Winter in Milwaukee is often a quiet time for concerts.
But the darkest January nights were never as quiet at local venues as they were from mid-March 2020 through July 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
And with concerts finally back, artists and venues are making up for that lost time. And that means, arguably, this may be the most exciting winter for concerts in recent history.
Here are 16 picks, listed in chronological order, and these exciting shows are just scratching the surface — which bodes well for a blockbuster 2022 for live music.
As the wait continues for a Police reunion that may never come, drummer Stewart Copeland (who's also a composer for operas and ballets) has found some inspired collaborators to perform "Roxanne," "Message in a Bottle" and other enduring hits live, presenting the material with orchestral arrangements and guest vocalists.
When, where, price, protocols: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 2, Bradley Symphony Center, 212 W. Wisconsin Ave. $25 to $115 at the box office and mso.org. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination or negative test (taken within 72 hours of performance) required for entry. Masks recommended, required for children under 12.
Isbell's latest album "Reunions" reinforces his pedigree as one of the sharpest singer-songwriters of his genre and generation. He may even add his newly released cover of Drivin' N' Cryin's "Honeysuckle Blue," written by his good friend (and Milwaukee native) Kevn Kinney, to the setlist. Arrive early for opener Strand of Oaks, who's built a strong reputation in town for cathartic sets at the Cactus Club.
When, where, price, protocols: 8 p.m. Dec. 2, Riverside Theater, 116 W. Wisconsin Ave. $45 to $122 at the door, the Pabst Theater box office (144 E. Wells St.) and pabsttheater.org. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination, or a doctor's note excusing vaccination from a doctor, required. Masks recommended, required for everyone 16 and under.
Two singer-songwriters who helped shaped the sound of the '70s and beyond (and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) will share a bill at the Milwaukee Bucks arena. And if reviews from past stops are an indication, they'll also share the stage together for a couple of songs.
When, where, price, protocols: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 2, Fiserv Forum, 1111 N. Phillips Ave. $59.50 to $375 at the box office and ticketmaster.com. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination (or a negative test taken within 72 hours of performance) required for entry.
Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Rick Nielsen isn't the only family member with major musical talent. His son Daxx Nielsen has been playing drums with his dad in Cheap Trick for about a decade now, while Daxx's brother Miles Nielsen, and Miles' wife Kelly Steward, have been releasing their own songs and doing their own tours. Now they're jamming together as a family band, playing each others' songs (and some covers) at this intimate Milwaukee gig.
Milwaukee must be one of the folk duo's favorite markets. They previewed their previous album, "III," at the Pabst Theater in 2019 before headlining the city's final arena show before the concert industry shutdown in March 2020. Now they're again playing a smaller venue — the Rave's 3,500-person-capacity Eagles Ballroom — to preview their next album, "Brightside," that arrives in January.
When, where, price, protocol: 8 p.m. Dec. 14, Eagles Ballroom, The Rave, 2401 W. Wisconsin Ave. $60 to $70 at the box office and therave.com. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination or negative test (taken within 72 hours of performance) required.
The Australian rocker instantly distinguished herself with witty lyrics and deadpan delivery, exemplified on lo-fi gems like "Nobody Really Cares If You Don't Go to the Party," on her 2015 debut album "Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit." Some of those sharp observations have been dulled a bit on her new quarantine-inspired album "Things Take Time, Take Time," but it's still an interesting listen, and should translate well to the stage.
When, where, price, protocols: 8 p.m. Jan. 20, Pabst Theater. $36.50. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination or negative test (taken within 72 hours of performance) required for entry. Masks recommended, required for children under 12.
Milwaukee has long known Kane Brown would be a superstar, selling out his 2016 show at the Rave before he had even released an album. But the country artist, who broke out with YouTube covers, has amassed a mighty catalog of his own pop and R&B-flavored country hits, leading to his first arena headlining gig in town. Chase Rice and Restless Road open.
When, where, price: 7 p.m. Jan. 20, Fiserv Forum. $36.50 to $235.25.
Driven as much by infectious joy as by their determination to defy expectations, the four women in the Japanese rock band have reached new artistic terrain (and expanded their following) on their third studio album "Wink," which flirts with house music, R&B, funk, hip-hop, even chiptune (a niche genre inspired by the music on Nintendo Entertainment Systems). Even Duran Duran called up Chai to collaborate on their latest album. Arrive early for standout South Korean bedroom-pop artist Su Lee.
When, where, price, protocols: 8 p.m. Feb. 5, Cactus Club. $20 in advance, $22 day of show. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination required.
The Colorado rock quartet with the Russian name (it translates to "girl") quietly influenced indie rock's grandeur phase in the early aughts — they clearly inspired Arcade Fire, for instance — and supplied the score for "Little Miss Sunshine" in 2006. Led by the lush croon of Nick Urata, Devotchka's sound — which includes violin, sousaphone, accordion and Greek bouzouki in its arsenal of instruments — is as ornate as ever, evident by most recent album "This Night Falls Forever."
When, where, price, protocols: 8 p.m. Feb. 10, the Back Room at Colectivo Coffee, 2211 N. Prospect Ave. $25 to $27.50 at the door and through the Pabst. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination or negative test (taken within 72 hours of performance) required for entry. Masks recommended, required for children under 12.
Still channeling the Heartland rock facets of Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan — while scaling back on the psychedelic-kissed extended jams of previous albums — Adam Granduciel's band has made its most streamlined, and arguably strongest, full-length release yet with this fall's "I Don't Live Here Anymore." It's also made them more popular: The band is playing two nights at one of Milwaukee's largest theaters.
When, where, price, protocol: 8 p.m. Feb. 12 and 13, Riverside Theater. $29.50 to $39.50 per show, $55 to $75 for two-day pass. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination or negative test (taken within 72 hours of performance) required for entry. Masks recommended, required for children under 12.
If you want to spend Valentine's Day nursing your broken heart, let Lucy Dacus be your guide. Few other emerging songwriters in recent years have matched Dacus' gift for vivid, vulnerable storytelling, and her latest album "Home Video" suggests she's becoming even better with her craft.
When, where, price, protocols: 8 p.m. Feb. 14, Turner Hall Ballroom. $25. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination or negative test (taken within 72 hours of performance) required for entry. Masks recommended, required for children under 12.
Inspired by his friend, the late, emo-leaning rapper Juice WRLD, with a voice and looks that resemble Justin Bieber, the 18-year-old Australian collaborated with Bieber for their Hot 100 chart-topper “Stay.” That helped lift The Kid Laroi’s “(Expletive) Love” mixtape to the top of the album charts this summer, positioning him to be one of pop’s next breakout stars.
When, where, price: 8 p.m. Feb. 17, Eagles Ballroom, The Rave. $36 to $450.
With their theatrical presentation — costumed musicians are referred to as “Nameless Ghouls,” while frontman Tobias Forge has embodied different satanic priests over the years, most recently Papa Emeritus IV — Ghost certainly stands out. But their grandiose, ‘80s-inspired, heavy metal style eclipses any gimmick. For this arena tour, they’re sharing headlining duties with fellow Scandinavian band Volbeat, who also look beyond standard heavy-metal parameters by embracing rockabilly, punk and other genres.
When, where, price, protocols: 7 p.m. Feb. 20, Fiserv Forum. $35.50 to $345. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination (or a negative test taken within 72 hours of performance) required for entry. Masks encouraged.
It’s increasingly clear that Tyler, The Creator, through his rowdy (and controversial) early-aughts collective Odd Future and later solo material, has been one of the most influential figures in hip-hop. And in time, his current era — with a sound that’s far more ambitious and sensitive — may prove to be just as seminal. For his first arena show in Milwaukee — and his first in town since releasing widely acclaimed albums “Igor” and “Call Me If You Get Lost" — Tyler will be joined by an inspired roster of opening acts: “Telepatia” hitmaker Kali Uchis, acclaimed rapper Vince Staples and endearing oddball Teezo Touchdown.
When, where, price: 7 p.m. Feb. 24, Fiserv Forum. $89.50 to $163.
Over a decade after she independently released her first album, the Arkansas native became the toast of Nashville with the head-turning, open-hearted storytelling on her major label debut album “Girl Going Nowhere” in 2017, earning her a Country Music Association Award for best new artist. A strong sophomore effort — “Never Will,” with her biggest hit to date, “One Night Standards” — suggests that trophy case will be getting awfully full.
When, where, price, protocols: 8 p.m. Feb. 25, Pabst Theater. $19.75 to $39.75. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination or negative test (taken within 72 hours of performance) required for entry. Masks recommended, required for children under 12.
Nearly a decade after the breakthrough single “Radioactive” brought Imagine Dragons one of the biggest crowds ever at a grounds stage at Summerfest — to the point that several thousand people were let in for free — the band's added more Top 10 anthems to their catalog, songs built for, and almost exclusively played in, arenas.
When, where, price: 7 p.m. Feb. 25, Fiserv Forum. $120 to $729.
Editor's Note: Some concerts originally featured in this preview — including Yola, Jeff Rosenstock and a Mike Hoffmann tribute — were postponed beyond winter, or to a date yet to be determined, after this story was initially published.
Piet also talks concerts, local music and more on "TAP'd In" with Evan Rytlewski. Hear it at 8 a.m. Thursdays on WYMS-FM (88.9), or wherever you get your podcasts.
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: James Taylor to Tyler The Creator: Concerts in Milwaukee this winter