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Superstars Lining Up For Summer Season

Of the Oakland Press

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The song says that "summer's here and the time is right for dancing in the street."

In the Detroit area, however, we settle for dancing in the seats.

With April in the offing, the always highly anticipated summer concert season seems just around the corner -- and actually is, since it gets under way earlier than usual, with the Gigantour heavy metal festival opening the DTE Energy Music Theatre in Independence Township on May 2. That will provide a very loud start to five months of shows and festivals, both indoors and outdoors, that represent the busiest part of the metro area music calendar.

"All indications are it's going to be a tremendous summer," says Marilyn Hauser, Executive Vice-President of Booking/Marketing of Palace Sports & Entertainment, which also owns DTE and operates the Meadow Brook Music Festival in Rochester Hills.

"So far the shows we've put on sale have been pretty phenomenal. We've got the Police, Tom Petty, Celine (Dion), James Taylor, (Jimmy) Buffett and Dave Matthews...We've got a real strong summer."

And while many concert presenters worry about the impact of a worsening economy on their shows, the local venues have every reason to expect to hold their own against that tide.

Last year, DTE remained the busiest amphitheater in the country, drawing 634,000 people to 61 events. Meadow Brook drew 150,000 to 37 events. Both figures were down from 2006, but the per-show attendance averages were roughly the same.

All that makes Rick Franks of national concert promoter Live Nation's Farmington Hills office ask "[i]Is[/i] there a bad economy out there? If we were trying to sell a house, we'd have serious issues. People have cut out buying big TVs, cut out extra trips to Florida, big ticket items. They have not cut out going to shows."

Franks does acknowledge that, "it's expensive to go to my shows. Very rarely are you gonna get by for less than $100 a person with parking, T-shirt, food and beverages, gas, whatnot. But at the end of the day, you can't go to Florida and back for less than a thousand bucks. So it's $100 vs. $1,000 -- 'You know what -- let's go to a show!' "

There will certainly be no shortage of those for the summer season.

DTE is already on sale with big names such as Tim McGraw (May 22), the Dave Matthews Band (June 9), Buffett (June 10), Jack Johnson (June 18), the Jonas Brothers (July 5), Martina McBride (July 11) and the Police (July 26). Other major tours have announced DTE dates, including stalwart Eddie Money (May 23), the B-52's headlined True Colours Tour (June 11), Boston and Stevie Nicks (June 15), Chicago and the Doobie Brothers (June 21), the Steve Miller Band and Joe Cocker (June 27), Rod Stewart (Aug. 6) and the Counting Crows and Maroon5 (August 29).

Also expected at DTE this year are Anita Baker, Toby Keith, Brooks & Dunn, newly inducted Rock and Roll Hall of Famer John Mellencamp, Peter Frampton, a Sheryl Crow/James Blunt pairing, a package featuring 3 Doors Down and Staind, the Gipsy Kings, Creedence Clearwater Revisited (July 17), an extreme sports exhibition from Tony Hawk, Earth, Wind & Fire and possibly the Backstreet Boys. Kid Rock has said he plans to bring his Rock N Roll Revival Tour to DTE during the summer as well.

On the heavier side, OZZFest appears to be dead for 2008. But besides Gigantour headbangers will get to shred at Motley Crue's Cruefest, which will be announced in April, and the new Rockstar Energy Mayhem Tour, which will feature Disturbed, Slipknot, Sevendust, Airbourne and others.

And the always popular Vans Warped Tour returns for a third consecutive year in the parking lots surrounding Detroit's Comerica Park on July 18. .

Meadow Brook will also have its share of shows this summer, with James Taylor already up for June 4 and Crosby, Stills & Nash coming July 19, and another series by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. For those who prefer their music with air-conditioning and sans mosquitoes, meanwhile, the Palace will hardly shut down, mixing Detroit Shock games with already on-sale concerts by Kanye West (May 22) and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers with Steve Winwood (May 31) and expected shows by Bon Jovi, nine inch nails (Aug. 23) and Rascal Flatts. Coldplay is making noise about touring this summer but has not yet announced any dates.

In downtown Detroit, meanwhile, Joe Louis Arena will go strong with Alicia Keys and "American Idol" champ Jordin Sparks (June 3) and Rush (June 10). One of the most anticipated shows ot he season, the Grammy-winning pairing of Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant and bluegrass star Alison Krauss, plays June 17 at Detroit's Fox Theatre.

Over in Sterling Heights, the Freedom Hill Amphitheatre is coming off one of its best seasons in 2007 with some strong entries already for 2008, including the reunion of the jazz all-star group Return to Forever (June 21), the Yes 40th anniversary tour (July 19), Poison, Dokken and Sebastian Bach (Aug. 9), and an expected show by Huey Lewis & the News.

The festival circuit will be buys, too. The annual Downtown Hoedown takes place May 9-11 at Detroit's Hart Plaza, with Jewel, Westland "American Idol" finalist Josh Gracin, Trisha Yearwood, Little Big Town, Gretchen Wilson and Lonestar among the headliners. Moby will be the top name at this year's Movement 08: Detroit's Electronic Music Festival, May 24-26 at Hart Plaza, while the Detroit International River Days returns for a second year on June 20-23, with the DSO booked and other acts expected to be announced in early May.

Mt. Clemens' Stars and Stripes festival has lined up an impressive roster for its June 27-29 run, including Everclear, Morris Day & the Time, Skid Row, Trent Tomlinson and Detroit luminaries Sponge, Rhythm Corps, the Romantics, Mitch Ryder, Marshall Crenshaw and Uncle Kracker -- with more to be announced (rumors include Buckcherry, the Cult, Jonny Lang and Cherry Poppin' Daddies). Night Ranger, the Tube and Confederate Railroad will headline the St. Clair River Fest July 25-27, and both the Detroit International Jazz Festival and Pontiac's Arts, Beats & Eats are beating the bushes for their annual Labor Day Weekend spots.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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