15 Houston Concerts to Get Excited About in 2016

Madonna's "Rebel Heart" tour in Philadelphia, September 2015
Madonna's "Rebel Heart" tour in Philadelphia, September 2015

MADONNA
Toyota Center, January 12
It’s been more than three years since Madonna last pulled into town on one of her mega-massive, world-tour extravaganzas, and you just never know if you’ll get a chance to catch another one.
The Material Grand Dame is no spring chicken anymore, after all. That said, expect to hear plenty of her new tunes at Toyota Center next Tuesday. Even as some of her most famous imitators test out the nostalgia circuit, keeping current remains her top priority. NATHAN SMITH

TOOL
Toyota Center, January 14
Will this be the year that Tool finally releases a new album? Odds seem good, but let’s not go getting our hopes up too high. Instead, it’s best to focus on the concrete, which is that they’re hitting the road and proving that when you’re insanely talented and a little bit mysterious, you don’t need to put out new music to pack Toyota Center. But if they want to play something new, that would be cool, too. CORY GARCIA

SUNNY SWEENEY & BRENNEN LEIGH
McGonigel’s Mucky Duck, January 28
These two Austin country singer-songwriters are longtime friends, but quite a bit different stylistically: Sweeney is a rockin’ neotraditionalist firebrand who proudly touts her “Bad Girl Phase” on her latest album, Provoked, while the vintage-leaning Leigh recently released a Lefty Frizzell tribute record. But last year, the two ladies took a look at the approaching election-year insanity and recorded “But You Like Country Music,” the best liberal-conservative square-dance since Hayes Carll’s “Another Like You.” After earning them a nice writeup in Rolling Stone, it should make a nice centerpiece for an evening at the Duck, too. CHRIS GRAY

AGENT ORANGE, IN THE WHALE, SHUT OUT, ACTION FRANK
Scout Bar, February 5
One of the bands that helped create the SoCal surfer punk wave in the late ’70s/early ’80s, these vintage punk rockers still tour and record. A punk purist's delight, this show will feature everything from local boys, Action Frank and Shut Out to furiously pounding beats from Colorado natives In The Whale — a conspicuously varied offering of punk styles to suit any taste. KRISTY LOYE

ALESSIA CARA
Warehouse Live, February 5
Alessia Cara is likely on the path to becoming a superstar. “Here” is working its way up the charts, and her debut album, Know-It-All, has a couple of other songs that seem like they might make an impact as singles. She’s got the voice to deliver live and, at only 19, if she has the stage presence to go with it, this might be her smallest Houston show for a long time. CORY GARCIA

JASON ISBELL & THE 400 UNIT
Cullen Performance Hall, February 13
It’s hard not to miss the Jason Isbell of a few years ago, and not just because he played a little more electric guitar. Back then he fronted the most literate bar band in the 50 states (and one of the best), the 400 Unit; it was beautiful because, to most tastemaker types, they were still “just” a bar band. Then 2013’s Southeastern really revealed his once-in-a-generation songwriting talents, and Isbell made the jump into the sort of elite Americana circles where Marshall stacks stick out like a sore thumb. His latest album, the Grammy-nominated Something More than Free, isn’t exactly a step back in that regard, but Isbell still has enough Drive-By Trucker in him that he might at least be persuaded to pull out “Super 8” for an encore here. CHRIS GRAY

WAR ON WOMEN
Walters Downtown, February 19
Native Houstonian Shawna Potter and her band War on Women have been on my personal punk-rock show calendar since they announced this show last fall. If you’re frustrated with politics (like the rest of us), take a lesson from music’s last vein of relevant protest punk rock. At its genesis, punk was meant to disrupt the establishment, and War on Women leads that charge. Forget pop-punk's nasal-heavy, annoying teenage love-song banter; come listen to what real rebellion sounds like while we destroy the patriarchy together. KRISTY LOYE

AC/DC
Toyota Center, February 26
AC/DC is back in black in Houston this February, and thank God (er, Satan) for that. But folks, this could very well be the classic rock icons’ last hurrah. Malcolm Young, possibly the hardest-rocking rhythm guitarist in history, and the heart and soul of AC/DC, was forced to retire from the group not too long ago because of dementia. Hard to imagine them pulling off yet another globe-spanning album-and-tour cycle without him. Show up ready to send the lads off with a proper “Big Gun” bang. NATHAN SMITH

COHEED AND CAMBRIA/GLASSJAW
Revention Music Center, March 17
If you’re one of those kids who made the weird transition from nu-metal to post-hardcore in the early ‘00s, this is something of a dream show. Coheed and Cambria continue to put out stellar releases and deliver amazing performances. Glassjaw are kind of an enigma, having replaced half the band since their last trip to town, but that won’t stop the faithful from screaming along like it’s 2002. CORY GARCIA

UNWRITTEN LAW/FENIX TX
Warehouse Live, March 22
Yes, I’m excited about this show, so go ahead and make your jokes. At least indulging in some pop-punk nostalgia won’t, against all odds, require a trip down to Scout bar. I couldn’t tell you a damn thing about what UL has been up to since 2005, but by God I’m going to hurt my voice singing “Teenage Suicide.” Plus, a Fenix TX show in Houston means I can stop my one-man campaign to get them booked at FPSF, thus saving me plenty of embarrassment. CORY GARCIA

NAPALM DEATH, MELVINS, MELT BANANA
Numbers, April 1
A better assemblage of rock and roll freakazoids is not likely to be seen onstage in this town in 2016 than when Napalm Death, Melvins and freaking Melt Banana roll up together on April Fools’ Day. Naturally, they’ll be at Numbers, the weirdest old joint we’ve got. Bring earplugs, if you’re smart, but don’t bother pre-gaming. We’re assuming all your favorite drugs will be readily available inside. NATHAN SMITH

DURAN DURAN, CHIC
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, April 24
In a flagrant display of personal bias, Duran Duran’s upcoming show at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion will be the throwback concert of the year. Few bands captured the sentiment of a decade like the new wave Fab Five did. Come like, you know, pop your collar and celebrate the '80s in all its totally awesome androgyny and pop-idol fetishes from the British boys who inspired everything from porn to James Bond with hits like “Girls on Film” and “A View to a Kill.” KRISTY LOYE

THE CURE
Toyota Center, May 14
The Cure’s first visit to Houston in six years comes without a whisper of a new album, which should be a real bummer to all those people who came out last time really hoping to hear something off 4:13 Dream. Just kidding. The Cure — who will mark their 40th anniversary in 2017 — really make their fans work at their concerts, because squeezing countless hours of “must-play” material into only two means some pretty tough choices, but some pretty interesting ones, too. Fans take note that one of David Bowie’s longtime sidemen, guitarist Reeves Gabrels, is in the fold this time. CHRIS GRAY

DIXIE CHICKS
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, August 6
The Dixie Chicks could absolutely be forgiven for calling their first full-scale U.S. outing in more than a decade the “I Told You So” tour. Except it’s not the Chicks who need forgiveness so much as it is country music, for turning its back on them, or even George W. himself, for giving Natalie a reason to say something in the first place. Maybe the “Water Under the Bridge” tour would be more appropriate, but it really doesn’t matter. Just be glad they’re back. CHRIS GRAY

ADELE
Toyota Center, November 8 and 9
Because to an intimidatingly large segment of the population, these are the only concerts of 2015 that really matter. A little sad, isn’t it? CHRIS GRAY


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