Staff Picks – Our 28 Favorite Concerts of 2019

2019 brought plenty of fresh faces to the various Denver stages, and with a new venue in tow, we were blessed with some seasoned acts that surpassed the tests of time as well. With iconic names like Elton John, Garth Brooks, Diana Ross, Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones making appearances in The Mile High City just to name a few, this year was sure to produce a lot of spectacular performances. The surprise for us here at the music desk was the amount of local or smaller shows that also made just as much of an impact. This list is a snapshot of our year, from the historical greats to the soon-to-be, we’re showcasing the finest acts that rolled through Denver — in our opinion, of course. Check out our top 28, and if your favorite didn’t make the cut, we probably didn’t make it to the show or just aren’t cool enough yet.

Elton John @ Pepsi Center on February 6

Photo by Mark Tepsic

It is no surprise that Elton John’s “Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour” was one of the best performances in Denver in 2019. The iconic pianist is truly bidding farewell to decades of performing once the three-year world tour comes to an end to focus on his family. The show included all of his famed hits and while the showman has grown older, nothing was left to be desired as the last of the confetti fell. Anyone present experienced the show of a lifetime, which is the only way to wrap up a career such as John’s. – Denby Gardiner 

Read our full review of the performance here. 

Turkuaz @ The Ogden Theatre on February 16

Photo by Dani Brandwein

Turkuaz, a rainbow nine-piece band from Brooklyn, slapped the faces of the Ogden Theatre on February 16, making a name for themselves as an experience unlike most others. The group offered a one-of-a-kind spectacle of a performance including live versions of their most recent release at the time, Life in the City. Since the show, it is safe to say they have gathered a hefty fanbase in Colorado as they returned this summer to open for Umphrey’s McGee at Red Rocks, then again for the Jazz festival in Telluride and are due to return for a string of New Year’s shows in Frisco, Fort Collins and Boulder. – Denby Gardiner 

Flaming Lips w/ the CO Symphony @ Boettcher Concert Hall on February 22

Photo by Brandon Marshall Courtesy of the Colorado Symphony

The Flaming Lips have now performed with the Colorado Symphony twice, once at Red Rocks — which was recorded and pressed into vinyl this past month — and once at a more intimate setting, the Boettcher Concert Hall. Although the splendor of their 2016 performance at the famous monoliths is hard to top, the Boettcher performance this February was for the fans of the intimate, creating a sense of community of compassion and creativity for everyone in attendance. As with their 2016 performance, the band played the entirety of The Soft Bulletin alongside their orchestral accompaniment. The reverence and innovation of such a union are what make this concert one of the best of the year, not to mention the album itself, which was a revolutionary turn in alt-rock back in 1999. – Camila Biddulph 

Read our full review of the performance here. 

Jerry Paper w/ Ava Luna @ Larimer Lounge on March 27

Photo courtesy of Jerry Paper’s Facebook

Jerry Paper at Larimer Lounge this year showed the increasing jazz and lounge influences of Paper’s work, especially over the years as he’s worked with record label Stones Throw. This performance, in particular, was eclectic, as expected with Paper, yet more refined in sound. Artists like Paper recognize that their music should be the focal point of their show and recognize that dazzling visual elements not only feel overwhelming at times but can also distract from the music itself. His stage presence remained simple, and Paper humbly drew attention to his touring band multiple times throughout his set, who he clearly respected and admired. The highlight of Paper’s 2019 visit to Denver was the band opening directly before him, Ava Luna. With quirky vocal effects that added a layer of whimsy to their music, the band delivered such a mind-blowing performance that for a moment, I forgot I was there to see Jerry Paper. – Padideh Aghanoury 

Judah & the Lion (Bud Light Dive Bar Tour) @ Larimer Lounge on  April 29

Judah & the Lion courtesy of FB

2019 was a year of big artists playing surprisingly small venues, and Judah & the Lion’s spring performance was no different. A few months before their Red Rocks debut, the group gave an intimate performance when Bud Light brought their Dive Bar Tour to Larimer Lounge. Packing the venue with fans, it was a special evening for the band who remembers playing the same venue on one of their very first tours. Their Dive Bar performance was high energy and the band refused to tone down their excitement despite the constraints of the small stage. Jumping into the audience and dancing as fans embraced around them, it was a one-of-a-kind experience that turned the evening into one of the most enjoyable shows of the year. – Mariah Hansen 

Read our full review of the performance here.

Turnstile @ The Gothic Theatre on April 30

Photo Courtesy of Turnstile’s Facebook

Hands down one of the most unique shows of the year, hardcore band Turnstile joined indie dream-pop icons Turnstile for an evening that surprised everyone in attendance. Though they’re both respected within their own scenes, the distinctly different sounding bands seemed like an odd choice for a co-headlining tour — in fact, the pair share little apart from similar names. The show proved to be an outright battle of the bands, and Turnstile came prepared for a fight. Whipping the crowd into a frenzy, Turnstile’s DIY hardcore roots shined as fans moshed and stage dived as though their lives depended on it. In fact, the energy of the band was so infectious that it carried into Turnover’s set, with fans gingerly making their way onto the stage to carefully stage dive after being inspired by Turnstile’s fanbase. – Mariah Hansen 

Florence + the Machine @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre on May 20

Photo by Mark Tepsic

Aside from Bon Iver, Florence + the Machine took the trophy for one of the most beautiful Red Rocks performances to come through this year. An unexpected snowstorm rolled through and temperatures plummeted, but that didn’t stop Florence Welch from emerging in her true to form lace dress, ready to show the impending blizzard the hurricane of her voice and stage presence. The weather seemed to adapt to Welch, crafting a Narnia-like experience within the amphitheater that was as mystifying as her music. Even when the concert was forced to end early for safety concerns, it wasn’t taken as a disappointment, but a privilege to catch Florence + the Machine in their element. Not to be forgotten, opener Christine and the Queens slaying with a full squad of back up dancers through the snow. The night was one hell of a vibe. – Kori Hazel 

Read our full review of the performance here. 

Billie Eilish @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre on June 5

Photo by Alden Bonecutter

Billie Eilish was a riot. Just as she was becoming a household name, with the release of her debut album, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?, behind her, and no shortage of hype to ride on, her adoring mostly teenage fans turned up in full force and showed out. Screaming at the top of their lungs, and dressing as carbon copies of the singer, Eilish’s Red Rocks performance was an “Oh, shit!” watershed moment if there ever was one, even Rolling Stone Magazine chronicled the experience. The songs were big, yes, but the pandemonium, the nearly constant downpour of rain that the audience stuck through and the jaw-dropped parents, really drilled home how larger than life Billie Eilish is. – Kori Hazel 

Read our full review of the performance here. 

Garth Brooks @ The Mile High Stadium on June 8

Photo by Heather Fairchild

Following an extended hiatus from music, Garth Brooks returned to touring with a stadium tour that was hardly large enough to match the icon’s monumental return. Selling a record number of tickets for his show in Denver, Brooks gave the best performance he was capable of, playing for nearly three full hours. He moved from one end of the stage to the other, ensuring that he paid attention to fans no matter where their seats were located. However, for this reviewer, the highlight of the evening was receiving a personal song dedication — a special treat that highlighted the country singer’s adoration for his fans. – Mariah Hansen 

Read our full review of the performance here. 

The Motet @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre on July 12

Photo By Dylan Langille

Nothing like the hometown heroes to pep up a summer lineup and The Motet did just that with their Red Rocks show in July. Their supporting acts assisted in making the night one of the best of the year, as Moon Hooch and Galactic both know how to bring the heat to gas up a musical party. The Motet used their expansive sound to show off their 2019 release, Death or Devotion and turned out one of the best-received performances Red Rocks had all summer. Lyle Divinsky’s pipes are unmatched bouncing off the monoliths, and the years to come are sure to be some of the best to expect from The Motet.  – Denby Gardiner 

EARTHGANG @ The Odyssey Stage at Underground Music Showcase on July 28

Photo by Alden Bonecutter

EARTHGANG’s set at the Odyssey Stage on the third day of UMS was easily one of the best performances at the festival this year. Packed with high energy, flashy outfits and yes, even a truck-bed ball pit, EARTHGANG bounced from song to song with flawless grace. They had truly mastered the art of engaging the crowd, with plenty of banter and at one point inviting audience members to dance on stage. If they felt any fatigue at all, they showed no sign of it, delivering their last song of the set as the sun settled into summer dusk with the same fiery energy they started their set with. Without a doubt, EARTHGANG was one of the best hip-hop sets to hit Denver in 2019. – Padideh Aghanoury 

Matt and Kim @ The Ogden on August 2

Photo by Heather Fairchild

As always, Matt and Kim’s show are anything but professional but that’s why they’re always worth seeing. There’s always excitement and there is sure to be something new or wacky they do when they’re getting to know their crowd. Their no filter expressions allowed the venue to open up and make fools of themselves together on the dance floor. Their performance was an injection of positivity that you can’t help but smile and move to. – Andrew Venegas 

Read our full review of the performance here. 

The Rolling Stones @ Empower Field at Mile High on August 10

Rolling Stones

Photo by Kyle Cooper

Iconography goes no further than The Rolling Stones. The English rock band, who stand atop some of the most recognizable songs and characters in music, closed out six decades as an outfit when they came through Empower Field at Mile High. It’d been nearly 15 years since they’d last passed through Denver, and from the sheer response of the packed stadium, it was well worth the wait. The band dived into deep cuts and hits alike, sharing what many considered their last precious moments in the city, but in that, there was a preciousness to the experience, that extended through generations touching on a certain timelessness that they just don’t make anymore. – Kori Hazel 

Read our full review of the performance here. 

Flying Lotus @ Mission Ballroom on August 16

Flying Lotus photography by Camille Breslin-41

Photo by Camille Breslin

Flying Lotus creates music that cannot be contained, thrashing sonic dissonance in the middle of mind-boggling visuals unlike most of his contemporary counterparts. His performance at Mission Ballroom was slated to include all of the above, but what was so striking about this show was the way that Mission managed to amplify the already grandiose existence that is Lotus. The venue made the 3-D visuals that Lotus has made famous even more important, making the audience wonder if the approaching balls of fire coming from the screens were really all that fake. On top of that, the sound was perfectly in tune with the experience, showcasing the new venues all-encompassing system. It was a perfect opportunity for the newly minted venue to stretch its legs and show the audience exactly what it could do. – Camila Biddulph 

Bon Iver @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre on September 3

Bon Iver

Photo by Jacob Boll

No one should expect anything less from Justin Vernon than excellence. The producer and name behind the famed Bon Iver moniker has created a genre-bending experience that tugs on parts of the human psyche that we aren’t even comfortable uncovering yet. His performance at Red Rocks was one for the ages, pulling from his vast discography and yielding no mercy through his sorrow-filled falsetto. Pulling on highlights from an impeccable concert is a hard task, so in summary — it’s safe to say there were some serious amount of tears amongst the concertgoers throughout the night. – Camila Biddulph

Read our full review of the performance here. 

Mac Demarco @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre on September 6

Photo by Brandon Johnson

Sometimes a show is great because it’s a good time. Maybe the artist isn’t your all-time favorite, see-it-or-die, or the band that sounds exactly like their album. A great concert is entertainment at its finest, and there are few that can meet that criterion better than Mac DeMarco. This October at Red Rocks, he delivered his stripped-down charm, Canadian wit and basement-boy antics in a performance that was truly heartwarming. No matter the size of the venue, seeing DeMarco live is nearly as cozy as cracking a cold one with him and listening to him strum one of his tunes for you. – Jessica Rendall 

Read our full review of the performance here. 

Peer Review w/ D Tiffany and Rosa Derenzi @ Inner Space on September 7

Photo Courtesy of Peer Review’s Facebook

It’s been heard in whispers across the city over the past several years that Denver is becoming a national hotspot for underground techno and house, despite a slew of recent shutdowns of the scene’s favorite warehouses and DIY venues. As several of these venues expanded and opened back up during 2019, so did Denver’s rave scene itself. Local party aficionados who call themselves Peer Review threw some of the most well-received parties of the year, one of those being their private event (some would call it a rave) that featured their resident DJ’s and headliners D. Tiffany and Roza Terenzi playing a back to back set. Ravers crowded the biggest room in the venue literally until the sun came up, holding out until the very end so they wouldn’t miss one second of the party. A mix of minimal house, heavy techno and disco-based beats sprinkled the dance floor as the night raged on. We don’t blame you for getting a few extra hours of sleep on a Saturday night, but if you missed this rave, you definitely missed out. – Anna Santoro 

Angels & Airwaves @ The Fillmore on September 24

Photo by Daniel Amimoto

2019 was a good year for Denver residents who wished to relive their emo days of the ’90s and early 2000s. (And it looks like his pop-punk renaissance will continue into 2020 — Green Day, Fall Out Boy and Weezer’s much-anticipated “Hella Mega Tour” comes to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park next July.) While Blink-182 played their anthemic hit, “I Miss You” during their exuberant — and clearly popular — performance at the Pepsi Center in July, their version simply couldn’t compete with original vocalist, Tom Delonge’s. Delonge, who left Blink-182 in 2005 to found Angels & Airwaves, covered “I Miss You” — and many of his other iconic hits from previous musical projects — as part of an acoustic solo set in the middle of Angels & Airwaves’ show at the Fillmore on September 24. Equally comprised of singing and storytelling, this stripped-down half-hour segment was one of the most touching moments of the year’s gamut of nostalgic pop-punk performances. From his onstage charm to his era-defining singing style, Delonge has become the voice inside all of our heads, and we were ecstatic to hear it ring throughout the auditorium. – Josie Russell 

Read our full review of the performance here. 

Sigrid @ The Gothic on October 4

303 Magazine, 303 Music, Sigrid, Gothic Theatre, Sucker Punch, Daniel Amimoto, Josie Russell

Photo by Daniel Amimoto

One of the struggles of being a young, white female pop singer is trying to distinguish oneself from the other young, white, female pop singers — both sonically and charismatically. (And as a fellow young, white female, I say this with the utmost empathy.) It’s caused a lot of these artists to develop otherworldly, high-concept albums and personas, which, while aesthetically intriguing, risk alienating their very human audiences. Enter Sigrid, the unvarnished songstress from Norway who, in her steadfast resistance to glamour, has actually become the least ordinary of them all. Her performance at the Gothic Theatre had no costume changes, no background visuals — nothing to distract from the unaltered sound of her and her band. The unexpected absence of her backup singer also arguably aided the uncontrived atmosphere she was going for. With nothing to hide and no mysterious image to live up to, Sigrid gave a wholesome concert of free-spirited fun, complete with an ensemble bow at the end. A special shoutout also goes to her opener, Raffaella, for being the funniest musical act I saw this year. – Josie Russell 

Read our full review of the performance here. 

Tame Impala @ Mission Ballroom on October 7 & 8

Tame Impala

Photo by Brandon Johnson

As Tame Impala strays further and further away from the gritty psych-rock it once embodied and fans grapple with whether they should brave a $20 service fee for a show at the Pepsi Center, we look back with intense nostalgia at the few times Kevin Parker has graced Denver with his presence. One of those times was this past November, at Denver’s newest venue, the Mission Ballroom. Despite selling out two nights in a row, the venue was almost too comfortable, and I was able to get a spot in the seventh or eighth row without trying too hard, though the incredible coordination of spectral lights with visual effects would’ve made the show equally impressive from the back of the room. Tame Impala’s show at the Mission was when we all (including Kevin Parker himself) collectively mumbled: “Okay, maybe I do like this venue.” Tame Impala’s expressive instrumental lines and ghostly vocals guided fans through the night as we waded through layers of confetti and memories of the first time we ever did acid and someone said to us, “Hey, have you heard of this weird Australian band called Tame Impala? They sound kind of like the Beatles.” Whether you have misgivings about the future of the band or not, both of their shows at the Mission Ballroom this year were an instant highlight. – Anna Santoro 

Read our full review of the performance here. 

Vampire Weekend @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre on October 8 & 9

Photo by Brandon Johnson

Vampire Weekend’s return to Red Rocks placed the indie group in a class that no one would have guessed when they made their debut more than 10 years ago. Their two-night run at the iconic venue showcased Vampire Weekend as a jam band — and we couldn’t have loved it more. Easily moving from their older hits to new favorites off of their most recent album, Father of the Bride, Vampire Weekend’s evolution has taken them in a magical new direction that highlights their talent as musicians but more importantly how much fun they have on stage. Performing for nearly three full hours each night, the band had no intention of letting the good times end any sooner than they had to. – Mariah Hansen 

Read our full review of the performance here. 

Whitney @ The Ogden on October 21

Photo by Alden Bonecutter

The many man band played several times in the Centennial State but of the first 2019 show in Boulder – the group was missing several of their members. Once they returned in October with no sinus infections or missing members, the string of notes seamlessly weaved together. The performance was flawless, with exception to one stubborn microphone. Whether it was a healthier appearance from the band or a few brass pieces returned, there was a little extra shine at their Ogden Performance in October for Whitney. – Andrew Venegas 

JPEGMAFIA @ The Bluebird on October 24

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Photo by MJ Kampe

Both the demeanor and creative output of Baltimore-born rapper JPEGMAFIA are a little zeitgeist-y for some. That’s presumably why his earlier performances in Colorado this year — opening for Vince Staples, and later Flume — paled in comparison to his own headlining show at the Bluebird on October 24. On this night, he got to play for an intimate theatre packed exclusively with his own diehard fans, which freed him from the pressure to impress. As a result, audience members not only got to witness the unhinged, provocative persona he often projects, but also the sincere and and undeniably human man behind it all too. The icing on the cake was that Kanye West was supposed to release his new album, JESUS IS KING, that night, but failed to hit the deadline. It made JPEGMAFIA’s famous lyric, “Promise I’ll never go blonde like Kanye” — and all its implications — sound all the sweeter. – Josie Russell 

Read our full review of the performance here. 

TR/ST @ Summit Music Hall on November 3

TR/ST

Photo courtesy of TR/ST’s Facebook Page

TR/ST’s show at the Summit in November was low on the mainstream’s radar, which is just how fans preferred. If you’re like me and you just can’t get enough of  ’80s synth-pop or industrial, seeing Robert Alfons in person was probably the most excited you had been to see anyone walk back and forth for an hour and 30 minutes across a stage all year. The venue was just packed enough that it felt like a big deal but shared enough space so everyone in the room had a view of the stage. Both openers (DJ Slave 1 and SRSQ) were similar but different enough from TR/ST that you didn’t feel like you were watching the same band three times. Alfons’ contagious on-stage energy matched the erratic light show, and his voice — which has been described as “soul-piercing” — oozed over the room like mercury. It truly felt like Alfons may as well have been dancing in the middle of the crowd with us. An artist’s first tour always holds a novel energy shared between the artist and the crowd. With a concise but inclusive discography that most attendees had never seen live until that night, TR/ST’s show at the Summit was no exception. It was all at once a performance, a party and an exhibition of artistry. – Anna Santoro 

Brittany Howard @ The Ogden on November 14

Photo by Kori Hazel.

The lead singer of The Alabama Shakes stepped out of that limelight to create a full solo career that further cemented her incredible voice, songwriting and production skills. Her debut solo album Jaimie was arguably one of the breakouts of the year, showcasing a whole new side of her in ways we didn’t even know we needed. Her message of positivity amidst a world that often feels too polarized to exist without dissonance made the Ogden feel like a warm embrace. Those moments with Howard felt like a key point in history, showcasing the talent of an artist that is here to change the tides of music in serious ways. – Camila Biddulph 

Read our full review of the performance here. 

Entrancer “Downgrade” x Multidim Records Release Party @ Rhinoceropolis on November 15

Photo Courtesy of Rhinoceropolis’ Facebook

The release party for local musician Entrancer’s Downgrade LP, hosted by Multidim Records at Rhinoceropolis, was an intimate night of local experimental music from a myriad of artists ranging in style. The night kicked off with a mesmerizing DJ set from I.Lind, who played experimental records that when paired together, took listeners on a journey through soundscapes frozen in time. Following I.Lind, Youth on Record educator Felix Ayodele played a set comprised of abstract beats and loosely-structured samples, creating a fabric of textured sounds that provided the groundwork for his live improvisations on the keys. Other live performances came from local artists Lone Dancer, Techno Allah and Entrancer himself. – Padideh Aghanoury 

DaBaby @ Mission Ballroom on November 21

Photo Courtesy of DaBaby’s Facebook

DaBaby is one of the biggest stars to come out of 2019, so his show at Mission Ballroom came highly anticipated. While the rapper is not seasoned in the touring aspect of his career, he brought quite a spectacle. Giant dancing babies, pole dancers and elaborate dramatic skits decorated each track of his setlist, and the rapper’s enchanting humor made the evening one for the books. Watching 4,500 people bopping along with a fresh star was a unique experience for the year, especially considering his rise to fame appears to be here to stay. – Denby Gardiner