Keanu Reeves of Dogstar performs onstage at the Roxy Theatre on July 18, 2023, in West Hollywood, California. Dogstar plays Toad’s Place in New Haven on Oct. 11. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Dogstar/TNS) ** OUTS – ELSENT, FPG, TCN – OUTS **
There are some familiar faces on the music calendar if your memory goes back decades. Generally, they’re remembered in the mainstream for having hits in the 1980s or ‘90s, though you can be sure they all also have serious hardcore fans who’ve never forsaken them.
Some of these acts never really broke up, though their fortunes might have changed. Some underwent big lineup changes, some changed their styles, some doggedly held to old styles and some became defined by the one best-selling record.
The band that exemplifies how a fabled act from the ‘80s can still raise excitement decades later is Dexys, coming to College Street Music Hall on Nov. 14. Originally known as Dexys Midnight Runners, they emerged from the original British punk scene of the late ‘70s and added a sense of Northern Soul, a wild Irish attitude and some startlingly original musical ideas of their own. They became known in the U.S. for “Come On Eileen” and its ubiquitous MTV video in 1983, but in the UK they had nine Top 40 hits between 1979 and 1986. A lot of fans gave up on them after their second album “Too-Rye-Ay” but Dexys’ third album “Don’t Stand Me Down” has quietly become a cult classic and is the stronger model for what the band (whose frontman Kevin Rowland is the sole remaining founding member) still sounds like now.
Dexys’ earliest singles were shouty anthems, but they became known for long-form wistful conceptual songs, often with extended spoken dialogue. That’s the shape of their new album “The Feminine Divine.” On their first U.S. tour in 40 years(!), Dexys intends to “act out” the new album in its entirety and also do a set of their hits.
You’ll find a number of other extravagant plans like that on the list below. Plus, there are always the “just the hits” acts that never fail to disappoint in their own limited way. Here, in the order in which they happen, are 30 of the top “retro” shows coming to Connecticut.
Formed in the late ‘90s but hitting their stride in the early 2000s, Interpol’s biggest chart hit was “The Heinrich Maneuver,” which hit No. 11 on the alternative charts, but you might also know them for “Slow Hands” and “Evil.” They were signed to the hip Matador label, toured with U2 in 2011 and have never really gone away. Aug. 26 at College Street Music Hall. $45-$60. collegestreetmusichall.com.
Gin Blossoms, Sugar Ray, Tonic and Fastball
This is the consummate ‘90s radio pop lineup, teeming with catchy tunes but also stylistically diverse. Gin Blossoms was at the forefront of the Americana or No Depression folk-rock movement of the early ‘90s, scoring a hit with “Hey Jealousy.” Sugar Ray’s first hit single was “Fly” in 1997, the same year that tourmates Tonic scored with “If You Could Only See.” Fastball was a reliable power pop band of the ‘90s who turned depressing themes into jaunty tunes like “The Way” and “Are You Ready for the Fallout?” Sept. 8 at 8 p.m. at Foxwoods Premier Theater. $35-$161. foxwoods.com.
Squeeze and Psychedelic Furs
Squeeze and Psychedelic Furs were the cream of the New Wave crop in the early ‘80s. Both had numerous hits, Squeeze with a range of sounds from the punky “Take Me I’m Yours” through the jazzy “Cool for Cats” and the soulful “Tempted,” and the Furs with the title song to the teen romcom “Pretty in Pink” and mordant observations like “Love My Way” and “Ghost in You.” Both bands have visited the state separately quite often in recent years, but this is a sensational double bill. Sept. 9 at 7:45 p.m. at Foxwoods Premier Theater. $35-$365. foxwoods.com.
The English/Australian duo of Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock were a soft-rock sensation of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s with “Lost in Love,” “All Out of Love” and “Making Love Out of Nothing at All.” They certainly know about love. Having sold out the Ridgefield Playhouse several times in the past few years, Air Supply returns there on Sept. 10. $110-$165. ridgefieldplayhouse.org.
98 Degrees and All-4-One
The boy band — now a man band — 98 Degrees sold 10 million records between 1997 and 2002 and sang with Mariah Carey and Stevie Wonder. All-4-One hit a little earlier, in 1994 with “I Swear” and “I Can Love You Like That.” Sept. 14 at 8 p.m. at Foxwoods Premier Theater. $35-$40. foxwoods.com.
“I Melt With You” stopped the world in 1983 and even hit the Hot 100 charts again when it was reissued in 1990. Modern English has been predicting that the future’s open wide for 40 years. Imagine swaying to them at the intimate Space Ballroom in Hamden Sept. 15 at 8 p.m. Present-day synth-pop artist Jason Priest is the opening act. $30-$35. spaceballroom.com.
Survivor was defined from its 1982 “Rocky III” theme “Eye of the Tiger.” The inescapable radio hit has survived like a cockroach. Sept. 16 at 8 p.m. at Foxwoods Great Cedar Showroom. $35-$45. foxwoods.com.
Bruce Hornsby’s greatest hit was “The Way It Is” in 1986. He has worked with artists as widespread as Sheena Easton, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Ricky Skaggs, Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead. He played Westport in March and will be at the Garde Arts Center in New London with his current band The Noisemakers on Sept. 21 at 7:30 p.m. $53-$97. gardearts.org.
Men Without Hats
They can make new albums if they want to, and they have (the covers set “Again (Part 1)” but audiences are still going to make them do the Safety Dance. The balding Men Without Hats play Sept. 22 at 8 p.m. at the Wall Street Theater in Norwalk. $39-$59. wallstreettheater.com.
When “One of Us” became one of the biggest songs of 1995, Connecticut already knew Joan Osborne as a scrappy singer/songwriter who played small clubs throughout the state. She’s now comfortable in theater, as with her Sept. 22 8 p.m. gig at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center in Old Saybrook, and has a wealth of songs to draw from. thekate.org. If you miss her there, she’s also at Fairfield Theater Company on Dec. 16 at 8 p.m. for $48. fairfieldtheatre.org.
A highly influential experimental rock band of the early 2000s, Mars Volta had a hit with “The Widow” and toured steadily for years before enduring an eight-year hiatus that ended just a couple of years ago. The band’s return (which includes a new album) has been a cause for celebration. Mars Volta is at College Street Music Hall on Sept. 23 at 8 p.m. $49.50-$99.50. collegestreetmusichall.com.
Toad the Wet Sprocket
Formed in 1987, named after a fictional band in a Monty Python sketch, broken up from 1998 to 2006 and now back touring regularly for over a decade, Toad the Wet Sprocket’s commercial peak was in 1991 with “All I Want” and “Walk on the Ocean” from their hit album “fear.” Their latest return to Connecticut is Sept. 27 at 8 p.m. at Infinity Hall Hartford. infinityhall.com.
The Fleshtones and Nervous Eaters
The Fleshtones’ heyday was the early and mid-’80s when frontman Peter Zaremba was a regular presence on MTV. Their anthem “American Beat” became the theme of a Tom Hanks movie, but the band is truly timeless, bringing a garage/R&B frenzy. They operate best in small clubs, and the small club in Connecticut they have graced for decades is Cafe Nine in New Haven, where The Fleshtones return Sept. 29 for an inspired double bill with the newly regrouped ‘80s Boston legends Nervous Eaters (of “Loretta” fame), who have a new album out. Sept. 29 at 9 p.m. $20. cafenine.com.
The Stray Cats and their “Stray Cat Strut” was over 40 years ago, after which the band’s guitarist and vocalist Brian Setzer took a long hipster detour into swinging big band jazz. He’s now embraced his roots again. His new tour is titled “Rockabilly Riot!” Sept. 29 at 8 p.m. at Foxwoods Premier Theater. $35-$50. foxwoods.com.
The singer of “Arthur’s Theme” and “Sailing” ruled soft rock radio in the early ‘80s, and he still brings his iconic fake flamingos along on tours. He was part of an all-star Beatles tribute tour a couple of years ago but is now back to being Christopher Cross on Sept. 30 at the Warner Theater in Torrington. $55-$180. warnertheatre.org.
Helmet and Soul Blind
Alt-rockers Helmet were active from 1989 to 1998, were broken up from ‘98 to 2004, then put the Helmet on again. They’ve done four albums in each of their active phases, so have a lot to draw from for their show at Space Ballroom in Hamden on Oct. 1 at 8 p.m. $30-$35. spaceballroom.com.
Macy Gray and the California Jet Club
“I Try,” from Macy Gray’s first album in 1999, put her in a spotlight she hasn’t left, though she’s worked in different styles and had a simultaneous career as a film actress. She’s at the Ridgefield Playhouse Oct. 3 at 8 p.m. with her backup band of the past few years, California Jet Club. $55-$75. ridgefieldplayhouse.org.
Outside of her rabid fan base, Suzanne Vega was best known in 1987 for the song “Luka.” Another song from her “Solitude Standing” album wouldn’t be a hit for another three years, after it had been remixed by DNA. Vega has gone many places with her music, including off-Broadway theater and the virtual world Second Life. Oct. 5 at 8 p.m. at the Wall Street Theater in Norwalk. $44-$199. wallstreettheater.com.
Dogstar has not toured in nearly 20 years, presumably because their bassist, Keanu Reeves, has been busy with other projects. The band grew out of friendly jam sessions with Reeves and drummer Robert Mailhouse. The original lead guitarist and vocalist from 1991-95 was Gregg Miller, but his successor Bret Domrose (frontman from ’95 to when the band called it quits in 2002) reupped for this tour. There’s also a new album due, Dogstar’s third, titled “Somewhere Between the Power Lines and the Palm Trees.” Dogstar plays Toad’s Place in New Haven on Oct. 11 at 7 p.m. for $45. If the band’s 1990s appearances at the same club are any indication, the promise of new tunes will be secondary to the thrill of watching a bonafide movie star live onstage. toadsplace.com.
Bob Mould was in one of the most influential indie bands of the 1980s, Hüsker Dü, but his highest charting records on the alternative charts (“Helpless” and “Your Favorite Thing”) came from his next band Sugar. He’s mostly done solo projects since the mid-’90s, and often tours by himself. He’s doing a solo electric set on Oct. 14 at 8 p.m. at Fairfield Theater Company. $35. fairfieldtheatre.org.
A prime example of a band who knows where their fortunes lie, Violent Femmes play their supremely quirky 1983 debut album in its entirety Oct. 15 at 8 p.m. at College Street Music Hall in New Haven. Forty years ago, nothing sounded anything like “Gone Daddy Gone” or “Blister in the Sun.” $39.50-$79.50. collegestreetmusichall.com.
Pennsylvania’s Live played the tiny Moon Cafe in New Haven in November of 1991, then briskly graduated to bigger clubs in the state, then suddenly stadiums. The early hit “Operation Spirit (The Tyranny of Tradition)” and the 1994 album “Throwing Copper” had a lot to do with that. Live plays an unplugged set on Oct. 15 at 7:30 p.m. at the Garde in New London. $53-$97. gardearts.org.
The Slackers and Sgt. Scagnetti
The Slackers and Sgt. Scagnetti may not have had hit records, but they packed large rooms like The Tune Inn in New Haven with their Third Wave Ska sounds for much of the ‘90s. The bands are still skanking, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. at the Space Ballroom in Hamden. $22-$25. spaceballroom.com.
Switchfoot marks the 20th anniversary of its album “The Beautiful Letdown” on Oct. 21 at 8 p.m. at Foxwoods Great Cedar Showroom. $50-$299. foxwoods.com.
The Smithereens with Marshall Crenshaw
When Smithereens frontman and main songwriter Pat DiNizio died in 2017, a tribute show was held for him with an all-star roster of guest vocalists. That tradition continued when The Smithereens (which formed in 1980 and still boasts three original members) went back to touring. Revered singer/songwriter Marshall Crenshaw is now singing DiNizio’s songs. Oct. 21 at 8 p.m. at Wall Street Theater in Norwalk. $35-$64. wallstreettheater.com.
Judge and 108
Two essential New York City hardcore bands of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Judge and 108 both had members that were straightedge and/or followers of Hare Krishna. The higher hardcore consciousness continues on Oct. 22 at the Space Ballroom in Hamden. $30-$35. spaceballroom.com.
Bad Religion has been a band for over 40 years and has released 17 albums. They’d been around over a decade when their style of melodic punk started getting mainstream attention, making the charts themselves with “Infected” and “A Walk.” Oct. 27 at College Street Music Hall in New Haven. $39.50-$55. collegestreetmusichall.com.
Just months after the erstwhile self-proclaimed “Jesus of Cool” reunited with his old Stiff Records labelmate Elvis Costello for a Bridgeport amphitheater gig, Nick “Cruel to Be Kind” Lowe returns to Connecticut with the same able backing band (the masked Los Straitjackets) Nov. 2 at 8 p.m. at Fairfield Theater Company. $38-$48. fairfieldtheatre.org.
This Catalan/Spanish ensemble ruled the U.S. Latin pop charts in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s and is still around with two founding members. Nov. 7 at 8 p.m. at The Bushnell in Hartford. $53-$200. bushnell.org.
The hit was “All for You” in 1997, but since then there’ve been eight other albums and four EPs plus live disks, holiday songs and more. Nov. 9 at Fairfield Theater Company. $38. fairfieldtheatre.org.
Tool is not really considered a singles band, yet has had a dozen songs in the top 20 of Billboard’s “Hot Rock and Alternative” charts, five of them in the top five. The band has been around for over 30 years and their newer albums have done at least as well as their older ones. Tool is still touring behind their chart-topping 2019 album “Fear Inoculum,” making a rare Connecticut appearance for two shows, Nov. 10 and 11 at 7:30 p.m. at Mohegan Sun Arena. $99.50-$199.50. mohegansun.com.
Ladies of R&B
A triple bill of Monica (who had six No. 1 hits on the R&B charts between 1995 and 2010), Keri Hilson (“Knock You Down” and “Pretty Girl Rock”) and Mya (“It’s All About Me,” “Case of the Ex”). Nov. 11 at Foxwoods Premier Theater. $39-$155. foxwoods.com.
A chronically misunderstood and underrated band that nailed one of the best pop singles of the ‘80s and continues to experiment with punk, fiddles, storytelling and fashion, Dexys (aka Dexys Midnight Runners) has not toured the U.S. since 1983 and doesn’t appear to have played Connecticut ever. Nov. 14 at 8 p.m. $39.50-$154.50. collegestreetmusichall.com.
The Fixx is one of those bands that has done better in the U.S. than in their native England. The high water mark for this dapper New Wave act was the 1983 album “Reach the Beach,” which yielded the hit singles “Saved by Zero” and the unforgettable (even if you try) “One Thing Leaves to Another.” That was the band’s second album, and there’ve been nine since. Nov. 22 at 8 p.m. at the Warner Theatre in Torrington. $39-$69. warnertheatre.org.
Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith
Amy Grant has ruled the Christian pop charts for decades, bookending the ‘80s with the No. 1 Christian chart hits “Sing Your Praise to the Lord” and “What About the Love?” Sharing the Christian charts with her for much of that time has been Michael W. Smith, whose hits include “Pray for Me,” “Great is the Lord” and “Rocketown.” Their Dec. 6 show at the Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford is a Christmas show, so maybe he can do his “Christmas Day” and she can do her “Emmanuel.”