Top 2021 Live Shows: Finneas, Gracie Abrams, JP Saxe, Alexander 23, Jeremy Zucker
Fall of 2021 marked the return of live music finally, and even though its future is looking more precarious than ever, I wanted to reflect on the amazing shows I got to see over the past semester and bask in their glow for a little longer. I was extremely lucky to get to see ten different concerts in the last few months thanks to masking and vaccination, and I've written concert memories or reviews for other outlets for (almost) all of them (sorry Bleachers!). If you want to see the overview, check out the concerts tab on the homepage of the blog for links to all the articles!
I also just wanted to say before we get into the list that every single show I saw featured amazing performances and incredible experiences I'll never forget. I cherish all of these memories, and this list or different rankings isn't at all meant to take away from any of the artists' performances. It's more of a way for me to go down memory lane with my particular experiences from the atmosphere to the friends to the venue and the performances that all combined together.
Finneas was in my Top 3 of must see artists on my concerts bucket list, so I'm really glad I got to check that off as one of my last shows of the year. I saw Finneas at Night 2 at The Wiltern in Los Angeles. I was second row in the pit and was absolutely shocked at how close I was to the stage, especially since my spot was centered right in front of his mic stand. It was absolutely surreal to see nearly all of my favorite Finneas songs from Blood Harmony and Optimist live in a pretty intimate setting.
This show comes in towards the bottom of the list mostly for choices entirely out of Finneas's control. The Wiltern doesn't have the best sound, and the security was super rude to everyone in the pit which put a bit of a damper on the night. With no preshow playlist (just strange rainforest sounds) to lighten the mood again, it was a long wait for Finneas to take the stage and turn the night around. Still, I walked away from the show absolutely in awe of Finneas's showmanship and performance skills.
JP's show was a landmark one since it was the first that I had meet and greet for post-pandemic. While distanced meet and greets filled with an abundance of both logical and nonsensical rules is probably not worth the extra cost, I did still have a great time at this show, and it was surreal to see JP play a mini acoustic set for a handful of us on the roof of the Fonda. When doors opened, my friend was able to make it through the crowd to watch the concert with me, and we had a great time rocking out to JP's pre-show playlist. JP is such a genuine guy that it comes through in his performance, and he cultivates a feeling of everyone being part of the show. In LA, we got two special guests, one of which was Julia Michaels. Julia's Inner Monologue tour was the reason I started this blog and was the concert that made me fall in love smaller shows, so it was surreal to get to see her perform again when they duetted "If The World Was Ending" during the encore.
Another major highlight of this show was that it introduced me to Amy Allen as an artist. I already respected her so much as a songwriter, but her set made me realize how much I love her solo music too. My friend and I both walked away from that night as Amy Allen fans a well, and if everything goes to plan, I'll get to see one of her first headline shows in January.
I went into this show with absolutely no clue what to expect. I impulsively bought this ticket even though I was supposed to go to Finneas Night 1 that night. While I had both of Jeremy's albums on loop all year, I'd never seen any of his videos or followed him that closely on social media, which is rare for me. It was fun to get to go with no preconceived notions. I stood against the balcony to the pit, and from the very start the energy in the crowd was incredible. While I wasn't the biggest fan of the first opener, Valley Boy, the second opener, Del Water Gap, absolutely blew me away. Their music belongs in an indie movie.
The second Jeremy took the stage, everything got even more electric. His energy is absolutely incredible, and that crowd was the most engaged yet respectful group I witnessed all year. They were jumping and singing and waving their arms, and Jeremy was feeding off of all of it. The icing on the cake was Alexander 23 coming out for the debut live performance of their song "Nothing's The Same". After that show, I bought the last signed poster of the night and tacked it up over my bed because I knew it was a night I didn't want to forget.
Gracie's show was definitely my most anticipated of the year. It was the show that I sat out for the longest (I got to the venue at 2pm), and it truly embodied everything I love about concerts. I went alone but quickly made friend with the girls in line both in front of and behind me who I wound up running into again multiple times over the next few months. We kept each other company, shared snacks, and did our best to save our phone batteries during the wait, and the time absolutely flew by.
The Roxy was by far one of my favorite venues, and I managed to get a spot right against the stage. Gracie is so genuine and sweet, and she exudes that energy on stage. She's extremely talented, and everyone there was having such a great time. Gracie ended every song with armfuls of gifts - letters, notes, bracelets, stuffed animals. She also would take Polaroid and disposable cameras to take selfies with fans during the show. At the end, she even leaned all the way into the audience to give us a hug as the final night of tour wrapped up. I've never seen an artist so deeply engaged with their fans, and it was so heartwarming to experience firsthand. I'm so excited to see her career keep growing. This one left us all with a deep post-concert depression.
These two shows have set an extremely high bar for future concerts. It had every element of what makes an absolutely perfect show. I met up with a couple friends from Twitter, and we got to spend the abundance of downtime that comes with every show getting to know each other better which is always more fun. Alexander had an incredible preshow playlists that the entire audience was already dancing to before the opener even took the stage. I had no clue what to expect from his live performances since many of his songs are so chill, but he is an absolute rockstar on-stage. I also love the Alexander wants to connect with his fans so much. He came out before the show at Night 1 and gave the girls in front of us in line signed Polaroids and also met fans after the show outside the venue where he was incredibly generous with his time. It was just as flawless and fun the second time around- potentially more so. When Alexander asked me after the second show which one I liked better while he signed my vinyl for me, I think I picked night 2.