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The Hottest Shows Of The Summer -- Our Pick

Of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

Regardless of the weather — or what meteorologists say is coming — it’s summer in the Detroit area.

At least for music fans.

The summer concert season unofficially begins with the first outdoor shows, which happen to be this weekend’s Downtown Hoedown in Hart Plaza and tonight’s Three Days Grace package at Freedom Hill Amphitheatre in Sterling Heights. This ushers in an intensive four months of concerts, at outdoor “sheds” such as Freedom Hill, DTE Energy Music Theatre, Meadow Brook Music Festival and Detroit’s Chene Park, at numerous festivals and year-round indoor venues that won’t shut down their stages just because the sun is shining.

Of course, who has the time and — especially these days — the money (for tickets AND gas) to do all of it? Nobody, of course. So to help the judicious concert goer make summer plans, these are a baker’s dozen shows that you hands-down don’t want to miss if you want to look back at a fulfilling summer of ’07:

Barenaked Ladies, June 15, DTE Energy Music Theatre — The Great White North quintet, favorite adopted sons of the metro area and one of the most consistently entertaining live acts around, seem to have even more fun in the great outdoors. And if it’s warm enough, that barenaked thing might not just be a name ...

Ne-Yo, June 22, Chene Park — With just two albums, and a batch of hits he’s written for others (including Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Mario), the Arkansas native has become one of R&B’s hottest properties. Catch him now at this relatively small place before he becomes untouchable.

Tool, July 3, DTE Energy Music Theatre — The heavy rock quartet is always worth the price of admission, even after two previous area stops on its current tour. The intrigue this time is how the group will manipulate its provocative theatrics to work in an outdoor setting.

Femi Kuti, Spoon, July 4, Comerica CityFest (formerly TasteFest), Detroit’s New Center Area — Percolating Afrobeat and very hip modern rock, all in one evening, and with enough time in between to sample the restaurant stations along West Grand Avenue. Now THAT’S a way to declare your independence.

Polyphonic Spree, July 6, Majestic Theatre — The over-the-top, two-dozenor-so-member “chorale” rock group from Dallas is a sight to behold, complete with new outfits this year. Fortunately, the group has a sound to match it.

The Nightwatchman, July 10, Shelter — Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello’s protest-singing alter-ego is not for the politically faint of heart. But this one man with an acoustic guitar generates more genuine passion than you’ll get from an entire day at, say, OZZFest.

The Police, Fiction Plane, July 17, The Palace — A no-brainer, of course. It’s the biggest and most surprising reunion tour of the year, and certainly more interesting than the umpteenth Sting concert. Let’s just hope he doesn’t go to a Tigers game and blow out his voice cheering like he did the last time the band was in town, in the summer of 1983.

Vans Warped Tour, July 27, Comerica Park — This particular all-day summer ritual is the best value on the road each year and has never done us wrong in the past. This year, it’s at the home of the Detroit Tigers, with ample room and plenty of shade to only makes a good thing that much better.

Zappa Plays Zappa, July 27, Meadow Brook Music Festival — It’s easy to be skeptical about tribute shows, but this salute, helmed by No. 1 son Dweezil Zappa, won over even the most ardent Frankophiles last summer, which should make for a little more zoot allure for this year’s show.

Family Values Tour, Aug. 1, Projekt Revolution, Aug. 22, both at DTE Energy Music Theatre — OZZFest’s new incarnation as a free festival has diminished its lineup a bit, which opens the door for either of these to take over as the summer’s preeminent hard rock package. The headliners — Korn and Linkin Park, respectively — are bolstered this year by strong undercards headed by Evanescence on Family Values and My Chemical Romance on Projekt Revolution. Nickel Creek, Fiona Apple, Aug. 11, Meadow Brook Music Festival — Perhaps the summer’s oddest pairing — modern bluegrass and pop noir — but one that promises the kind of performances that will win over fans of either side of the divide. Genesis, Sept. 30, The Palace — The season’s other big reunion tour and a chance to be suckers for big, bombastic prog rock again, assuming the Phil Collinsled version of the band does some of that amidst its myriad pop hits. And another 10 to consider if time and money permits: Honda Civic Tour with Fall Out Boy, +44 and others, May 27, DTE Energy Music Theatre Steely Dan, June 4, Freedom Hill “Weird Al” Yankovic, July 5, Comerica CityFest Anita Baker, July 21, DTE Energy Music Theatre

ZZ Top, The Pretenders, The Stray Cats, July 25, Freedom Hill Incubus, July 26, DTE Energy Music Theatre 311, Matisyahu, English Beat, Aug. 9, DTE Energy Music Theatre Raul Malo, Aug. 23-24, The Ark Rufus Wainwright, Aug. 24, Michigan Theater Rush, Aug. 28, DTE Energy Music Theatre

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