Red Rocks hosted the last concerts of its regular concert series a little over a week ago, signaling the official end of the summer concert season in Colorado. This week on the Backbeat blog, we're looking back at some of our favorite shows of 2014's warmest months. Note that we didn't include any festivals and that, as always, these things are of course subject to various whims and coincidences. Let us know your favorites in the comments!
Nas at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, June 19 Nas's presence at Red Rocks was pure magic -- the man was on. His delivery was incredible; rhymes laced over his tracks with perfect balance. He gave much love to Michael Jackson before performing the "Human Nature"-sampling "It Ain't Hard to Tell," then let the crowd take Ms. Lauryn Hill's verses on "If I Ruled the World." The audience was in heaven. The rapper found a way to bring just the right amount of banter to a set that, while packed with hits, felt way too short. -- Bree Davies
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at the Buell Theatre, June 24 When Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds went into "Stagger Lee" from the 1996 album Murder Ballads, it was an iconic moment of an evening of music in which the band took the tradition of American folk mythology and breathed into it a larger-than-life electricity. Cave brought raging emotional intensity and dynamic outbursts, whispered statements from the devil and the seductions and outrageously compelling swaggering assertions of Stagger Lee himself. He strode well into the seating area on the first tier of the theater, standing on the backs of chairs, supported by fans. He became one of us, while effectively embodying various archetypes and reminding us that we're part of those, too. --Tom Murphy
Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden at Red Rocks, July 21 It would be easy to dismiss a show like this as something aging fans of '90s alternative rock take their kids to. But Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden still have plenty of intellect and challenging music.
What the show proved is that bands that slightly pre-date the alternative rock era and continued through its eras collapse still have an enthusiastic audience. They can also still produce new work that pushes their existing artistic boundaries. --TM
Great White at Buffalo Rose, July 26 There were no gimmicks at the Buffalo Rose, beyond some rock theater, and none were needed. Great White, of all bands, gave us a startlingly strong rock and roll show, the likes of which isn't often seen these days. --TM
Pretty Lights at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, August 9 and 10 During Pretty Lights' sold-out two-night stand at Red Rocks, members of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra joined him for the last of three sets. The first set was a solo one, the second with a live band. Then nine violinists, three cellists and an upright bassist from the CSO joined Pretty Lights for a two-hour finale. The string section brought unprecedented depth, filling out the spaces in between harmonies and melodies. -- Mary Willson
Jack White at Red Rocks, August 20\ About twenty minutes before Jack White took the stage at Red Rocks, a hard rain started falling and lightning flashed to the east. Fog machines on the stage were fired up and the wind was blowing the haze, tinted hues of blue from the stage lights, around. For a moment it looked the Do Lung Bridge scene in Apocalypse Now. But instead of Randy Hansen's Hendrixian guitar work as the score, Pete Rock's "I Got a Love" was pumping on Red Rocks house system. Hell, the whole scene seemed a bit surreal, and the show hadn't even started yet. -- Jon Solomon
OutKast at Fiddler's Green Amphitheatre, August 22 The curtain dropped a little past 9:30 to reveal Big Boi and André 3000 inside a massive box at the center of the stage. They started with "B.O.B.," a song that has lost exactly none of its urgency in the fourteen years since it was released, and it just got better from there. You're certainly entitled to your opinion here, but for me the best song of the night was "The Whole World," with a crowd of thousands there to sing gleefully along to that immortal chorus about our mean-ass society and Killer Mike on hand to deliver his thesis statement on the power of the English language. -- Kiernan Maletsky
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Future Islands at the Gothic Theatre, August 27 The way Sam Herring moves on stage can be frightening. One minute he's slashing at the air with a balled-up fist, the next he's pounding that fist into his chest with brute force. He crawls across the stage on his knees, sweating and wailing in frustration, but then he'll look up and into your eyes momentarily, and suddenly, he becomes a person you want to know. The Future Islands show at the Gothic may have been the band's best-ever performance in Colorado to date, led by Herring's ability to express the most real and raw emotions one human can pass along to a room full of hundreds of strangers. -- BD
Rubedo at the hi-dive, September 12 The poster and fliers for Rubedo's show at the hi-dive featured the trio as comic-strip space explorers, holding laser guns. The fliers came with bags of crystals, and the Facebook page for the event encouraged people to bring the crystals to the show. They were both part of the theme of the evening, which band manager Annie Geimer described as "'70s retro space-apocalyptic. We're launching off." -- Gina Tron