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Sprint Center, July 26
One of many revelations brought about by Sade's breathtaking performance at the Sprint Center in July: It's possible to do a big-time, high-budget arena show without being overly glitzy, opulent or pandering. But probably only if Sade Adu is involved. She changed clothes four times, each outfit more elegant than the last. The band arrived onstage via elevator risers sprouting through trap doors. Multimedia elements were incorporated into nearly every song. None of it felt hollow or vain. We all fell blissfully under Sade's spell. On the evening's closer, "Cherish the Day," we watched in awe as Sade slowly rose from the stage on a mechanically propelled platform. Higher and higher she went, rounding out at about 25 feet in the air. The projection screen behind her was all cityscapes and skyscrapers. You show me how deep love can be, she sang, towering over us, magnificent, gorgeous, like something in a dream.
— David Hudnall
Livestrong Sporting Park, August 13
Kansas is farm country, and Farm Aid has been around for 26 years. Yet 2011 marked the annual benefit concert's first stop in the Sunflower State. No matter: Better to be invited late to the dance than not at all. Apart from a horrible parking situation and crazy-expensive beer, the freshly opened Livestrong Sporting Park proved itself a worthy summer venue. As for the music ... John Mellencamp was impressively spry, and his gruff, gravelly voice hooked us into "Small Town." The crowd was enraptured by scowlful old Neil Young, who reminded us what the event was about: supporting farmers by buying at least one local item every grocery trip. When Willie Nelson sang "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys," I finished the day sunburned and happy.
— April Fleming
Grand Boulevard between 13th and 14th streets, September 16
The Foo Fighters' September performance inside Sprint Center was a typically rocking affair, but the surprise show they put on outside the arena prior to the set ended up making national headlines. The fame-seeking trolls of the Westboro Baptist Church had crept out of their caves to protest the Foos' show, and so the Foos decided to stage a protest of their own. Outfitted in exaggerated trucker garb, the band members pulled up on a flatbed trailer, instruments at the ready, in front of the "God hates fags" crowd. "I don't care if you're black or white or purple or green, Pennsylvanian or Transylvanian, Lady Gaga or Lady Antebellum," Dave Grohl sang in a hokey country twang, "men lovin' women and women lovin' men and men lovin' men and women lovin' women."
— David Hudnall
The Midland, November 8
What a treat to see Paul Simon in the intimate confines of the Midland. And what a pleasant surprise that, at 70, he still possesses such vitality. The crowd of olds, seated for most of the performance, didn't match the singer-songwriter's energy level, but it hardly mattered: We were in the presence of a true-blue pop legend. Simon led his nine-piece band through about 30 songs, many of them hits, some of them quiet old favorites, a few of them songs from recent albums that the crowd didn't know so well — a dignified mix from a dignified man. On "That Was Your Mother," he set down his acoustic guitar and performed some sprightly dance moves for us. "Hearts and Bones"? Not a dry eye in the house. It was a beautiful evening — not just a concert but an occasion for reflection, kind of what church is supposed to be like.
— David Hudnall