As an avid John Mayer fan, I knew I was going to enjoy the July 26 Madison Square Garden stop in NYC on his summer tour no matter what. He could have walked on stage, did the hokey pokey and exited the building, and I would say it was worth every penny. Thankfully, he instead jammed out with guitar solos, hits and deep cuts. About halfway through the show, he stopped for an intermission and appeared on dozens of screens around the arena to announce a very special, live taping of his popular Instagram show, Current Mood. During the mini episode backstage, he announced a total game changer: he would be performing his entire 2006 Continuum album from start to finish for the first time ever. It felt like we were in a time capsule, brought all the way back to the simpler times of the mid-2000s. Yes, I bought merch that night, and yes, I bought the special Continuum x MSG t-shirt that released two weeks later. -- BECKY KAMINSKY
The Rolling Stones
I’ve been obsessed with the Stones my whole life, but I never considered “Street Fighting Man” an origin story until it was blasting before me, with Mick Jagger waggling forward to ask a football field’s worth of people at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey on Aug. 1: “Well now what can a poor boy do/ Except play in a rock ‘n’ roll band?” With all the members in their mid-70s, playing the highest-grossing tour of the decade, The Rolling Stones are no longer young and poor. They’ve lived longer, grown wealthier and been in a band together more than any of them would have guessed back in 1968.
With 50-plus years of work, the set was was one gift after another: from the country-funk warmth of “Sweet Virginia” to the sinister squawk of a jaw-dropping, 12-minute “Midnight Rambler” to a sweet stomp through the requisites: “Start Me Up,” “Brown Sugar,” “Satisfaction.” They could all be origin stories. Mick also ceded the mic to Keith Richards for two songs; to many, Richards will always represent the core of the band: bedraggled elegance and pure blues. In 2019, his grey hair and rippled smile have softened his fearsome image, but when he sang that incredible line on “Before They Make Me Run” -- “Gonna find my way to Heaven/ Because I did my time in Hell” -- it was clear that this is a man still searching for those pearly gates. -- SARAH GRANT
Drizzy journeyed back to his hometown to give the city a show of a lifetime at his ninth annual OVO Fest on Aug. 5. To celebrate the Toronto Raptors' June NBA Championship win, Drake wheeled out a giant-sized replica of the Larry O'Brien trophy to kick-off the show. With "Trophies" thumping throughout the Budweiser Arena, Drake later tagged in a bunch of his rap friends like Cardi B, Meek Mill, Gucci Mane, DaBaby, and Megan Thee Stallion to share the stage with him in Toronto. It's one thing to have the city at the palm of your hands, but to have every A-list rapper pay homage was such a godly move from The Boy. -- CARL LAMARRE
If there’s one concert that really hit home for me this year, it was the Backstreet Boys’ DNA World Tour. After blessing my 10-year-old self as a “BSB Freak,” attending their show on Aug. 23 at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida really triggered some of the best memories of my childhood and adolescence. In support of their tenth studio album, DNA, I expected the now-men (Nick Carter, Brian Littrell, Kevin Richardson, Howie Dorough, and A.J. McLean) to sing their newer jams rather than the classics, but man, was I in for a real treat. BSB -- just as they did in the ‘90s and early ‘00s -- delivered an incredible spectacle with a light show, dancing, fireworks, and confetti.