Because no entertainment columnist can end the year without a Top 10 list of some sort, here are 10 concerts that Fresno fans were glad to see (or sorry they missed) in 2014. Shows are listed in chronological order.
•Tool, March 14 at Selland Arena
Tool’s 1998 performance at the Fresno State Amphitheater is the one concert I hear lauded as the city’s best ever. So, news of the art-metal gods returning to town was well met by fans. The band has played only a few shows since its 2008 hiatus and this round of dates came with hints of a new album in the works. The concert was also one of several the city co-promoted over a six-month period in an effort to breathe new life into the Selland Arena. It put more than $70,000 in the city’s coffer.
This was arguably Fresno’s biggest concert of the year.
Mars is on par with Justin Bieber, Beyonce or Prince in terms of star power. His “Moonshine Jungle” tour was the kind of show that was sure to sell out in minutes. And it did.
•Zappa Plays Zappa, Aug. 9 at Tower Theatre
This Frank Zappa tribute, performed by a six-piece rock orchestra led by Zappa’s son Dweezil Zappa, is the standout example of the type of alternative programing the Tower Theatre brought to Fresno this year.
•Future Islands, Aug. 19 at Frank’s Place
When Future Islands announced it was playing Frank’s Place, the Baltimore synth-pop band had just come off of a stellar performance at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Its performance on the “Late Show with David Letterman” had gone viral and singer Samuel Herring was being called the best frontman in the business. Those who knew enough to be at this show, count themselves lucky, no doubt.
The Save Mart Center is known for bringing in big-name country acts.
Blake Shelton was the biggest name to come through in 2014. Aside from his role on NBC’s uber-popular singing competition show “The Voice,” Shelton is a country superstar with stats to back it up. He was CMA’s entertainer of the year and has been its male vocalist of the year three times over. His 12th consecutive No. 1 single hit Billboard’s Country Airplay chart in June.
•A Day to Remember, Sept 23 at Rotary Amphitheater
This was one of several shows that came to the outdoor arena in Woodward Park this year. The shows catered to a mostly young, energetic crowd. The amphitheater is an underused venue. It’s good to see these larger, outdoor concerts have a space in town.
And on the north side, no less.
•Aquabats, Oct. 2 at Strummer’s
The Aquabats were fixture in the California ska scene in the 1990s, but have a new generation of younger fans thanks to “The Aquabats! Supershow!, the musical action comedy show that aired on The Hub.
So, this was an all-ages show that was truly that — all ages. Children three years and older were admitted to the show with a parent or guardian. They were also admitted on stage. The show ended with a group singalong.
•Tony Bennett, Oct. 13 at The Big Fresno Fair
While not the most obvious choice, the near-90-year-old Bennett may have been the biggest name at fair’s concert series this year. After all, he did have a No. 1 album of the Billboard charts at the time.
•Spanspek Music and Arts Festival, Oct. 17 in Orosi
In the festival’s nine years, its organizers have developed a knack for spotting new, local talent — like Visalia retro-blues rock band Slow Season.
•New Rock 104 Christmas Party, Dec. 9 at Fulton 55
Fulton 55 has hosted sold-out shows before. What makes this show notable is the speed at which tickets sold. Online tickets for the show, which was headlined by ‘90s rockers Bush and featured up-and-comers Meg Myers and Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, sold out within minutes. Physical tickets were gone within hours.