The year was just getting started when the world shut down. There were so many concerts to be excited about this year. Some artists will surely come back soon. BTS has a lot riding on its first stadium trek across the world; so does Billie Eilish for her first arena tour. Taylor Swift released a second album since she last hit the road.
But there are others for whom we’re still holding our breath. What if Rage Against the Machine or My Chemical Romance break up yet again before the pandemic ends? And some of these artists aren’t getting any younger.
With that in mind, we present the shows we’re mourning. What’s your list? Let us know in the comments.
Photographer Adam Pardee: Outside Lands and BottleRock Napa
(May, August, October and May 2021)
Outside Lands is one of my favorite festivals and always has good acts. It’s run for more than a decade without a disruption, until now. It’s definitely the event of the year for Bay Area music lovers. On the other hand, I’ve never been to BottleRock, and I was set to be RIFF’s primary photographer this year. It was postponed and then canceled this year, and now it’s been postponed in 2021 as well. Between the two of these fests, we lost performances by the Chili Peppers, Steve Nicks, Miley Cyrus, Lizzo and so many more.
Editor Chloe Catajan: My Chemical Romance at Oakland Arena
I’ve loved My Chemical Romance since my early days of preteen angst. I started listening to MCR in the fourth grade after watching the video for “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” on MTV. I pissed off my extended family every time I wore my MCR shirt that read, “The devil has a place for you and me.” However, I’ve never been to a show, so 2020 was going to be the time to change that! Over and over again. I secured a ticket to the Oakland show. I also had a trip to Tokyo booked that would have taken place at the same time as Download Festival, so I thought, “Why not buy tickets for that, too?” Then there were performances in L.A. and in Sacramento. I’ll see outdated calendar reminders for these postponed shows every now and then and get bummed. I can’t wait for the day I get to be in a crowd again, singing along until my voice gives out.
Reporter Mike DeWald: Billie Eilish at Chase Center
Few career trajectories were disrupted quite like that of Billie Eilish. The 18-year-old was on top of the world before the pandemic hit. Eilish had headlined festivals, but this would have been her first national arena tour. Tickets were lapped up in short order, a tall task for just about any artist these days. Eilish’s show was also set to be one of the top draws at San Francisco’s Chase Center, which saw a number of top artists visit during its inaugural year—and a lot more postponed. Eilish hasn’t lost any steam since March, so her tour will be even more anticipated.
Editor Daniel J. Willis: Rage Against the Machine and Run The Jewels at Oakland Arena
Back when Rage Against the Machine originally announced its show at Oakland Arena (and the rest of its tour), it was a momentous occasion. The band hardly ever reunites, after all. Opener Run the Jewels was nearly as impressive. Since last winter, everything Rage Against the Machine said in the ‘90s has been reinforced and then some; 2020 has conclusively proven that work forces absolutely are the same that burn crosses. And Run the Jewels has since released the best album of 2020. To say I wish I could have seen this one is a bit of an understatement.
Photographer Adam Pardee: Tame Impala at Chase Center
(March 13, and then Sept. 21)
I’m a big fan of Tame Impala, and I have never seen them live, so the opportunity to snap some photos of them in a big arena was really appealing. I’ve only been inside Chase Center once, so any opportunity to get back in there would have been really exciting. So many canceled Chase Center shows…
Photographer Sean Liming: Metallica at Aftershock Fest in Sacramento
California’s largest rock festival was set to have heads start headbanging only to postpone to 2021—granted, with even more bands. Metallica was going to headline not one but two nights. It’s true that NorCal gets more Metallica than anyone else, but it’s OK to be greedy! Add another 50 acts and 60,000 happy people. That’s the show I miss most.
Critic Tony Hicks: Guns N’ Roses at Oracle Park
It’s easy to shudder now at the thought of a stadium full of sweaty, drunk adults trying to see over each other now, but the last time GNR did a summer evening there, it was pretty glorious. Stop touring on those three records, and make some new music, fellas. We know you’ve been sitting around for most of the past year. No excuses.
Writer Rachel Goodman: The Airborne Toxic Event with the San Francisco Symphony at Davies Symphony Hall
The Airborne Toxic Event was destined to perform with the Symphony. The dark, anthemic “Sometime Around Midnight” lends itself well to a symphonic collaboration. The band also had a new album, Hollywood Park, that would have gotten a fantastic arrangement. And this was supposed to be the last night of the tour.
Writer David Gill: Bob Dylan and Nathaniel Rateliff at the Greek in Berkeley
Seeing Bob Dylan on a cool summer evening in Berkeley, with the smell of legal weed in the air and blankets spread out on the grass at the beautiful Greek Theatre? Well, it would have been nice. Dylan seems to really be growing into his gruffness, and Nathaniel Rateliff is rocketing to fame by delivering the same kind of earnest intensity Dylan delivered on his ascent.
Editor Chloe Catajan: Mew at The Independent
Mew is one of my favorite bands of all time and an act I will literally travel the world to see! The first time happened somewhat by chance, but it’s also partially because they rarely play Stateside. I was thrilled when they announced a date at The Independent for the 15th anniversary of And The Glass Handed Kites. It’s a glorious album where all 14 songs transition into one another, and it would have been epic to witness live. I also intended to see their show in London while on a business trip. For now, listening to Mew during quarantine gives me a much-needed serotonin boost, but I truly long to see them in person.
Photographer Steve Carlson: The Killers at Chase Center (Aug. 25)
This was a show that would’ve been worth seeing even without a camera in hand. Although half the original members don’t tour anymore, you can never count out the dynamic duo of Brandon Flowers and drummer Ronnie Vannucci, Jr. Their latest LP, Imploding The Mirage, might be their best since Sam’s Town, making this a compelling show I hope will come back in 2021.
Reporter Mike DeWald: Taylor Swift at SoFi Stadium (L.A.)
(July 25 and 26)
Before folklore was even a glimmer in Taylor Swift’s eye, it was all about Lover. The summer spectacle of an album was meant to be heard in a stadium setting, which was exactly what Swift had in mind. Rather than a tour, Swift opted for “Lover Fest” a two-night festival for each coast. Lover Fest West was supposed to be the first event at L.A.’s SoFi Stadium, with surprise guests and whatever else Swift had cooked up. The upside? It hasn’t officially been canceled, just TBD. That vaccine had better work!
Editor Roman Gokhman: Roger Waters at Chase Center
I’ve never, ever seen either Pink Floyd or Roger Waters perform. But I’ve heard the stories about his breathtaking production and heart-racing musicality. He’s been at it for more than 50 years, and the “This Is Not A Drill” tour promised to be big in scope—literally; he promised it. So now I hope that he stays healthy, I stay healthy and that his publicists stay healthy to help me out when the time comes.
Critic Tony Hicks: Pearl Jam at Oakland Arena
This one was just sad. With a very good new record on which to tour, Pearl Jam should’ve been a great excuse for some of us to get out the flannels and Doc Martens and remember the ‘90s for an evening. This should’ve been a big year for them.
Editor Roman Gokhman: BTS at Levi’s Stadium
I’m no K-pop stan, but the genre’s been growing on me as I’ve been learning more about it. I caught a couple of arena shows by hot up-and-comers, but really had my sights set on a stadium full of people, waving their lightsticks and screaming at glass-shattering levels to the group—BTS—to which all other groups pay dues in the U.S. The people-watching alone would have been worth it. At least BTS has been busy making plenty of TV appearances this year.
Writer Rachel Goodman: Supergrass at Webster Hall (New York), (April 8)
Ten years after Supergrass split up, the band announced a two-city reunion arrangement. Coinciding with Supergrass’ 25th anniversary, it was going to be a celebration of debut album, I Should Coco. I couldn’t wait to feel their energy and hear the blistering guitars on “Caught By The Fuzz.”
Writer David Gill: Kraftwerk 3-D at Bill Graham Civic
One does not become a true operator of their pocket calculator until they can say they’ve witnessed these German progenitors of electronic music and their technotastic stage show. Robotic choreography against a backdrop of computer graphics and stark color combinations would’ve no doubt added to the once-in-a-lifetime show’s “touch my monkey” vibe.
Photographer Joaquin Cabello: Riot Fest in Chicago
I’m a former punk kid, and Riot Fest is an event I want to attend each year. It’s home to punk legends, emo revival bands and your best chance to see a bunch of bands that only appear in the “alternative” section of the record store. My Chemical Romance was headlining! The “emo is not a phase, mom!” Joaquin would never forgive me for missing this lineup. At least not going wasn’t my fault, this time.
Writer Alex Baechle: Mudhoney and Meat Puppets at the Fillmore
In an epic combination of two of grunge’s longest-running acts, Mudhoney and Meat Puppets were scheduled for a one-week tour in mid-May, kicking off at the Fillmore. For those of us who remember the 1990s and still identify with laconic, stoney mud-monsters, having to miss this show due to COVID-19 cancelations was a major bummer.
Critic Tony Hicks: Bad Religion at Great American Music Hall
The Great American is one of the best places to see a show in the Bay Area, and it would’ve been fun to hear the political punkers in Bad Religion complain about 2020. They were having a bit of a resurgence with 2019’s The Age of Unreason. Plus they’re not getting any younger. Or maybe that’s the rest of us.
Writer David Gill: Einsturzende Neubaten at the Fillmore
I saw the pioneering German industrial band once in the ‘90s. Its live performances are rare and often have to wait out statutes of limitation on cases of arson or sawing a stage in half at previous shows. When I saw them, percussionist F.M. Einheit “played” a shopping cart filled with metal chains and microphones by shaking the whole thing vigorously. Hard to believe, but, honest to God, it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard.
Photographer Joaquin Cabello: Sound and Fury at Ventura County Fairgrounds
The place where the entire hardcore community gathers at least once a year, Sound and Fury consists of band reunions, moshpits and plenty of stagediving. I went last year as a fan and was determined to photograph it this year. It would have been everything I needed in a concert—all in one place. The lineup included Absence of Mine, Angel Du$t, Anxious, as well as RIFF favorites like Touché Amoré and Wicca Phase Springs Eternal. Now we don’t know if it will return.