Year in Review: Best concerts of 2018

Andy Downing,Erica Thompson,Joel Oliphint
Taylor Swift

We don't always go to concerts. But when we do, we get really tired and then write reviews. Here's a groggy trip down memory lane from the last year.

Shame at Spacebar, Feb. 24

The British upstarts made Spacebar's cozy environs feel even more claustrophobic during a twitchy, adrenalized set that saw the band run through a bulk of its caustic debut album.

What we said then:[Singer Charlie] Steen's dry, self-lacerating sense of humor brought further relief, exhibiting itself in everything from his stage banter — “We still have faith in the stability of the music industry,” he deadpanned at one point — to songs such as “One Rizla,” on which he took potshots at everything from his teeth (yellowed) to his wallet (empty).

Lorde at the Schottenstein Center, March 31

Lorde, uh, lorded over a massive arena bill, which also included can't-miss sets from Mitski and rappers Killer Mike and El-P, better known as Run the Jewels.

What we said then: Introducing a set-closing “Green Light,” for one, the singer asked the audience to summon all of its joy, pain, heartache and pettiness. She then deployed each in a musical tidal wave that ping-ponged between emotional poles as confetti rained down on the crowd, Lorde standing triumphantly center stage, flaws and all.

Taylor Swift at Ohio Stadium, July 7

Arguably the biggest show of the year, and it largely lived up to the spectacle.

What we said then:Best of all was the gorgeous, piano-driven “New Year's Day,” which fell near the end of the nearly two-hour set. Here, Swift picked her way through the detritus of the previous evening's festivities — glitter-strewn floors, discarded Polaroids, empty, castoff bottles — as she reckoned with the effects of time. “Please don't ever become a stranger,” she sang.

Radiohead at the Schottenstein Center, July 23

The British band delved deep into its catalog over the course of its summer tour, meaning each stop had a distinct vibe. Here in Columbus, the band favored the mellower end of its musical spectrum, often to gorgeous effect.

What we said then:And even on a night where the band appeared more interested in exploring the slower burning corners of its catalog — perhaps taking a bit of the advice Yorke dispensed in “The Tourist” when he sang, “Hey, man, slow down” — the underlying dread fueling Radiohead's disquieting music was enough to raise the pulse even when the BPMs were dialed way back.

Beyonce and Jay-Z at Ohio Stadium, Aug. 16

Despite the outsized stadium environment, the Bey-Jay co-headlining tour often maintained the intimacy of couple's therapy, with the famed pair addressing the sometimes rocky road that is marriage.

What we said then: Emerging hand-in-hand, both dressed in white, it initially appeared as if the two were set to renew their vows in public. Rather, the pair traded increasingly revealing tunes that documented a marriage in all its complexity, full of missteps, miscommunications, apologies, backsliding, resentments and renewal. “One day you're screaming you love me,” Beyonce sang on the tone-setting “Holy Grail.” “The next day you're so cold.”

J. Cole at the Schottenstein Center, Sept. 23

In an energetic set at the Schott, J. Cole shared his flaws and personal pain, while living up to the role model label bestowed upon him by his adoring fan base.

What we said then: A touching moment occurred after Cole performed a series of old classics. Sitting on a stool, he talked to the audience further about processing pain in a healthy way. Even if one is critical of his solutions — he's received flak for his simple “meditate, don't medicate” directive on the new album — it's impossible not to see his passion for helping his fans, most of whom are relatively young.

John Prine at the Ohio Theatre, Sept. 28

After postponing his original March Columbus date (“I needed a new knee,” Prine said), the grizzled songwriter came to town two weeks before his 72nd birthday for a legendary set that infused protest with humor and beauty with heartbreak.

What we said then: “We were standing,” Prine sang, his feet beginning to shuffle, his shoulders shrugging in time. “Standing by peaceful waters.” The guitar became a distraction, so he set it on the stage, flicking his fingers at it as if smoke and flames were engulfing it. He let his body do what it pleased, breaking into a weird, wonderful jig. Then he danced himself off the stage while the band played on.