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Cincinnati's concert calendar is shaping up to be epic this year. We've got some massive stadium shows that you don't want to miss, as well as some great new talent performing in venues so intimate and laid back that you'll be able to chat with the artists before and after the show. This is also the month that our Midwestern weather finally starts being kind to us, signaling the opening of outdoor amphitheaters and the joy of seeing stars under the stars.
There are so many great shows coming to town this summer that it's hard to keep track of them all, and that's where we come in. We've cherrypicked the biggest, best and most fun shows happening in Greater Cincinnati during the month of May. Let's jump in.
The big ones: NKOTB, The Who, Garth Brooks and more
May 10: New Kids on the Block: The Mixtape Tour
If you came of age in the '80s, you probably had NKOTB cassettes littering your bedroom floor at some point. This tour features them, along with three other iconic acts from the era: Salt-N-Pepa, Rick Astley and En Vogue. Bonus points: The tour opens here in Cincinnati at Heritage Bank Center, so you'll have bragging rights as having seen it first.
May 10: AJR: The OK Orchestra Tour
This indie-pop trio takes its name from the first initials of their names: Adam, Jack and Ryan Metzger, multi-instrumentalist brothers who write, produce and mix their music in the living room of their New York City apartment. They open Riverbend Music Center's summer season on May 10.
May 13-14: Garth Brooks: The Stadium Tour
When country music sensation Garth Brooks announced plans to play Paul Brown Stadium in May of 2020, the tour set an all-time record in Cincinnati, selling over 70,000 tickets in less than 75 minutes. Of course, we know what happened. The pandemic shut down everything and touring ground to a halt.
Brooks, the No. 1 selling solo artist in United States history, is now making good on his promise to bring his stadium tour to town. It's his first time playing at the home of the Bengals, and ticket demand is so great that a second show was just added. Why? Brooks has 20 Billboard No. 1 singles to his credit and is the first artist to garner top-5 singles across five consecutive decades. He's a consummate performer who always gives audiences their money's worth. This tour is a chance to be part of history.
May 15: The Who: The Who Hits Back
Here's another show for the history books. Legendary British band The Who will play Cincinnati for the first time since the tragic Riverfront Coliseum show in 1979, where a pre-show stampede to enter the venue resulted in the deaths of 11 concertgoers. The show marks not only the band's return to the city after 42 years, but also the first time a concert will be played at TQL Stadium.
A portion of proceeds from this show will be donated to the P.E.M. Memorial, an organization founded to honor friends and classmates who lost their lives at the Riverfront show, which provides scholarships to Finneytown High School seniors.
May 20: Tears for Fears: The Tipping Point World Tour
NKOTB isn't the only act kicking off a tour in Cincinnati this month. So is Tears for Fears. The iconic British duo will open their Tipping Point World Tour at Riverbend Music Center, along with alt-rockers Garbage. One of the most well-known acts of the 1980s, Tears for Fears sold over 30 million albums worldwide with singles such as "Shout," "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" and "Sowing the Seeds of Love."
May 22: Miranda Lambert & Little Big Town: The Bandwagon Tour
Crowned Entertainer of the Year at the 2022 Academy of Country Music Awards, Miranda Lambert has also been named Female Vocalist of the Year nine consecutive times and has three Grammy Awards to her name. Currently touring in support of her brand new album "Palomino," Lambert plays Riverbend Music Center with co-headliners Little Big Town, a country music group known for its four-part harmonies. Nashville trio the Cadillac Three opens.
First of the season: Icon Festival stage lights u
May 11: Breaking Benjamin
Multi-platinum rock band Breaking Benjamin returns to Cincinnati to kick off the 2022 outdoor season of the Icon Festival Stage at Smale Park. Joining them in support are post-grunge rockers Seether, Starset and Lacey Sturm of Flyleaf.
Remember the '90s?: Tori Amos and Smashing Pumpkins
The rise in popularity of the compact disc made the 1990s one of the most profitable decades for recorded music. Record labels were signing artists at an unprecedented level, and music fans reaped the benefits. Times were good. And then it all collapsed. When the 1990s began, no one had even heard of the World Wide Web.
By the end of the decade, the Recording Industry Association had sued pioneering file-sharing internet service Napster for copyright infringement. Suddenly, everyone thought they should be able to get music for free, and the music industry struggled to cope with this rapidly changing landscape. These days, touring is a band's bread and butter, and a whole slew of '90s artists are out on the road right now and hitting Cincinnati this month. Here's a rundown:
May 6: Lit, Riverfront Live.
May 7: Testament, Madison Theater. With Exodus and Death Angel. SOLD OUT.
May 8: Deftones, Andrew J. Brady Music Center. With Gojira.
May 8: Mudhoney, Southgate House Revival, Sanctuary. With Blunt Blades.
May 14: Danzig, Andrew J. Brady Music Center. With Cradle of Filth, Crobot and Necrofier.
May 24: Tori Amos, Taft Theatre.
May 27: The Smashing Pumpkins, PromoWest Pavilion at Ovation. With Bones UK.
Hip-hop: Tech N9ne and GZA
May 13: Tech N9ne: Asin9ne Tour 2022
One of the founders of the record label Strange Music, Tech N9ne has sold over 2 million albums and his music has been featured in films, television and video games. He's known for his dynamic rhyme schemes and speed-rap abilities and creates flow patterns in order to sound like a percussion while he raps. After being twice postponed due to the pandemic, he brings his Asin9ne Tour to Bogart's.
May 19: GZA
GZA's a founding member of Wu-Tang Clan, one of the most influential groups of the 1990s. His lyrical style often dismisses typical rap storylines in favor of science and philosophy. Known for having one of the largest vocabularies in popular rap music, he collaborates with educational groups to promote science education in New York City. Catch this grandmaster in action May 19 at Ludlow Garage.
Americana: Leon Bridges, Ray LaMontagne and more
No, we aren't referring to the old amusement park on Route 4. Americana incorporates elements of several American roots styles including folk, bluegrass, country, R&B and blues. It's more popular than ever, as evidenced by the number of shows coming to Cincinnati this month alone.
May 6: Leon Bridges: Gold-Diggers Sound Tour, Andrew J. Brady Music Center. Chiiild opens.
May 7-8: Rivergrass Music Festival feat. Yonder Mountain String Band, Riverfront Live. With Lil Smokies, Armchair Boogie, Stringus Khan.
May 19: Janis Ian, Memorial Hall. With Tom Rush.
May 20-21: David Shaw's Big River Get Down, RiversEdge Amphitheater. Featuring the Revivalists, David Shaw, The Record Company, Maggie Rose and more.
May 25: Valerie June, Memorial Hall. With Rachel Maxann.
May 25: Joseph Huber, Southgate House Revival, Sanctuary. With Jordan Joyes.
May 28: Ray LaMontagne, Andrew J. Brady Music Center. With Sierra Ferrell.
Did you know that U2 once played Bogart's? So did Nine Inch Nails. Kid Rock played Top Cats. Nearly every band or artist starts off gigging in smaller clubs. While they are paying their dues, we Cincinnatians get the benefit of seeing them before they are famous because we are fortunate to have some excellent venues championing lesser-known acts. Here's a look at some of those "bubbling under" acts that, who knows, may just be tomorrow's stadium-fillers.
May 4: The Happy Fits, Top Cats.
May 7: The Mango Furs, Southgate House Revival, Revival Room.
May 11: Lung, MOTR Pub. With ADH and Machine.
May 13: B*tch, Southgate House Revival, Revival Room. With Katie Cash, Kristen Ford.
May 14: Houndmouth, Madison Theater.
May 17: Weathers, Madison Live.
May 24: The Powell Brothers, Tin Roof Cincinnati.
May 25: Elephant Stone, MOTR Pub. With Zoon.
Paying homage: Cure that Michael Jackson, Led Zeppelin fever
It's fun to go out with friends and hear a cover band play songs you know and love. Cover bands ply their trade playing music from multiple artists, genres and decades. Tribute acts, on the other hand, focus on one particular band or artist and actually study that subject so well that when they take the stage, you feel as though you're seeing the real deal.
Emulating the vocal styles and appearance of an artist or group, tribute acts elevate the experience to an entirely new level. Oftentimes, they are the only way you'll ever have a chance to experience the magic of bands and artists no longer with us. Bonus points: Tickets are way cheaper than the real thing would be. Here are some worthy tribute acts coming to Cincinnati in May.
May 6: The Iron Maidens, Blue Note Harrison. With Burning Witches.
May 13: Who's Bad: The Ultimate Michael Jackson Experience, PromoWest Pavilion at Ovation.
May 13: The Ultimate Doors!, Little Miami Brewing Company Event Center.
May 14: Kashmir: Led Zeppelin Tribute, Ludlow Garage.
May 14: Master of Tributes, Riverfront Live. Features five hard rock tribute acts: Sanitarium (Metallica), System of Dying Angels (System of a Down), American Idiots (Green Day), Freak on a Leash (Korn) and Reckoning Day (Megadeth).
May 27: Thunderstruck: America's AC/DC Tribute, Little Miami Brewing Company Event Center.
Comedy: Carol Burnett, Tom Segura, David Spade and more
Comedians are like rock stars, right? Who doesn't love a good laugh? There's something here to appeal to every taste.
May 4-5: Carol Burnett: An Evening of Laughter and Reflection
It's not often you get the chance to interact with a living legend, but the Aronoff Center for the Arts is bringing one to town this week. Comedy trailblazer Carol Burnett comes to Cincinnati for a two-night stand. Burnett's groundbreaking variety show "The Carol Burnett Show" was the first of its kind to be hosted by a woman, and received multiple Emmy and Golden Globe Awards over its 11-year run. Reviving the opening format of that legendary show, An Evening of Laughter and Reflection finds Burnett fielding questions from the audience, with typically humorous results.
May 6: Heywood Banks
A regular on the nationally syndicated radio program The Bob & Tom Show, Heywood Banks is best known for the humorous songs he writes and performs, including "Toast," which is played on a toaster with a pair of forks, and "Big Butter," an ode to the giant statue of Jesus seen along I-75 near Monroe. Banks brings his clean, observational humor and inventive songs to Ludlow Garage on May 6.
May 21: No Cap Comedy Tour
Get ready to laugh your cap off! The No Cap Comedy Tour features some of the best Black comedians in the country, and it hits Heritage Bank Center this month. The show stars YouTube and Vine celebrity roaster DC Young Fly and his "Wild 'N Out" improv comedy show co-stars Chico Bean, Karlous Miller and B. Simone, as well as DeRay Davis, Lil Duval, Michael Blackson and Blaq Ron. The $85 ticket price is a bargain for eight top-shelf comedians.
May 21: David Spade: Catch Me Inside Tour
Known for his low-key, self-deprecating demeanor and wickedly sarcastic sense of humor, David Spade made a name for himself first as a cast member of Saturday Night Live in the 1990s and later as part of an ensemble cast on long-running sitcoms "Just Shoot Me" and "Rules of Engagement." More recently, he starred in his own late-night series "Lights Out with David Spade" on Comedy Central. He brings his observational insult comedy to Taft Theatre this month.
May 27-28: Tom Segura: I'm Coming Everywhere World Tour
One of the biggest names in comedy literally got his start right here in Cincinnati. Funnyman Tom Segura, best known for his Netflix specials "Ball Hog," "Disgraceful," "Mostly Stories" and "Completely Normal," returns to the city of his birth for a two-night stand at Aronoff Center for the Arts on Memorial Day weekend. If you have been considering tickets to this show, act fast. It's nearly sold out.
This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Cincinnati concerts, comedy shows in May 2022