2019 was another banner year for live music in South Florida, and there were simply too many great concerts to name them all here. Though we weren’t able to formally review all of the shows that are listed here, that didn’t keep us from attending so that we could eventually agonize over which ones would make it into our annual top ten.
10. Vince Staples, February 14 at Revolution Live
The medium-sized crowd at Revolution Live didn’t dispel the notion that Vince Staples is one of those “if you know, you know” artists. Compared to superstars like Kendrick Lamar, Staples is one of his genre’s best-kept secrets, which has seemed to foster an even more passionate response from his fans. His refusal to compromise artistically or pander to a more mainstream hip-hop audience has preserved his reputation and his body of work as one of the strongest in the game, and this show only reinforced that sentiment.
9. Beck/Spoon/Cage the Elephant, August 30 at Coral Sky Amphitheater
Under the shadow of Hurricane Dorian, three powerhouse alternative rock acts still managed to come together at the Coral Sky Amphitheater to close out one of the best team-up-tour lineups in recent memory. Co-headliners Cage the Elephant and Beck provided aptly enjoyable sets, but indie-rock lifers Spoon (a certified Boca magazine favorite) stole the show with an opening set that included a cover of John Lennon’s “Isolation” alongside plenty of originals, some of which are among the best rock songs of the millennium.
8. Leon Bridges, April 21 at Fillmore Miami Beach
Bridges had no trouble captivating the packed house as he modified and amplified his songs for the live setting. Extended intros, outros and breaks elevated his songs beyond their original form on record. He worked the crowd like a professional throughout the night, deploying impressive dance moves as if he was determined to convince each member of the audience that he was more than just another singer.
7. III Points Festival, February 15, 16, 17 in Wynwood, Miami
Though it may be cheating to include a whole festival on a top concerts list, III Points 2019 earned inclusion here based on its impressive reinvention alone. After taking 2018 off and moving from fall to winter, III Points returned stronger than ever. Boasting a truly eclectic lineup that included more than 100 artists traversing many genres, III Points entered 2019 looking to assume the mantle of the southeast’s can’t-miss music festival. When the dust settled, it was clear that III Points is– in true Miami style– an event defined mainly by how unique it is.
6. Kurt Vile, March 13 at Revolution Live
Vile’s distinctive, almost Dylanesque voice shone over the constantly evolving tone of his acoustic and electric guitars as the show weaved through through both quiet, tender moments and tripped-out explosions of fuzzy folk. Vile has applied his workmanlike approach to making records and touring for well over a decade, so it would be strange to expect a Wednesday night in the middle of a tour to be any different. He forgoes flashy moments, set pieces and stage banter in favor of simply playing his songs, and playing them well.
5. Jeff Tweedy March 15 at Parker Playhouse
The experimental musicianship of Tweedy’s bandmates in Wilco has had the effect of competing with Tweedy’s lyrics as much as it buttresses them. But the unadorned presentation of Tweedy alone with his acoustic guitar, liberated from the strictures of rock ‘n’ roll, placed the focus squarely on the words, enhancing their poetry.
4. PUP September 18 at Culture Room
PUP proved to be the breakout punk band of 2019 with the release of the instant-classic Morbid Stuff, and the Canadian group’s set at Ft. Lauderdale’s Culture Room proved to be South Florida’s most bruising concert of the year–both literally and figuratively. A mosh pit stretched from wall to wall for the duration of the band’s set, and the only times the rowdy crowd stopped to catch its breath was in anticipation of the night’s many ear-shattering sing-along choruses.
3. Vampire Weekend August 24 at James L. Knight Center
Following the longest hiatus of the NYC indie-rockers’ careers, Vampire Weekend returned this year with Father of the Bride and a newly reinvigorated sense of joviality. Taking inspiration from jam bands like The Grateful Dead and Phish, the members of Vampire Weekend added improvisation, musical theatricality, and long, varied setlists to their live repertoire, reinvigorating both their concerts and their mindset in the process.
2. The Raconteurs, Nov 10 at Fillmore Miami Beach
The cancellation of what would have been the inaugural Miami Beach Pop Festival was a bummer for music fans in South Florida, but it came with one definitive silver lining: instead of being confined to a short festival set, The Raconteurs played a full-blown headlining show at South Florida’s favorite venue.
All fans have left of the Raconteurs’ rollicking set at the Fillmore is memories, and that’s by design. With attendees’ phones locked away in Yondr bags for the duration of the evening, the Nashville-based supergroup spearheaded by generational rock titan Jack White did what they do best– blow the doors off of the venue. Tracks from across the group’s three records (minus the band’s only true radio hit in “Steady as She Goes,”) rattled the walls with invigorating guitar solos, and Jack White has never looked to be having so much fun. Who needs “Seven Nation Army” when you can have “Level” instead?
1. Tame Impala, May 7 at Fillmore Miami Beach
Simply put, Tame Impala’s set at the Fillmore Miami Beach was likely one of the last chances fans will ever have to see psych-pop superstar Kevin Parker perform in such an intimate setting. For the band’s first-ever South Florida show, the rapidly ascending Australian band pulled out all the stops– lasers, confetti, smoke cannons, and more. Hits from 2015’s Currents were the clear fan favorites of the night, but it was in the moments the band recalled its early, 60’s-inspired psych sound (“Mind Mischief,” “It Is Not Meant to Be,”) that proved to be the most transcendent of a wholly jubilant spectacle. The band will return to Miami this summer–albeit in a much larger venue– when it brings its forthcoming record The Slow Rush to the American Airlines Arena in June.