It's about what you'd expect
In terms of ticketed concerts at this year's Ohio State Fair, not much has changed: a little country, some classic rock, old-school R&B, Christian pop and the act responsible for a healthy percentage of any parent's gray hair — Kidz Bop.
The music kicks off on Wednesday, July 25 at 7 p.m. with one of the top-billed headliners, the Beach Boys, which sounds great, right? The Beach Boys wrote hit after hit, and Pet Sounds is one of the greatest albums of the last 100 years. But wait a minute, how can Brian Wilson, the genius behind the Beach Boys, also be performing at the “Pet Sounds: The Final Performances” tour in South Carolina on July 25, the same night the Beach Boys are slated to wow the fried-food crowd here?
Yeah, this is the Beach Boys minus Brian Wilson, which really isn't the Beach Boys at all. This version of the band is helmed by Wilson's cousin, Mike Love, who has made half-hearted attempts to mend bridges with Wilson in the last couple of years, but who also has a history of resistance to Wilson and his ideas. If it were up to Love, the Beach Boys would have kept singing songs about cars and surfing rather than recording a sonically adventurous (but still plenty poppy) masterpiece like Pet Sounds. And now, after battles in court, Love gets to use the Beach Boys name, with or without Wilson. It's tragic.
The following night — Thursday, July 26 at 7 p.m. — Reba McEntire takes the stage for a show that was nearly sold out at press time. Before her recent stint as Colonel Sanders, McEntire was known as the most successful country singer of the 1980s and '90s, and though she doesn't sit at the top of the charts anymore, she's still a dynamo. (She also won a Grammy Award earlier this year for Best Roots Gospel Album). McEntire's various TV series, plus stints on Broadway, have also kept the talented performer in the spotlight.
TLC and En Vogue, performing on Friday, July 27 at 7 p.m., are two strong '90s R&B additions, though they suffer a malady similar to the Beach Boys. After the death of Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes in 2002, TLC's T-Boz and Chilli chose to keep going as a duo, which isn't the same, but it's probably better than trying to fill Left Eye's shoes. En Vogue's history is more difficult to follow, but the group seems to feature one or two of the original four members. And this current iteration of The Commodores, performing July 28 at 7 p.m., doesn't appear to have any original members (and certainly not Lionel Richie).
The final Ohio State Fair concert on Aug. 4 (7 p.m.) is the other one to pay attention to: Styx and Cheap Trick. I've never been a big fan of Styx's yacht-rock, but Cheap Trick's power-pop continues to hold up. For further information, please contact Watershed's Colin Gawel, who ranked every single Cheap Trick song and launched a successful campaign to get the band in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Casting Crowns, July 30 at 7 p.m.
Kidz Bop, July 31 at 6:30 p.m.
Brothers Osborne, Aug. 1 at 7 p.m.
Lee Brice, Aug. 3 at 7 p.m.