Staff Favorites of 2014: Onstage events

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band perform in the Mohegan Sun Arena on May 17.
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band perform in the Mohegan Sun Arena on May 17.

"Staff Favorites of 2014" lists The Day's features staff's favorite releases, programs, events and other moments in the arts and entertainment world. As we can't possibly listen to/see/read/experience everything, we can only call these selections "favorites." Here, staff writers offer their favorite concerts, shows and other theatrical productions staged in 2014.

Neil Finn, Shubert Theater, New Haven, April 10

I don't know that there's ever been a modern-era pop songwriter as melodically wonderful as Neil Finn - and he's certainly in the exalted company of Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello, Stevie Wonder, Roland Orzabel and Glenn Tilbrook. That said, there are certain of Finn's expansive catalog that even I love less than others. It says a lot, then, that, during a performance in which it seemed a diabolical Finn cherry-picked a set list based on "songs of mine that Rick likes least," he and his band put on a stunningly fine and charming show.

- Rick Koster

King Crimson, Best Buy Theater, New York City, Sept. 18

I'm as guilty as the next goofball, I suspect, in my willingness to use superlative descriptions far more than necessary. And by this point in my life and career, when I've seen perhaps a thousand music shows from the club level to the biggest stadiums in arenas, I'd be a cretin to cite one concert as "the best I've ever seen." That said, this edition of Crimson - with founder Robert Fripp, Pat Mastelotto, Bill Rieflin, Gavin Harrison, Mel Collins, Tony Levin and Jakko Jakszyk - put on a show that was so transcendent and alchemical that I'm still stunned all these weeks later.

- Rick Koster

Bruce Springsteen, Mohegan Sun Arena, May 17

Yep, I finally saw Bruce Springsteen. And, yep, it's every bit as great a concert experience as the Boss-Heads have over the years insisted (with the sort of irritating zealotry that borders on religious cult-ness and probably caused me to NOT go see him for a long time). Springsteen's tunes remain a bit too meat-and-potato-y for me - and, yes, I'm clearly the idiot here. Live, though? By God, Bruce and the E Street Band put on a tremendous show.

- Rick Koster

Queen + Adam Lambert, Mohegan Sun Arena, July 25

Since he first appeared as a weirdo contestant on "American Idol," I thought Lambert was perhaps the only singer in the world who could fill in for Freddie Mercury and allow the world-class band Queen to actually carry on. That said, from a personal standpoint, I feared the show would be structured around stinky big hits like "Another One Bites the Dust" and "We Will Rock You." Clearly, they couldn't leave those tunes out - but happily they played a generous set list that referenced all stages of the band's history. It was across-the-board magnificent.

- Rick Koster

Julian Lage and Chris "Critter" Etheridge, Oasis Room, Garde Arts Center, New London, Oct. 9

It almost seemed gimmicky: put a world-renowned jazz guitarist - and make him a former child prodigy - onstage with a new-generation guitarist from one of the country's most respected bluegrass/roots families, and see what happens. Lage (jazz dude) and Etheridege (bluegrass dude) tossed out had-to-see-it-to-believe-it fretboard rocketry. But their onstage chemistry, wit and friendship fairly shimmered, as well - and clever arrangements of tunes reflecting their respective careers as well as new collaborations were astounding to behold.

- Rick Koster

Sergio Franchi Memorial Concert, Sergio Franchi Estate in Stonington, Aug. 23

The 20th anniversary performance was, simply, a perfect afternoon. The sky was a little overcast, so sitting on the estate's expansive lawn in late August was perfectly comfortable. The crowd was full of people picnicking and clearly enjoying the concert. And the singers? Superb. Metropolian Opera performers like James Valenti and Latonia Moore were on the bill alongside Il Divo's David Miller. In addition, Eva Franchi was a wonderful, irrepressibly amusing hostess.

- Kristina Dorsey

"Fiddler on the Roof" at Goodspeed Opera House, June-September

A layered, deeply moving production of a classic. It doesn't get much better than this.

- Kristina Dorsey

"So You Think You Can Dance," Foxwoods' Grand Theater, Nov. 1

A showcase for glorious anti-gravity feats. The performers on this season's "So You Think You Can Dance" are preternaturally talented, and seeing them as they leapt and pirouetted and partnered and tapped was awe-inspiring.

- Kristina Dorsey

Pat Benatar, opening for Cher, Mohegan Sun, April 5

Cher might have been the ostensible main attraction April 5, but opening act Pat Benatar was the one who ripped the roof off the joint. At age 61, she still sings with supernatural power and stratospheric range, and she hasn't lost a bit of her cool-rock-chick swagger.

- Kristina Dorsey

Robin Thicke, Foxwoods' Grand Theater, March 1

Say what you will about Robin Thicke - and 2014 was not a good year for the man - but he puts on a hell of a concert. His Foxwoods show reveled in smooth showmanship, expressive singing and R&B-drenched music.

- Kristina Dorsey

"Memphis," Garde Arts Center, Feb. 1

One of the best touring shows to play the Garde in recent memory. Here's what I wrote at the time: "It was just a kick, from start to finish, from lead characters to ensemble players, from dance numbers to raft-raising songs."

- Kristina Dorsey

"Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," Flock Theatre, August; Groton Regional Theatre, October

What fun: getting to see two different productions of the iconic Tennessee Williams Southern drama over the course of a few months. Each was a rewarding experience, and each was a wonderfully individual production.

- Kristina Dorsey

Adam Heller, who starred as Tevye in 'Fiddler On The Roof' at Goodspeed Opera House.
Adam Heller, who starred as Tevye in "Fiddler On The Roof" at Goodspeed Opera House.

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