember the last time I was so captivated by a performance. I'm so happy we got to see him! The Phantom of the Opera has been one of my all time favorite musicals since I first saw it back in 2001. Seeing the new production only made me love it more. I didn't think that as possible.

4) The Grand Ole Opry on May 20th. Here's the great thing about the Grand Ole Opry: there's no such thing as a bad Opry show. All of the Opry shows that I've been to over the years have been great. This show, however, is among my favorites of Opry shows I've been to. Why? Well, the entire lineup was great. And not only did we get to see Carrie Underwood perform a wonderful set, we also got to see Toby Keith. His Opry performances are few and far between. Plus, he did a special tribute to the late and very great Merle Haggard. It was a medley of some of the best Haggard songs. A medley that solidified this Opry show as one of the best I've ever seen. 

5) Chance's first show with Home Free at CMAFest on June 10th. Okay, so aside from the fact that I almost ended up going to the hospital for heat exhaustion, this was a great show. My third time seeing Home Free, I knew that they would be great. This set was a cool one to go to, though, because this was Chance's debut with the group. I'd seen and liked Chance with Street Corner Symphony a couple of times in 2015. I knew he'd be a good fit for the group, but even still, it was great to see them all together and have that belief confirmed. Even if it did almost send me to the hospital. 

6) The Grand Ole Opry on June 29th. Another great Opry show, this one featured people like the Whites who are always wonderful. The Swon Brothers were there, my first time seeing them. The Riders in the Sky. The Randy Rogers Band. Ray Stevens. We got to hear the beautiful voices of Mary Sarah and Emily West. But the highlight for me? Parmalee. I love these guys and it'd been over a year since the last time I'd seen them. Suffice to say, I was ready for a Parmalee fix. They did not disappoint. Now here's hoping that I won't have to wait as long to see them again!


7) Natalie Stovall & The Drive at 3rd and Lindsley on June 30th. I'd been really wanting to see them since reviewing their EP back in March. It's a great EP and you can find my review right here. When I found out that they were going to be at 3rd and Lindsley the day before my birthday, I knew I had to go. They were just as incredible live as I expected them to be. Natalie Stovall is such a dynamic performer with a terrific stage presence. If you get a chance to see them live, go! You won't regret it. I promise.

8) The Storyteller Tour on September 22nd. With all due respect to the Swon Brothers and Easton Corbin, who were both great, Carrie completely blew me away. How appropriate, right? I hadn't seen a full concert of hers in a few years and my goodness, she's grown so much as a performer. It was a fantastic show; one that had me wanting her to win Entertainer of the Year at the CMAs. I still believe that she was the most deserving. She is hands down one of the best vocalists I've heard live. I somehow always forget how good she sounds live until I get to see her again. Plus, her stage was ridiculously cool. 

9) Lindsey Stirling on October 10th. Now for something completely different. I've been curious about how Lindsey Stirling - YouTube star and an incredibly talented violinist - would be live. So finding out she would be at the TPAC made me happy. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I absolutely loved her show. There were so many wonderful special effects and her playing was beautiful. Though watching her dance around like she does is both impressive and exhausting. I can't wrap my head around how she does it. Lots and lots (and probably lots) of practice, no doubt.

10) Home Free at the TPAC on December 11th. Man, I spent a lot of time at the TPAC this year. This was my first full length Home Free show. Complete with an intermission and no openers. They did a mixture of their country covers and Christmas songs. Fitting, since their tour was called A Country Christmas. They're always so entertaining and their harmonies are so much more beautiful in person. And Adam Rupp? He gets better every single time I see them. What a fantastic talent. There's a reason why these guys are among my favorites. This was a great show to wrap up my concert year. Home Free never disappoints!


So, there you have it. Not all the shows I went to in 2016, but the standouts. Hope you enjoyed it! What were some of your favorite live music experiences from 2016? You can tell me in the comments or hit me up on twitter @countrymusicATK. Thanks for reading! 

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