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The Tulsa World's picks for best concerts of the year

Published: 12.20.16
Thousands of musicians performed across Tulsa this year, and while it's difficult to make it to all of them, it's even harder to narrow down the best shows out of the ones I was able to attend.

Here, chronologically, are the best shows that came through Tulsa in 2016, from pop superstars performing for the first time in Oklahoma (Madonna) to Tulsa natives bringing their talents back home to Cain's Ballroom (Vince Gill and the Time Jumpers) and Brady Theater (Ben Rector).

• Madonna performed her Rebel Heart Tour concert at the BOK Center on Jan. 14.

With Madonna's array of hit songs and dazzling live show, her first time in Oklahoma was worth the wait.

• Pop singer Carly Rae Jepsen performed March 7 at Cain's Ballroom.

What makes Jepsen stand out is her ability to elicit emotion while keeping the music fun and exciting. I haven't danced that much at a concert in a long time.

• The Hanson brothers brought together many great acts for Hop Jam in the Brady Arts District on May 22.

The Hop Jam's third year showed that Hanson is in its groove now with this beer and music festival, with top-notch acts like Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Albert Hammond Jr., John Moreland and several more local acts tearing up the stage. It's now a hallmark event in Tulsa, and I can't wait for 2017.

• Leon Bridges performed at Cain's Ballroom on May 23.

Old-school charm and style put Bridges above the top with a stirring performance fit for Cain's.

• The Time Jumpers performed at Cain's Ballroom on July 21.

Hearing western swing music at Cain's Ballroom - the venue where the style originated - is always a treat, but with talented members of The Time Jumpers, including Oklahomans Vince Gill and Kenny Sears, it'll have you dancing under the neon star.

• Dolly Parton came to the BOK Center on Aug. 12.

She has some of country music's most iconic songs and she's hilarious - few people perform with the energy that Parton has. Oh, and she plays at least a dozen different instruments. That's hard to beat.
• Tulsa native Ben Rector performed in front of a sold-out crowd at Cain's Ballroom on Oct. 6.

Standing up and dancing throughout this upbeat pop set, especially with Rector feeling the hometown love, was exciting.

• Kris Kristofferson, recipient of the Woody Guthrie Prize, sang at Cain's Ballroom on Oct. 18.

Several musicians took the stage to play Kristofferson songs during the presentation of the prize from the Woody Guthrie Center, but it was when Kristofferson took the stage for several songs that brought the crowd to tears.

• Bob Dylan played Brady Theater on Oct. 23.

Dylan doesn't talk much during his shows, and he doesn't have to. With the stellar performance he put on at the Brady Theater in October and the crowd's enthusiastic reaction, it's clear his archives found the right home.

• Black Sabbath's The End Tour stopped at the BOK Center on Nov. 8.

It's great to see rock acts hang up the guitar when they are at the top of their game, and Black Sabbath did just that with a soaring, screaming performance fans wanted to see.

• Leon Russell tribute concert was held Dec. 15 at Cain's Ballroom.

This wasn't just one of the best concerts of the year, it was one of the best shows I've ever seen. Three and a half hours of music from those who played with the Tulsa music legend and those who were inspired by him performed with passion and emotion that was palpable.

-Jerry Wofford, Tulsa World Scene

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