Like sands in the hourglass, so is the daze of our concert lives.
Another year has come and gone, Father Time having doddered to 2019’s finish line and only to re-emerge as a swaddling baby 2020 on the other side.
We’ve always found this a great time to look back at the tours which have stopped along the Wasatch Front, and detail our favorite concerts of the past year.
This year, correspondent Jenn Durrant and I assumed primary concert coverage for the Daily Herald, and we have each detailed our four favorite shows from the past 12 months.
Here, in chronological order of their local appearance, are our choices for the top Utah concerts for 2019:
The 1975 (April 29)
You know a live performance strikes the perfect chord when a halfhearted concert-goer walks away a solid fan. That’s what happened during a “British Invasion” for a whole new generation during The 1975’s visit at the end of April. This time the musical foursome was from Manchester, not Liverpool, England, and only the lead singer sported a gray suit and a floppy-haired (albeit curly) moptop haircut, but this band’s appearance was not all that unlike the 1964 style of the Beatles.
Regardless of the differences, the nearly all millennial-aged crowd that filled the UCCU Center in Orem were screaming, swooning, shouting and singing along to the songs of The 1975, a modern-day Fab Four.
The band — featuring lead vocalist Matthew Healy, lead guitarist Adam Hann, bassist Ross MacDonald and drummer George Daniel — won over the entire crowd, long-time fans or the newly introduced alike.
While I proudly have become a somewhat new fan of The 1975, my husband who joined me at the concert only had a brief tutorial on the group’s alternative sound. But, as I had hoped, he was completely impressed, joining with crowd members as they bobbed their heads and danced to the catchy beats. He now has a new favorite band that he has in regular playlist rotation.
— Jenn Durrant
Carlos Santana (July 2)
Carlos Santana proved to be one “Smooth” operator at USANA Amphitheatre this summer. The legendary guitar player strolled onto the stage and made it look easy all night long, dispensing joy and incendiary guitar licks hand in hand over the course of 23 songs in a two-hour performance. It was truly a sight — and sound — to behold.
Dubbed the “Supernatural Now Tour,” this year’s jaunt marked the 20th anniversary of his career-reinventing No. 1 album “Supernatural.” That album, naturally, played a big part in this summer’s setlist, with six songs coming from that career-stratosphere-boosting album, which was released in 1999 and went on to sell more than 30 million records worldwide. Songs from this album included “(Da Le) Yaleo,” “Put Your Lights On,” “The Calling,” “Maria Maria,” “Corazon Espinado” and mega-hit “Smooth.” The “Supernatural” songs were spread throughout the show, dispensing the album’s vibe a little here and a little there rather than a few larger doses.
Santana himself was a man of few words, only addressing the crowd a few times throughout the evening. However, he let his guitar do the talking, and it was a spellbinding conversation. While he can certainly string an extended flurry of bent notes, hammer-ons, pull-offs, pinched harmonics and other guitar tricks of the trade in casual fluidity with the best of them, there were several times where Santana held on to one pure note way longer than one might expect, as if to wring every last bit of emotion from it before it faded away. Those proved to be some of my favorite moments.
— Doug Fox
Jason Aldean (July 27)
I never realized just how many Jason Aldean songs I knew until I was singing along to all 24 songs he performed during his July USANA Amphitheatre stop on his “Ride All Night Tour.”
Aldean played one country radio hit after another, ranging from his 2005 self-titled debut all the way through to his current album, titled “Rearview Town.” He even debuted a new song, “We Back,” from his late 2019 album release.
Two dozen songs is a much-deserved, hefty setlist for any concert-goer and country music fan anticipating live performances of all their favorite songs. The only drawback to that number is the lack of audience interaction time. Sure, Aldean moved seamlessly from hit song to hit song, but without any witty banter, stories or even the obligatory band introduction, there seemed to be a personal disconnect with the audience.
Regardless, Aldean presented a country concert filled with the perfect mix of rockin’ anthems and raucous drinkin’ songs.
— Jenn Durrant
Elton John (Sept. 4)
Hands down, my favorite concert from the past year was Elton John’s stop at Vivint Arena on his” Farewell Yellow Brick Road” tour. When it comes to legacy artists that you have seen multiple times during their career — and this marked my 10th time seeing Sir Elton — it puts you in a great position to compare the relative merits of one tour over another. You know what, basically, that artist is capable of in a live setting, and that performance expertise and style is not going to change drastically from tour to the next. In these cases, what takes a standard great show and raises it several notches are the stage production and the setlist. In that case, John’s September show at Vivint Arena absolutely excelled.
A performer like Elton is absolutely locked into playing a large amount of hits — there’s just no getting around that. (Nor would most people want him diverge too strongly from that facet of his shows.) But for the diehards, what exponentially elevates a John performance is when he breaks out some largely ignored album track. On this tour, that song was “Indian Sunset,” a fan favorite off the 1971 album “Madman Across the Water.” The song was performed as a seven-minute duet with percussionist Ray Cooper (a member of John’s main touring band in the mid-1970s who has taken to sporadically show up mostly unannounced on various tours since then). Their treatment of this magnificent storytelling arc of a song was spellbinding, and one of the true emotional highlights of the whole evening.
Another standout effort was “Funeral For a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding.” This also is an album track, however, unlike “Indian Sunset,” its greatness has been well recognized and the 11-minute opus has remained a pretty standard feature in John’s sets throughout the years.
The show lasted for 2 hours and 45 minutes, and the end featured John riding up a slowly ascending platform after playing two of his biggest hits in the closing encore segment, “You Song” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” With so many groups reneging on their farewell tour promises no matter how vociferously they protested it wouldn’t happen at the time — I’m looking at you, Motley Crue — it remains to be seen whether this will indeed end up as John’s ultimate farewell tour. What I can definitively state, however, is if this was his final Salt Lake appearance, it was a completely worthy adieu.
— Doug Fox
Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band (Sept. 27)
Seger’s September appearance in the Beehive State on his “Roll Me Away” tour was only his second Utah appearance in 39 years, but it is sure to leave an indelible memory on the mind and ears of those lucky enough to attend.
One of Seger’s strengths is his ability to craft a set that perfectly ebbs and flows through the range of nostalgic emotion his catalog affords, bringing the audience to a contemplative state one moment and full-on euphoria the next. That talent was on full display in this, which was in the last leg of scheduled dates for what was billed as a farewell tour.
While Seger was the unquestionable main focus of the show, the 14-member Silver Bullet Band definitely warranted attention throughout the proceedings. With its backing vocals and horns section, in addition to all the regular instrumentalists, the Silver Bullet Band continually generated a wall of sound, providing the musical template for Seger to sing over in his trademark rasp. Especially spotlight worthy were the efforts of saxophonist Alto Reed and lead guitarist Rob McNelley, who each had numerous opportunities to showcase their skills in various solo spotlights.
The show proved to be a fitting closing statement. From here on forward, without further live performances to attend, fans will have to be content with simply taking those old records off the shelf.
Click here for full review.
— Doug Fox
Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters (Oct. 2)
Robert Plant does his best to distance his current project from his legendary predecessor, Led Zeppelin, to the point of offering up completely revamped versions of Zep tunes along with energetic new numbers. But there were still a few moments in his appearance at the Eccles Theater where he tapped into the Zeppelin mystique by unleashing the trademarked Plant wail. And those moments — notably coming during “The Rain Song” and “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” — were indeed oh so sweet.
Plant performed 13 songs over an hour and 35 minutes on stage. Sure, he could have played longer, but the pace was non-rushed, and several songs were expanded and explored in musically diverse directions.
Most importantly, Plant passed the eye and ear test. Ask somebody to describe what constitutes a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame act and they may not be able to put a description entirely into words. But you know it when you see/hear it, and such was the case with Plant’s show at the Eccles.
— Doug Fox
Twenty One Pilots (Nov. 5)
Sometimes, it’s a good thing when rumors are found to be true. And that was certainly the case for the Nov. 5 Twenty One Pilots concert. Rumors of a stellar production were 100% true.
The duo of Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun, returning to Salt Lake for a second stop on their 2018-19 “Bandito Tour,” once again wowed a capacity crowd at Vivint Smart Home Arena with a performance that, according to fans in the crowd, had some new elements and a varied setlist when compared to their November 2018 performance.
Wardrobe changes, transitions between two stages and even moments when they were both being physically supported by the crowd made for amazing highlights. Joseph appropriately balanced atop the crowd during his performance of “Holding Onto You” and Dun was balancing on a mobile drum kit held up by fans during his drum solo on “Car Radio.”
After such a precise, pyrotechnic and personality-filled performance, proving all those rumors true, I’m proud to add Twenty One Pilots to my must-see-again concert list.
— Jenn Durrant
Post Malone (Nov. 11)
When the highly inked singer/songwriter and Utah resident Post Malone takes to the mic at a sold-out Vivint Smart Home Arena, it’s not those tattoos people are talking about. It’s his easily identified, vibrato-laced vocals and musical style that can be considered rock, R&B, trap, blues and country.
Malone is successfully and uniquely bridging the gap between a wide variety of musical genres. Many first-time listeners might classify Posty in hip-hop. But with popular songs like “Better Now” and “Wow.” topping pop charts and “Sunflower,” his song with Swae Lee that was featured on the 2018 animated “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” he is a great, if unconventional, example of a crossover entertainer.
When it comes to his performance style, Malone likes to keep things simple-yet-impactful, allowing audiences to say, “Wow.”
— Jenn Durrant
One that got away
I have no doubt that Guns N’ Roses’ late October appearance at Vivint Smart Home Arena deserves to be on this list. However, the band did not credential reviewers for this show, so we were unable to attend.
I find it interesting — and somewhat amusing — the types of bands that turn down reviewers. Some of the ones that stand out to memory over the years include Prince, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber and Maroon 5. Make of that what you will, but I was disappointed to add Guns N’ Roses to that list.
— Doug Fox