In another dimension, or if the political climate were different in North Carolina, Sept. 11 would have marked a splashy kickoff to Charlotte’s fall concert season for fans of mainstream pop music.
But in this reality, the state legislature passed the controversial House Bill 2 (a.k.a. The Bathroom Bill) in March, and national recording artists with dates in N.C. pulled the plug on their shows here faster than you could sing the chorus of “Carolina in My Mind.”
One of those cancellations was the hotly anticipated Maroon 5 show set for Sept. 11 at Time Warner Cable Arena. The band stated at the time: “We don’t want to penalize our fans in North Carolina by not performing for them, but in the end it comes down to what we feel is morally right as we feel everyone should be treated equally.” Not too long after that, Adam Levine & Co. announced a Sept. 10 concert in Columbia.
Fortunately, there are still plenty of big names headed to Charlotte over the next three months, from soulful songstresses to cream-of-the-crop country-music acts, and from living legends to hip-hop heroes of the past.
[Find where you’re going on our interactive map. You can check the calendar by discipline, too: classical music (plus pops, jazz and more); dance; theater; literary events; pop music; and visual arts.]
Perhaps the biggest “get” for the city is Carrie Underwood’s “The Storyteller Tour,” an Oct. 23 concert that marks her first visit to the arena in nearly four years (though fans will recall she did a set on a makeshift stage across Mint Street from Bank of America Stadium as musical headliner for last December’s Belk Bowl).
But the 33-year-old former “American Idol” is just one of several leading ladies who will bring powerful voices and deep catalogs of hits to Charlotte this fall.
If you want another woman-in-country option, Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles is at Belk Theater on Oct. 7, marking the first time she’ll perform in Charlotte without musical partner Kristian Bush. (There’s also Bonnie Raitt at Ovens Auditorium on Oct. 26, though one could spend several hours arguing about whether or not she qualifies as country. We say she does.)
If you’re into classic rock, the best bet is the newly announced one-two punch of Stevie Nicks and opening act The Pretenders (led by Chrissie Hynde); Fleetwood Mac’s most famous member brings her “24 Karat Gold” tour to the old Time Warner Cable Arena/the new Spectrum Center on Nov. 10.
In the more immediate future, there’s the Sept. 16 collaboration between Heart (featuring sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson and their ’80s big-hair ballads, like “These Dreams” and “Alone”) and Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, which can get “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” stuck in your head with two simple guitar chords. They’re paired with Cheap Trick at PNC Music Pavilion in one of the final big outdoor shows of the summer.
And if you’re into soul, there are three shows to keep in mind: British-born Grammy winner Corinne Bailey Rae headlines Neighborhood Theatre on Sept. 17; Jersey-born Grammy winner Ms. Lauryn Hill – yes, the “Ms.” is now part of the deal – brings her new and cumbersomely named “MLH Caravan: A Diaspora Calling!” tour to Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre on Sept. 29; and Grammy winners Maxwell and Mary J. Blige co-headline TWC Arena/Spectrum Center on Nov. 22.
On the men’s side of things, there is a healthy mix of old-timers (74-year-old Beach Boy Brian Wilson on Sept. 19 at Belk, 75-year-old folkie Bob Dylan on Nov. 6 at Belk, and late-sixtysomething pianist George Winston on Dec. 11 at McGlohon Theater) and young guns (25-year-old indie star James Bay, the early-twentysomething brothers of rap duo Rae Sremmund, and 22-year-old Jordan Smith, 2015 winner of NBC’s “The Voice”).
But perhaps the two most eyebrow-raising shows of the fall are going down within a few days of each other in late September at uptown’s big arena.
First up is the Bad Boy Family Union, starring Puff Daddy, Faith Evans, Lil Kim, Mase, 112, Total, Carl Thomas, The Lox, French Montana, and almost certainly some sort of a tribute to The Notorious B.I.G. (Can we request a hologram performance?) That’s on Sept. 20.
Three nights later it’s the “I Love the ’90s Tour,” featuring Vanilla Ice, Salt N Pepa with Spinderella, Kid N Play, Coolio, All 4 One, Color Me Badd, Tone Loc, Kool Moe Dee, Rob Base and Young MC. It won’t be easy to contain our excitement about this one, partly because of the lineup but mostly because of the people-watching.
Without a crystal ball it’s pretty difficult to predict what big shows we’ll see in Charlotte beyond December, as tour announcements crop up on no one’s schedule but the artists’, but here’s hoping the hitmakers just keep on comin’...