Charli XCX doesn’t put on concerts -- she throws parties. So when the British pop experimenter performed her futuristic mixtape Pop 2 at Brooklyn’s Elsewhere on March 18 for a throng of sweaty 20-somethings, she did so flanked by at least a dozen guests and collaborators (including Kim Petras and Brooke Candy), resulting in a crowded, glitter-splashed, #NSFW onstage celebration that could’ve been mistaken for a rowdy house party. Standout moments: An onstage makeout session, ample crowd-surfing and a rogue cream cheese bagel tossed onstage, to Charli’s delight (yes, really). The synergistic set not only solidified Charli’s growing rep as a taste curator, but also prophesied the direction tours might head in today’s uber-collaborative music world. By the time Charli closed out the seemingly endless night with the proclamation, “Pop 2 is the fucking future,” the words rang true. -- TATIANA CIRISANO?
Following less-than-enthusiastic reviews for his Man of the Woods album, Justin Timberlake managed to put on a mesmerizing show at NYC’s Madison Square Garden on March 22 -- even when he sang MOTW cuts. JT utilized the entire floor of the arena, breaking the stage into three portions that afforded all fans a better view. Timberlake clearly had the nosebleed sections in mind while designing the setup, as drapery around each stage served as massive screens, projecting Timberlake’s image or outdoor imagery that played into the tour’s woodsy theme. And when it came to the set list, Timberlake found a nice balance of MOTW tracks and his biggest hits like “Señorita,” “SexyBack” and the epic show-closer, “Can’t Stop the Feeling.” Bash the album all you want, but the Man of the Woods Tour was nothing short of magical. -- TAYLOR WEATHERBY?
I had heard about Billie Eilish; I knew that she was a young teen whose hit “Ocean Eyes” was performing well. But I had no idea what a massive presence she was, or what a crazed fan base she had gathered in just a few short years. Eilish’s March 23 set at NYC’s Bowery Ballroom was explosive, at times tender, and entirely exciting. At the time, she only had a nine-track EP to pull from, but the way in which each song explored a new territory, both the performance and the performer felt entirely full and thought out. At age 16, Eilish was too fresh to have a front (she even hung around to take photos with fans after the show), and many times mentioned “how crazy” it all was. For being a relatively new artist, she wasn’t just comfortable on stage; she was thriving. It was the type of show where you are acutely aware that the artist you are currently watching will outgrow the venue they are playing almost immediately. And she did: In early November, Eilish sold out two nights at Brooklyn Steel, more than triple the capacity of Bowery Ballroom. -- LYNDSEY HAVENS
There was a moment during Lorde’s Melodrama show at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on April 4 that still gives me the same sparklers-in-the-heart reaction months later. Here’s how it goes: We’re halfway through the set when album producer Jack Antonoff emerges with an acoustic guitar in hand. Things get casual. Ella takes a seat at the edge of the stage, Jack follows, and while they’re both facing one another, she starts calling him out on his gum-chewing habit and he starts joking about her affinity for bodega sushi. And then suddenly there we are: all 10,000 of us fading into the periphery as two deeply caring friends fall into a stripped-back mashup of “New York” (a song Antonoff produced for St. Vincent) and “Hard Feelings.” Ella scoots closer to Jack and leans into a lyric, and though the intimacy of their performance will draw internet speculation, it is, I think, their way of letting us into their version of New York. -- BROOKE MAZUREK?