The 20 Best Concerts in Dallas-Fort Worth in 2015

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2015 was a year of transition for concerts in Dallas, and we mean that in the best way possible. For all the cyber ink that's been spilled vaunting the return of Deep Ellum and Dallas music in general (this year, and last year, and the year before last...), it's a simple truth that we've been blessed with a hell of a lot of concerts this year, and a hell of a lot of good ones at that.

Having a pristine new (well, "new") venue like The Bomb Factory certainly helped the cause, but the talent runs deep in North Texas. In fact, as we here at the Dallas Obsever sat down to look at our favorite shows from the past 12 months, plenty of the ones that topped the list took place at our tried-and-true favorites. But no matter the venue, Dallas concerts were the place to be this year, and these 20 stood out from the crowd.
20. J. Cole at Gexa Energy Pavilion

While working through the new album, Cole explained that he uses his live shows as an opportunity to speak directly to his fans. To that end he brought the show to a halt on occasion and provided anecdotes about particular songs, such as “St. Tropez” and “No Role Modelz.” It’s the only way he knows how to operate. Mikel Galicia
19. The Jesus and Mary Chain at The Bomb Factory

Playing full album sets can be a tricky prospect, but in the case of this show, the perfect ebb and flow of Psychocandy as a complete album was on full display. Jim Reid's vocals were buried in a haze of chaos, which would normally be a huge negative for a band, but here it was an authentic representation of the lawlessness of Psychocandy. Wanz Dover
18. Death at Club Dada

Right from the start, their veteran status was completely evident. It's rare to see such a dynamic and capable rhythm section. There's something inherently special about brothers who have been playing together longer than most of their audience has been alive. They're able to pull off a level of musicianship rarely seen in any punk band. WD
17. Parquet Courts at Rubber Gloves

After a brief soundcheck, the band launched into what was essentially a 10-minute noise-rock jam session that would have made Thurston Moore shed tears of joy. The aimless air of the opening song put the crowd on edge: Where were the solid hooks and endless grooves of "Content Nausea?" Dissonant chords squealed and furiously frenetic drum licks polluted the stale, dank air before spinning out and melting into oblivion. Simone Carter
16. Leon Bridges at Majestic Theatre

Right away it was clear that he had gained incredible chops from spending most of the year tirelessly touring all over the world. His booming voice sounded loud enough to fill AT&T Stadium. From there, he put down his guitar and his band launched into an up-tempo song, “Flowers,” with Bridges dancing around singing in a bowtie and suit. Jeremy Hallock
15. The D.O.C. at The Bomb Factory

For legendary rapper the D.O.C., it was a show 25 years in waiting. For Dallas hip-hop, it was a show the likes of which hasn't been seen before. Generations of local rappers, from Erykah Badu to A.Dd+, joined the D.O.C. for a night that clearly meant a lot to everyone in attendance. It made you proud to be from Dallas. JH
14. Spillover Fest in Deep Ellum

It'd be easy to say Spillover is just hounding for the scraps of the South By feeding frenzy, but the festival stands alone as a reminder that Dallas can pull in more than enough talent with the right booking acumen. Which is apt: The reason Spillover thrives isn't for its diversity but because it knows itself so well. Matt Wood
13. Chris Stapleton at Gas Monkey Live!

Stapleton's simple stage presence — just a few vintage amps and little else — failed to adequately prepare the crowd for a voice so powerful you really have to hear it in person to understand just how damn good it is. Stapleton's bluesy drawl is the best male voice in country music right now, and an excellent venue like Gas Monkey Live only highlights it. Amy McCarthy
12. Gorilla Vs. Bear Fest at Granada Theater

The GvB Fests have always prided themselves on bringing in at least one particularly buzzy act, and in this case it was Yumi Zouma. The New Zealanders, who have previously been on tour with fellow Kiwi Lorde, were the talk of the crowd. Their dream pop has been making waves on podcasts and other indie pop blogs alike, and at the Granada it was the trigger that really got the dance party going. Pablo Arauz
11. Erykah Badu at The Bomb Factory

The sun was still up and a line of people wrapped all the way around an entire block near the corner of Canton and Crowdus streets. And several hours later, the line was still there, with more and more people flocking to see what all the fuss was about with Dallas' "newest" concert venue, and possibly its most exciting: The Bomb Factory. Jeff Gage
10. St. Vincent at Winspear Opera House

The centerpiece of [May's] concert wasn't just Annie Clark's mind-bogglingly impressive musical prowess, or her unusual and powerful stage presence, it was the collaboration with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. With orchestrations by David Campbell, and conducted by Karina Canellakis, the DSO proved an apt partner for St. Vincent. The symphony, dressed in white jumpsuits like they were manning a space ship, sent the already compelling concert to the moon and back. Lauren Smart
9. Untapped Fest at Fair Park

There were plenty of menacing, lengthy lines for the rarest, most unique beers, and as the evening marched forward, it was more or less a fool’s errand to join the throng of eager Easy Slider customers. But with insanely gorgeous weather, a user-friendly layout and the strongest top-to-bottom musical bill of any Untapped Fest, complaints about long lines for the limited edition brews or some of the food trucks seemed like minor quibbles. After all, there was never a wait for restrooms, and if we’re keeping it real, isn’t that the most important line at a festival specializing in beer? Kelly Dearmore

8. The Rolling Stones at AT&T Stadium

That shaky opening stretch was saved mostly by Mick Jagger, who just about carried the show on his back. While the rest of the band seemed sluggish and even sloppy, biffing the riff to opener "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and proceeding from there, the 71-year old was a marvel of energy, shimmying and twirling and prancing all around the enormous stage. JG
7. Courtney Barnett at Club Dada

Few artists can manage to be so unassuming and compelling at the same time, and Courtney Barnett is among the best. After quietly taking the stage, she launched into the boppy, high-energy “Elevator Operator.” In the first few seconds of that song, Barnett clearly showed she's more than just a fly-by-night “buzz band.” She’s a goddamn punk rock hero. AM
6. Taylor Swift at AT&T Stadium

This was the loudest crowd you'll hear at a show in North Texas in 2015. Even the Rolling Stones, playing the same room four months earlier, couldn't hang. They roared with cheers, not just applause, at the end of the songs, and they screamed, not just sang, along so loudly you could hear them over the music. And it wasn't hard to know why: Every time Swift went strutting like a boss down the runway, tousled her hair or gave a playful wink at a flirty lyric, it was a #win for every member of Team Taylor. JG
5. Alice Cooper Group at Good Records

When the second tune started, Cooper took the stage to rapturous applause. Going into “I’m Eighteen” for the third song, it was apparent this version of the Alice Cooper Group is the kind that is never seen in public. There were no snakes, chickens, pillow feathers, confetti or guillotines; it was simply Detroit-styled R&B, garage rock and blues filtered through the Beatles, the Yardbirds, the Rolling Stones and Frank Zappa. In other words, it was a way to enjoy the tunes as great tunes, not mediocre tunes masked by costumes and theatrics. Eric Grubbs
4. Kendrick Lamar at South Side Ballroom

Lamar kicked off Thursday's show with the gnarliest rapping off this year's To Pimp a Butterfly, the machine-gun barrage of "For Free?" Most people, rappers or otherwise, would struggle to even hold their breath long enough to deliver those verses, much less do so with the cadence and crescendo of Lamar. From that song forward, the show revealed his innate skill, not only as a rapper but also as a band leader and showman. JG
3. D'Angelo at The Bomb Factory

D’Angelo is a consummate performer. Watching him must be damn close to the experience of seeing James Brown himself skitter across the stage in one of those hot and lively Chitlin’ Circuit venues. Over the course of his set, funk proved it was alive and well. D’Angelo and his 10-piece band, the Vanguard, generated warm, analog textures that are uncommon in contemporary music. H. Drew Blackburn
2. Sleater-Kinney at Granada Theater

When "Modern Girl" began to play, it was clear that the crowd had been waiting for that one since they took the stage. Most encores feel like an afterthought; this was a flat-out massacre of the stage that felt like it would last forever. We all walked out to our cars in a daze, safe in the notion that Sleater-Kinney has only gotten better with time. AM
1. Garth Brooks at American Airlines Center

As he wound through more of his charting-topping faves, including “Two of a Kind,” “The River” and “Two Piña Coladas,” it was obvious that this opening show of Brooks’ five-night stand in Dallas was going to be something special. Vocally, Brooks is still at the top of his game, and his energy on stage is unparalleled. No matter how many times Luke Bryan hits the dougie on stage or Sam Hunt tries to show off his Nae Nae, they’ll never be the explosive, energetic showman that Brooks is. Perhaps no one ever will. AM

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