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Most notable live performances of the year

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Ed Sheeran, at Mohegan Sun July 14

Ed Sheeran's solo performance, which featured him alone onstage with just a guitar and looping pedals, was as mesmerizing as it was fun. His full range of talent was showcased, and much to my surprise, he was really quite the stage performer. The best parts were seeing him create every bass line, melody, crescendo and beat drop — and listening to his fans' ear-piercing screams.

 — Mary Biekert

“Long Day’s Journey into Night” by Flock Theatre, at the Monte Cristo Cottage in April

Flock Artistic Director Derron Wood had long wanted to stage Eugene O’Neill’s semi-autobiographical masterpiece in the place where it is set: O’Neill’s boyhood summer home, the Monte Cristo Cottage in New London. This was the first time a full-fledged performance of “Long Day’s Journey” was staged in the cottage. It wasn’t just a good production, it was An Experience. If you missed it, don’t despair. Flock is reviving the show for April and May of 2018.

— Kristina Dorsey

The Musical Box, at the Garde Arts Center April 7

Not only is this Genesis tribute act actually endorsed by Hackett, Collins, Gabriel, Banks and Rutherford, they brought the stunning "Black Show" version of the "Selling England by the Pound" tour to New London. "Supper's Ready" alone was brain-ripping, but the sound, passion, lighting, costumes and musical mimicry delighted all 19 people who showed up.

— Rick Koster

Lady Gaga, at Mohegan Sun Nov. 9

Anyone who's a fan of Gaga knows she has been undergoing a transition in her life toward emotional openness, something that's been particularly emphasized on "Joanne," her latest and fourth album, which features a stripped-down take on pop and often displays raw emotion. So, my biggest question going into her "Joanne World Tour" was whether Gaga could combine these more emotionally open aspects with her signature plastic-diva flamboyance. In short: yes. She melded both perfectly in a show that was dramatic and touching. I genuinely thought we saw our best Gaga yet.

— Mary Biekert

Trevor Noah, at Foxwoods Sept. 15

It's typical of our odd world that late-night show-host comics have become the Voices of Reason in our society. Noah, a South African mixed-race comic now living in New York City, provided a variety of legit and oft-hilarious observations we could all learn from. Very funny, very smart.

— Rick Koster

"Indecent" on Broadway

This wasn't performed in our region, but we'll stretch the limits of our local live performance round-up because it boasted work by a local artist. How thrilling that our very own David Dorfman — we can call him that, right? — did the choreography for this Tony-nominated play. Dorfman, of course, is head of the dance department at Connecticut College, and he made his Broadway debut with his wonderful, evocative work in "Indecent." Huzzah!

— Kristina Dorsey

"Superhero," at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in mid-July

To hear Broadway luminary Kelli O'Hara sing in the O'Neill barn theater space? Priceless.

— Kristina Dorsey

"Assisted Living," at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in late July

Michael Tucker is best-known as an actor (see "L.A. Law"), but it turns out he's a heck of a playwright, too. "Assisted Living," in which aging friends chat, laugh, spar and contemplate living together, was smart and witty and insightful. (Special mention, too, to a strong cast, with a deft and funny turn by John Pankow as a fading music star.)

— Kristina Dorsey

"Rags," at the Goodspeed Opera House October-December

When the writers started revamping the 1986 musical "Rags" in the summer of 2016, they couldn't have predicted how topical the musical's subject of immigration would become a year later. In this story about Russian immigrants living in the Lower East Side in the early 20th century, we watched a single mother and her son try to make a life for themselves while forging relationships and learning who to trust. Besides a wonderful cast and score, the inventive stage design of a Lower East Side tenement was also memorable.

— Mary Biekert

Kenny Neal, at Blues Monday in Mystic July 17

The Baton Rouge-based monarch of Swamp Blues, in proud support of father Raful Neal's legacy, brought a blistering band on a pleasant summer night. I suspect his online merch and CD sales exploded that evening as folks from a quaint and delighted New England seacoast village, who'd had little idea who Neal is before the show, absolutely wanted more.

— Rick Koster

John Hiatt and Lyle Lovett, at the Garde Arts Center June 20

The witty repartee alone was worthy. But each of these master songwriters put on a glorious clinic and presented career-spanning sets.

— Rick Koster

Kevin Hart, at the Garde Arts Center June 30

You’ve heard of pop-up stores? This was a pop-up concert. Hart was in the region for his public birthday party at Foxwoods and decided to squeeze in a concert at the Garde to work on some new material. Well, that material seemed pretty damned polished to me. A truly hilarious night. Come back to the Garde soon, Kev.

— Kristina Dorsey

Eric Church at Mohegan Sun April 27; Faith Hill and Tim McGraw at Mohegan Sun May 5

In just a little over a week, Mohegan Sun Arena hosted three of country music’s biggest names. Both shows were memorable. Hill and McGraw shone like the superstars they are. In a tightly choreographed concert, I particularly appreciated an unscripted moment when they had a little husband-and-wife spat. (Hill and McGraw return to Mohegan Sun on June 15.) Church gave a three-hour show that was just him and the band — no fancy effects — and he rocked it.

— Kristina Dorsey

Amy Schumer, at Foxwoods March 3

One of the great things about Amy Schumer is how unapologetic she is. Her show at Foxwoods pushed the envelope, no doubt made people feel uncomfortable, and was a riot.

— Kristina Dorsey

David Crosby, at the Garde Arts Center May 29

Old and famous enough to be known to multiple generations, David Crosby, 75, took the Garde stage in genial and relaxed fashion. But for those in the hall familiar with his work chiefly through CSN, this was a magical show that presented over five-decades of quality and sustained music. And what a killer band he has.

— Rick Koster

Depeche Mode, at Mohegan Sun Sept. 1

Behind the disparate but equally powerful stage personalities of Dave Gahan and Martin Gore, Depeche Mode steadfastly worked their iconic, droning '80s synth-pop sound in a fashion that rendered it in surprisingly relevant and fresh fashion.

— Rick Koster

Nancy and Beth, at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center June 25

Nancy and Beth features “Will & Grace” comic genius (yes, I used the G word) Megan Mullally and singer-actress (“Friday Night Lights”) Stephanie Hunt. Their performance style in concert was quirky and stylized, with a wry comic flair, and their harmonies were blissfully beautiful.

— Kristina Dorsey

Melissa Etheridge, at the Garde Arts Center Dec. 15

Simply a raucous good rock 'n' roll time.

— Kristina Dorsey

Katy Perry, at Mohegan Sun Sept. 21

Gone are the days of Katy Perry's Candy Land antics. Instead, in this performance, Katy displayed her new persona, which was modern, slick and nostalgic. I particularly appreciated her references to vapor-waved palm trees, '80s pop-art (specifically odes to artists Masoud Yasami and Patrick Nagel), and references to the album covers of Duran Duran — though pairing all that with her songs "Last Friday Night" and "Teenage Dream" felt like a bit of a mismatch. That was no matter though, in the end Perry displayed the bubbly, adorable personality that garnered her fame in the first place, proving to fans that the star they fell in love with was still there.

— Mary Biekert


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