Top 2017 Madison Square Garden Events
Paul McCartney│September 15th
Paul McCartney’s “One on One Tour” is not a weak attempt at seeing a once-great artist. At 75, McCartney still rocks hard. His two-night stint at Madison Square Garden was the venue’s biggest event this year. Many older rockstars continue to tour because people show up to the concerts for the nostalgia of what was. McCartney represents a small minority whose vocal strengths are in tact and whose energy level is still steady enough to put on a huge show. The “One on One Tour” sets are about three hours long with no opener. McCartney decides to go on when the venue feels full, and that in itself demonstrates why the Beatle is still rocking.
Billboard covered the Sunday night performance of McCartney, though his Friday show outweighed Sunday’s. Beatles hits included a long list of fan favorites: “Hey Jude,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Let It Be,” “A Day in the Life,” “Helter Skelter,” and more. However, McCartney’s age and artistic resume make his catalog a lot greater than just the Beatles. That is part of the fun of a McCartney concert. From the solo work to songs recorded before the Beatles, McCartney doesn’t leave an area of his career history unsung. The 50th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is this year, which makes the hits that are Beatles that much more special.
In addition, McCartney can entertain with his personality as well as his consistent musical talent. He stops often during sets to make jokes and talk to the crowd. He’s not stiff or awkward as a solo artist near the end of his career. Instead, he tells anecdotes that include other famous rockstars from the quirkiest tales to collaboration stories. All the while, the stories expand on a community of support in the genre between the greats rather than sagas of drama or dislike. It’s a fun addition to the night to hear about the Claptons and Stones and Hendrixes of the world getting along and assisting each other in the music that followed.
McCartney’s “One on One Tour” is accompanied by the modern-age’s technological tour enhancements. This ranges from fireworks to psychedelic screen displays to confetti. Being solo, he doesn’t short-circuit the additional fun effects that make for show highlights.
Bruno Mars│September 23rd
Bruno Mars is an entertainer even before he is a singer. The loaded statement might come off a tad insulting, but the argument is that it’s anything but. Mars released 24K Magic last year. 24K Magic followed suit to the funky, ’80s-vintage swagger style that Mars continues to promote in his artistic identity. He’s a character all unto his own: high energy, flashy, and choreographed. Mars carries this image to his touring style, making him one of the peak entertainers in the industry. His band the Hooligans nail the transitions and choreography for each number, playing and dancing during each song. It creates a seamless performance from start to finish. Many compare Mars to Prince in showmanship. Though that’s a huge leap, it is still an ode to his entertainer reputation.
Mars performs all of the songs off of his new album during each tour stop in addition to a handful of covers. This list includes Prince, James Brown, and other icons who Mars evidently draws inspiration from onstage. The Guardian reviewed his stint of shows at the London’s O2 in April. The only time he remains still is during a guitar-accompanied “Marry You,” “making for a rare moment when both his feet remain on the floor for most of the song.”
With his tour attire reading “Hooligans” and his “XXIV” hat, Mars is a walking billboard for his new music. From the sensual “Versace on the Floor” to the hip-shaking “Chunky,” 24K Magic covers the span of Mars’ strengths as an artist. Older hits such as “Uptown Funk” and “Just the Way You Are” find their way into the setlists, as well.
He is performing at Madison Square Garden this coming weekend for two nights, making his tour the second biggest MSG event this year.
Red Hot Chili Peppers│February 18th
Red Hot Chili Peppers took on a huge tour in 2017 titled the “The Getaway Tour” after their 2016 album The Getaway. The band’s energy and weirdness are what continue to make them extremely successful. For any mild Chili Peppers fans, their set lists included the classic “Scar Tissue,” “Californication” and “Snow (Hey Oh).” The band consists of four members: Anthony Keidis, Flea, Chad Smith, and Josh Klinghoffer. This is a hugely admirable feat for a popular rock band. Many have changed lineups, fall outs, or even deaths over decades of a band’s career. The Chili Peppers are no different, as they suffered their share of the ugliness of rock with the death of late Hillel Slovak and other close calls with heroin addiction.
The consistency and legacy of the Chili Peppers is what makes them continuously popular. Flirting with drug abuse and other rabbit holes of their band’s ’80s birth is just one touch to the remaining lineup. For “The Getaway Tour,” they successfully mixed old classics with their newer The Getaway material as to not over-serve either. In addition, bassist Flea is one of the oddest and most exciting band members alive. No matter the night, his energy level is exponential, and he always shows up ready to excite the audience.
Chili Peppers’ fan base grew to enormous heights due to the overall fascination with its members and the band as a whole. From Keidis’ sexual prowess to Flea’s erratic, remarkable bass skills, Chili Peppers outgrew the other L.A. bands that surfaced during the ’80s. Their comfort in each other is what held the base of the Chili Peppers together. From John Frusciante’s departure and return and second departure to Slovak’s death, the pieces encircling the band make the core stronger and deeper over time.
Red Hot Chili Peppers performed at Madison Square Garden earlier this year. Besides select music festivals and shows, the band is not touring for the remainder of 2017.
Eric Clapton│March 19th
Eric Clapton performed a string of shows in L.A. and New York earlier this year. He is not the overly-energetic performer that Mars and, more comparatively, McCartney are. Clapton’s performances are about the music over anything else. He’s not very communicative or giddy with the audience. In his early 70s, Clapton brings his famous guitar talent to the forefront during his performances. The Forum in L.A. and Madison Square Garden in New York are two iconic venues that Clapton performed at this year. This is in addition to a few shows in London.
As Clapton ages, his ability to play guitar due to physical ailments wanes. Therefore, there are not many touring years left in Clapton. For any big fans, this year’s select shows were most likely one of the last opportunities to see the guitar player live. Clapton is no muss, no fuss. Fans don’t go to the shows for an over-the-top production but rather to see a legend in the flesh.
Hits that find their way onto the setlists include “I Shot The Sheriff,” “Layla,” and “Tears in Heaven.” A Clapton concert is truly a throwback in time to the epic hits that made Clapton one of the most treasured guitarists in the world. Many of Clapton’s touring band members have been involved with him for years, which makes the relationship comfortable. The minimal communication he has with the audience is similar onstage. Clapton rarely chats with his band, and they speak through nonverbal cues and nods that demonstrate mind-reading each other all these years later.
Clapton keeps threatening retirement, but years after his 50th anniversary, he’s still at it. Expect a petering out of shows rather than a huge ta-do about the end of his career. Regardless, one of the world’s most prized guitarists keeps playing after fifty years into his career. That fact on its own is remarkable.
Billy Joel│April 14th
Billy Joel’s Madison Square Garden residency keeps making history. His career is tumultuous. From his alcoholism and depression to his multiple marriages, Joel isn’t a man with no regrets or no life struggles. That’s part of the appeal. From Long Island, Joel encapsulates the island and New York state. His Madison Square Garden residency is just one example. He flies to and from his shows via helicopter from his Long Island estate. Beats all that city traffic.
Joel’s resume is extensive. Classics such as “Piano Man,” “New York State of Mind,” “Uptown Girl,” “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me,” and “Only the Good Die Young” are just a few examples of the series of hits that he can pull from on any given night. Joel’s residency, which started as a shorter run in 2014, now ebbs over forty consecutive shows. This is the most that any artist has had at The Garden. The residency continues so long as there’s still a ticket demand and Joel’s performative quality in tact, and the demand keeps steady. This in itself shows the New York origination of Joel’s career and talent.
His April show was his residency show of the month. Joel usually plays at Madison Square Garden once or twice a month for his residency. The remainder of his time is scattered shows throughout the country.