Here are 10 concerts that rocked the Pittsburgh region in 2022 (2023)

It’s never easy to narrow down a list of anything to the 10 best.

When it comes to putting together a list of the Top 10 musical acts to pass through the Pittsburgh area in 2022, it’s an especially daunting task with the embarrassment of riches we saw this year.

With so many top performers on pause for the previous two years due to the pandemic, the floodgates really opened in 2022, bringing a plethora of superb shows.

The year brought in one of the all-time greats for a grand finale, a former Beatle who looked ready to jump back into his Cuban-heeled Chelsea boots, some legendary bands performing classic albums in their entirety, and a blue-haired dude from Detroit with so much energy he nearly made the Petersen Events Center implode.

We couldn’t get to all the shows and we’re sorry if we’ve left out one or two of your favorites, but here is our list of the top 10 shows that rocked the Pittsburgh area in 2022.

10. America (Palace Theatre, Greensburg, March 11)

It’s hard to believe these dudes have been around for half a century. But sure enough the two surviving core members – singer-songwriters Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Beckley — led a 50th anniversary America concert in March at the Palace in Greensburg that was tight, evocative and joyful. Let’s face it, they have the material to make it work. Songs like “A Horse With No Name,” “Ventura Highway” and “Tin Man” are truly timeless and the way these boys play and harmonize, they sounded as fresh as they did when you were partying in the basement to their records.

Here are 10 concerts that rocked the Pittsburgh region in 2022 (1)

Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review

Billy Joel addresses the audience at PNC Park on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022.

9. Billy Joel (PNC Park, Aug. 11)

When Billy Joel is on tour these days, he likes to joke with his audience. “I don’t have anything new,” he tells them. “We’re gonna do the same old s____.” That’s the way he opened his August show in front of 40,000 at PNC Park and they laughed and cheered in response because that’s the way his fans want it. And that’s exactly what Joel gave them. After opening the concert with familiar tunes such as “My Life” and “Pressure,” Joel wasted little time getting to his first top 10 hit. “Just the Way You Are” was the fourth song of the evening.

What really stood out was Joel’s piano playing. He made it look effortless on so many demanding keyboard-heavy tunes.

The crowd sang along with most of the songs, but overwhelmingly got into “Piano Man.” The patrons were so loud that Joel backed off and let them sing all of the final refrain.

8. Roger Waters (PPG Paints Arena, July 6)

It came as no surprise that singer-songwriter Roger Waters, a founding member of progressive rock band Pink Floyd, set a heavy tone for his tour opening concert at PPG Paints Arena in July.

“The ruling class are murdering you,” he said in an online video. “They are destroying the Earth and everything that lives on it to make a few (bucks). This is not a drill. It’s happening and it’s happening now.”

And so Waters’ “This is Not a Drill” tour was set in motion with overriding messages that included a gargantuan video wall, stretching across almost the entire length of the arena floor, and displaying a constant stream of disturbing images of man’s inhumanity to man. It dominated the proceedings in a way that overshadowed Waters’ band’s performance on stage – live in the round.

There were magnificent versions of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” (Parts VI-IX) and “Sheep,” a song released on the underrated 1977 Pink Floyd album “Animals.” Later came lush performances of “Money,” and then “Us and Them,” “Any Colour You Like,” “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse,” which melted together in an extra-luscious beauty jam session from “The Dark Side of the Moon.”

An artistic behemoth of an evening to say the least.

7. Suzanne Vega (Oaks Theater, April 25)

If Roger Waters’ show could be considered excessive, singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega’s could be called minimalist. And yet, with only guitarist Gerry Leonard accompanying her, Vega proved that only two people can create a great deal of quality sound.

Vega brought “An Intimate Evening of Songs and Stories with Suzanne Vega” to Oakmont on an unusually warm April evening and absolutely delighted her fans with her breezy stage presence and top-tier musicianship. With her breathy voice, as cool as ever, Vega massaged the audience with stylish versions of “Marlene on the Wall,” “Left of Center” and “Luka,” and even seemed to surprise her fans by strutting her stuff with some hip dance steps while performing “Tom’s Diner” in a black top hat. She also threw in one or two covers, including Lou Reed’s “Walk On The Wild Side.” She does them for fun, she said, “Because … why not?”

6. Jon Anderson w/ the Paul Green Rock Academy (Palace Theatre, July 27)

In recent years if you wanted to hear songs by prog rock pioneers Yes played live, you would have had to listen to them without the distinctive voice of the group’s longtime lead singer/songwriter Jon Anderson.

Former bandmates like songwriter/guitarist Steve Howe and Anderson have gone their separate ways and while Anderson told the Tribune-Review he hasn’t given up yet on a Yes reunion, he’s been touring with talented student musicians from the Paul Green Rock Academy, an advanced rock music school in Norwalk, Conn. Together, they performed many of Yes’ consequential songs such as “Roundabout,” “I’ve Seen All Good People” and “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” as well as playing the entire album “Close to the Edge” to celebrate its 50th anniversary at The Palace Theatre in Greensburg in July.

The way Anderson and his teenage collaborators brought the intricately woven tapestry of sound that is “Close to the Edge” to life, including the 18-minute title track, was nothing short of amazing and left the audience awestruck.

5. Jack White (Petersen Events Center, April 14)

Guitar virtuoso Jack White arrived in Pittsburgh in April just after releasing a new album, playing the national anthem before the Detroit Tigers home opener, and kicking off his “Supply Chain Issues Tour” with a show at the Motor City’s Masonic Temple theater, during which he proposed to his girlfriend, singer Olivia Jean, before marrying her during the encore.

Whew! If his fans thought White would be out of gas by the time he got to the Steel City, they were badly mistaken. Appearing none the worse for wear after his wild week, White, with his blue hair matching his guitar, launched into the show at night-train speed with the first three songs of his new album “Fear of the Dawn.”

He kept up the fire-wagon pace by pounding out fan favorites such as the White Stripes’ “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground,” “I Think I Smell a Rat” and “Fell in Love With a Girl,” among others.

And there were Raconteurs songs as well, including of course the seductive “Steady, as She Goes,” winning a close contest for best song of the night.

When it was over, White said, “Thank you Pittsburgh. God bless you and I’ll see you real soon, I hope.”

Pittsburgh hopes so too.

4. The Eagles (PPG Paints Arena, March 27)

In one of the most highly anticipated concerts of the year, The Eagles delivered a three-hour show, including intermission, featuring a full boatload of hit songs filled with luscious five-part harmonies and searing guitar solos.

What better place to start than the dark, spooky and cynical title track of the Eagles’ signature album “Hotel California,” which they played straight through. That alone was worth the price of admission. The packed house bought in from the moment the band — consisting of Don Henley, Joe Walsh (the only members remaining who performed on that seminal album), Vince Gill, Timothy B. Schmit and longtime touring member Steuart Smith — took the stage in dark outfits matching the mood of the album.

With a candelabra flickering in the upper left corner of the stage, a white-haired Henley began singing the opening words of “Hotel California” from behind the drum kit, his voice sounding pristine and just as it had 46 years before, when the song was recorded. Walsh and Smith traded thunder-and-lightning guitar licks during the climax of the tune that might have surpassed those on the recording between Walsh and guitarist Don Felder.

And this was only the start of the evening. So many great moments followed, including mesmerizing harmony on “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and Walsh’s wonderfully quirky singing and driving guitar playing on “In the City.”

In the end, the Eagles fulfilled Henley’s stated wish to provide the fans with a “three-hour vacation from all the chaos and what’s been going on in the world.”

3. Ringo Starr (PPG Paints Arena, Sept. 10)

You know you are in the right spot when you’re with a Beatle.

In September, a PPG Paints Arena crowd was happy to see that famed Beatles drummer Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band finally got to play a Pittsburgh concert that was postponed three times due to the pandemic. The less-than-capacity, multi-generational crowd made up for those empty seats with its enthusiasm. And why should any member of the Fab Four be treated to anything less?

The crowd was fortunate in many respects, not the least of which was that Starr would eventually end up with covid himself, which caused him to cut his tour short.

But Ringo, wearing a black blazer with splashes of red down the front and black pants with red stripes down the sides, neither sounded nor moved like the 82-year-old he is. His trademark deep, warm, throaty voice sounded the way it always has, a little rough around the edges but as strong as ever, especially on up-tempo early Beatles rockers like “Matchbox,” “I Wanna Be Your Man” and “Boys.” The latter is a song he said “I’ve done at every live gig I’ve ever done.”

With Gregg Bissonette drumming by his side, Ringo was able to spend plenty of time front and center at the mic as well as behind his drum kit.

Anyone wanting to hear Beatles songs on which Ringo sang the lead likely did not come away disappointed. He didn’t perform all of them but managed to work in favorites like “Yellow Submarine,” “Octopus’s Garden” and “With a Little Help From My Friends,” which he sang while sometimes jumping up and down with a little boy’s enthusiasm.

Not bad for an octogenarian.

His fans lavished so much love on him that Ringo was moved to say, “Man, what a crowd! I should move here.”

Here are 10 concerts that rocked the Pittsburgh region in 2022 (3)

Paul Guggenheimer | Tribune-Review

Smashing Pumpkins lead singer and guitarist Billy Corgan, at microphone, performs at PPG Paints Arena on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022.

2. Smashing Pumpkins (PPG Paints Arena, Oct. 22)

A scheduled alternative Rock ‘n’ Roll twin bill of epic proportions seemingly lost some of its sizzle when the opening act had to cancel. Jane’s Addiction was set to open for Smashing Pumpkins in October at PPG Paints Arena but a neck injury suffered by lead singer Perry Farrell forced Jane’s to cancel its Pittsburgh appearance. It left plenty of fans disappointed and some decided to leave. But those who stuck around for the Pumpkins were rewarded by a smashing performance that pretty much made up for the loss.

Smashing Pumpkins have been around for more than three decades but they are much more than a nostalgia act and sounded as good as, if not better than, ever.

Lead singer/guitarist Billy Corgan sang tunes from their forthcoming three-part rock opera “ATUM” but really got the crowd going with blistering versions of songs like “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” and “Today.”

The band never went too long without turning up the heat, going early in their set to a searing version of 2018’s “Solara,” which featured an epic drum solo by Jimmy Chamberlain that dominated the tune in a good way. Chamberlain was one of the original members who had rejoined the group along with guitarist James Iha. Together they made the Pumpkins glow like jack-o’-lanterns in that week before Halloween show.

Corgan and Iha combined to produce perhaps the highlight of the show, an acoustic version of “Tonight, Tonight,” which Corgan dedicated to the “Pittsburgh fans in attendance.”

Here are 10 concerts that rocked the Pittsburgh region in 2022 (4)

Shane Dunlap | Tribune-Review

Elton John performs his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour at PNC Park in Pittsburgh on Friday, Sept. 16, 2022.

1. Elton John (PNC Park, Sept. 16)

This wasn’t the first time that Elton John was saying goodbye to Pittsburgh. When he played PPG Paints Arena in November 2019, he told the crowd it was his last Pittsburgh show. But this time he apparently meant it and there were few dry eyes in the house at PNC Park on a beautiful, magical September evening.

John brought his “Farewell Yellow Brick Road: The Final Tour” to PNC Park on a moonlit Friday night.

“It’s our last time in Pennsylvania, so we’ve got to make it special,” John said.

He did.

John began the show with a funky, high-energy version of “Bennie and the Jets,” featuring extra-fancy piano flourishes that had the 40,000 fans hooting and hollering. The song set the tone for the evening and the fans in the front rows never sat down.

The entire band performed brilliantly and tightly, including John’s longtime drummer Nigel Olsson. As the show went on, it seemed John knew it would be his last in Pittsburgh and he nearly wore himself out getting up from his piano between almost every song to acknowledge his cheering Yinzer fans.

The highlight of the show was “Funeral for a Friend/Loves Lies Bleeding.” With the lights down, John’s piano was moved (with the help of hydraulics) from the center to the right side of the stage. After a wardrobe change, he then appeared back at the piano as it glided back into position, playing those familiar, sweetly somber notes before picking up the tempo and turning the song into the exotic Latin-flavored dance number that morphs into the passion rocker “Love Lies Bleeding.”

John sounded like he did in his prime as he belted it out. All those in attendance can count themselves as fortunate to have witnessed it, likely for the last time.

He closed the show with “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” the song that made a lot of music fans realize just how special Elton John is. And he bowed out as one of the all-time great entertainers.

After leaving the stage, a video popped up on the screen showing John walking through a door and away on, what else, a yellow brick road of course.

Other big shows

Though this reporter did not review these concerts, Tribune-Review writers attended.

Metallica - (PNC Park, Pittsburgh — Aug. 14)

Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Joan Jett(PNC Park, Aug. 12)


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