This year our music staff at 303 Magazine saw over 300 concerts in and around the Denver area (including Red Rocks). Out of that plethora of concerts from bluegrass to rap, jazz, rock and pop, we put together our list of the best Denver shows of 2017.

READ: Denver’s Music Industry Pros Talk Best of 2017

Gregory Alan Isakov with the Colorado Symphony @ Boettcher Hall on January 12-13

Gregory Alan Isakov

Photo courtesy of Nate Luebbe for Dirt Road Travels.

I am not sure if I will ever see a show as captivating as the one I experienced with Gregory Alan Isakov and the Colorado Symphony in early 2017. However, when I first arrived this was not my expectation. Set in the rotunda of Boettcher Concert Hall, the formal surroundings complete with a sit-down format (in cushy velvet seats nonetheless) at first seemed to be an easy way to doze off on a cold winter night. This paired with the delicate folk indie tunes of Isakov, I was more than afraid I would be the rude concert-goer to nod off. Instead, Isakov backed by the Colorado Symphony gave a thrilling performance that nearly brought me to tears. The live symphony allowed Isakov’s music to swell with life. From every crescendo down to the tiny trill of a violin, it was a performance that pulled you in like a love-drunk affair. By the end of it, I was completely enamored.  – Brittany Werges 

Go here to read our full review.

Sting @ The Fillmore Auditorium on February 14

Photo by Kenneth Coles.

Nothing is better than the chance to catch a music legend at a venue like the Fillmore. For an artist like Sting, that’s quite the intimate setting, made more intimate by his last Denver show falling on Valentine’s Day. Probably the calmest and most relaxed scene I’ve ever witnessed at the Fillmore, Sting successfully played Cupid on V-Day for Denver’s Baby Boomers. Myself being easily the youngest person in the crowd, the 30, 40 and 50-somethings came in pairs to celebrate their holiday while Sting put on quite the show. In two hours, he managed to play all his greatest hits, and then some, to the pleasure of the relatively mainstream audience. The whole evening turned out beautifully — a once-in-a-lifetime experience and an epic performance from one of the greats. – Emma Polachek

Go here to read our full review and here for more photos. 

Oddisee @ Bluebird Theater on May 1

Photo by Ryan Good.

One of the best MCs on the scene today, in both rap and production, is Oddisee. Oddisee knows how to take a daring plunge, and his recent tour was to just the right depth. The rapper was accompanied by his band, Good Company, and the intensely talented Oliver St. Louis. There is something magical about the effects of hip-hop and a live band, and Oddisee has gotten us addicted. The party in early May that the Bluebird performance turned into was indescribable — and I can honestly say I have never seen anything like it. The unique style of rapping bombing out over a raging five-piece of musicians had the whole room working up a sweat. “That’s Love” from The Good Fight was a highlight of the evening, especially when Oddisee spurted the already quick laced lyrics at an even higher rate. True to the artist’s form, he also opened up to the crowd about his upbringing and taught a dance. The concert was one of the most interactive shows that we have attended this year. – Denby Gardiner

Go here for more photos. 

Papadosio @ Red Rocks on May 6

Photo by Mike Kvackay.

Red Rocks has a sort of magic about it that brings out the best in the performing musicians and artists. With a stacked line-up that included visionary painters Alex and Allyson Grey, local favorites SunSquabi and infamous visual artist Johnathan Singer, the night was already primed for perfection. And to put it as honestly as I can — it was just that. The energy from the multiple live painters and mind-melting visuals by Singer could not have paired more perfectly with Papadosio’s sound. It was one of those shows that nothing could touch. We were safe from the rest of the world — protected by the warmth and energy of the surrounding rocks. And that warmth, of course, was thanks to the perfect orchestration of sound by Papadosio. – Ellie Herring

Go here to read our full review and galleries. 

Chris Stapleton @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre on May 23

Photo by Ryan Lewis.

After moving to Colorado, I decided to “save myself” for the perfect show to take my Red Rocks virginity. After almost 10 months, I’m so, so glad I waited for Chris Stapleton — it was his first time at Red Rocks too, but you would have never known. The chemistry between Stapleton and his wife Morgane was electric, and the guitar work was seriously unmatched. (Considering he hurt his hand and had to cancel a couple of shows just afterward, we felt extremely lucky to catch him at the right time.) And, to top it off, Peyton Manning showed up to sing “Tennessee Whiskey” — you can relive the moment with us here. There will be many more Red Rocks shows in my future, but likely none will top that first time.  – Alexandra Palmerton

Check out our full review here and gallery here.

Tom Petty @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre on May 29

Photo by Glenn Ross.

The passing that shocked all music fans this summer also involved one of the best shows we saw all year, and that is Tom Petty. The icon, before his death on October 2 of this year, played Red Rocks in celebration of his 40th Anniversary Tour. The tour featured as many of his legendary tracks as possible, helping people from all over the world cross a line off of their bucket lists. In fact, it is hard to imagine that the crooner is no longer here given the lively and hefty performance just half a year or so earlier. Even though he had played Red Rocks many times before, there will always be the biggest emotional attachment to the last time his voice rang out through the monoliths. Our last dance with superstar Tom Petty will live on forever along with his immeasurable contribution to music. – Denby Gardiner

Go here to read our full review and here for more photos. 

Phoenix @ Red Rocks on June 7

Photo by Will Sheehan.

Earlier this summer Phoenix released their sixth album Ti Amo, a meticulously constructed blur of soft-rock and disco synths. Just days before the album’s debut, Phoenix was scheduled to play Red Rocks with Swedish pop-rock band Miike Snow. Coincidentally the concert happened on the same evening as the monster Metallica show, which may have pulled some allure from ticket buyers since Red Rocks didn’t hit capacity. In the peak of Red Rocks season, this was a welcomed relief and led to an incredibly seamless day getting into the amphitheater. Sunny blue skies, open parking lots and even second-row seats teed up the perfect day. That was until the massive storm clouds rolled in unleashing heavy sheets of rain for nearly an hour. It was looking like the show was going to be canceled, until the clouds suddenly lifted. Phoenix came on with a siren blaring — it was clear they were ready to bring a storm of their own. The second the title track of their album hit, the floodgates were open — letting loose a powerful wave of glossy synth beats and hard hitting drums. In fact, the drummer was playing so furiously I swear at one point a stick would snap. But like the rest of Phoenix, they kept the show incredibly tight even during their most unbridled attempt to let it all out. After 17 years as a band, Phoenix proved that rain or shine they could deliver. – Brittany Werges

Go here to read our full review and for more photos. 

DJ Premier and the BADDER Band @ Bluebird Theater on June 14

Photo by Kiddest Metaferia.

Without DJ Premier, you cannot have hip-hop. The single most influential person in hip-hop alive today brought his classic discography to the Bluebird along with four other musicians to rock out hip hop’s greatest tracks. Preem (DJ Premier) jammed through his top selections from behind the tables next to a drummer, bassist and trumpet and horn players — obviously an experience that does not come around all the time. There was truly an  honor in hearing the live versions of megahits “Work” and “Full Clip.” For those of us who did not see Gang Starr while Guru was still alive, this is the closest any of us will come to seeing those songs live. The crowd was full of die-hard fanatics, and we know we may never see that piece of hip-hop royalty ever again. With DJ Premier’s many upcoming projects, we know we will be sure to be present. – Denby Gardiner

Go here to read our interview and for more photos.

John Mayer @ Pepsi Center on July 19

Photo by Amanda Piela.

John Mayer’s performance at The Pepsi Center in July exceeded all expectations and put the Denver audience in the center of a musical story told by Mayer’s music. Mayer knows how to work a crowd and make every performance feel genuine. His banter with the people of Denver felt like a real conversation, rather than a scripted dialogue said at every tour stop. The highlight of the show came when Mayer reunited with The John Mayer Trio. Dedicated Mayer fans know about the trio’s two hiatus, which made this tour even more special for both the musicians and the fans. The backing band for Mayer displayed ridiculous amounts of talent and diversity as they took the singer’s studio work and recreated it seamlessly. It was easy to see Mayer and his band share a deeply rooted chemistry. There was never a dull moment during this show, earning a spot in both my favorite shows of the year as well as one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen. – Michael Tritsch

Go here to read our full review and for more photos. 

The Underground Music Showcase on
July 27-30

UMS-Photo-by-Brittany-Werges-303-magazine-134

Photo by Brittany Werges.

The Underground Music Showcase (UMS) returned in 2017 with four days filled with hundreds of shows. The festival is one of Denver’s largest within the city limits— and certainly the largest with a focus on local music and local venues. Hundreds of Colorado bands play the festival every year, and we giddily look forward to it each time. This year included headliners Zola Jesus, Benjamin Booker and Esme Patterson who all shined with exceptional performances. UMS also included some of our favorite overall shows of 2017 — 303 writer Kori Hazel said, “In one of The Outfit’s final performances as a band, their UMS set was a dirty and chaotic master class, that saw the city come out in full support in one of its most promising bands. The spilled beer and lingering cigarette smoke of 3 Kings tavern felt almost poetic against the reckless abandon of the band playing.” UMS also marked the final performance of local group Shady Elders, but highlighted new local musicians at the same time, including the mysterious Dead Latin (who we hope to hear more from soon). 303 writer Emily McCarter noted another favorite performance, “Esme Patterson is reviving feminine rock, and her performance at UMS showcased that.” UMS 2017 was also the final year that Kendall Smith directed the annual event after working with the festival for seven years, and it was a damn good one. – Tyler Harvey

Go here to read our full review and for more photos. 

Kendrick Lamar @ The Pepsi Center on July 29

Kendrick Lamar wasn’t shy on his track “The Heart Part 4” which was released earlier this year where Lamar raps, “I am the greatest rapper alive.” After witnessing “The DAMN. Tour” in its entirety, I feel comfortable agreeing. From stage presence and showmanship to lyrical content and magnificent beat selection, Kendrick Lamar is quickly heading into legendary status with the hip-hop elites. It doesn’t get much bigger than the stage Lamar’s at now, but at 30 years old, I think it’s safe to say that Kendrick Lamar has quite a bit of growing to still accomplish — a growth the world can’t wait to see. – Josh Cowden

Go here to read our full review.

A Tribe Called Quest @ Red Rocks on August 10

Photo courtesy of A Tribe Called Quest on Facebook.

Despite the tragic loss of one of the founding members, A Tribe Called Quest still managed to sell out Red Rocks minutes after tickets went on sale. The enthusiasm on display for the group — who tastefully made a tribute to the late Phife Dawg — was befitting for one of the best-loved groups ever to grace the hip-hop canon. Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi were flaunting this year’s album We Got it from Here… but masterfully interspersed all the necessary hits from their dense catalog. The vibe was unmatched as Tribe brought one of the most original and well-curated parties seen this summer. – Colin Wrenn

Sylvan Esso @ The Ogden Theatre on August 10

Photo by Will Sheehan.

It’s not often you come across a truly modest band at a sold-out show. Some performers don’t seem to revel in the feeling of playing to a full house and some just fake it ’til they make it. But not Sylvan Esso. The duo intertwined their modesty with a nonchalant attitude, even looking as if they would burst into tears of joy at times. They actually seemed to care about their fans, brushing everyone with an odd combination of bad-ass and bashfulness — all while bonding with the masses. You know when you see a band live and you leave the show feeling as if you want to be their best friend? Sylvan Esso was one of those shows. – Tyler Harvey

Go here to read our full review and here for more photos. 

2 Chainz @ The Ogden Theatre on August 23

Photo by Alden Bonecutter

The unsung hero of 2017 was 2 Chainz. His August appearance at the Ogden solidified the Atlanta rapper’s position as one of the most serious rap entertainers currently doing it. As he was slowly rolled across the stage in a pink, rim-clad custom wheelchair by a southern belle in nurse-attire the man ran through his classics and tracks from this year’s excellent Pretty Girls Like Trap Music. Chainz’ vibe all throughout had the air of a victory lap. With James Brown-level commitment to showbiz, the trap-superstar incorporated his broken leg into his act, harnessing the unfortunate injury into highly-developed theatrics. Drenched head to toe in our time’s hottest gear, the man born Tauheed Epps truly defined commitment to the game, and evidenced just what makes him great — the desire to put the fans first and continue to curate one of the best parties in hip-hop today. – Colin Wrenn

Go here to read our full review and for more photos. 

Depeche Mode @ Pepsi Center on August 25

Photo by Candace Peterson

Depeche Mode proved themselves to be rock titans when they obliterated the Pepsi Center in August. Fervent fans clamored at lead singer Dave Gahan’s theatrics and bowed before the sheer prowess of the band. The nearly three hours performance was an ode to the Depeche Mode of the ‘80s and the Depeche Mode of today, with a good dose of everything in between but not a single step missed. Those lucky enough to have experienced it were without a doubt in the shadow of greatness. – Kori Hazel

Go here to read our full review and here for more photos.

GRiZ @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre on September 1 and 2

Photo by Meg O’Neill.

On September 1 and 2, GRiZ shut down Red Rocks for an epic two-night performance featuring over six different openers, and different genre sets both nights. The first night featured GRiZ and Muzzy Bearr backed by a full live band, making the night feel like an intimate back-patio jazz set — there were no LED screens, no lasers, and definitely no fire shooting from the stage. To top it off, GRiZ wore a sweatshirt that read “be a good person,” sending good vibes all around. The second night was the complete opposite of the first — an EDM night-club vibe featuring lasers, LED screen light shows and fire shooting from the stage. GRiZ, always accompanied by his saxophone, brought out all the openers (Brasstracks, JNTHN STEIN, BXRBER, S’natra and more) to perform the finale song in unison. GRiZ played many of his most popular electro-funk songs including “Good Times Roll,” “Gotta Push On” and “PS GFY.” Many songs, like “PS GFY,” GRiZ played both nights but in completely different ways, giving the crowd a unique perspective of GRiZ’s musical abilities. The first weekend in September 2017 saw an epic GRiZ performance that could be classified as the best Red Rocks show of the year. – Emily McCarter

Check out our full review here and gallery here.

STS9 @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre on September 9

Photo by Alden Bonecutter

Looking back at the year as a whole, I realize how lucky I am to live in a town that attracts talented musicians. I haven’t seen many disappointing shows this year. I found narrowing down my top shows of the year fairly difficult initially — each musician brought something completely different. It felt like comparing apples to oranges. However, after giving it some more thought, there were three shows that stood out in my mind. Friday night at Red Rocks for STS9 is one of those shows. This was the first time STS9 played their Artifact album in its entirety. Fans somewhat knew what to expect — we’ve poured over the 2005 album for over a decade — but no one could have predicted the insanity that the improvisational jams bought. It was completely new yet fondly familiar. Artifact favorites weaved in and out of completely unique jams, which kept the set interesting and full of surprises. I went in with my own idea of how Artifact would play out and left with a new appreciation and understanding of what an electronic jam band can be. – Ellie Herring

Go here to read our full review and here for more photos. 

 Lotus @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre on September 16

Lotus - Photog- Will Sheehan-12

Photo by Will Sheehan.

Lotus has worked hard to create a name for themselves as a staple of Red Rocks. The last few years they have held down a headlining spot each September at the venue, and fans have come to expect a certain kind of experience. The group gifted Colorado with an extra night the eve before their Red Rocks show at the Boulder Theater, but the small venue simply did not allow for the full potential of the band the way the Morrison haven does. The five-piece jam-electronica outfit engulfed the Red Rocks audience in some of their most cherished hits — beginning with the crowd favorite “Spiritualize” and ending with the rock-solid banger “Gilded Age,” an absolute personal favorite of ours. Lotus has a place in the hearts of jam fans all over the country, but Red Rocks will always be the top place to witness their excellence, and 2017 was one of the best they have ever done. There will be no doubt of our presence for all years to come.  – Denby Gardiner

Go here to read our full review with galleries. 

Tank and the Bangas @ Globe Hall on September 25

Tank and the Bangas

Photo Courtesy of Tank and the Bangas’ Facebook Page

Tank and the Bangas’ performance at Globe Hall in September damn near blew the top off the establishment. Before the group even hit the stage, opener Sweet Crude barreled through the BBQ spot/venue with rambunctious drumlines and powerhouse vocals, that was as awe-inspiring as it was intimidating (especially for an opening act). However, not to be upstaged, Tank and the Bangas took Globe Hall to church. We got low, belted their songs and somehow through it all managed to connect not only with the band but the other fans around us. The icing on the cake was their soulful cover of Childish Gambino’s “Redbone,” which was almost better than the original. – Kori Hazel

Go here to read our full review.

Gorillaz @ Red Rocks on September 26

Photo by Ryan Good

Gorillaz Red Rocks performance was a long time coming but it was worth every minute. The long sold-out show may have arguably been the most in-demand ticket of the season, but for many, it offered a rare opportunity to catch an incredibly influential band at one of the most beautiful venues in the world. It was a no-brainer if you were of the lucky few to snag a ticket. The career-spanning setlist which included many of the original guest singers was every bit as imaginative and rambunctious as you’d think and then some. Even the rain trickling down on the amphitheater couldn’t put a damper on the sheer excitement radiating from the venue from start to finish. – Kori Hazel

Check out our full review here and check out our full gallery here.

Big Gigantic @ Red Rocks on
September 30-31

Big Gigantic, 303 Magazine, Red Rocks

Photo by Kiddest Metaferia.

This year marked Big Gigantic’s sixth Rowdytown show at Red Rocks — and both nights were sold out. Night one featured openers and special guests Keys N Krates, Slushii and Pell, with night two featuring local talent Maddie O’Neal, Whethan and Big Wild. Both nights’ stage was set up with a pyramid of screens and platforms for an inevitably amazing light show, and the acts did not disappoint, making it one of the best shows of the year. Big Gigantic played several of their most popular songs with special guest Jennifer Hartswick including “Got the Love” and “I’ve Gotta Know.” The duo played almost every song from their newest album Brighter Future (Deluxe Version). I’m sure we can expect another amazing Rowdytown in 2018. – Emily McCarter

Go here to read our full review with galleries.

Kings of Leon @ Red Rocks on October 2

Photo by Kyle Cooper.

Although the weather was less than ideal with spouts of freezing rain, Kings of Leon gave Red Rocks one of the best shows of the year at their fall concert in Morrison. The amazing band of brothers and cousins played almost their entire WALLS album, also featuring several other all-time greatest hits such as “Sex on Fire” and “Knocked Up.” Although the Southern-style rock band has now played Red Rocks several times, they act like it’s their firsts every time. “I cannot feel my fingers right now. So I’m going to do my best,” Caleb Followill said. Even in freezing temperatures and rain, the wide grins of every band member made it evident how much they love playing for their fans. – Emily McCarter

Go here to read our full review with galleries.

Allan Rayman @ Globe Hall on October 4

Photo by Meg O’Neill.

Allan Rayman impressed Denver in October with a sultry and mysterious show at Globe Hall — reassuring his growing and well-deserved presence in the national music scene, and a spot on my list as one of the best Denver shows this year. Besides his obvious alluring bad-boy persona, Rayman delivered theatrical vocals and dancing to his most popular songs “Tennessee” and “Lucy the Tease.” He even took off several articles of clothing as his songs and the venue heated up. Rayman had every person in the sold-out audience bumping and sing-rapping his seductive songs. With the artist releasing a steady amount of singles and EPs every few months, I feel like we can expect an even bigger and better Denver show soon. – Emily McCarter

Go here to read our full review with galleries.

Arcade Fire at Pepsi Center on October 25

Photo by Meg O’Neill

It’s not often that a band plays in the round, but Arcade Fire took it upon themselves to do the unusual when they graced the Pepsi Center in October. The once primarily indie rockers had come full circle in their transformation into bona fide disco giants. The musicianship, the lights and the band’s ability to sound both anthemic and dancefloor-ready proved to be a winning combination. While the concert wasn’t sold out, the audience spread themselves into any available space, and literally danced until the house lights came up. – Kori Hazel

Go here to read our full review and here for more photos,

Rezz @ The Ogden Theatre on
November 21 – 22

Photo by Will Sheehan

With her recent release of Mass Manipulation and two back-to-back sold-out nights at the Ogden Theatre, this up-and-coming Canadian producer and DJ has created quite the buzz. Isabelle Rezazadeh, better known as Rezz, mesmerized her Denver audience by submerging the crowd in her signature sound of deep sultry subs. With her graceful demeanor, hypnotizing goggles and trippy visuals, Rezz unquestionably lulled her audience into a trance-like state. The sold-out run featured the sounds of BlackGummy and Dr. Fresch, and for two nights the Ogden Theatre transformed into a portal of dark, deep beats and downtempo tunes. Announcing her latest Colorado rendition  — “Rezz Rocks” — the female producer undoubtedly conducted mass-manipulation over Denver. – Elyza Castillo

Go here to read our full review with galleries. 

Bonus: Templo @ Sonic Bloom Festival/Hummingbird Ranch on June 18

Photo courtesy of Templo on Facebook.

Templo was the cherry on top of a weekend packed with magical festival sets from some of my favorite electronic artists. I spent most of the festival catching shows from artists I religiously listen to and ended up falling in love with a sound I had never heard before and stumbled upon Sunday night — an artist I now know and love —Templo. Templo attracted our group like the hypnosis of fire — his sound moved our feet towards him like we didn’t have a say in the matter. As it was a late night set on the last night of the festival, I opted for sitting down on a tapestry, and instantly fell into a spell that had me repeating the mantra, “Who is this? What’s his name?” for the rest of the show. I’m not completely confident that Templo isn’t a new age wizard sent to hypnotize me into following his every word, but I am confident on one thing — it was one of the best shows I saw all year. – Ellie Herring

One Response

  1. The Denver100 Team

    The music scene in Denver, and the surrounding area, is truly a remarkable feature. It’s no wonder that it’s such a magnet for vacation, as well as calling home. We definitely have a few favorites among the list. Nice recap to go back and remember.

    Reply

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