July 20th, 2024

The best concerts of 2024 so far: AP’s picks include Olivia Rodrigo, Bad Bunny, George Strait, SZA

By Maria Sherman, The Associated Press on July 3, 2024.

FILE - American singer Olivia Rodrigo performs during her “Guts World Tour” in the Royal Arena in OErestad, Denmark, Thursday, May 30, 2024. (Martin Sylvest/Ritzau Scanpix via AP, File)

As The Associated Press’ music writer, Maria Sherman has seen more than 40 concerts during the first half of 2024. Here are some picks for the best shows … so far, excluding any one-off performances that cannot be repeated, and where you too can catch these artists.

Bad Bunny, “The Most Wanted Tour”

March 14, Los Angeles’ Crypto.com Arena

Bad Bunny’s show begins with a symphony, transitioning into the unmistakable strings of his monster hit, “Monaco.” “The Most Wanted Tour” highlights El Conejo Malo’s fifth solo album “Nadie Sabe Lo Que Va a Pasar Mañana” (“Nobody Knows What Will Happen Tomorrow”) and his past reggaetón hits, too.

HIGHLIGHT: There is one moment that can only be described as equine.

OPENER: When you’re one of the biggest artists on the planet, do you really need an opener? Bad Bunny didn’t.

SEE IT YOURSELF: This particular run of shows has come to an end, but here’s a reminder to catch him next time he’s in town.

Olivia Rodrigo, “GUTS World Tour”

April 5, New York’s Madison Square Garden

Rodrigo’s spirited punky-pop warms an arena, as does her irreverent charms and Disney-informed dancing. If women performing their rage has fallen out of vogue, Rodrigo has brought it back, full force.

HIGHLIGHT: For the fans of her big-hearted ballads – in one moment, she’s lifted into the air and circles the arena in a purple crescent moon to slow things down.

OPENER: The Breeders – fronted by the Pixies’ Kim Deal – legends of ’90s college radio and indie rock. There’s something completist about hearing an arena discover “Cannonball” for the first time, a song that no doubt inspired Rodrigo’s music.

SEE IT YOURSELF: Rodrigo heads back to the U.S. this month with a new opener, the U.K. hyperpop producer PinkPantheress, before the Breeders return for two final nights in Los Angeles.

Brutalismus 3000, “AMERIKATRÄUME”

April 11, New York’s Knockdown Center

Every generation gets the Crystal Castles it deserves. Or in less niche language: This Berlin duo brings humor to their music, which veers from hyperactive techno to German Neue Deutsche Welle in their acquired-taste electronica. The shows are sweaty, and no matter your age, you will be the oldest person in attendance.

HIGHLIGHT: The duo samples Dido’s soft-pop hit “White Flag,” while waving a white flag. It works.

OPENER: The techno-punk LustSickPuppy, whose abrasive rave music is presented as a kind of nightmarish clown show.

SEE IT YOURSELF: Brutalismus will be hitting a few festivals in Europe this summer and fall.

Nicki Minaj, “Pink Friday 2 World Tour”

May 1, New York’s Barclays Center

She will run on club time, and she will not disappoint. Nicki Minaj’s “Pink Friday 2″ is almost a retrospective of her chart-toppers, shifting alter-egos with incredible ease.

HIGHLIGHT: At this particular show, Minaj brought out Cyndi Lauper to duet “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” after 1 a.m.

OPENER: Monica has joined Minaj for this tour, and in Brooklyn, Pepa of Salt-N-Pepa opened the show.

SEE IT YOURSELF: Minaj is hitting the European festival circuit this summer, then heading back to the U.S. in September.

Sum 41, “Tour of the Setting Sum”

May 6, New York’s Brooklyn Paramount

Canadian pop-punk band Sum 41 has called it quits – and they’re going out in a blaze of glory, a farewell tour that has the immediacy of their youth.

HIGHLIGHT: Sum 41 does not want to exit quietly – they prove their endurance with an explosive set, fireworks and mosh pits and all. There’s also a giant, blow-up skull.

OPENER: The Interrupters, a ska-punk band that revitalized the genre, are worth arriving early for. At future dates, Sum 41 will be joined by Gob, Pup, Neck Deep and the Bronx.

SEE IT YOURSELF: Sum 41 is zigzagging across Europe and North America through early 2025.

Megan Thee Stallion, “Hot Girl Summer Tour”

May 21, Madison Square Garden

Not every artist can sell out Madison Square Garden on her first tour, but Megan Thee Stallion is not every artist. On her stage, Megan is an athlete and a dancer who delivers her fierce bars with an incredible crispness.

HIGHLIGHT: “WAP” is a can’t miss moment, of course – particularly if Cardi B makes a surprise appearance, like she did at MSG.

OPENER: Tennessee rapper GloRilla, who was most recently featured on the great, braggy “Accent” from the headliner’s third album, “Megan.”

SEE IT YOURSELF: Europe will get to catch her in July, before she heads back home for a few festivals.

The Rolling Stones, “Stones Tour ’24 Hackney Diamonds”

May 23, East Rutherford, New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium

The Rolling Stones ran through 60 years of hits across two hours, including cuts from their first album of new material in nearly two decades, “Hackney Diamonds.”

HIGHLIGHT: When it comes to The Rolling Stones, the entire show is the highlight – but for this audience, it was likely the rollicking rendition of “Wild Horses.”

OPENER: The soulful Jon Batiste, an award-show staple for a reason.

SEE IT YOURSELF: The Stones’ North American tour continues through July.

George Strait

June 8, MetLife Stadium

They call him the King of Country for a reason. Live, George Strait can transform his one-off stadium shows into a honky-tonk; he performs with a big band and a lot of heart.

HIGHLIGHT: The closest a person can get to levitation is singing along to “Amarillo by Morning” in a stadium of tens of thousands.

OPENER: Chris Stapleton and Little Big Town, with Stapleton joining Strait for a new song called “Honky Tonk Hall of Fame.”

SEE IT YOURSELF: Strait has a two more stadium dates in July – in Detroit and Chicago – and another in December, in Las Vegas.

Governors Ball: Chappell Roan, Sexyy Red, SZA, Peso Pluma

June 7-9, New York’s Flushing Meadows Corona Park

Summer festivals across the United States tend to have similar lineups. Governors Ball, arriving early in the season, sets the tone.

HIGHLIGHT: Now is the time to run, don’t walk, to see Chappell Roan. And learn the “Hot to Go” dance.

OPENER: Sexyy Red’s frisky rap is hard to deny.

SEE IT YOURSELF: Many of these artists will be hitting festivals in North American and Europe this summer. In fact, if you want to catch SZA, Sexyy Red and Chappell Roan in one go, consider Lollapalooza in August. Pluma is currently on his “Éxodo Tour” across North America, running through October.

CLAMM

Feb. 18, Melbourne, Australia’s Northcote Social Club

In the search for thrilling, cathartic underground music – particularly of the indie variety – look no further than the rich scene of Melbourne, Australia. CLAMM, the punk trio, brings a controlled aggression to their live show. It is ferocious noise punk that hits like inhaling hand sanitizer – stinging alert their audience with clever agitation.

HIGHLIGHT: Later this month, CLAMM will release a new record, “Disembodiment.” Live, they’ve begun performing the chant-along opening cut, “Change Enough.”

OPENER: At this particular show, the Aussie indie band Scott and Charlene’s Wedding and the rapper Mulalo. A genre-diverse club show is a life-affirming club show.

SEE IT YOURSELF: CLAMM are headed to Europe for a series of dates this July, and back to Australia in August.

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