Though it’s still early, and many more will be announced over the next several months, here are some of the Charlotte shows I’m most looking forward to in 2019.
▪ Twenty years after “Believe” gave her another comeback, Cher returns to the stage. The only thing that’s changed since then is her age. Expect the sparkling costumes complete with strategic cut-outs, a bevy of wigs and headdresses, and a setlist that draws on the latter half of her career (including a trio of Abba songs from her latest “Mamma Mia 2”-inspired record. Jan. 29. Spectrum Center.
▪ It’s Fleetwood Mac like you’ve probably never seen them before: without Lindsey Buckingham, who the band replaced with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ Mike Campbell and Crowded House’s Neil Finn — reportedly at the behest of Stevie Nicks. While it was first reported that setlists would reach back to Mac’s beginnings as a British blues band, recent shows indicate the band is instead playing its standard setlist. Feb. 24. Spectrum Center.
▪ Adventurous and athletic, Pink’s concerts fall somewhere between Madonna’s most ambitious productions and Cirque du Soleil. She may not sell as many records as peers like Beyonce or Taylor Swift, but no one can touch her exhilarating live show. March 9. Spectrum Center.
▪ Soul singer Leon Bridges is up for two Grammys for his sophomore album, “Good Thing,” and the Texas soul singer’s retro style has charmed audiences that flocked to his follow-up to debut “Coming Home.” Now is your chance to see the modern-day soul crooner live. April 11. Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre.
▪ Using ’90s hits from R.E.M. and Britney Spears, “Cruel Intentions: The ’90s Musical” brings the campy tale of sex, lies and step-sibling seduction (which starred Sarah Michelle Gellar and Reese Witherspoon on film) to the stage. It’s the latest female-led camp classic to make the transition from big screen to small stage, following “Mean Girls” and “Heathers.” April 25-27. McGlohon Theater.
▪ With the title track to her upcoming album “Thank U, Next,” Ariana Grande quickly became America’s latest sweetheart thanks to her heart-on-sleeve lyrics and public woes following the death of her ex-boyfriend Mac Miller and her breakup with “SNL’s” Pete Davidson. Her charm and likability — not to mention her string of hits — should make her “Sweetener” tour one to catch. June 10. Spectrum Center.
▪ Grammy-winning alt-pop duo Twenty-One Pilots had one of the most anticipated album releases of 2018 in “Trench,” and the subsequent tour brings the group back to Charlotte for the first time in three years. June 12. Spectrum Center.
▪ Thanks to the 2018 biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Queen hasn’t been hotter since Freddie Mercury died in 1991. “American Idol” alum Adam Lambert will try to capture the magic Mercury brought to the stage. Aug. 23. Spectrum Center.
▪ In 2011, “Disney’s Aladdin” followed its ’90s brethren “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King” to Broadway, and the eye-popping spectacular will finally make its way to Charlotte for a three-week run. Its creative team has enough Oscars and Tonys to fill a high school trophy case, so expect a top-notch version of the Disney classic. Sept. 10-29. Belk Theater.
My favorite concerts of 2018
And as a bonus, here’s a quick (but not comprehensive) look back at the best of what I saw:
David Byrne at Ovens Auditorium: By most accounts, the energy and creativity Byrne brought to his “American Utopia” Tour was unmatched. Byrne used innovative staging, choreography, dance and a marching-band-style setup that allowed musicians to move more freely, creating a unique live experience as he bounced between solo material, Talking Heads songs, his own work with (an absent) St. Vincent, and unexpected covers. It proved that, at 66, Byrne is more innovative than most younger artists.
Weezer with the Pixies at PNC Music Pavilion: For those of us who caught Weezer’s previous Charlotte shows, expectations were low for its return. They usually churn out the hits with few bells and whistles. Maybe it was having to follow the alt-rock legend the Pixies, or maybe they were reinvigorated by success of their cover of Toto’s “Africa,” but Rivers Cuomo exuded showmanship — subtly morphing his stage persona along with the changing sets from the “Buddy Holly” video, the song “In the Garage,” and an ’80s-rock-video-style backdrop.
Frank Turner at The Fillmore: The British-punk-turned-singer-songwriter Turner nearly threatened to overshadow Jason Isbell when they opened for him here in 2017 (no easy feat at all), and this time we got to see his charisma, energy and chops on full display as he headlined his first Charlotte show in five years. He may record more acoustic-leaning folk-punk these days — with adult contemporary hits like “The Way I Tend To Be” playing over the speakers in Harris Teeter — but Turner proved a rocker at heart, bouncing from politically charged numbers to heartfelt anthems to softer introspection with his band the Sleeping Souls.
Amanda Shires at First Ward Park: Before she released her extraordinary album “To the Sunset,” the singer-songwriter and fiddler and her full band headlined a free show at First Ward Park. Comfortable, cozy and kid- and pet-friendly, the shadow of the Charlotte skyline created the perfect setting to preview Shires’ rocking new material, enjoy arty folk favorites like “Bulletproof,” and marvel at the instrumental prowess of the finale.
Ghost at Ovens Auditorium: Possibly the biggest Swedish musical export since Abba (or at least Ace of Base), the theatrical metal outfit’s dark twist on Catholic imagery and Satanic themes are as vital to its vision as its music. Both elevated its performance, as Cardinal Copia and his band of nameless, faceless ghouls and ghoulettes prowled what looked like the stairs of an old Roman church. It was over-the-top and winkingly cheesy at times, but that’s part of what fans dig about Ghost. And it’s not afraid to embrace its classic rock, pop and hair-metal influences, adding to its appeal.