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The Shows Of Summer: What Not To Miss

Of the Oakland Press

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The outdoor concert season has, technically, already opened — with All American Rejects’ April 16 performance at the Meadow Brook Music Festival.


But if that was the appetizer, the main course isn’t too far off; when Korn and Avenged Sevenfold get heads banging May 15 at the DTE Energy Music Theatre, the same weekend the country nation turns out at Detroit’s Hart Plaza for the annual Downtown Hoedown, it’ll be summer, no matter what the calendar — or the thermometer — says.

One can, of course, take the glasshalf-full view of things and lament all the tours that are missing the metro area at this point — no Bruce Springsteen ’til the fall (maybe), no U2 until 2010, no Depeche Mode at all, Britney Spears and Rascal Flatts still TBA. But those with a sunnier point of view will note that it’s going to be a busy outdoor season, with a substantial number of top shows already announced.

That includes those slated for the DTE, Meadow Brook Music Festival and the Palace of Auburn Hills, even though Palace Sports & Entertainment plans to make its formal summer schedule announcement on Thursday (April 30). The Freedom Hill Amphitheatre in Sterling Heights will host a few shows despite financial issues plaguing the county park it’s a part of, and the area’s other outdoor venues and annual festivals are busy hammering out their schedules — many pending on the search for elusive sponsorship deals.

What’s clear, however, is that there will be more to see and hear than most people have time for and, especially these days, money to consume. That means there’s a need to focus early on what’s not to be missed, so with the information we have at hand these are a baker’s dozen of the must-see shows for the next five months...

• Coldplay, Pete Yorn and Howling Bells, June 2 at DTE: Anybody who saw Coldplay’s lavishly produced program in November at the Palace will be salivating to see what the British group comes up with under the stars — in, we might note, a much smaller venue. “Viva la Vida” indeed.

• Keith Urban and Taylor Swift, June 6 at the Palace: Kenny Chesney is doing his usual star-studded country dayfest at Ford Field (on Aug. 22), but this one packs the most potent one-two punch of all the summer’s country offerings — even if Swift’s first big hit was about “Tim McGraw” and not her current headline companion.

• Bad Company and the Doobie Brothers, July 1 at DTE: The summer is never lacking for ’70s stalwarts, but it’s been awhile (seven years) since Bad Company — with its three surviving original members, including frontman Paul Rodgers — delivered its particular “Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy.” The Doobies will just be more incentive to “Listen to the Music.”

• No Doubt, Paramore and Bedouin Soundclash, July 3 at the Palace: Gwen Stefani has decided to come “home” after a couple of successful solo albums, and the decision to hold off on a new album means it will be nothing but hits for fans who haven’t seen No Doubt since 2004.

• Green Day, July 14 at the Palace: Next to Eminem’s “Relapse,” the punk trio’s eighth album — also coming May 15 — is the most highly anticipated album of the season, following up its Grammy Award-winning 2004 smash “American Idiot.” It’s another conceptual piece and is likely to get plenty of space — if not a complete front-to-back rendering — at this summer’s shows. The tour’s rumored opener, a reunited blink-182, is also stoking the excitement level.

• Kid Rock and Lynyrd Skynyrd, July 17 at Comerica Park, Detroit: The Clarkston-based rocker takes his home town rite of summer to another level this year, moving from DTE to the big open-air ballpark with one of his favorite Southern rock brethren alongside. This one sold out its 32,000 tickets in a mere 27 minutes; look for a second show, with a different opener, to be announced and put on sale in the near future.

• George Clinton and War, July 17 at Chene Park Amphitheatre, Detroit: Sure, it’s the same night as Kid Rock but that won’t keep the true funkophiles among us away from this groovealicious combo of acts that still play to take no prisoners.

• Beyonce, July 18 at the Palace: Etta James may diss her, but the R&B/pop superstar and actress (most recently in “Obsessed”) is still a force to be reckoned with. She’s working with costumer Thierry Mugler to create a “more emotional” program than on her 2007 tour, hopefully showing us what exactly the title of her latest album, “I Am...Sasha Fierce,” means.

• Jonas Brothers, Jordin Sparks and Honor Society, July 26 at the Palace: Yeah, it makes us wince a little to earmark this one, but these new kids on the block surely have it going on more than, say, New Kids on the Block. They’ll be riding the wave of a new album (Lines, Vines and Trying Times,” due June 15) and a new Disney series, “J.O.N.A.S.,” and they promise a stage production that will keep the adults awake — as if the screaming won’t.

• Jackson Browne, July 27 at Meadow Brook: If James Taylor’s Meadow Brook show in 2008 — on the night the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup, no less — was a case of a perfect artist-venue match, Browne’s return to town will fill that bill this year. This is one show that won’t be “Running on Empty.”

• The Decemberists, Aug. 11 at the Royal Oak Music Theatre: Looking for that hip, small-hall show that lets everyone know you’re attuned to the latest buzz? Check out this Portland outfit’s latest outing, which includes a recitation of its thematic new album “The Hazards of Love.”

• AC/DC, Aug. 16 at the Palace: The “Highway to Hell” was scorching after this venerable hard rock group’s Nov. 5 show sold out in less than 10 minutes, and appetites are surely ravenous for a return visit. Getting “Back in Black” never sounded so appealing.

• Aerosmith and ZZ Top, Sept. 16 at DTE: The summer’s big classic rock tandem tour closes its run here, by which time the two groups will hopefully have cooked up some collaborations with each other.

Festivals Hatching Plans For Summer, Too

In addition to the “usual suspects,” the 2009 summer concert scene will be dotted with the usual array of festivals — mostly free — around the metro area. Here’s what we know so far about some of the major events...

• The Downtown Hoedown, produced this year by Palace Sports & Entertainment, helps kick the season off May 15-17 with Willie Nelson, Lee Ann Womack, the Zac Brown Band, Rodney Atkins and actor Kevin Costner with his band Modern West.

• Movement 2009 will bring three days of electronic dance music to Hart Plaza on Memorial Day Weekend, May 23-25, with an May 22 preparty with the Prodigy at the Fillmore Detroit. Other big names include Detroit techno luminaries Kevin Saunderson, Derrick May and Carl Craig, Afrika Bambaataa, Bassnectar, Glitch Mobb and more. Tickets are for sale at www.paxahau. com.

The WVMV Smooth Jazz Festival moves from the Southfield Civic Center to Detroit’s Chene Park June 12-14. Performers will be announced soon.

• The River Days festival returns to the Detroit riverfront June 19-21 near the GM Renaissance Center. The talent lineup is TBA.

• The Stars & Stripes festival enters it’s third year June 26-28 in Mount Clemens, with firstnight fireworks, a June 27 lineup that features Uncle Kracker, Saliva, Edgar Winter and Dirty Americans and a Sunday “hair metal” day with Ratt, Dokken, Night Ranger and King’s X.

• The Comerica Cityfest hosts Buddy Guy, Bettye LaVette, Mat Kearney and others during its July 1-5 run in the New Center Area, with more to be announced.

• The free Rockin' the Riverfront classic rock series is slated to return to the Detroit riverfront pavilion behind the GM Renaissance Center for a six-show run starting July 10. Acts are currently being booked.

• The Dead, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and the Black Crowes are among the headliners at the second Rothbury Festival on the Double JJ Ranch in Rothbury. July 2-5. Tickets are for sale at www. rothbury.com.

• Chrysler may be out as a sponsor but the 17th Annual Concert of Colors goes on July 18-19 at Detroit’s Max M. Fisher Music Center, featuring African guitarist Vieux Farka Toure and a reprise of producer Don Was’ well-received Detroit Super Session.

• Former “American Idol” finalist Josh Grayson will be among the performers at St. Clair’s Riverfest, July 31-Aug. 2

• Labor Day Weekend will, as usual, be filled with free music. Arts, Beats & Eats in Pontiac and the annual Hamtramck Festival are currently assembling their lineups, while the Detroit International Jazz Festival will celebrate its 30th year Sept. 4-7 with performances by Chick Corea, Wayne Shorter, Larry and Julian Coryell, Christian McBride & Inside Straight, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express, this year’s Artists in Residence John Clayton and a tribute to Pontiac’s Jones brothers (Thad, Elvin and Hank).

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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