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Cherry-picking the summer's toughest concert schedule conflicts

of the Oakland Press

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The Summer concert season has started.

Now get ready to make some tough decisions.

It’s not just a matter of which shows to select from the myriad playing at venues both outside and indoors, and of all sizes, in the metro area. Part of the bulk are actual same-night conflicts that put music fans — particularly those with somewhat broad tastes — in the unenviable, hand-wringing position of missing something good in order to see something, well, good. It’s a win-win position, ultimately, but it doesn’t always feel like that at the time.

Perusing the 2011 summer schedule, quite a few of these conflict dates pop up — and Kid Rock hasn’t even announced his local summer plans, which we’re hearing involve a downtown professional sports facility that doesn’t have a roof. So we’ve taken a look at some of the tighter choices and made a few recommendations. Just don’t forget the sunscreen ...

June 6: Robyn vs. Panic! At the Disco: The Swedish dance-pop queen, or a night with the Disco? She’s coming off a banner “Body Talk” year; they’ve started over after losing two original members, but bounced back with a solid new album. The choice: An easy one at the moment; Robyn, whose Royal Oak Music Theatre show was postponed earlier this year due to illness, is sold out, while tickets remain for Panic!’s date at the Fillmore Detroit.

June 8 — NKOTBSB vs. the Go-Go’s: It’s boy bands up against a girl group on this Thursday night. The New Kids on the Block/Backstreet Boys pairing has a definite “event” feel, especially with the two groups performing a chunk of the show together. But the Go-Go’s haven’t been around for a while and are celebrating the 30th anniversary of their debut album, “Beauty and the Beast.” And the B-52’s opening at the DTE Energy Music Theatre is definitely value-added. The choice: Our lips aren’t sealed; take the NKOTBSB event at the Palace over the Go-Go’s, though we have a feeling the former may actually turn into a schticky regular tour.

June 23 — Daryl Hall & John Oates vs. The Monkees: The blue-eyed soul duo doesn’t record together anymore, but it still has a slew of hits, and seeing them in a small venue like the MotorCity Casino’s Sound Board will be a treat. The Monkees — well, hey hey, they haven’t toured (three of the four, sans Mike Nesmith) in a decade. The Choice: A tough one here, but we’ll go with The Monkees at the Fox Theatre. Their future is tenuous at best, and we haven’t seen the last of Hall & Oates by a long shot.

June 26 — U2 vs. Eddie Vedder: They’re both alt rock icons, but you couldn’t ask for two more different kinds of shows — a Spartan Stadium spectacle in East Lansing for U2’s 360 Tour stop while Pearl Jam frontman Vedder will be playing “Ukulele Songs” at the Fox Theatre, although we’re not expecting any Don Ho covers. The choice: U2 has already set a record for the biggest tour ever, so why not join the party? Especially since it’s one of the most imaginative rock shows ever.

July 8 — Vans Warped Tour vs. A Perfect Circle vs. Peter Frampton: The punk-ish Warped festival returns for another day-long residency outside Comerica Park, while A Perfect Circle, which reactivated in 2010, plays at the Fox Theatre, and Frampton commemorates the 30th anniversary of his landmark “Frampton Comes Alive” album at DTE. The latter might not seem like much of a conflict, but ask any of those Warped Tour kids who got turned on to Frampton’s music via Guitar Hero. The choice: Go big; take in the early part of the Warped Tour, then hit one of the other two in the evening.

July 16 — Josh Groban vs. Steely Dan (and then some): It’s definitely a Saturday night for adults. Groban is taking a retooled version of his show — a bit more spare and less orchestrated — to the Palace of Auburn Hills, while the always-worth-seeing Steely Dan keeps it intimate at the Fox Theatre. Making it even harder; Don Was will host his annual Concert of Colors Detroit All-Star Revue at Orchestra Hall, and the Dirtbombs, who are playing this weekend’s Movement Electronic Music Festival, close their tour at the Magic Stick. The choice: The Was revue is a perennial highlight. And it’s free. Any other questions?

July 23 — Keith Urban vs. O.A.R.: Believe it or not, there is some crossover and certainly shared creative sensibility between guitar-slinging country star Urban — a kind of Bryan Adams with a twang — and O.A.R., a “jam band” that still knows how to write a song. The choice: We’ll tip our ten-gallon to Urban (although he doesn’t wear one) at the Palace. O.A.R. has become an annual fixture at the Meadow Brook Music Festival, so take a chance they’ll be back next year, too.

July 28 — Britney Spears vs. Death Cab For Cutie: Now there’s a couple names you don’t often see in the same sentence. Spears’ lip-synced, choreographed production at the Palace may be a world away from Death Cab’s earnest modern rock fare at the Fox, but there will certainly be some fans who are dialed in to both acts. The choice: Opener Nicki Minaj, who pressed the flesh — abundantly — with Spears at last week’s Billboard Music Awards, tips the scale in favor of the “Femme Fatale,” especially since Death Cab’s new album, “Codes and Keys” doesn’t come off as the most scintillating live music.

Aug. 5 — Meat Loaf vs. Wiz Khalifa: OK, no real conflict here (Mr. Loaf is at DTE, the Wiz plays Pontiac’s Phoenix Plaza Amphitheatre); putting them together just makes us laugh.

Aug. 7 — American Idols Live vs. the Steve Miller Band: Last year this would have been a no-brainer in the Space Cowboy’s favor, but this year’s revitalizing “Idol” season has put some new heat into the franchise and makes the live show at Joe Louis Arena a more interesting proposition. The choice: The truth is that beyond Pia, Casey and James, the Idols are a pretty run-of-the-mill pack. Singing along to “The Joker” with Miller at DTE is a sublime summer right.

Aug. 19 — The J. Geils Band vs. Return To Forever: It’s hard to beat a good “Detroit Breakdown,” especially on a Friday night, but a jazz supergroup like Return To Forever doesn’t come along all that often and is fortified this year by the addition of violin virtuoso Jean-Luc Ponty to the lineup. The choice: It may be nothin’ but a houseparty at DTE, but Geils is as much a Detroit rock ‘n’ roll experience as Bob Seger or Kid Rock. Nobody who treks to Meadow Brook for RTF will be disappointed, however.

Aug. 20 — Kenny Chesney vs. Lil Wayne: Oops, we did it again — no conflict, just for laughs. Silly us. We won’t do it again. (Chesney’s at Ford Field, Lil Wayne plays DTE.)

Aug. 27 — Alice Cooper vs. Get Back! Cast of Beatlemania: The Coop would probably be the first to tell you it’s essential to listen to Beatles music — unless, of course, it’s in lieu of listening to him. You can bet that none of the Get Back! boys will be sticking their heads in a guillotine at Meadow Brook, at least. The choice: But we like it when Alice loses his head. And since he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March, this homecoming show at DTE will be the place to be that night.

Sept. 2-5 — Arts, Beats & Eats vs. the Detroit Jazz Festival: It’s been the ultimate city vs. suburbs battle on Labor Day weekend for more than a decade, since AB&E began in Pontiac. Its new digs in Royal Oak were successful last year, but the Jazz Fest is one of the top music events in the country, period. The choice: Fortunately, this is an easy one. Since both run for four days, you can mix, match and manage to catch some of each — and don’t forget the Hamtramck Festival, too.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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