The 12 Best Performances I Saw in 2018

As 2018 is coming to a close – finally – I decided to share one more “year end” post on the blog: my favorite performances of 2018. I shared one of these last year (click here) but I wanted to do 12 instead of 10 just to include a couple more. Last year, I saw 95 performances and this year I ended up seeing 98. I wanted to get to 100, but alas. Hopefully I can get to 100 in 2019.

You can see the list of every set I saw this year at the bottom of this post. To clarify, I count these by SETS, not concerts. So if there’s a show I’m going to with 2 opening acts and a headliner, and I see all three, that’s three sets.

In chronological order:

IMG_4326.jpeg
Photo Credit

First Aid Kit
Date – 2/2/2018
Venue – The Riviera Theater

This is an obvious choice if you’re aware that Ruins was my fourth favorite album of the year – but that was a revelation I hadn’t had time to come to back in February. Ruins was released just a couple weeks before I saw Swedish sibs Klara and Johanna Söderberg – so I didn’t have much time to consume the album in its entirety just yet. Seeing FAK live for the second time made me fall in love with the album even more: I had only ever seen them perform for a 40 minute set at Lollapalooza and their live performance at a sold out headlining show in Chicago is even more of a treat than I expected.

Full of emotional ups and downs, beautiful, pitch perfect harmonies and handfuls of sing-alongs, First Aid Kit delivered an unbelievable performance of old favorites, new songs from Ruins and a cover of “Crazy On You,” by 70s rock band Heart that could have snuck by on Ruins as the duo’s own song. My personal favorite moments included their powerful performance of “You Are The Problem Here” (a song about our society’s dooming rape culture) and hearing “Stay Gold” and “The Lion’s Roar.” My only complaint is I wish I heard them perform their cover of “Running Up That Hill” by Kate Bush that was released earlier this year. Next time, maybe! If you’re looking to explore more indie folk/rock/pop genres, check out a performance by First Aid Kit.

Click here to read my full review on First Aid Kit’s live show.

screen-shot-2018-02-13-at-1-00-17-pm.png

Rostam
Date – 2/10/2018
Venue – Lincoln Hall

If you’re a fan of Vampire Weekend, you’re definitely a fan of Rostam. An original member of the group, Rostam announced that he was leaving the band in Jan. 2016 to pursue work as a producer and solo artist. Being a die hard VW fan for years, I was curious to see how this would impact the group (we still don’t know, since their album STILL isn’t out) and to see where Rostam would go. His debut album, Half-Light, came out in 2017 (landed high on top albums list) and led him to a headlining tour in early 2018.

The album is very experimental and sounds different than anything I heard in 2017, so I figured the performance would be the same. First off, I couldn’t believe that someone as high profile as a former member of Vampire Weekend was playing such a small venue – and he eventually sold it out. Second off, I was excited to hear how Rostam would implement the instruments from the album into his live performance and I was definitely not disappointed. The performance included a drummer, guitarist, etc. – but the most beautifully wonderful feature was the live string instrumentalist. Out of the variety of live music performances I’ve seen, I’ve rarely seen a live string section, especially at such a tiny, low-key venue, and it truly made this performance the most intimate, relaxing and romantic show I got to see all year. Rostam’s ethereal aesthetic combined with vibrant stage lighting & graphics made it a truly unique live experience.

Click here to read my full review on Rostam’s performance.

Screen Shot 2018-12-20 at 3.41.33 PM.png
Photo Credit

Lorde
Date – 3/27/2018
Venue – Allstate Arena

I was deep into the crowd Thursday night of Chicago’s Lollapalooza music festival in 2017 waiting for Lorde to start her first appearance back in Chicago in three years. She came on ten minutes late as the rain continued coming down heavily, turning into thunder and threatening a cancelation. As she was about to start her fourth song of the set (introducing it as a song she had never played live before off of Melodrama), the rest of the evening was canceled due to weather.

This scarred me for months, as Melodrama became one of my favorite albums of 2017. Luckily for me, I had already got tickets to see her the following March at Allstate Arena – which ended up being one of the best shows of the year. I had seen Lorde a handful of times previously (and even met her through a fence way back in 2014), but nothing can equate to seeing Ella perform in her prime during her arena tour. The 21-song long set boasted songs from Pure Heroine, Kanye West covers (when in Chicago…) and of course, songs from Melodrama. This show is probably in the running for my favorite of the year because hearing these songs live were moments of closure for me: songs like Supercut” and “Hard Feelings/Loveless” were extremely important for me in an emotional capacity too serious to share in this post – and incredibly meaningful. The canceled Lolla set was absolutely redeemed.

Check out the full show review here.

dbhznviwaaax7df.jpg

Phoebe Bridgers
Date – 4/18/2018
Venue – Lincoln Hall

Something that my sister has always told me is how much she dislike sad movies. Incredibly random, but I promise it’s relevant. I’m sure she feels the same about sad music and doesn’t like to listen to things that make her sad. I suppose this goes the same for a lot of people, but sad is just another emotion that I think is important for us to be able to feel and understand. With that being said, Phoebe Bridgers’ headlining show at Lincoln Hall earlier this year was probably the saddest show I attended all year long. Bridgers’ debut Stranger In The Alps doesn’t shy away from dark topics. This makes for an especially depressing live show: but that’s the beauty of it. Not many artists can gather fans from all walks of life (let’s be real, most of the people at this show were white dudes) that paid to hear songs about suicide, failed relationships and Jeffery Dahmer references.

Bridgers’ down-to-earth, “I’m just here to play some sad songs” persona is charming and likable. Her musicianship is on par with the best, vocals always on key and energy high. Sad music is still a way to connect with other people, and Bridgers’ knows how to tug on your heart strings. I usually wouldn’t love to see an artist close with two covers (She did “You Missed My Heart” by Mark Kozelek & Jimmy LaValle and “If It Makes You Happy” by Cheryl Crow), but both songs had such a Bridgers’ spin on them, I wasn’t even slightly mad.

My review on Phoebe’s show in its entirety is here.

Screen Shot 2018-12-20 at 3.42.26 PM.png
Photo Credit

Taylor Swift
Date – 6/1/2018
Venue – Soldier Field

If you thought that this list wouldn’t include at least one of the three times I saw Taylor Swift this year, you are sadly mistaken. After a 3 year break of hearing no music from Taylor, I was ready for another world tour. Even though each tour stop I went to of the reputation tour this summer (two in Chicago and one in Indianapolis), I would definitely have to say that the first show was the best. This was the first time I was seeing the show of course, so it was full of surprises and my first experience hearing songs off of Reputation live.

The stages (3) were bigger, the special effects more exciting, and Taylor seemed more prepared than ever. A few songs off of Rep are more demanding in terms of vocal execution, (i.e. “Don’t Blame Me”) paired with a lot of dance moves (she never used to dance – still not sure how I feel about it) showed that Swift wasn’t coming to fool around on this tour. The opening with “Ready For It” into “I Did Something Bad” was legendary, but I was bummed I had to sit through “Gorgeous” (still hate that song) and I wish she had different production choices for a couple of the songs (“Getaway Car, “Dancing With Our Hands Tied). At the end of the day, Swift has made a statement about her ability to put on a phenomenal stadium show and her live vocals have improved immensely. Side note – Taylor’s surprise song at the Indy show was “Forever & Always” and it redeemed me hearing “Our Song” and “22” as the surprise shows in Chicago (almost).

Click here to read my live review on the Rep tour.

Blood Orange
Date – 7/21/2018
Venue – Union Park (Pitchfork Music Festival)

Dev Hynes is a mastermind (hey, that sort of rhymes). I was thrilled to see that he was appearing at this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago – I had never attended before and the lineup this year was really convincing me to go. The main reason I ended up buying the ticket really to see Fleet Foxes, but Blood Orange on the lineup was also an amazing grab. Opening with a Sky Ferreira song “Everything Is Embarrassing” (Hynes co-wrote the track), Blood Orange delivered an 11-song set seamlessly, paired with gorgeous visuals.

I didn’t know every song performed, and I wasn’t a die hard Blood Orange fan before this performance, but boy was Dev Hynes a hypnotic presence onstage. Switching back and forth from singing at the mic to playing a keyboard, his charisma as a performer and vocal ability was captivating from start to end. Blood Orange’s music has a specific sort of synth swagger that I’ve never been so intrigued by elsewhere and it definitely translated onstage. The 45 minutes felt like they were over in a blink of an eye: I was so transfixed on every movement, note change and guitar lick between Hynes and his band that I didn’t want to miss any of it.

My favorite moments were definitely hearing “Best To You” (probably one of my favorite songs ever) and “It Is What It Is.”

My review on my first experience at Pitchfork Music Festival is available to read here.

Screen Shot 2018-12-21 at 1.13.43 PM.png
Photo Credit

St. Vincent 
Date – 8/6/2018
Venue – Grant Park (Lollapalooza)

In a sea of male performers, St. Vincent was one of the few female sub-headliners at Lollapalooza this year (which is really crappy, to say the least). After her stellar release of  Masseduction, I was absolutely set on seeing St. Vincent (Annie Clark) perform. Masseduction was one of my favorite albums of 2017 and I knew that she would be able to translate her innovative sound from the album well in a live setting.

Vincent’s onstage persona was something out of the distant future: very robotic, technological, clean and colorful. She looked like she could be a hero in a Black Mirror episode. Barely moving around the stage at all (I saw about 40 minutes of her hour set), Clark stayed put on the left side of the stage, behind a bright orange guitar that matched her dress and sleeves (think the color of a cheeto!!) An interesting tidbit about this performance is that she was 1) on the far left of the stage and 2) in alignment with her band. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a female musician not stand at the front and center of the stage which her bandmates behind her. I think this says a lot.

The front side of St. Vincent’s set was heavy with songs off of Masseducation, which was perfect for me since I didn’t see the second half and am most familiar with this album. I only left early because my entire group was seeing Dua Lipa – and since I had seen her two times before, I really wish I just stayed put for St. Vincent’s performance, which was overall a bigger and more impressive spectacle, a bigger stage, less neurotic crowd behavior and more room to be relaxed an enjoy the music. I’ve learned my lesson, though.

Click here for my full Lollapalooza 2018 review.

38759346_10210470144748732_3146880558768848896_n

Vampire Weekend
Date – 8/6/2018
Venue – Grant Park (Lollapalooza)

I was entirely convinced that by the time Lollapalooza 2018 rolled around, we’d have a new album from Vampire Weekend – the first since 2013 (insane). Unfortunately we’re about 10 days away from 2019 and we still don’t have a new album or a release date…but that didn’t stop me from having the best time seeing Vampire Weekend for the third and fourth times this year. It was VW’s first return to Lolla since 2013 and one of the first shows performing without Rostam (in which I discussed earlier) but they seemed just fine onstage without his presence.

Opening the set by playing “A-Punk” not once, not twice, but three times, Vampire Weekend seemed hype to play their first show back in Chicago in years to a very tiny -but quite eager and enthusiastic – audience (The Weeknd was playing across the park). I was definitely hoping for a new song or two, but that was saved for the band’s after-show the following evening (I was there, too – they played 24 songs). The band waved in and out through fan favorites like “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” “Oxford Comma,” “Hannah Hunt” and my personal favorite “Unbelievers.” A pleasant surprise was in the inclusion of “New Dorp. New York,” a SBTRKT song that features Ezra’s vocals. This show felt like it was truly full of mega fans who have anxiously been awaiting the band’s return from their long hiatus – and I hope to see them back in Chicago ASAP.

Click here to read my Lollapalooza 2018 review.

IMG_3160.jpg
Photo Credit

Portugal. The Man
Date – 8/7/2018
Venue – Grant Park (Lollapalooza)

There are a few artists on earth that I’ve had multiple chances to see perform, but it has never quite worked out. Portugal. The Man is one of them – and this was finally broken when I got to see their set at Lollapalooza this year. My last set of the 4-day weekend, I popped a squat in the grass as a wave of musicians piled onstage – at least 10 are apart of the live performance – string musicians, backup singers, you name it.

A lengthy introduction of the Metallica and Pink Floyd covers, PTM continued with their song “Purple, Yellow, Red and Blue,” turning it into quite the jam session. As their set continued, I was blown away at how many of the band’s songs I actually knew – I’ve been listening to them since maybe 2013 and it was really cool to be able to pick out songs that I had been listening to for that long without ever seeing them perform live. Note only was this one of my favorite live music moments of the year because of how much I enjoy their music, but because it was such a new dynamic to see so many different musicians onstage together just jamming. The performance also featured a ton of political moments in the graphics on the video screens and that’s something I always appreciate. PTM won a grammy this year for their song “Feel It Still” – a good song, but nothing compared to a lot of their catalog. If you liked that track, I suggest you take a listen to their other stuff! My favorite album from them is Evil Friends from 2013.

Click here to read my Lollapalooza 2018 review.

fleetwoodlivecolor-jpeg.jpg
Photo Credit

Fleetwood Mac
Date – 10/6/2018
Venue – United Center

How could I make a year end list of the best performances I saw this year and NOT include Fleetwood Mac? This has been a huge bucket list item for me for YEARS and I never thought I’d have the chance to see Fleetwood Mac perform, but it finally happened. I’m the first to say that I’m not really into older, classic music for no real reason, but I’ve been a fan of Fleetwood Mac since I can remember my mom playing their music in the car when she would drive my sister and I around to soccer practice or the pool during the summer. I have such an emotional connection to Fleetwood Mac’s music and they’ve been a constant in my life, so of course being able to witness some of these songs live was a big deal for me.

Fleetwood Mac has seen band members come and go throughout the years, but the current lineup of musicians touring with the band are some of the best of the best, and it was an amazing experience to see this talent alive and well and still creating and performing music as if they’re still in their 20s and 30s. Hearing songs like “Dreams,” “The Chain” and “Go Your Own Way” (I heard “Landslide back when I saw Stevie Nicks’ perform solo) were seriously some of the best music moments I’ve seen all year.

Processed with VSCO with b1 preset

Mitski
Date – 10/25/2018
Venue – The Vic Theater

As if I need more of a platform to talk about how much I loved Mitski this year…but I’ll do it again anyway. After delivering the best album of 2018 (in my humble opinion), I was beyond ecstatic to be able to cover this show for the blog. I had never seen Mitski before and have been wanting to for some time now, so it was truly a treat to see her at such a poignant time in her career. I went extremely in depth in describing her performance on this post from late October, so you can get a true feeling of what her live show is like over there. Regardless, her performance was imaginative, nuanced and an Easter egg of metaphors waiting to be cracked open. It was one of the most beautiful, emotional performances while still being equally controlled and genuine. I may be bias because Be The Cowboy means so much to me, but I was (and still) completely blown away.

My full show review on Mitski lives here.

screen-shot-2018-11-27-at-3-07-27-pm.png

boygenius
Date – 11/12/2018
Venue – Thalia Hall

Same with what I said above about Mitski, I’ve talked about boygenius a lot and I’ve recently shared  a detailed review on their live show (here) but their performance deserves to be on my list, nonetheless. 2018 was an incredible year for females (even though I know that Lucy, Phoebe and Julian hate their music being gendered), and being able to see the accomplishments that boygenius have made in just a few months since forming their supergroup is something I feel extremely lucky to be apart of. Their debut performance in Chicago as a trio was nothing short of amazing and deserved a spot on my list with no question. Again, you can read more about this by clicking here.

“Me & My Dog” was a true highlight but also hearing the women sing “Ketchum, ID” acapella was something I will truly never forget.

You can see the full list of performances I saw this year below. This totals up to 98 sets across 43 shows/concerts (I consider 1 day of Lolla 1 show, so 4 days is 4 shows, although this can be interpreted differently for everyone). If you’re curious to see how the venue breakdown, just ask! I saw the most sets at Lolla (of course) followed by Lincoln Hall in 2018.

Date Artist Location Notes
1/23/2018 Yoke Lore Schuba’s
2/2/2018 First Aid Kit The Riviera
2/2/2018 Van William The Riviera Opening for First Aid Kit
2/10/2018 Rostam Lincoln Hall First tour as solo artist (formarly in Vampire Wekeend)
2/21/2018 Elliot Root Schuba’s
3/1/2018 Gabrielle Aplin Bottom Lounge
3/9/2018 Chappel Roan Space Opening for Declan McKenna
3/9/2018 Declan Mckenna Space
3/27/2018 Lorde Allstate Arena
3/30/2018 The Big Pink Metro Opening for Wolf Alice
3/30/2018 Wolf Alice Metro
3/31/2018 Billie Eilish Lincoln Hall
3/31/2018 Reo Cragun Lincoln Hall Opening for Billie Eilish
4/4/2018 Thirdstory Thalia Hall
4/18/2018 Phoebe Bridgers Lincoln Hall
4/28/2018 Frenship Lincoln Hall
4/28/2018 Yoke Lore Lincoln Hall Opening for Frenship
4/30/2018 Baum Subterrenean Opening for Dagny
4/30/2018 Dagny Subterrenean
5/11/2018 Dreamwife Lincoln Hall Opener for Sunflower Bean
5/11/2018 Sunflower Bean Lincoln Hall
6/1/2018 Camila Cabello Soldier Field T.Swift Rep Tour Opener
6/1/2018 Taylor Swift Soldier Field
6/2/2018 Camila Cabello Soldier Field T.Swift Rep Tour Opener
6/2/2018 Charli XCX Soldier Field T.Swift Rep Tour Opener
6/2/2018 Taylor Swift Soldier Field
6/3/2018 Bon Iver Millennium Park First show in Chicago in 7 years
6/9/2018 Duncan Fellows Lincoln Hall Opener for Middle Kids
6/9/2018 Middle Kids Lincoln Hall
6/15/2018 Overcoats Taste of Randolph
7/2/2018 Fess Grandiose East Room Opener for Foster The People’s Aftershow
7/2/2018 Foster The People East Room Aftershow, on tour w/ Paramore
7/2/2018 Ganser East Room Opener for Foster The People’s Aftershow
7/2/2018 Rozwell Kid East Room Opener for Foster The People’s Aftershow
7/2/2018 Vamos East Room Opener for Foster The People’s Aftershow
7/7/2018 Now, Now Lincoln Hall
7/21/2018 Blood Orange Union Park Pitchfork
7/21/2018 Fleet Foxes Union Park Pitchfork
7/21/2018 Girlpool Union Park Pitchfork
7/21/2018 Moses Sumney Union Park Pitchfork
7/21/2018 Rafael Saddiq Union Park Pitchfork
7/21/2018 The War On Drugs Union Park Pitchfork
7/28/2018 The Get Up Kids East Room Wicker Park Fest
7/24/2018 Sylvan Esso The Vic Theater
7/28/2018 Snail Mail Wicker Park Fest
8/4/2018 All Time Low Grant Park Lollapalooza
8/4/2018 Arctic Monkeys Grant Park Lollapalooza
8/4/2018 Billie Eilish Grant Park Lollapalooza
8/4/2018 Camila Cabello Grant Park Lollapalooza
8/4/2018 Chvrches Grant Park Lollapalooza
8/5/2018 Brockhampton Grant Park Lollapalooza
8/5/2018 Bruno Mars Grant Park Lollapalooza
8/5/2018 Greta Van Fleet Grant Park Lollapalooza
8/5/2018 James Bay Grant Park Lollapalooza
8/5/2018 Lauv Grant Park Lollapalooza
8/5/2018 Lewis Capaldi Grant Park Lollapalooza
8/5/2018 Matt Maeson Grant Park Lollapalooza
8/5/2018 RLUMR Grant Park Lollapalooza
8/5/2018 The Neighbourhood Grant Park Lollapalooza
8/6/2018 Amy Shark Grant Park Lollapalooza
8/6/2018 Carly Rae Jepsen Grant Park Lollapalooza
8/6/2018 Catfish & The Bottlemen Grant Park Lollapalooza
8/6/2018 Dua Lipa Grant Park Lollapalooza
8/6/2018 Pale Waves Grant Park Lollapalooza
8/6/2018 St. Vincent Grant Park Lollapalooza
8/6/2018 Vampire Weekend Grant Park Lollapalooza
8/7/2018 Jessie Reyez Grant Park Lollapalooza
8/7/2018 Kali Uchis Grant Park Lollapalooza
8/7/2018 Manchester Orchestra Grant Park Lolllapalooza
8/7/2018 Morgan Saint Grant Park Lollapalooza
8/7/2018 Portugal The Man Grant Park Lollapalooza
8/7/2018 Rex Orange County Grant Park Lollapalooza
8/7/2018 The Aces Grant Park Lollapalooza
8/7/2018 Vampire Weekend Metro Lolla aftershow, played for 2.5 hours, heard new songs
8/17/2018 Jared & The Mill Lincoln Hall Opening for Lydia
8/17/2018 Lydia Lincoln Hall
9/15/2018 Camila Cabello Soldier Field T.Swift Rep Tour Opener
9/15/2018 Taylor Swift Lucas Oil Stadium
9/21/2018 Diet Cig Lincoln Hall
9/28/2018 Cautious Clay Schuba’s
10/6/2018 Fleetwood Mac United Center
10/24/2018 Gabriel Garzon-Montano The Riviera Opening for Kali Uchis
10/24/2018 Kali Uchis The Riviera
10/25/2018 Mitski The Vic Theater
10/25/2018 Overcoats The Vic Theater Opening for Mitski
10/28/2018 Brockhampton Aragon Ballroom First hip-hop headlining show I’ve ever gone to, won tix
10/30/2018 Maggie Rogers The Riviera
10/30/2018 Mallrat The Riviera Opening for Maggie Rogers
11/12/2018 boygenius Thalia Hall Debut Chicago show as group
11/12/2018 Julien Baker Thalia Hall On tour w/ boygenius
11/12/2018 Phoebe Bridgers Thalia Hall On tour w/ boygenius
11/13/2018 Jessie Reyez Lincoln Hall
12/4/2018 Japanese House Lincoln Hall
12/6/2018 Mt. Joy The Chicago Theater Holiday Show w/ WXRT
12/6/2018 The Head And The Heart The Chicago Theater Holiday Show w/ WXRT
12/22/2018 All Time Low The Rave Holiday Show w/ The Maine
12/22/2018 The Maine The Rave Holiday Show w/ ATL
12/22/2018 The Wrecks The Rave Holiday Show w/ ATL & The Maine

My 118 Favorite Songs of 2018
My Top 18 Albums of 2018

Thanks so much for reading!

– Kristin

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s