Prince’s last concert, venue upgrades make music news in 2016

Beyonce made two stops in Atlanta this year. (Photo by Daniela Vesco/Invision for Parkwood Entertainment/AP Images)

Beyonce made two stops in Atlanta this year. (Photo by Daniela Vesco/Invision for Parkwood Entertainment/AP Images)

Beyonce graced us with her Bey-ness twice, the city lost one festival (TomorrowWorld) but gained two more (Shaky Beats and Many Rivers to Cross) and the Fox Theatre earned the distinction as the last venue that Prince ever graced with a full concert.

Those are just a few of the music-related events of 2016. Here are some other notable memories:

Prince. It's always notable when your city is associated with a major event in an artist's career. But no one who attended either of Prince's Fox Theatre concerts on April 14 could have fathomed that they witnessed what would become his last-ever major performances and exactly a week later, one of the most vital and original forces in music would be dead. Prince's untimely passing – from an overdose of opioids – not only stunned music fans, but robbed us of a true musical genius. To honor Prince's memory, purple lights were shined on major buildings in cities around the country, including Atlanta. While we can never compete with his beloved hometown of Minneapolis, Atlanta fans who attended those Fox shows can always hold tightly to that bittersweet memory.

Venue upgrades. After repeated delays, the Atlanta outpost of City Winery finally opened in Ponce City Market in June. Though the setup is polarizing, there is no questioning the impressive lineup the venue continues to pull, as artists ranging from Jeff Tweedy to Rickie Lee Jones to Matthew Sweet already played the 350-capacity room (on the upcoming docket - New Year's Eve with the Indigo Girls, Steve Earle and Dr. John). In Little Five Points, the Variety Playhouse re-opened in September after a summer closure to upgrade and overhaul to the tune of $1.3 million. New bars, bathrooms, seats and re-scaled flooring have given the 27-year-old venue an aesthetic injection. The Masquerade was booted from its longtime home on North Avenue to make way for a mixed-use facility and, after delays and a lawsuit, recently settled – at least for now – at Kenny's Alley at Underground Atlanta. And the venue Atlantans love to bash, Lakewood, will never be sleek and pretty, but so what? Kudos to the venue's team for adding a wine bar, healthy food area, new food vendors and a general store. At least they're trying.

The beat goes on (for some). It turns out that stranded fans, a massive mud pit and disorganization aren't so easy to overcome, after all. Following its disastrous 2015 production at Bouckaert Farm in Chattahoochee Hills – caused by said weather issues — TomorrowWorld, the electronic dance music (EDM) festival imported from Belgium, said goodbye, at least for now. But we said hello to Shaky Beats in May, an EDM gathering brought to us by the same crew behind the alt-rock-heavy Shaky Knees music festival. The 2017 installment of Shaky Beats takes place May 5-7. Fans of the glow sticks and repetitive beats can also revel in the Atlanta-bred Imagine Music Festival, which moved to Atlanta Motor Speedway for its August production.

Big names, big shows. Regardless of how the Atlanta Falcons' season turns out, at least the Georgia Dome welcomed a trio of major concerts in 2016. OK, so Beyonce visited us twice – in May and September, the last show held at the venue – but only a handful of markets could claim a Bey return on the "Formation World Tour," so be proud, Atlanta. In July, a reunited Guns 'N' Roses thundered through a surprisingly tight set at the Dome. But the biggest shock was that the notoriously time-adverse Axl Rose wasn't only prompt, but early. Which leads us to…

Time for a new watch (or GPS). Madonna and Lauryn Hill are winners of the Couldn't Care Less About Their Fans award. Madonna's January appearance at Philips Arena began a few minutes before 11 p.m. – and it wasn't an anomaly. Reviews of shows throughout her "Rebel Heart" tour groused about the same rudeness – she never apologized nor gave a reason for her tardiness – but fans seem to readily forgive, so don't expect it to change. Similarly, R&B-soul singer Hill has also made a habit of chronic tardiness, but many at her May concert at Chastain Park Amphitheatre seemed to reach their patience point when Hill arrived with less than 40 minutes left to perform before Chastain's strict 11 p.m. curfew. She told one fan – who recorded video of the encounter – that her driver "got lost," but the next day posted a convoluted Facebook message about the "artistic process." Hill returns for a Feb. 14 show at the Tabernacle.

Atlanta rappers make noise: Some might have been surprised at the ubiquity of Killer Mike during the presidential primaries. But those who follow the thoughtful rapper's career know he has a passion for politics. A devout Bernie Sanders supporter, Mike made the rounds on talk shows, stumped for Sanders at rallies and took the presidential hopeful to lunch at the Busy Bee. Fellow Atlanta rapper T.I. demonstrated his socially conscious side with his active and visible involvement in the Harry Belafonte-produced music festival, Many Rivers to Cross, which took place at Bouckaert Farm in Chattahoochee Hills. The two-day event featured Carlos Santana, Dave Matthews, John Legend and other musical heavyweights, but T.I. made his presence felt, even debuting a song prior to the October event called, "We Will Not."