Top 10 Concerts of 2018

L-R: Paz Lenchantin, David Lovering, Joey Santiago, Black Francis

We here at reviewed a lot of concerts in 2018—more than in any previous year, according to my completely unscientific tally. With all due respect to Spoon and Britney Spears and Billy Idol and the rest, here are the 10 that most linger in our memories.

(Thanks to James Biagiotti and Christiana Lilly for contributing to this list.)

  1. Dead & Co., Feb. 26 at BB&T Center

This Grateful Dead spinoff, featuring guitar savant John Mayer filling in for the late Jerry Garcia, followed the typical recipe for a Dead-inspired show: The hippies, the lifers and the first-timers were all there. The solos, improvisations, and sing-alongs were all there. Deep cuts and old favorites found their way into the set list. What made Monday night’s show special was the unspoken aura of political activism that reverberated throughout the arena. Bob Weir took the stage in an #MSDStrong shirt, and by the final number, the beloved classic “Touch of Grey,” every musician onstage sported one to show their solidarity with the community that suffered February’s tragic shooting in Parkland.

  1. The Zombies, Jan. 9 at Parker Playhouse

The legendary British rockers’ 50th anniversary live revival of its landmark Odessey and Oracle, though only comprising half of the band’s two-act set, proved worthy of admission by itself. The band realized the album’s rich studio textures, from the Beach Boys-style jauntiness of “Care of Cell 44” to the rollicking “Friends of Mine,” and, of course, the climactic show-stopper “Time of the Season.” And the exultant “This Will Be Our Year” reminded us why it’s the best New Year’s song ever written—just the balm we needed in these tumultuous times.

  1. They Might be Giants, Jan. 26 at Culture Room

At this sold-out performance, the nerd-rock pioneers and onetime bastions of college radio cycled through more than 30 songs spanning their entire oeuvre, over two sets, two encores and two and a half hours of stage time. Beginning with the spirited hoedown “Number Three” and concluding with the spiky, staccato pop of “Ana Ng,” it was nothing less than a TMBG bonanza that left few hits unplayed while allowing plenty of room for surprises.

  1. Lorde, April 12 at AmericanAirlines Arena

Supported by two costume changes, six contemporary dancers, an ascending cube prop, and a mix of live and recorded tracks, Lorde’s first South Florida appearance captured the contradictions of her music: It was somehow both grandiose and stripped-down, confident and vulnerable, complex and approachable. The show included copious competing stimuli, but it was hard to take your eyes off Lorde, a born performer who came off as magnetic, earthy and genuine, fully aware that she was connecting with her audience on a deeper level than pop music.

L-R: David Lovering, Paz Lenchantin, Joey Santiago, Black Francis
  1. The Pixies, June 21 at Revolution Live

At 41 songs and 130 uninterrupted minutes, the Pixies treated fans to an embarrassment of riches—hits, deep cuts and recent songs—in a bargain-priced warm-up gig on the eve of the group’s big tour with Weezer. For a band that hadn’t played in front of an audience in six months, the set sounded tighter than David Lovering’s snare drums. The early stuff triggered Pavlovian responses from the very first chord, especially the historic performance of “Gigantic”—for the first time since 2011.

  1. Drake, Nov. 13 at AmericanAirlines Arena

Fans waited nearly two months for this rescheduled contest, but when Drake finally arrived, he arrived—enveloped by simulated lightning bolts and thunderclouds. Migos opened the show, but unannounced guests DJ Khaled, Gucci Mane, Bad Bunny and Lil Wayne joined the rapper onstage. Yet, despite the bells, whistles and surprise cameos, Drake dominated the mostly bare stage, showing a good performance isn’t only dictated by how many fireworks, special effects, dancers, and props you have.

  1. Kendrick Lamar and the TDE Championship Tour, May 23 at Coral Sky Amphitheater

Though SZA’s absence from this concert bonanza clearly messed with the meticulously plotted flow of the evening, the show was efficient and streamlined, with barely any dead-air time left between the many different acts. Lamar was, of course, the biggest draw of the night, showcasing his uncanny ability to bottle up and embody the cultural zeitgeist with a transcendent set. The Championship Tour stayed true to its promise of being a larger-than-life event, the biggest-scale and most exciting rap tour of the summer.

  1. Foo Fighters, April 26 at Coral Sky Amphitheater

Foo Fighters made a triumphant, bombastic return to South Florida after a decade’s absence, ripping through 20-plus songs over the course of a nearly three-hour-long set. Each studio album from 1995’s Foo Fighters to last year’s Concrete & Gold was represented (with the exception of 2014’s lackluster Sonic Highways) and not a single song throughout the course of the marathon set felt out of place. The most impressive aspect of the show was the band’s ability to stretch and knead its songs, similarly to the way a jam-band would, without forfeiting any of the songs’ impact.

  1. Father John Misty, Sept. 30 at Fillmore Miami Beach

Backed by a massive band, which included a three-member horn section, Father John Misty, aka Josh Tillman, infused his songs with a depth that was often lacking on record, elevating the night’s peaks and ensuring that none of the 23 songs fell flat. Tillman’s signature self-deprecating, caustic sense of humor was on full display, as was his vocal prowess. The Fillmore may not have been sold out, but it didn’t matter, as Tillman’s stage presence throughout the nearly two-hour set filled every crack, crevice and empty seat in the venue.

  1. David Byrne, Sept. 29 at Fillmore Miami Beach

David Byrne did what he has always done—reinvent the rock concert as theatrical spectacle—and made it look effortless. The former Talking Heads frontman, dressed in an elegant gray suit, kicked off the show alone, cradling a human brain, and welcomed his band piecemeal, until a symphony of dancer-musicians cluttered the Fillmore Stage, joyously playing their mobile instruments while mastering Byrne’s unorthodox choreography. The set list, generously balanced with vintage material and recent gems, pleased everybody.