SALT LAKE CITY — Some people in other states (cough, California) have been known to say that there's nothing good to hear in Utah. We disagree. And to remind readers just how much good music makes its way through our state, we, after a bit of hand-wringing, have finally narrowed down our five favorite shows a piece from the past year. Check out each our selections ("our" being Arts and Entertainment editor and assistant editors Cristy Meiners, Lottie Johnson and Court Mann) and see if they also made your list — we'd love to read about your favorite 2018 concerts in the comments section.
"Bright Star" — Jan. 12-27 at Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre
This one is cheating a bit, as "Bright Star" is a musical, but it was also one of the best shows I went to all year and not including it would be a shame. I was so taken with the music, staging, storyline and lead actress Carmen Cusack's talent that, after wiping down my streaming eyes, I promptly texted everyone I knew to get tickets. I can't remember a night out that left me so filled with joy for the world and the arts. (Cristy Meiners)
Booker T. Jones — Jan. 6 at the State Room
I kicked off a new year in Utah with a little Memphis soul. Then-73 years old, Booker T. Jones, the frontman for Booker T. and the M.G.'s, brought incredible energy to the State Room. Jones recorded the classic instrumental “Green Onions” on the Hammond M3 organ long ago at age 17, but that night, he reminded us all of the song’s timelessness. It was a great couple of hours spent with my dad and husband, and an excellent way to begin 2018. (Lottie Johnson)
And for those kicking themselves for missing this show, you can catch Jones next month at Peery's Egyptian Theater in Ogden.
Hall & Oates — May 8 at Vivint Arena
Few musicians have written something as good as a Hall & Oates hit single. Hall & Oates did it, what, about 15 times? The band’s Salt Lake visit was a reminder. From “Maneater” to “Private Eyes” to “Sara Smile” to “She’s Gone,” the show was haymaker after haymaker. These guys are in their 70s now; old age is becoming manifest. Still, they’re fending off Father Time pretty well. Songs this good help. (Court Mann)
The Eagles — May 20 at Vivint Arena
Everything about The Eagles' Utah concert hit the mark: the grateful crowd, the group's shimmering harmonies, that wonderfully raspy Don Henley voice, Glenn Frey's talented son Deacon, the welcome addition of Vince Gill, Joe Walsh's stomping energy and best of all, getting to experience it all with my dad, the biggest Eagles fan of them all. The Eagles have morphed and changed over the years, but their music — some of pop's finest tunes — hasn't aged a day. (Cristy Meiners)
Read our review here.
Tedeschi Trucks Band — June 22 at the Eccles Theater
There’s something infectious about the merging of Derek Trucks’ guitar prowess with Susan Tedeschi’s raspy blues voice. The musicians have been married for 17 years, but it’s not just mutual love and appreciation that shines through in their performances; there’s a mutual sense of awe. After all these years, Tedeschi and Trucks continue to impress each other. If they can still surprise each other, they’ll be wowing audiences for a long, long time. (Lottie Johnson)
Read our advance of the concert here.
Retro Futura with Belinda Carlisle — July 20 at Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre
When I was 10 years old, my best friend and I used to fight over which of us got to name our Barbie "Belinda," after '80s pop goddess Belinda Carlisle. Tiffany, Debbie Gibson, The Bangles, Whitney — we loved them all, but for us, Belinda ruled supreme. And although I haven't listened to her music in over 30 years, when she floated out onto the Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre stage, the golden hook of her voice pulled me to my feet, making me dance and sing as if I could be 10 forever. The concert, which included ABC, Modern English and other '80s musicians, belonged to Belinda. Once a pop goddess, always a pop goddess. (Cristy Meiners)
Read our advance here.
Punch Brothers — Aug. 13 at the Commonwealth Room
All music is better live, but hearing the Punch Brothers play at Salt Lake's new Commonwealth Room was an especially rich experience. Each one of the five-member bluegrass band is at the top of his game, and, with mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile at the helm, easy in his role as master of ceremonies, the group played a tight set that was often surprising and always jamming. (Cristy Meiners)
Hop Along — Aug. 16 at Urban Lounge
“We swam in the Great Salt Lake today,” Hop Along’s Frances Quinlan told the audience. A few people gasped quietly. Then, after an awkward silence, someone in the crowd yelled, “We don’t go in there.” It was the evening’s only silent moment. The Philadelphia band got a feverish welcome — I’ve rarely seen a crowd so amped up — and Hop Along fed off that energy, turning their acoustic indie folk-rock into crunching, distorted electric jams. A convincing reminder of how much performers and audiences need each other. (Court Mann)
Jade Bird — Sept. 12 at Kilby Court
It’s impossible to watch Jade Bird and not be charmed. The 20-year-old British singer-songwriter is small and cute, with a constant smile on her face, but her voice often soars, growls and bites much, much larger. Fusing British folk with classic country, and injecting it with an Alanis Morissette kind of vocal abandon, Bird has released a bunch of barnburners this year. She can also retreat into beautiful, delicate balladry, and her Salt Lake visit had both. It’s captivating to watch someone this young and talented standing in front of her grand future. (Court Mann)
Dead Sara — Oct. 3 at the State Room
Dead Sara is one of the most thrilling live bands I’ve ever seen. Singer Emily Armstrong sounds like Janis Joplin for the arena-rock age — her gritty wail reaches down into your soul, shakes it and never lets go. She could be a one-woman wrecking crew, but the entire band (guitarist Siouxsie Medley, drummer Sean Friday and bassist Marc Walloch) packed an enormous punch, too. For the show’s finale, Dead Sara had the audience sing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which the band segued into its biggest hit, the blistering “Weatherman” — a weird but exhilarating bit of rock ’n’ roll catharsis in a night packed with it. (Court Mann)
Kamasi Washington — Oct. 24 at the Complex
Jazz saxophonist Kamasi Washington has assembled a band of musical mad scientists, and they all got turns showcasing their truly ridiculous chops that evening. It was hypnotic. The show, and Washington’s eclectic musical brew, was a celebration of everything jazz can be, and showed the huge debt most other genres owe to it. It might have been the most impressive display of musicianship I’ve ever witnessed. (Court Mann)
Josh Groban — Oct. 29 at Vivint Arena
I’ve been a Josh Groban fan since high school, so finally getting to see the baritone in person was a real treat. I was expecting to smile and sing along with him just as I did on those early-morning drives to school — what I wasn’t expecting was to cry. But hearing Groban sing “Bring Him Home” from “Les Miserables,” with just a piano backing his sonorous voice, filled my eyes with tears. A quick look around when the song was over told me I wasn’t the only one. (Lottie Johnson)
Cyrus Chestnut — Nov. 19 at Capitol Theatre
You may not know Cyrus Chestnut's name, but if you get a chance to see this piano jazz virtuoso live, do yourself the favor. He and his group, which included bassist Eric Wheeler, drummer Chris Beck and Warren Wolf on vibes, took the Capitol Theatre crowd from a jazzy Chopin through some unlikely versions of the standards to some truly remarkable original compositions, like Wolf's vibe-tasitc "Wolfgang." I couldn't clap enough for these four musician's energy and pure musical chops. (Cristy Meiners)
Read our advance here.
Andrea Bocelli — Nov. 29 at Vivint Arena
You know it’s a good show when people don’t even think about leaving early to beat the traffic. It was Andrea Bocelli’s first public performance in Salt Lake City, and the Italian tenor's concert exceeded my expectations. The audience’s gratitude seemed to grow with each song, and by the time the encore came around — featuring “The Prayer,” “Time to Say Goodbye” and “Nessun dorma” — the energy in the arena felt as if the concert had just begun. That’s a feeling I'll never forget. (Lottie Johnson)
Read our review here.
Allen Stone — Dec. 8 at the Complex
A concert with Allen Stone is a powerful sermon. Audience members offered up their “amens” as they sang along, harmonizing with the R&B singer’s melodies. There’s an undeniable authenticity about Stone: his unruly blond hair, his unceasing smile and that raw voice that has perfected the art of storytelling. The Seattle-based musician had his audience clapping and swaying with him every step of the way. (Lottie Johnson)