16 coolest San Diego shows of 2016 (in chronological order)

Justin Bieber - Valley View Casino Center 3/29/16 (Misael Virgen / U-T)
Justin Bieber - Valley View Casino Center 3/29/16 (Misael Virgen / U-T)
(Misael Virgen / San Diego Union-Tribune)

3.29: Justin Bieber - Valley View Casino Center

The Biebs kicked off the second leg of his North American “Believe” tour here in 2013. And thanks to criminally catchy singles such as “What Do You Mean,” “Sorry” and “Love Yourself” from the pop superstar’s multiplatinum LP “Purpose,” his sold-out San Diego show of the same name made an impression in 2016.

4.20: Bombino - Belly Up Tavern

The hypnotic Saharan blues of Tuareg guitarist/singer Omara Moctar (aka Bombino) mesmerized the crowd of the Belly Up Tavern all night. And while Moctar played plenty from his Dave Longstreth (Dirty Projectors)-produced “Azel,” it was the impromptu moments of “jamming” with his amazing band that stole the show.

5.1: Puscifer - Copley Symphony Hall

Although just as busy working his Arizona-based vineyard, Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan occasionally finds time for his other band known for comedy, costume changes and a heavy multimedia side. This one went over the top with its Lucha Libre theme - complete with a full-sized ring and a pre-show wrestling match.

5.9: Rihanna - Viejas Arena

A stop on the North American portion of her ANTI World Tour, Ri-Ri made her San Diego stop fresh from closing Coachella’s first weekend as Calvin Harris’ surprise special guest. The Grammy-winning Barbadian did not disappoint the sold-out crowd.

5.12: Beyoncé - Qualcomm Stadium

Only a few artists in the world can sell out stadiums by themselves. The Queen B is one of them. And not that she couldn’t have done it without, but the surprise release of the singer’s sixth solo album, “Lemonade,” added a special buzz to this stop on her Formation World Tour.

7.18, 20: CeeLo Green - Belly Up Tavern

The five-time Grammy winner, rapper, singer and entrepreneur CeeLo brought his Love Train Pt. 2 tour to the Belly Up for two nights.

8.3: Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals - House of Blues

It was a breakout year for the drummer/singer and his critically acclaimed new album, “Malibu.” But even being named to XXL’s “Freshmen Class” or having the NBA hire him as their hype man couldn’t prepare the sold-out House of Blues crowd for the show they received. From the constant sing-alongs to the undeniable electric vibe for the entirety of his performance, I can’t imagine anyone who was there seeing a better show in 2016.

8.14: Flume - Valley View Casino Center

Releasing his second album, “Skin,” earlier in the year, 24-year-old Australian sensation Flume (Harley Streten) made the auspicious jump to arenas. With Classixx and HWLS setting the stage, Streten delivered a show that proved he was ready for the upgrade in venue and more.

8.20: Digable Planets - Belly Up Tavern

Over 10 years in the making, the New York-founded hip-hop trio of Butterfly, Doodlebug and Ladybug Mecca hit the road together for the first time since a 2005 tour and compilation album. With vet hip-hop duo Camp Lo warming things up, it seemed as if the threesome hadn’t missed a beat since they first burst onto the scene with their 1993 classic debut, “Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space).”

8.22: Guns N’ Roses - Qualcomm Stadium

This was the closing date of the band’s Not in This Lifetime ... tour and, to be honest, there were plenty of naysayers out there (guilty as charged) that never thought they’d make it to America’s Finest City. Axl, Slash and the gang not only proved the critics wrong, Rose led his band of mischief-makers through a quality rock show.

8.27: Snoop Dogg & Wiz Khalifa - Sleep Train Amphitheatre

Weed is usually the overarching theme for these two artists individually. But put them together, and add impending legalization legislation, and this show was like a full-blown Weed-a-palooza. But despite the potential for lackadaisical performances, Snoop and Wiz delivered sharp sets (both together and apart) on this stop of their High Road Summer Tour.

9.10: Blondie - Observatory North Park

Alongside fellow founding members Chris Stein and Clem Burke, the pioneering new wavers took a victory lap with legendary singer Debbie Harry leading the way. While it wasn’t exactly like the old days, hearing a short-skirt- and sunglasses-clad Harry bang out classics such as “One Way or Another” sure it made it feel pretty close.

9.15: Chance The Rapper - Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theatre

The 23-year-old Chicago rapper released his third mixtape, “Coloring Book,” earlier in the year, and this stop of his Magnificent Coloring World Tour was a complete celebration of it. Performing in front of an elaborate stage show that included elements such as a puppet choir, Chance (real name Chancelor Bennett) had the sold-out crowd singing along all night.

9.16-18: KAABOO Del Mar - Del Mar Racetrack

The second annual “mix-perience” this year featured headliners Jimmy Buffett, Aerosmith, Jack Johnson, and Fall Out Boy. They played alongside a wide range of acts ranging from The Chainsmokers, Steve Aoki and Cypress Hill to Shakey Graves, The Avett Brothers and Steel Pulse.

9.18: Diplo - Parq

While doing a string of international dates on massive festivals both alone and with Jack Ü (as well as heading up various stops with the Mad Decent Block Party), Diplo performed one of only a few select club dates in San Diego. Although he was surrounded by a stage completely full of people all night, the DJ delivered a solid set.

11.30: Seu Gorge presents The Life Aquatic: A Tribute to David Bowie - Balboa Theatre

So many things at once - a tribute show, a night of storytelling, quiet acoustic performances of Bowie tunes, an insider’s look at the making of a movie - this was a special night. Anyone lucky enough to secure a ticket to the sold-out performance is likely to remember it forever.