It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Unless, of course, you’re really into seeing concerts, in which case the holiday season can feel a bit slow.
A few of this month’s highlights are, in fact, Christmas-related or we might have even fewer opportunities to see live music.
Having said that, December gets off to a really good start with an action-packed weekend whose highlights range from ZZ Top to a cool new festival in downtown Phoenix topped by Beach House, Portugal. The Man and Bleachers.
And it finishes strong with a two-day blowout for the EDM crowd at the Valley’s biggest New Years bash, Decadence Arizona.
Here’s a look at those and other concert highlights for December 2022 in metro Phoenix.
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If you like your punk rock on the silly side, this is the supergroup for you. They put a humorous punk spin on unlikely covers, from the John Denver songs on the single that introduced them to an unsuspecting world in 1995 to “Are We Not Men? We Are Diva!,” an album of songs originally by divas, from Celine Dion to Cher. They’re playing Tempe on their I’ll Be Home For Christmas… Maybe Tour with El Vez, the Mexican Elvis (also not a very serious performer).
Details: 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1. Marquee Theatre, 730 N. Mill Ave., Tempe. $23. 480-829-0607, luckymanonline.com.
It wasn’t long after returning from an unplanned 16-month hiatus due to COVID-19 protocols that ZZ Top suffered a far more devastating loss — the death of founding bassist Dusty Hill. But they were back on stage with a replacement two days later. ZZ Top took their place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.
Details: 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2. The Pool at Talking Stick Resort, Loop 101 and Pima Road, Salt River Reservation. $35 and up. 480-850-7734, talkingstickresort.com.
Playlist:15 best ZZ Top songs, from ‘La Grange’ to ‘Breakaway’
When Phantom Planet resurfaced with their first new music in more than a decade, 2020’s “Devastator,” it was kind of amazing how little their sound had evolved from the bittersweet ’70s pop sensibilities that made their 1998 debut, “Phantom Planet Is Missing,” such a charming introduction. That’s no dig. Few bands have done a more compelling job of channeling the golden age of power pop in recent memory. This is a Zona Nights event tied to the new Zona Music Festival.
Details: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2. Valley Bar, 130 N. Central Ave., Phoenix. $20. valleybarphx.com.
Sean Bonnette couldn’t shake how he felt about life in our troubled political climate as the singer-guitarist started work on the Phoenix folk-punk legends’ latest album, “Good Luck Everybody.” So he ran with it. On the Dylanesque “Normalization Blues,” he sings of a public divided by an Orwellian plot against the truth. It can get a bit dark, but that darkness is frequently filtered through a darkly comic sense of the absurd and occasional glimmers of something almost hopeful. This is a Zona Nights event with Veronica Everheart opening.
Details: 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2. Crescent Ballroom, 308 N. Second Ave., Phoenix. $23. 602-716-2222, crescentphx.com.
Mike Ness formed and fronted the earliest version of Social Distortion in 1978, keeping the name at least somewhat alive through lineup changes, breakups and the death of longtime member Dennis Danell at the turn of the century. But as they proved conclusively on 2011’s “Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes,” their first album since 2004, they still sound like Social D, filtering California punk through old-school rock ‘n’ roll, the New York Dolls and Johnny Cash.
Details: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 2-3. Marquee Theatre, 730 N. Mill Ave., Tempe. Sold out. 480-829-0607, luckymanonline.com.
Interview:Mike Ness reflects on Social Distortion’s major-label breakthrough
Yung Gravy went viral on the strength of “Continental Breakfast,” which earned more than a million streams on Soundcloud, following through with his first platinum single, “Mr. Clean.” This year brought his first Top 40 entry on the Billboard Hot 100, “Betty (Get Money).” He’s joined on this tour by his frequent collaborator bbno$.
Details: 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3. Arizona Financial Theatre, 400 W. Washington St., Phoenix. $29.50 and up. 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com.
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Alice Cooper will be joined by Sammy Hagar, Rob Zombie, Gin Blossoms, SIXWIRE, Wally Palmar of The Romantics and comedian Jim Breuer at his 20th annual Christmas Pudding fundraiser. Proceeds benefit the free music, dance, arts and vocational programs for youths age 12-20 at Alice Cooper’s Solid Rock Teen Centers.
Details: 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3. Celebrity Theatre, 440 N. 32nd St., Phoenix. Sold out. 602-267-1600, celebritytheatre.com.
More:What was Alice Cooper like in high school? Friends and bandmates share their stories
The indie-rock legends arrive on a tour celebrating the 25th anniversary of the “The Lonesome Crowded West,” a career-defining album produced by Calvin Johnson of Beat Happening that finished 29th on Pitchfork’s list of the 100 greatest albums of the ’90s. They’re touring as they did behind the initial release, going out as a four-piece with original members Isaac Brock and Jeremiah Green joined by Russell Higbee and Simon O’Connor.
Details: 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3. The Van Buren, 401 W. Van Buren St., Phoenix. Verified resale ticket prices vary. 866-468-3399, thevanburenphx.com.
This soul singer launched his recording career with a single called “Bewildered” as a teen in 1969. And he’s had more than 50 years of experience to draw on since that first recording session, which may help explain the intensely emotional tour de force he manages on “Sentimental Fool,” his first release on Daptone Records. It’s produced by Daptone founder Bosco Mann with an unerring knack for channeling the essence of the golden age of soul.
Details: 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3. Crescent Ballroom, 308 N. Second Ave., Phoenix. $28. 602-716-2222, crescentphx.com.
The inaugural event is the closest anyone has come to capturing the magic of the late lamented Viva PHX music festival. There are headlining sets by Beach House, Portugal. The Man, Bleachers, Tegan and Sara, and Japanese Breakfast, with stellar support from Bartees Strange, Chicano Batman, Waxahatchee, Playboy Manbaby, Upsahl and more.
Details: 12:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 3-4. Margaret T. Hance Park, 1218 N. Second St., Phoenix. $89 a day; $175 for a weekend pass. zonamusicfest.com.
More:The new music festival downtown Phoenix needed: Everything you need to know about Zona
Under the Mistletoe has been a holiday staple for Power 98.3 and 96.1 for several years, bringing some of the biggest names in R&B to the Valley, from Miguel to H.E.R. The lineup for their first show back since COVID-19 features Nelly, Ashanti, Ja Rule, Lil Jon, Ma$e and Ying Yang Twins.
Details: 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4. Desert Diamond Arena (formerly Gila River Arena), 9400 W. Maryland Ave., Glendale. $124 and up. 623-772-3800, ticketmaster.com.
After its first year off the road in more than 20 years, these seasonal progressive rockers made a triumphant return in 2021 with a 25th anniversary celebration of Christmas Eve and Other Stories. For 2022, they’ve updated “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve.”
Details: 3 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4. Footprint Center, 201 E. Jefferson St., Phoenix. $59.50 and up. 602-379-7800, ticketmaster.com.
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He rose to fame in the early ’60s as the singer at the helm of the Four Seasons. But Valli is hotter than he’s been in decades thanks to the success of “Jersey Boys,” the Tony-winning musical that chronicles the life and times of Valli and his group. His hits include “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”
Details: 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4. ASU Gammage, Mill Avenue and Apache Boulevard, Tempe. $49-$179. Resale ticket prices vary. 480-965-3434, asugammage.com.
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These Swedish metal veterans started in the early ‘90s on more of a death-metal trip, their debut including such throat-shredding highlights as “Tomb of Insomnia” and “Gateways of Bereavement.” But their sonic assault has evolved into something far more nuanced, even atmospheric, through the years, as beautifully captured on their latest album, 2020’s “City Burials.”
Details: 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4. The Nile, 105 W. Main St., Mesa. $30. 480-559-5859, eventbrite.com.
These Pittsburgh punks have been smashing the state in song for more than two decades now, rallying like-minded punks on the strength of such pivotal early releases as “Die for Your Government” and “A New Kind of Army.” You can sample the catalog on “A Document of Dissent: 1993-2013,” a powerful overview that hit the streets in mid-2014. Or check out their latest political broadsides on 2020’s seething “20/20 Vision,” which opens with a sample of Donald Trump encouraging violence against protestors as an introduction to “Hate Conquers All.”
Details: 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4. Crescent Ballroom, 308 N. Second Ave., Phoenix. $22. 602-716-2222, crescentphx.com.
The contemporary Christian music network has rounded up a number of biggest stars for this year’s Christmas tour, which features sets by Matt Maher, Jordan St. Cyr, Katy Nichole, Mac Powell, Josh Baldwin and Blanca.
Details: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 6. Arizona Financial Theatre, 400 W. Washington St., Phoenix. $34.25 and up. 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com.
Jakob Dylan is touring the States in continued support of “Exit Wounds,” the first Wallflowers album in nearly a decade. You could call it a return to form (because it is), but Mojo took it one step further, proclaiming it the singer’s “best original work by some yards.” One thing’s for certain. There’s no reason to believe he’s singing to himself when he opens the album with a rootsy ballad called “Maybe Your Heart’s Not in it Anymore.”
Details: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 6. Marquee Theatre, 730 N. Mill Ave., Tempe. $67.50. 480-829-0607, luckymanonline.com.
These Toronto punks bring the noise with a pulsating post-punk intensity that feels as cathartic as ever on “Atlas Vending,” their electrifying fourth release. But they’ve also expanded the scope of their sound, from the tension they build on their way to the inevitable explosion of “Pulse” to the haunting harmonies that offset the pile-driving forward momentum of “Blind Youth Industrial Park.” They’re on tour celebrating their 10th anniversary.
Details: 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 7. Valley Bar, 130 N. Central Ave., Phoenix. $12.50. valleybarphx.com.
Tate rose to fame at the helm of progressive-metal legends Queensryche, whose landmark concept album “Operation: Mindcrime” was certified platinum in 1991. By that point, they’d conquered the mainstream with a Top 10 power ballad called “Silent Lucidity” from an album that remains their biggest seller, 1990’s “Empire.”
Details: 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9. Celebrity Theatre, 440 N. 32nd St., Phoenix. $25-$65. 602-267-1600, celebritytheatre.com.
The Mavericks’ Very Merry Christmas Tour with special guest JD McPherson will feature selections from both artists’ holiday albums. The Mavericks’ “Hey! Merry Christmas!” is a brilliant blend of eight originals in their group’s distinctive style plus two yuletide standards; “Happy Holiday” and a very soulful “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).”
Details: 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9. Talking Stick Resort, Loop 101 and Pima Road, Salt River Reservation. $30. 480-850-7734, talkingstickresort.com.
Coming off a three-year hiatus, the formerly local Latin pop sensation brings her much-anticipated Pa Luego Es Tarde Tour to town in support of a very personal new project that reconnects her with her Norteño roots, produced by famed regional Mexican singer-songwriter and producer Edén Muñoz.
Details: 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10. Arizona Financial Theatre, 400 W. Washington St., Phoenix. $49 and up. 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com.
These alt-metal veterans are touring “Heavy Pendulum,” an aptly titled show of force that more than lives up to their legacy, blurring the lines between stoner-rock, space-rock, thrash and doom along the way. It’s their first full studio recording in more than a decade, following “Final Transmission,” an album of practice-space demos recorded with bassist Caleb Scofield, who died in a car accident in 2018. They’re joined on bass by Converge’s Nate Newton.
Details: 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10. The Nile Theater, 105 W. Main St., Mesa. $22. 480-559-5859, theniletheater.com/shows.
There’s a widescreen sense of grandeur to the brand of indie-rock Wild Pink indulge in on their latest effort, “ILYSM,” that’s sure to speak directly to the heart of anyone who’s ever raised a light to the War on Drugs. It feels like music meant to overwhelm the senses while also resonating on a very human scale. And yet, it represents a scaling down of the sound they managed on “A Billion Little Lights,” this album’s equally consuming precursor.
Details: 7:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 12. Valley Bar, 130 N. Central Ave., Phoenix. $16. valleybarphx.com.
The rapper whose biggest hit remains his triple-platinum breakthrough “Heart on Ice,” which went viral on YouTube and TikTok, is touring on “Beautiful Mind,” his second album in two years to top the Billboard charts. He’s joined by Toosii and Mariah the Scientist.
Details: 8 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13. Desert Diamond Arena (formerly Gila River Arena), 9400 W. Maryland Ave., Glendale. $30 and up. 623-772-3800, ticketmaster.com.
These dream-pop revivalists topped the Alternative Songs charts in 2009 with “Panic Room,” whose shimmering blankets of fuzz guitar did little to curtail the constant use of Smashing Pumpkins as a frame of reference. They’re touring the States in support of an album called “Physical Thrills” finds them working, once again, with the great Butch Vig, the producer behind Nirvana’s “Nevermind” as well as Smashing Pumpkins’ “Gish” and “Siamese Dream.”
Details: 8 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13. Marquee Theatre, 730 N. Mill Ave., Tempe. $34-$54. 480-829-0607, luckymanonline.com.
Sophie Allison hits downtown Phoenix in support of yet another introspective masterstroke, “Sometimes, Forever,” cementing her status as one of the decade’s most compelling voices. As on 2020’s awe-inspiring “Color Theory,” there are times when what she’s doing here recalls the best of ’90s alt-pop legend Juliana Hatfield, underscoring the emotion of her vocals on occasion with a mesmerizing haze of fuzz guitar fit for My Bloody Valentine.
Details: 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 14. The Van Buren, 401 W. Van Buren St., Phoenix. $25. 866-468-3399, thevanburenphx.com.
These Jersey emo veterans are touring the States in support of “Hell Is in Your Head,” an album that effortlessly lives up to its title as singer Buddy Nielsen wrestles with his existential demons in the larger context of these troubled times. After setting tone with the anthemic “The Burial of the Dead,” whose chorus begins with a wistful reminder that “we only have so much time left,” he follows through with an explosive track set at the end of the world.
Details: 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 15. The Nile, 105 W. Main St., Mesa. $30. 480-559-5859, eventbrite.com.
In 1996, Gladys Knight and the Pips were inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2011, she was honored with a Legend Award at the Soul Train Awards. Her most beloved hits include “I Heard it Through the Grapevine,” “Neither One Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)” and “Midnight Train to Georgia.”
Details: 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16. Celebrity Theatre, 440 N. 32nd St., Phoenix. $45-$125. 602-267-1600, celebritytheatre.com.
The Out of Order Tour is a bit of a victory lap to celebrate a banner year for Fike, who made his acting debut with a recurring role as Elliott in season 2 of HBO’s “Euphoria,” for which he cut a hit duet with his co-star Zendaya called “Elliott’s Song,” and starred in major ad campaigns for Calvin Klein and Saint Laurent. He also played a bunch of festivals this summer. The New Yorker says, “His rise to superstardom has felt like an inevitability.”
Details: 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16. Marquee Theatre, 730 N. Mill Ave., Tempe. $80. 480-829-0607, luckymanonline.com.
Their appearance in Penelope Spheeris’ iconic documentary on the L.A. punk scene, “The Decline of Western Civilization” made an instant fan of John Belushi, who lobbied to have them on “Saturday Night Live.” The show imported D.C. punks, including Minor Threat’s Ian MacKaye, to slam dance, and middle America got a crash course in the hardcore punk scene. Years later, Kurt Cobain listed “The Record” as one of this Top 50 albums of all time.
Details: 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16. The Nile, 105 W. Main St., Mesa. $30. 480-559-5859, eventbrite.com.
These Tijuana-based purveyors of regional Mexican music won Best Banda Album at last year’s Latin Grammys. Now, they’re touring the States with folklórico dancers to accompany their blend of banda, norteño and mariachi music, promising “a Mexican party in the U.S.”
Details: 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17. Desert Diamond Arena (formerly Gila River Arena), 9400 W. Maryland Ave., Glendale. Verified resale ticket prices vary. 623-772-3800, ticketmaster.com.
The dancing violinist has released a second Christmas album, “Snow Waltz,” since the last time a tour brought her home for the holidays. The title track is one of several Stirling originals sharing space with such seasonal standards as “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” “Joy to the World” and “Sleigh Ride.”
Details: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 22. Mesa Arts Center, 1 E. Main St. $65-$125. 480-644-6500, mesaartscenter.com.
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The eighth edition of Decadence Arizona splashes down at Phoenix Raceway for a two-day EDM extravaganza packed with marquee talent, from Subtronics to Louis the Child, Duke Dumont, Fisher, Porter Robinson, Zeds Dead, Flume, Malaa and more. Subtitled Ancient Future, this is Arizona’s largest New Years celebration, presented by Relentless Beats and Global Dance.
Details: 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 30-31. Phoenix Raceway, 7602 Jimmie Johnson Drive, Avondale. $99 single day; $149.25 weekend pass. tixr.com.
Reach the reporter at email@example.com or 602-444-4495. Follow him on Twitter @EdMasley.
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Best concerts in Phoenix in December 2022: Rod Wave, Yung Gravy, Nelly – The Arizona Republic
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Unless, of course, you’re really into seeing concerts, in which case the holiday season can feel a bit slow.