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Staff Picks: Best Concert At Penn State

Travis Scott announced Monday that he’s bringing the second leg of his Astroworld tour to the Bryce Jordan Center, once again proving that Happy Valley doesn’t need to be home to a major city to earn a date on a sought after tour.

Current Penn State students have been blessed with dozens of visiting artists — from SPA’s slate of free performers, to the BJC’s big names, and Movin’ On’s annual festival lineup.

Some of our staffers decided to take a trip down memory lane and pick out their favorite of the bunch:

Steve Connelly: Kanye West

The stage floated. THE STAGE FLOATED. With as much ammo as he had to piece together that setlist, the fact that hundreds of tickets (including mine) were free because Homecoming decided to buyout those instead of hosting their annual concert, and the overall atmosphere, I’m not sure how you can top this. Kanye previously visited Penn State back in 2014 for the Yeezus Tour (which the folks say was also a magical experience), but there was something wildly different about this concert compared to anything else that’s come here. I can’t imagine another concert being like following that enigma of an artist around the BJC floor as he floats above unleashing banger after banger.  

Bonus points for the fact that it happened just a couple stops before the Saint Pablo Tour went downhill.

Anthony Colucci: Luke Bryan

Love him or hate him, there’s no denying that Luke Bryan is the ultimate showman when it comes to country music. In the dead of winter, Bryan had the Bryce Jordan Center rocking like his summertime, outdoor shows. He took two young girls on the stage to dance with him midway through the concert and spent a lot of time making lighthearted jokes to the crowd, including a few at his own expense. He ad-libbed lyrics to be Penn State and State College-specific, spent a few minutes talking about his “bromance” with James Franklin, and took a fan’s cardboard cutout of a Penn State football player with his face on it onto the stage to dance. Although he likely gives every venue a similar charismatic treatment, I appreciated Bryan’s personal touches as opposed what seems like every Bryce Jordan Center act that says “We love you, Happy Valley. You need to be on our tour every year when we pass through Pennsylvania!”

The funny part is that Bryan actually always includes the BJC on his tour. He’s played there three times in the last five years.

Emma Dieter: The Weeknd

Having been an avid fan of The Weeknd since the release of Trilogy in 2012, getting to see him in concert (for a reduced student fee) was truly a dream come true. The fact that he brought NAV and Gucci Mane with him too only made the concert that much better. While the tour was in light of the release of Starboy, an album I am not a huge fan of, The Weeknd made up for it in concert by playing throwbacks from popular features and albums past. Besides the music itself, the energy in the BJC was electric. The whole crowd seemed to feed off of his soulfully smooth voice and lyrics. The transitions from song to song were seamless and created the perfect combination of hype and chill. I left the concert still hungry for more music, a feeling I don’t often have after standing for two hours.

Elissa Hill: Thomas Rhett

The best concert I’ve been to at Penn State is Thomas Rhett this fall. Even in the middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania, the campus is a mixed bag of country music lovers and country music haters, so seeing an arena full of country fans was quite an experience. A concert always seems better when you and everyone else there can sing along with all the songs, and Thomas Rhett was the epitome of that in a packed BJC. It’s not every day you get to see one of your favorite artists in your backyard (and with a student ticket discount, no less). I’m always impressed with the artist’s the BJC is able to pull in even though we’re not near a major city market.

Andy Mollenauer: Metallica

The best concert I went to at Penn State is the Metallica show back in October this year. Having been a fan since I was 10 years old, the experience was particularly special, and what better place to see one of your favorite bands than right in Happy Valley? From the setlist itself to the energy and enthusiasm of both the crowd and band, the show was truly one to remember. Kirk Hammett and Rob Trujillo’s rendition of “Hail to the Lion” was both an epic surprise and a nice gesture. I’ll never forget when Trujillo said, “The spirit of this place is amazing. It’s a beautiful place.”

Jim Davidson: Old Dominion

I wasn’t expecting this Nashville quartet to rock the BJC as intensely as Thomas Rhett had a few weeks before. Boy howdy, was I wrong. Granger Smith opened with his “Country Boy Song,” “Yee Yee” catchphrase, and one-shoulder overalls. Lead singer Matthew Ramsey then lead the “Written in the Sand” hitmakers through their first two studio albums, and even played the first single — “make it sweet” — off their next collection. They played beautiful acoustic renditions of lesser-known songs like “Still Writing Songs About You” surrounded by glowing, back-porch-in-July lights, before finishing with a crowd-rocking encore of “Snapback.” My phone has played “Happy Endings” on repeat ever since.

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