Live Music

Must-See 2018 Concerts: Your First Look

Music expert John Seroff picks his favorite concerts for the first five months of 2018. The future never sounded so good.

The Zlatne Uste Golden Festival. Photo by Danny Flam

For better or worse, 2017 has come to an end. It was a difficult year for many of us, but I’ve taken solace in the hundreds of movies, concerts, art exhibitions, lectures, and plays that New York has provided in those last 365 days. It’s a part-time job staying culturally active in the city, and I’m often asked how I manage to see so many of NYC’s incredible shows. There’s no great secret, just careful planning and keeping an eye on an assortment of venues and artists.

It’s never too soon to get ahead of the crowd, so grab your calendar and start circling the following red-letter dates for the top 10 hottest upcoming New York concerts in 2018, including sets with artists in the fields of jazz, indie rock, Americana, modern classical, Afropop, and more!

The Zlatne Uste Golden Festival

For more than three decades, Brooklyn’s Zlatne Uste Golden Festival has served as a showcase for all things Balkan with music, dance, and crafts from an array of folk and pop artists. As in prior years, Friday night will be focused on dance workshops and group dancing at the Grand Prospect Hall Ballroom, while Saturday will be a whirlwind of 60 musical artists performing sets on five separate stages. The lineup is still in flux, but you can expect prior years’ local bands Orkestar BAM!, Slavic Soul Party, Pontic Firebird, and the eponymous Zlatne Uste Balkan Brass Band to raise the roof on their return.

concerts New York 2018
The Grand Prospect Hall, making your dreams come true. / Photo by Danny Flam

Grand Prospect Hall
236 Prospect Avenue, Park Slope

Friday, January 12; doors open at 7 p.m.
Saturday, January 13; doors open at 5:30 p.m.
Friday: $35 for adults; $30 for students, and Saturday: $55 for adults; $45 for students
Both nights combo: $80 for adults; $65 for students

Charles Lloyd and The Marvels

Soon-to-be-octogenarian NEA Jazz Master Lloyd started out playing sax as a sideman for luminaries such as B.B. King and Cannonball Adderley. In the mid-1960s, he struck out on his own as a bandleader and recorded his signature track, the million-selling crossover hit Forest Flower. Lloyd has gone on to record more than 30 albums, including his well-received 2017 release, Passin’ Thru, on Blue Note Records. For this show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, he will be joined by acclaimed jazz guitarist Bill Frisell.

Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue (enter at East 82nd Street), Upper East Side
Friday, January 26, at 7 p.m.
$65–$78; kids under 16 $1


Neighborhood Concert: Valerie June

The toweringly coiffed Americana singer June recently toured with Norah Jones and Sturgill Simpson. It’s a fitting pair for June; her Tennessee twang and ethereal production often places her at the intersection of soft jazz and outlaw country. This free show in Harlem showcases and celebrates music from her newest LP, The Order of Time.

concerts new york 2018

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
515 Malcolm X Boulevard (at 135th Street), Harlem
Monday, February 5, at 7 p.m.
Free with RSVP

Nico Muhly and Friends Investigate the Glass Archive

Composer Muhly has carved out an impressive dual niche for himself in the fields of popular music (on orchestrations for artists like Usher, Sufjan Stevens, and Grizzly Bear) and contemporary classical, including his Metropolitan Opera–produced composition, Two Boys. Muhly is an acolyte of Philip Glass and a scholar of his work. This Carnegie Hall show, an exploration of Glass’s lesser-known output with Muhly on piano, will include performances by esteemed colleagues Laurie Anderson, Caroline Shaw, and Nadia Sirota.

Carnegie Hall: Zankel Hall
881 Seventh Avenue (between West 56th and 57th Streets), Midtown
Thursday, February 8, at 7:30 p.m.



Merril Garbus’s debut 2009 LP, Bird-Brains, announced an artist with an array of influences (lo-fi art pop, Afrobeat, American blues, musical theater, jazz) and a big, vibrant voice. Garbus has gone on to release two more eclectic, socially informed, and critically well-received albums as the leader of the Tune-Yards project. The latest, I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life, is scheduled to be released in mid-January. Garbus’s popularity promises that, even at the cavernous Brooklyn Steel concert hall, tickets are likely to sell out fast.

concerts new york 2018
Genre-bending with the Tune-Yards. / Photo by Eliot Lee Hazel

Brooklyn Steel
319 Frost Street, Williamsburg
Friday, March 9, at 9 p.m.
$31; 16 and older to attend

Africa Now!

The Apollo’s annual Africa Now! concert is a reliably rousing celebration of the state of modern African pop. This year’s lineup features internationally renowned DJ and producer Black Coffee, a collaboration between pioneering drummer and Afrobeat legend Tony Allen with Detroit techno star Jeff Mills, and a set from Kinshasa-born global pop performer Pierre Kwenders.

Apollo Theater, co-presented with World Music Institute
253 West 125th Street (between Frederick Douglass and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevards), Harlem
Saturday, March 3, at 8 p.m.

Daymé Arocena

Twenty-something Afro-Cuban singer-songwriter Arocena’s killer weapon is her warm, rich voice, which she wields equally effectively in service of traditional Cuban rumbas and pop-jazz ballads. Arocena’s performance at the 2017 Winter Jazzfest was one of the festival’s highlights and announced her as an artist to be reckoned with, as well as a live performer not to be missed.

concerts new york 2018
Daymé Arocena’s killer pop-jazz vocals are worth a trip to Red Hook. / Photo by Eduardo Rodríguez/Pioneer Works

Pioneer Works, co-presented by World Music Institute
159 Pioneer Street, Red Hook

Saturday, April 7, at 8 p.m.


Fatoumata Diawara

Celebrated actress and singer-songwriter Diawara was the main focus of the recent film Mali Blues, a documentary following Malian artists displaced by Islam extremists. Now Diawara continues to tour internationally on the strength of her enduring 2011 album of original music, Fatou. She is an outrageously powerful live performer whose skilled work on guitar is matched only by the intensity of her dancing and the strength of her voice.

concerts new york 2018
Actress, songwriter, singer…what can’t she do?

Brooklyn Bowl,  co-presented with World Music Institute
61 Wythe Avenue, Williamsburg
Monday, April 16
Doors open at 6 p.m.; show at 8 p.m.
$20; 21 or over to enter

Ibibio Sound Machine

London-born Eno Williams is the charismatic frontwoman for the British Afropop 10-player collective Ibibio Sound Machine. Williams’s Nigerian heritage is front and center in the combo’s influences; her mix of West African dance funk and electro has made their latest album, Uyai, a fixture in a number of 2017 best-of-year lists.

Brooklyn Bowl, co-presented with World Music Institute
61 Wythe Avenue, Williamsburg
Saturday, April 28
Doors open at 6 p.m.; show at 8 p.m.
$20; 21 or over to enter

Tanya Tagaq

Tagaq is a powerhouse live performer whose fusion of traditional Inuit throat singing, contemporary classical, and avant-punk has made her one of the freshest and most original voices in modern music. She has collaborated with fellow Native American Buffy Sainte-Marie, classical ensemble Kronos Quartet, and pop queen Björk, but she is most formidable and exciting when she unleashes her arrestingly raw vocals solo.

(Le) Poisson Rouge, co-presented with World Music Institute
158 Bleecker Street (between Sullivan and Thompson Streets), Greenwich Village
Friday, May 11
Doors open at 6:30 p.m.; show at 7:30 p.m.
$30 advance; $35 at door

Make your way through the crowds for these headliners. Reserve your tickets.