- The Final Vans Warped Tour / Canterbury Park
The final edition of this beloved tour is easily my #1. Closing out such an important festival was even more special for me, as it featured some of my current favorite bands, such as State Champs, Grayscale, Movements, Broadside, and This Wild Life. Also included, of course, were nostalgic must-haves like The Maine, We The Kings, and Simple Plan.
- Anberlin / Yuengling Center (Tampa Bay)
Anberlin became one of my favorite bands after seeing them live for the first time back in 2012. Unfortunately, after a final album followed by a giant world tour, they disbanded in November of 2014. When they announced one reunion show in Tampa on December 14th, I booked my flight. The chance to see them live, after thinking I’d never get to again, was thrilling.
- All Time Low
I’ve been a huge fan of All Time Low for years. The last time they came to the Myth in early August, I had the opportunity to meet the band and watch their entire set from the stage. Not much can top that for a longtime fan.
- Neck Deep / First Avenue
- Real Friends / The Garage
- Bonobo’s DJ Set / Electric Forest
Simon Green, aka Bonobo, took the crowd packed into the Grand Artique’s pallet fort on a journey through early 90’s dance music. It was full of house and driving beats, soulful vocals, weaving one song through the next and on and on. It felt like my soul had a refresh button that Simon pressed it. One of my favorite shows, not only of the year but of all time (and there have been plenty).
- Lane 8 / Electric Forest
When Daniel took the helm at Tripolee, the clouds along the horizon looked as though a storm was on its way, but thankfully it stayed well clear of the festival grounds. It turned out that they were just there for the show, too, as a fierce and lively stream of lightning streaked across the sky. At the peak of his set, he played a trio of songs that absolutely floored me. (If you’re curious: Deadmau5 Monophobia > Kölsch & Tiga – HAL > George FitzGerald – Burn)
- New Order / The Palace Theater
A beautiful band in a beautiful theater. They played a mix of their classics as well as some newer material and nobody seemed to mind, which isn’t always the case. This was also the oldest crowd I’ve been a part of, with a median age somewhere in the mid-40s, but that didn’t stop anybody from dancing or singing/shouting along with the songs.
- Nora En Pure / The Walker Art Center’s Avant Garden
- Honey Dijon / SubClub (UK)
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- Foo Fighters / Xcel Energy Center
Over the span of two months, my grandfather passed away and my mother experienced a very unfortunate house fire. This concert was my “Treat Yo Self!” event of the year, and their two-hour-forty-five-minute-long set did not disappoint. Serious bucket list stuff that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
- Ghost / Palace Theatre
Ghost is one of those bands that I remember exactly where I was, and exactly what I was doing, the first time I heard them. Since that fateful day circled around a poker table drinking beers in a dirty basement, I have attempted to see them on three separate occasions. Finally, the stars aligned, and they put on one of the best shows of 2018.
- Phil Collins / Target Center
As a proud millennial, Disney’s 1999 Tarzan movie – and more importantly, the soundtrack of that film – was a huge part of my childhood. As a music lover of all generations, Phil Collins has been pumping out hit after hit for almost forty years. Mobility issues aside, Collin’s put on a hell of a performance, and it’s always enjoyable to be in the midst of a legend.
- Greta Van Fleet / The Armory
- FIDLAR / First Avenue
- Jack White / The Armory
My favorite artist had not played a proper show in Minnesota since 2010. Did I get to The Armory at 7 am to make sure I was front and center for his return? Absolutely. The night was full of guitar shrieking twists and turns. Jack brought his highly respected band, who ignited the night with energy as they navigated the show’s ‘no setlists allowed’ policy. We even got to sing “Happy Birthday” to his son, something White said he “could never do if there were phones out.”
- Beyoncé and Jay-Z / US Bank Stadium
Beyoncé and Jay-Z took over US Bank Stadium in full force for the On The Run II Tour. They proved why they are legends in both the music and fashion worlds. The sold-out show was visually immersive and I’m still reeling from the gigantic production.
- Beach House / Palace Theater
I didn’t expect this to make my top shows, both because I have gone to so many this year and I thought I knew what I was getting into. I’ve loved Beach House for years and was able to catch them at Eaux Claires a few years back. Seeing a full Beach House concert was sensory overload in the best possible way. It was dreamy and perfect.
- Sylvan Esso at Surly Festival Field
- Robert Plant at The Orpheum Theater
- L.A. Guns / The Cabooze
Growing up with no supervision or direction, music and its words guided me through adolescence. Album covers were the art that caught my eye, the music was the passion that would release my angst, and the lyrics became the pervading fuel for my soul, as if it was letting me know that I was not the only punk in the world struggling with the worry of how my life would turn out. Music was always there for me when it seemed nothing else was.
- Tori Amos / The O’Shaughnessy
Tori Amos is possibly the ultimate artist. She is not afraid to constantly change her artistic vision, creating a brutally honest presentation of herself and her intimate beliefs for those that dare listen. Witnessing her perform is like watching a beautiful cathedral painting being created while exposing your sins for the world to see.
- Alice Cooper / The Ordway Theater
No other artist has had a more personal influence on how I approach my creative journey than Alice Cooper. Over his 55-year career, he has transformed his approach dozens of times, proving that the risk-takers are those who are truly living their dreams. Whether I’m behind the lens or working in a kitchen (professional chef by day, photographer by night, photojournalist whenever I can, artist 24/7), the Alice Cooper dogma of “life is too short, give them a show” is constantly in my thoughts.
- The Pretenders / The State Theater
- Brandi Carlile / The State Theater
- Janelle Monáe / The Palace Theater
- Twenty One Pilots / Xcel Energy Center
- Paramore / The Armory
- Leon Bridges / The Palace Theater
- Panic! at the Disco / Target Center
- Wolf Alice / First Avenue
- Robosapien / Mortimer’s
- Peelander-Z with Bug Fix and Koo Koo Kanga Roo / Turf Club
- Good Morning Bedlam / Zumbrota State Theater
- Of Montreal / Cedar Cultural Center
- I Don’t Know How But they Found Me / Amsterdam Bar & Hall
IDKHow features former Panic! At The Disco bassist Dallon Weekes and Ryan Seaman from Falling in Reverse. The duo performed at the Amsterdam well before their debut EP came out, yet myself and dedicated IDKHow fans knew all the words to every unreleased song. Seeing Weekes go from a sold-out Xcel Energy Center crowd to a tiny nightclub blew my mind. I even finally got to meet him after all these years. I cried. Definitely my number one show of the year.
- Panic! at the Disco – Target Center – Being a Panic! At The Disco superfan, this show was an absolute dream come true. The first stop on the Pray for the Wicked tour blew my mind. Seeing band members jumping out from the stage and flying over the audience on a piano, all while attending with my future wife, made it the best Panic! At The Disco performance I’ve ever seen.
- Justin Timberlake – Xcel Energy Center – Ever since I was a toddler, my sister and I have loved *N Sync and Justin Timberlake. At this, our second time seeing him together, JT proved why he is the modern king of pop. Despite touring behind a less than terrific album, he put on the most beautifully produced show of the year, offering an immersive experience with runways all across the Xcel, making every seat the best in the house. No one does it better.
- CHVRCHES – Palace Theater
- Twenty One Pilots – Xcel Energy Center
- The Last Waltz Tribute featuring Big Pink / The Cabooze
Barring a Twin Cities appearance from Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Wilco, or Paul McCartney, the yearly Last Waltz Tribute at the Cabooze is usually my #1 concert of the year. Big Pink, a venerable supergroup of Twin Cities music veterans, re-creates the Band’s entire legendary last show, which was immortalized in Martin Scorsese’s documentary The Last Waltz. The appearances of Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Neil Diamond, Van Morrison, and more are each played by some of the most talented local singers and songwriters. If you’ve never gone, the 2019 version is on January 12th.
- Erik Brandt and the Urban Hillbilly Quartet / 331 Club
The Twin Cities music scene is filled with under-appreciated bands and songwriters, and Erik Brandt and the Urban Hillbilly Quartet are towards the top of that list. Their early material is more straightforwardly alt.country, but their string of albums from 2002’s Amelia’s Boot to 2012’s The Long Winter are innovative and evocative, touching on pop/rock, jazz, blues, folk, and dark indie rock. At this celebratory show they played plenty of songs from these, their entire new EP South of Dark, and a handful of the covers that they’re known for (including Johnny Cash’s “Big River” and Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man,” featuring an accordion).
- The Bottle Rockets / Turf Club
As a registered fanboy of alt.country, I usually don’t miss the Bottle Rockets when they come to town. It doesn’t hurt that they usually play the Turf Club, one of my favorite venues. Their latest trip to the Turf didn’t disappoint, mostly because they played their new album Big Logic in its entirety, and it’s one of the best of their career. An extended take on Waylon Jennings’ classic “Are You Sure Hank Done it This Way?” to close out the show didn’t hurt, either.
- Falcon Arrow, Silverback Trio, and Bitter Ghost / Caydence
- Low Cut Connie / First Avenue
- OAR with Matt Nathanson / Mystic Lake
- The Head & The Heart / The Armory
- Basilica Block Party
- Jason Mraz with Brett Dennen / Minnesota State Fair Grandstand
- Yonder Mountain String Band / Minnesota Zoo
- Glen Hansard / Palace Theater
Seeing this Irish artist in St. Paul on St. Patrick’s Day is unique enough to stand alone, but the performance and stage presence that Glen held over the drunken crowd is what makes this my top concert of the year.
- Glorietta / Turf Club
This supergroup, comprised of six prolific singer-songwriters, formed for only one tour, making this show a one-time-only situation. Seeing Noah Gundersen and David Ramirez, two of my personal favorite artists, perform onstage together was the highlight for me.
- Hobo Johnson / Varsity Theater
Hobo Johnson continues to win over the issue-driven, younger crowd with his songs and socially motivated statements. The enthusiasm was made clear by the dozens of bras thrown onstage towards the end.
- The Ballroom Thieves at 7th Street Entry
- Justin Courtney Pierre at Turf Club
The Weepies / Fitzgerald Theater
I’ve been listening to The Weepies since they were on my MySpace profile’s music player. I fell in love with their harmonizing over delicately played instruments. I drew especially closer to these two when news came out that Deb was diagnosed with cancer while in the process of writing a new record. Fortunately now cancer-free, Deb and Steve came through Minnesota to share their lovebird songs with the Twin Cities on April 13th!
- David Byrne / The Orpheum
- Sturgill Simpson / Bonnaroo
- The Hold Steady / Surly Festival Field
- Old Crow Medicine Show / Palace Theater
- Lauryn Hill / Pitchfork Festival