Summer isn’t officially over, but the summer music season is drawing to a close, and what a season it was.
Using Memorial Day as the unofficial start of summer and Labor Day as its unofficial close, I attended more than 42 shows in those 98 days, a small percentage of the hundreds of shows that came to town.
Here’s a list of my 10 favorites, which starts with a country legend and includes a band whose heydays were in the 1980s and a 1990s nostalgia tour.
Dolly Parton at Sprint Center: She commanded the place, from start to finish, showing off her musical prowess (she played 10 instruments); that voice, which remains as strong and inimitable as ever; and her whip-smart sense of humor. The line of the summer, after someone bellowed “I love you” from afar: “I thought I told you to wait in the truck.”
Culture Club at Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. They brought a horn section, backup singers and a frontman who is as charming, funny and charismatic as ever. The extra voices and instruments brought out the soul in their songs, which have aged as gracefully as the band.
Dixie Chicks at Sprint: The arena was packed, as if Taylor Swift were in the place, and the mood before and during the show was electric. More than 13 years had passed since they’d performed in Kansas City, and they received the adoring welcome they deserved.
The Cure at Starlight Theatre: Before a sold-out crowd, they delivered a relentless set list: 31 songs, including a 12-song encore. They played plenty of hits and deep-cut favorites. The weather was stellar; the sound was great. A near-perfect night.
Paul Simon at Starlight: He has implied this was his final tour. If so, he went out riding high in the saddle, leading a small orchestra through a two-hour-plus showcase of a catalog that is now 50 years old . The 25-song set list omitted some big favorites (no “Graceland”), but it featured some worthwhile new songs and plenty of other favorites and proved he is one of the greatest American songwriters of his generation.
Drake at Sprint: It had everything: A ravenous, sold-out crowd, dazzling production and a dynamic headliner who knows how to stoke a big crowd into a frenzy. The sing-alongs were extraordinary and extravagant, even during the rapid-fire medleys. A memorable performance, visually and musically.
Joan Jett/Cheap Trick at Starlight: Heart was on the bill, too, and played the final set, but the two openers delivered headliner performances, especially Jett, who still issues the spirit and grit she showed back in her days with the Runaways.
Turnpike Troubadours at Uptown Theater: My introduction to this band’s raucous live shows was a blindsiding surprise. For about two hours, before a crowd of 2,000-plus, they played tracks from their four albums — songs steeped in the red-dirt sounds: rock, blues, bluegrass, folk and traditional country with some Cajun accents. They also covered Tom T. Hall’s “Fox on the Run” and Tom Waits’ “Old Shoes (and Picture Postcards).”
Guns N’ Roses at Arrowhead Stadium: Axl Rose showed up on time (a few minutes early, actually), on-point and full of enthusiasm. And Slash was a guitar monster, on stage for nearly the entire two-and-a-half-hour show. They played almost all of the hits, most just like we remembered them. Expectations exceeded.
I Love the ’90s Tour at Providence Amphitheater: Among a lineup that stirred plenty of nostalgia and sentiments for the 1990s, Salt-N-Pepa stood out, reprising definitive hits like “Do You Want Me,” “Express Yourself” and “I’ll Take Your Man.” The rest of the lineup, including Coolio, Rob Base and Vanilla Ice, kept the warm, novel vibe going during a show that exceeded three hours.
Honorable mentions: Wilco at Crossroads KC; New Edition and Babyface at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena; the Jayhawks at Knuckleheads; Steely Dan at Starlight; Gwen Stefani at the Sprint Center; John Doe at Knuckleheads; the Milk Carton Kids at Liberty Hall; Femi Kuti at Crossroads KC.