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The 20 best NYC concerts of 2015

Mark your calendar with the year's best NYC concerts, from R&B to country and everything in between

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Now that you're done digesting the hearty musical meal that was 2014 (you did read our best albums and best songs lists, right?), it's time to tackle the year to come. From groovy soul-funk singer D'Angelo at the Apollo to Belgian pop star Stromae's biggest NYC show yet, there's plenty of gigs to add to your calendar. Our advice is to snap up tickets as quickly as your bank account will allow.

RECOMMENDED: Best of 2015

Music, Rock, Pop & Hip-hop

D'Angelo

Soul sensation D'Angelo sent ripples up and down the charts in the late ’90s with his uniquely crisp, sexy take on R&B, as evidenced by 2000 album Voodoo. But stardom—or at least being screamed about as a sex symbol—sat uncomfortably with the singer, and he withdrew completely from the public eye. Now he's back with a new album, Black Messiah, which after a 15-year gestation he released with no advance warning in December. To say this Apollo gig, the first chance folks will get to celebrate the new album live, is highly anticipated would be quite the understatement.

Music, Jazz

John Zorn at the Vanguard

John Zorn's outsider days are well behind him: He's now welcome at just about every cultural landmark in town, from the Met, the Guggenheim and Lincoln Center to NYC's most hallowed jazz temple. The hyperprolific saxist-composer returns to the Vanguard, and just like he did in his 2014 residency here, he's bringing along a slew of pals to help him present a wide range of work. Highlights of the run include Zorn's own Electric Masada (Feb 11) and Masada Quartet (Feb 14); the trio of keyboardist John Medeski, drummer Billy Martin and bassist Trevor Dunn, playing Feb 12; and a handsome Feb 13 double bill featuring the duo of Zorn and free-jazz drum master Milford Graves (8:30pm), and Zorn works as played by Dunn, guitarist Marc Ribot and drummer Tyshawn Sorey (10:30pm).

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Music, Rock and indie

Dan Deacon + Eaters

Despite being a master of glitchy electronic sounds, Dan Deacon's high-brow compositional chops and DIY ethos make him a better fit for an underground punk venue than a big EDM club. Deacon's performances, which usually involved directed crowd participation dance-offs, are sweaty, euphoric affairs. This show, which celebrates the release of his new album, Glass Riffer, should be no different.

Music, Rock and indie

Sleater-Kinney + Lizzo

A mysteriously unmarked 7" (containing a heretofore unknown song) in Sleater-Kinney's 2014 career-spanning box set was all it took to get the blogosphere buzzing with reunion rumors, and days later, it was official—the band's back. The riot-grrrl torchbearers and indie-rock luminaries have just released their eighth LP, No Cities to Love, their first LP in 10 years and an admirably toothsome, no-fuss comeback, and are playing a slew of 2015 dates, including these big ones at T5.

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Music, Punk and metal

Behemoth + Cannibal Corpse + Aeon + Tribulation

A bill featuring perhaps the world's two biggest death-metal bands ain't one to scoff at, especially considering that Polish vets Behemoth and Tampa-via-Buffalo legends Cannibal Corpse each unveiled a masterful new LP last year: The Satanist and A Skeletal Domain, respectively. The pairing should make for a memorable night in the East Village, where a pair of heavyweight Swedish outfits set the stage.

Music, Punk and metal

Blind Idiot God + Oneirogen + Rhyton + Gnaw

If bands like Don Caballero brought math rock into full bloom in the '90s, Blind Idiot God, which resurfaced in 2001 after a five-year absence, had begun tilling the soil in the late '80s. The trio's tense, surging prog-punk instrumentals, fueled by Andy Hawkins's dramatic guitar spew, made it one of the few rock bands to find a home in the early downtown scene. Here, BIG supports a brilliantly gritty new comeback disc, Before After After, the group's first recording with current drummer Tim Wyskida, formerly of Khanate.

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Music, Jazz

Vijay Iyer Trio

Trailblazing pianist Vijay Iyer, one of his generation's brightest jazz luminaries, had a big year in 2014, unveiling chamber works and a multimedia collaboration via his new label, ECM, and cementing an alliance with all-star crew Trio 3 on the strong Wiring album. This year, he returns with Break Stuff, a new disc featuring the trio that made him famous, a group that explores jazz, pop and electronica vanguards with equal curiosity. Here, that combo, featuring bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Marcus Gilmore, gigs in an appropriately awe-inspiring setting: the Met's Temple of Dendur.

Music, Pop

Björk

Bjork's not one for small gestures, so it makes sense that the Icelandic art-pop empress is headlining a little room called Carnegie Hall—kicking off a six-show local stint—the same day her surefire-blockbuster MoMA retrospective opens. This would all be big news under any circumstances, but considering that Björk has just unveiled her latest LP, Vulnicura—an emotive, arresting collaboration with vanguard producers Arca and the Haxan Cloak—each of these gigs seems destined for show-of-the-year status.

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Music, Funk, soul and disco

Hozier + George Ezra

Dublin singer-songwriter Hozier (real name Andrew Hozier-Byrne) has been making music for a number of years, but it was his gripping, blues-brushed 2013 tune "Take Me to Church" that ignited the Internet. Things are happening pretty fast for the young singer, who recently played some sold-out Irving Plaza shows and now moves up to the Hammerstein. Catch him now and say you were there at the beginning (or close to it).

Music, Rock, Pop & Hip-hop

La Dispute + Title Fight + The Hotelier

If you haven't yet heard Rooms of the House, issued last year by Michigan post-hardcore visionaries La Dispute, you missed out on one of 2014's most profound albums—a sweeping, novelistic blend of balletic pummel and disarmingly intimate lyrical narratives. The whole thing plays something like an indie-rock version of the Great American Novel, and we can't wait to hear how it translates to the stage. Also on board are Title Fight and the Hotelier, throwback emo types from Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, respectively.

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Music, Rock and indie

Alvvays

We're thrilled that these Toronto indie-pop upstarts, who made our hearts flutter last year with dreamily delicious single "Archie, Marry Me," as well as the rest of their stellar self-titled debut, are getting a taste of the big time this spring via an opening slot on the Decemberists' tour. Even better news: Alvvays is making time in its busy schedule for an LES headlining gig.

Music, Rock and indie

Ride

Between 1988 and 1996, Ride released four albums, all classics of the shoegaze era, and then broke up during Britpop's ascendency (which the band foreshadowed with a pop sensibility many of their peers lacked). Now, following in the footsteps of groups like Sleater-Kinney and fellow Creation Records vets Swervedriver, the band is back together and, as luck would have it, playing a huge reunion show at T5.

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Music, Music festivals

The 2015 Governors Ball Music Festival

NYC still can't boast a summer music fest as iconic as Coachella or Bonnaroo, but with every year, Gov Ball inches ever closer to that status. This year, the fest presents another typically eclectic slate of crowd-pleasers, from headliners Drake, the Black Keys and Deadmau5 to fan faves such as Lana Del Rey, Florence and the Machine, My Morning Jacket, Björk, Ryan Adams and Chromeo. We're happy to see plenty of cool names further down the bill, too, from local hero Sharon Van Etten to alt-country up-and-comer Sturgill Simpson and legendary pop parodist Weird Al Yankovic. So pray for sun and get your butt out to Randalls Island; music aside, the people-watching's some of the best you'll see all year.

Music, Folk, country and blues

FarmBorough Country Music Festival

Taylor Swift has packed up and moved to NYC, and it looks like Nashville is right on her heels. FarmBorough, NYC’s first country-music festival, sets up camp at Randalls Island for three days of whiskey-drenched ditties about pickup trucks and heartbreak from top-flight acts like Luke Bryan, Brad Paisley and Dierks Bentley.

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Music, Rock and indie

David Byrne's Contemporary Color

So it's pretty much New York City law that David Byrne has to have something awesome in the works at all times. If he's not teaming up with St. Vincent, he's paying homage to a cult musical hero like Nigerian funkster William Onyeabor or turning up at a Paul Simon tribute to sing "You Can Call Me Al." And like clockwork, Byrne's back this summer with what looks to be one of the cooler events of the season: a combination concert and "marching arts" performance at Barclays Center, cosponsored by the forward-thinking folks at BAM. The artist roster is wild, filled with avant-pop and forward-thinking R&B names that need no introduction. In addition to Byrne himself, there's Nelly Furtado, How to Dress Well, Devonté Hynes (a.k.a. Blood Orange), Kelis, Nico Muhly and Ira Glass, St. Vincent and Tune-Yards, all soundtracking the visual splendor of nearly a dozen 20- to 40-person high-school color-guard teams. Dammit, Byrne—you've done it again!

Music, Pop

Taylor Swift + Vance Joy + Shawn Mendes

T. Swift was always a little more Madonna than Miranda Lambert, so her decision to leave Nashville for NYC—and pop-country for plain old pop—isn't necessarily shocking. What is mind-blowing is the 24-year-old's latest album, 1989, which has broken sales records long held by Britney Spears and Eminem, something unfathomable in today's music world. The Spotify-averse Swifty celebrates her overwhelming success with this good-as-sold-out stadium gig in New Jersey. Get ready to "Shake It Off," people.

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Music, Rock and indie

Foo Fighters + Royal Blood

For two decades, Dave Grohl and his Foos have been America's greatest purveyors of fan-friendly radio rock. Is their output, including the much-hyped, new Sonic Highways, blandly middle-of-the-road? Yep. But is it also good for a beer-hoisting night of neo-classic-rock sing-alongs? You bet it is. British grunge-blues types Royal Blood set the stage.

Music, Rock and indie

U2

Were you to be whisked back to summer in 1988, you could lose yourself in the hysteria of a stadium gig from Madonna, Prince or Michael Jackson. Today's pickings are slimmer, so credit goes to U2, stadium giants who are not only still standing but still making records that millions of people wish to actually buy (such as their latest, Songs of Innocence, barring that unfortunate iTunes snafu). These Irish boys go big like no one else—with this six-night run at the Garden as proof.

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Music, Rock, Pop & Hip-hop

One Direction

The boys in One Direction might have started out as a Simon Cowell–groomed pop product, but in the years since their 2010 X Factor debut they've more than proved their worth as one of the world's biggest acts. Their latest LP, Four, is a bona fide smash full of stadium-rock swells and huge sing-along hooks that have more in common with the Who or Fleetwood Mac than NKOTB. Sure, there will be bus loads of screaming tweens angling for a selfie with Harry or Zayn (sorry, Louis). There'll also be plenty of grown-ass adults lured by the group's unaffected, unpretentious pop-rock, unashamedly belting out megahits like "What Makes You Beautiful."

Stromae
Photograph: courtesy of the artist
Music, Rock, Pop & Hip-hop

Stromae

Rising electro-songsmith and Time Out New York cover star Stromae—real name: Paul Van Haver—specializes in soulful bangers that sound at once sophisticated and bombastic. He's a huge star in his native Belgium and an increasingly recognizable name in the States, as well. This headlining spot at the Garden will be his biggest NYC gig yet.

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