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What’s the best concert you’ve been to since 2010? Take a minute. It’s a big question, one with plenty of right answers and no easy criteria by which to judge them. From pop music’s critical reemergence to reunion tours by bands you never thought you’d see again, it’s been a great decade for music, and we have an embarrassment of great concerts to choose from.
Then again, your favorite concert of the 2010s might still be out there. You can find all the best late contenders with the help of StubHub, the online ticket-selling marketplace that’s your gateway to the best concerts and events in more than 50 countries around the world. Right now, they’ve got the tickets you need for this winter’s coolest shows by acts ranging from Bad Bunny and Wilco to FKA Twigs and Lana Del Rey. Do those sound like the decade’s best? Head over to StubHub and find out for yourself.
Did you pick your favorite concert? Good. While you were thinking, I pulled together my own list of the top 25 tours of the 2010s. Maybe we’ll agree. Most likely, we won’t. That’s ok, though. When it comes to debates about the music you love best, it’s almost impossible to lose.
25. Guided by Voices – Hallway of Shatterproof Glass Tour (2010-2011)
Six years after bringing his legendary indie-rock outfit to a close at Chicago’s Metro on New Year’s Eve 2004, Robert Pollard resurrected Guided by Voices in the best way possible — by reconvening the band’s “classic lineup” of Tobin Sprout, Mitch Mitchell, and Greg Demos for the first time since 1996. On their Hallway of Shatterproof Glass Tour, GBV treated fans to raucous renditions of songs from their best-loved albums, including 1994’s Bee Thousand, 1995’s Alien Lanes, and 1996’s Under the Bushes Under the Stars. To paraphrase the band’s unofficial slogan: the club was once again open.
24. David Byrne and St. Vincent – Love This Giant Tour (2012-2013)
St. Vincent’s 2012 partnership with iconic Talking Heads frontman David Byrne didn’t just score serious points for cross-generational collaboration — it also produced one of the decade’s most memorable tours. Backed by a 10-person band complete with a full brass section, the two ringleaders brought the music of their record, Love This Giant, to life through brawny arrangements and intricate choreography that turned the performers on stage into a multi-headed rock organism that was half marching band, half jazz funeral procession.
23. Gorillaz – Humanz Tour (2017-2018)
Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett are real, but Gorillaz are not (at least, in a corporeal sense). During past tours, the virtual band got around this inconvenient reality of animation by ducking behind screens (as in 2001) or abandoning pretense and just playing like regular old humans (as in 2005 and 2010). By 2017, though, the technology had finally caught up with the duo’s ambitions; touted by Albarn as “a totally immersive interactive experience with the audience,” 2017’s Humanz Tour found the band bring their cartoon alter egos to life through a massive custom-designed LED screen called the Oracle. Can a full hologram tour be far behind?
22. Kraftwerk – Kraftwerk 3D Tour (2014)
Much like Gorillaz, German techno legends Kraftwerk also harnessed the increased sophistication of electronic visuals for use in their live shows this decade. On their Kraftwerk 3D Tour, the band combined a 360-degree soundsystem with 3D visuals that system developers d&b Soundscape described as having audiences “ducking flying saucers, computers, and an autobahn of Volkswagens as the music throbs and shimmers.”
21. Fleetwood Mac – On with the Show Tour (2014-2015)
Legendary rock group Fleetwood Mac is set to play what may be its final show this month in Las Vegas, but the last show by its classic lineup happened four years earlier with the end of the On with the Show Tour. Featuring longtime vocalist Christine McVie in the lineup for the first time since 1998, that tour also happened to be the last for frontman Lindsay Buckingham, who quit the band in 2018 over scheduling disagreements.
20. My Bloody Valentine – World Tour (2013)
In addition to releasing our No. 72 album of the decade, Kevin Shields, Bilinda Butcher, and the rest of My Bloody Valentine also put on one of the most sonically intense tours of the ’10s. Testing the stamina of soundsystems around the world, the band’s cacophonous sets washed over crowds with the kind of shoegaze drone you can feel reverberating around your chest. No wonder MBV’s live sets have been compared to standing in the same room with a space shuttle launch.
19. Lizzo (2019)
While it’s definitely gratifying to catch an early set by an artist on the come-up, it’s equally fun to attend a show of someone at the moment their star starts shining brightest. Such has been the case for anyone attending a Lizzo show in 2019, when her major label debut, Cuz I Love You, transformed her from buzzed-about newcomer to budding icon. Lizzo’s rise in stature has translated to the stage as well, where her trademark mixture of body-positive ass-shaking, bounce-along beats, and blistering flute solos has only gotten more daring and confident as the year goes on.
18. Joanna Newsom (2010)
While Joanna Newsom’s 2010 triple-disc masterpiece, Have One on Me, was rightly praised for its dense orchestral arrangements, those same arrangements made the album difficult to tour in its recorded form. So, the freak-folk legend stripped down her songs to their barest essentials, reimagining the tracks to fit both the limits of a five-piece band and the intimacy of a live setting. The result was a set of shows that shed new light on Newsom’s talents as an arranger and revealed the depth and delicacy of a voice that, dismissable by some on records, became irresistible in person.
17. Kamasi Washington (2015-2016)
While any artist that employs dueling drum kits earns automatic consideration for this list, Kamasi Washington has more than just beefy percussion on his calling card. The jazz journeyman turned crossover star made the most of his tour behind 2015’s breakout, The Epic. In addition to the double drummers, Washington brought his maximalist vision to life with the help of more than two dozen sidemen, DJs, and vocalists, who packed everything from original compositions to classic spirituals to reimaginings of Debussy into sets that routinely stretched past the four-hour mark.
16. OutKast (2014)
When they began their seemingly permanent hiatus in 2007, Atlanta hip-hop pioneers OutKast walked away without a proper send-off (and no, 2006’s lackluster Idlewild doesn’t count). Big Boi and André 3000 remedied that oversight with a 20th anniversary tour in 2014 that took them to more than 40 international festivals before winding up with homecoming shows in Atlanta featuring guests from Kid Cudi and Childish Gambino to Janelle Monáe and 2 Chainz.
15. Hans Zimmer – Hans Zimmer Live (2017)
From the maze-like streets of Gotham City to the sweeping animated vistas of the African Savannah, the music of Hans Zimmer has been adding life to our favorite movies for more than 30 years. In 2017, Zimmer brought many of those iconic compositions to concert halls around the country on his first-ever US tour. Zimmer drew deep when plotting the tour’s setlists; in addition to iconic music featured in The Lion King, The Dark Knight, and Pirates of the Caribbean, crowds were treated to themes from early favorites such as Rain Man and Driving Miss Daisy, as well as True Romance, The Thin Red Line, and Crimson Tide.
14. Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel Tour (2012)
With signs beginning to point towards an imminent album drop from Fiona Apple, it’s worth revisiting what happened the last time the reclusive singer-songwriter released a record. Apple’s 2012 record, The Idler Wheel… , sparked just her fourth tour as a major recording artist, one that launched a tour that gave crowds a fascinating look into the life of an artist famous for being hard to know. The shows’ quality could be uneven; writing for Vulture, critic Nitsuh Abebe described Apple’s Austin sets that year as “mind-blowing,” while Creative Loafing’s Mark Kemp decried a Charlotte stop as “a train wreck of tragic and frustrating proportions.” Despite that, they gave us a rare chance to commune with an undeniable talent, a chance that trumps polish any time.
13. The Postal Service – Reunion Tour (2013)
Ten years after providing mix CD fodder to moony-eyed college students everywhere, the Postal Service returned in 2013 to check on those fans as slightly less emo adults. The collaboration between Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard and DNTEL’s Jimmy Tamborello sounded as good as ever, especially considering the wave of indie synth-pop bands they’d inspired in their wake. Might we expect a 20th anniversary tour in 2023? Don’t make plans just yet; at the end of their shows in Chicago for Lollapalooza 2013, Gibbard tweeted that the appearances would be the group’s “very last.”
12. Odd Future (2011)
Although it all happened just eight years ago, the first tour from hip-hop collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All feels like a relic from another era. While much of that accelerated nostalgia comes from the fact that the collective’s misogyny and homophobia would be rightly shouted down today even more forcefully than it was at the time, part of it also comes from members’ subsequent career trajectories; in 2019, Frank Ocean is a bona fide stadium draw, and Tyler, The Creator and The Internet aren’t far behind, so remembering their riotous talents contained together in small rooms like New York’s Highline Ballroom and Washington’s Rock and Roll Hotel is as difficult as it is thrilling.
11. BTS – Love Yourself World Tour (2019)
K-Pop finally made the jump across the Pacific in 2019, and the men of BTS were its heralds. After becoming the first band since the Beatles to notch three No. 1 albums in a single year, the Seoul septet embarked on their biggest North American tour, whose overwhelming reaction wound up necessitating an extension to mammoth venues such as the Rose Bowl and MetLife Stadium. Judging by fan reactions, expectations were met and exceeded; as our own Allison Franks wrote in her review of the group’s colossal two-night stand at Chicago’s Soldier Field, “there was no shortage of gasp-worthy moments.”
10. Tame Impala — Currents Tour (2015-2019)
With a new album imminent in 2020, Tame Impala won’t get much of a break from the rigors of touring life. Kevin Parker and his tourmates racked up serious Frequent Flyer Miles over the course of the ’10s; since the release of 2015’s Currents alone, Tame Impala has played 181 shows across 24 countries and five continents and found themselves moving from mid-card stalwarts to stadium headliners in the process. The band’s continued touring success has also been a woozy, psychedelica bright spot for rock in general, and one more piece of evidence that the reports of the genre’s demise remain premature.
09. Paul McCartney – Out There Tour (2013-2015)
The fact that we still have a Beatle making music in 2019 is worth celebrating on its own; the fact that it’s Paul McCartney, and that he sounds as good as he ever has, is just a bonus. Despite turning 70 in 2012, McCartney maintained the touring schedule of a much younger man; as of this writing, he’s played a staggering 431 shows since 2010. Any of those tours could’ve made this list, but Out There! gets the final nod, if only because it’s the tour that found him bringing his legendary pop perfection to new generations of fans at festivals including Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza.
08. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree Tour (2016-2017)
It was a tour that almost didn’t happen for a record that almost wasn’t written. Faced with gathering darkness in the wake of his teenage son’s accidental death, goth rock legend Nick Cave contemplated giving up on music altogether. Instead, he channeled his despair into 2016’s The Skeleton Tree and into the emotional release of the tour that followed. Received with love by long-time fans, Cave used each show to forge new bonds with his audience, whether through the starkness, hymnal meditations of the newer material or the rage and beauty conjured by his younger self.
07. Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer Tour (2018-2019)
In 2018, Janelle Monáe had the kind of year that longtime fans always hoped for. Her record Dirty Computer became a rallying cry of power, acceptance, and self-love, and the tour that went with it offered listeners the chance to live those values in a real community. As our editor-in-chief Michael Roffman put it in his review of her Chicago stop: “With the Dirty Computer Tour, you get the sense that Monáe is operating on a radically more comfortable level, concerning herself less with sci-fi imagery and slinking into her own influences and political beliefs. Granted, this came to light with her prior album, The Electric Lady, but the pastiches and motifs now feel less indebted and more in line with her own personal brand. There’s Prince, there’s Michael Jackson, there’s James Brown, but it’s all Janelle.”
06. Prince – A Piano & A Microphone (2016)
The late Prince had plenty of memorable tours in the ’10s before his untimely death in 2016. However, his final one might’ve been his most poignant. Titled Prince: A Piano & A Microphone 2016, this winter tour found Prince stepping away from his backing band, 3rdeyegirl, for evenings of stories and spare piano arrangements that drew audiences into his enigmatic world (the incense and candelabras helped, too). Although it wasn’t intended as a farewell tour, it’s hard to imagine a more fitting way for the Purple One to go out.
05. Lady Gaga – Born This Way Ball (2012-2013)
They don’t just hand Las Vegas residencies to anybody; you’ve got to be an iconic singer, sure, but you also need to bring the flair for spectacle that draws in curious non-fans, too. Lady Gaga has been ticking both of those boxes for more than a decade, but she did so most forcefully during her Born This Way Ball, the self-described “electro-metal pop-opera” that chronicled birth, death, and the search for recognition and acceptance that goes on in between in the midst of a stage styled after a fractured Gothic castle. From the meat dress to the motorcycle, this one had all the Gaga you could handle and then a little more.
04. The Replacements – Reunion Tour (2013-2015)
Riot Fest scored one of the decade’s most shocking coups when it secured mercurial college radio legends The Replacements as headliners of its 2013 editions in Toronto, Denver, and Chicago (where the band had famously broken up during a disastrous Taste of Chicago set 21 years earlier). Long assumed impossible, the reunion spawned a subsequent victory lap of stadium and festival dates in 2014 and 2015, giving the ramshackle rock legends the chance for a proper (if somehow less fitting) send-off.
03. Jay-Z and Kanye West – Watch the Throne Tour (2011-2012)
In 2011, Kanye West hit the road for the first time since the release of his seminal My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. That news would’ve been big enough on its own, but its import grew exponentially with the announcement of West’s co-headliner: rap icon and Watch the Throne collaborator Jay-Z. On tour together for the first time, the longtime friends, labelmates, and rivals cemented their shared status as American hip-hop royalty with a stage show whose opulent visual designs were matched only by the heavy-hitting (and often indulgent) setlists; at one show in France, the duo simply played their hit single “Niggas in Paris” 11 times in a row.
02. LCD Soundsystem – World Tour (2010-2011)
The single greatest concert of the ’10s probably took place at Madison Square Garden on April 2, 2011. That’s when James Murphy and LCD Soundsystem called it a career with one last burst of sweaty, cathartic, ass-shaking triumph. Immortalized by the documentary Shut Up and Play the Hits and the live album The Long Goodbye: LCD Soundsystem Live at Madison Square Garden, that four-hour finale also brought an end to the smaller-scale raptures of the band’s world tour in support of 2010’s unimpeachable This Is Happening.
01. Beyoncé – Formation World Tour (2016)
Be honest: were you expecting any other answer here? The 2010s belonged to Beyoncé, a fact that was never more clear than during her Formation World Tour in 2016. Our own David Brendan Hall caught the tour’s Houston stop in May of that year and was understandably blown away, by both the elaborateness of the performances and the sophistication of the stage show surrounding them. “Without confusing the senses or piling on convoluted, overly artsy ideas, she painted a portrait of herself as artist, wife, and independent woman,” Hall said. “One entity, all elements inextricable, totally convincing.”
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