Summer concert preview: A selective list of the season’s must-see shows


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Those with fat wallets or friends in the biz will no doubt celebrate the bounty that is the summer music season in Southern California. The offerings are unrivaled among American regions, with so many open air venues, majestic theaters, off the path performance spaces, parks, backyards, and abandoned warehouses. Those with unlimited access could fill their hearts with stunning music every night.


Those whose budget is tighter might feel discouraged that they’ll have to pick and choose, though the good news is that ticket prices have dropped as precipitously as the real estate market in the past couple years. Moms interested in taking their daughters to see Katy Perry on Aug. 5 will only be out $34.50 per ticket (plus service charge). Tickets for Taylor Swift’s extended run at the Staples Center in August start at a mere $25 for nosebleed seats; and even big sellout shows like Adele’s two nights in L.A. offered tickets starting at $32.50.

Numbers aside, though, what make summer music in Los Angeles so special is that it’s everywhere; bumping out of cars on Sunset Boulevard, grooving on the beach by the Santa Monica Pier; driving drunken Valley chicks nuts behind the velvet ropes on Hollywood Boulevard. Below is a quick look at some essential shows.


Adele, Wanda Jackson. New soul meets old as 21-year-old British rhythm & blues singer Adele, responsible for the most successful album of 2011 so far, brings her overpowering alto to the Greek. With a tone that can curl toes when she slams a note, Adele’s a once-in-a-generation voice. Also on the bill will be another such figure, rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson, whose work at both pushing rolling rhythms and feminine boundaries has spanned half a century. The Greek Theatre, 2700 N. Vermont Ave., L.A. June 6, 7:30 p.m. $32.50-$65. (Also June 9 at the Hollywood Palldadium.)

John Prine, Loudon Wainwright III. Two master singing storytellers arrive to share handcrafted, ornate songs in the beautiful downtown Orpheum Theatre. Prine has penned some of the sturdiest country folk records of the past four decades; and Wainwright’s rapier wit has documented American life for just as long. The Orpheum, 842 S. Broadway, L.A., June 10, 8 p.m. $47.50.

R.Kelly, Keysia Cole. A century hence, academics, historians, ethnomusicologists and R&B freaks will still be assessing the collected work of Chicago funk/soul weirdo R. Kelly. The giant of Illinois has seen things most others can barely imagine -- and it’s probably best not to – and offers long, narrative poems worthy of Robert Browning, though way looser and raunchier. Kelly performs two nights in support of his recent “Love Letter.” Nokia Theatre L.A. Live, 777 Chick Hearn Court, L.A. June 11-12, 8 p.m. $75-$225.

Bruno Mars, Janelle Monae, Mayer Hawthorne. Soul fuses with funk fuses with pop within this perfectly curated outdoor concert at the Gibson. Mars is the hitmaker (“Just the Way You Are,” “Grenade,” Monae the Wondaland neo-soul-funk princess (“Tightrope”), and Hawthorne the Los Angeles via Detroit soul crooner whose steady rise over the past three years has been something to behold. Gibson Amphitheatre, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City. 7:15 p.m. June 12. $39.50. (Also June 14.)

The Flaming Lips. Veteran Oklahoma City psychedelic rock band the Flaming Lips have been blowing minds since the mid-80s, crafting a long string of blissful, life-affirming musical moments and happenings that explore the realm where visual and audio collide. The Lips take over the mid-Hollywood graveyard for the weekend, one night performing the entirety of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon,” the next doing all of the Lips pop classic “The Soft Bulletin.” Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 6000 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A. June 14-15, 7 p.m. $40.

Youssou N’Nour, Angelique Kidjo, Vusi Mahlasela. Three regions of Africa are represented at the Greek, when Senegalese singer/percussionist Youssou N'Dour headlines a concert also featuring singer Angelique Kidjo of Benin and Vusi Mahlasela, a South African singer/songerwriter. The Greek Theatre, 2700 N. Vermont Ave., L.A. June 16, 7:30 p.m. $32.50-$65.

Alison Krauss & Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas. The Illinois fiddle chanteuse brings her long running Union Station concern to the Greek Theatre, where they’ll highlight work from the new “Paper Airplanes.” Krauss has been working the voice and violin since she was young, and her work only gets richer and more emotive as the years go by, which on this performance will be accented by the finger work of dobro master Jerry Douglas. The Greek Theatre, 2700 N. Vermont Ave., L.A. June 23, 7:30 p.m. $35-$75.

Tune-Yards. Merrill Garbus records as Tune-Yards – well, tUnE-yArDs, to be exact – crafting wildly inventive rock that dips from worldly genres like West African griot music, punk rock, no wave, indie and noise. Like her alphebetically rocky moniker, her songs force their way into the moment with an abrupt directness; she’s creating a sound that’s all her own. The Troubadour, 9081 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, June 25, 8 p.m. sold out.

Yellow Magic Orchestra, Cibo Matto, Buffalo Daughter, others. Back in the late 1970s when synth pop was being birthed with blippy melodic ditties by bands like Kraftwerk and Suicide, on the other side of the world Haruomi Hosono, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Yukihiro Takahashi were merging bouncy Muzak sounds with bouncy digital blurts that sounded thoroughly modern. The group, which performs in Los Angeles for the first time since 1979 as part of KCRW’s World Festival at the Hollywood Bowl, will be joined on the bill by a reformed Cibo Matto, the female New York duo of Yuka Honda and Miho Hitori, as well as former Dee-Lite producer Towa Tei, and electronic rock band Buffalo Daughter. The Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave., L.A. June 26, 7 p.m. $12-$134.


Hall & Oates. Daryl Hall and John Oates endure. Year after year, the hits that the blue-eyed soul duo delivered in the 1970s and ‘80s remain on the airwaves, in America’s consciousness, in our hearts. We hum “Maneater” while walking down Hollywood Boulevard, romance to the candlelit ditty “One on One,” sing in the shower to “Sara Smile.” The band celebrates Independence Day under the stars. The Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave., L.A. July 2-4, 7:30 p.m. $12-$168.

Eddie Vedder. Pearl Jam’s singer proves his mettle the old fashioned way: by strapping on an itsy ukulele and stripping songs to their essence. Yes, the voice that wrestles with volume for his day job has more than enough nuance to wend around uke strums, and he’ll showcase that ability with a solo show. The Wiltern, 3790 Wilshire Blvd., L.A. July 8, 7:30 p.m. $78.50

Tinariwen. Saharan Tuareg guitar band Tinariwen are an unlikely story: a band of former soldiers from northern Mali who exchanged guns for guitars and helped bring a Northwest African desert rock sound to the world. The band, which played Coachella in 2010, will grace the intimate Troubadour stage for a night of interwoven guitars and intricate African beats. The Troubadour, 9081 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, July 13, 8 p.m. $26-30.

Widespread Panic. This Georgia boogie rock band draws from a deep well of southern and roots rock music, and have over the course of its 25-year career built a devoted fanbase of post-Deadhead travelers who flop their arms and shake their shaggy hair along to the extended jams. The Wiltern, 3790 Wilshire Blvd. July 13-14, 7:30 p.m. $39.50.

Dolly Parton. Perhaps Los Angeles should apologize for our poor manners: Forty-five years after Dolly Parton first went pro, the legendary country singer makes her Hollywood Bowl debut with two shows in the open air. Her Tennessee-lonesome weepers (“Jolene,” “Down from Dover”) and devoted odes to true love (“I Will Always Love You”) will no doubt charm the dickens out of the Hollywood – or Dollywood? – Bowl. The Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave., L.A. July 22-23 $12-$134.

Stevie Wonder, Rickey Minor, others. Space is too tight to fully expound on the potential for this uniquely American stew of sounds, but the imagination can fill in the blanks for this KCRW World Festival event: Stevie Wonder and American Idol musical director Rickey Minor host a “global soul” night featuring guests including Sharon Jones, Janelle Monae, Mia Doi Todd, Grace Potter, Ceci Bastida and others. The Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave., L.A. July 24, $12-$134.

Soundgarden, the Mars Volta. Grunge rock gods return to the Forum, 20 years after “Badmotorfinger” delivered riffs to confused punkers drawn to the chords but nervous about the rock posturing. The resultant guitar rock explosion is still reverberating today – as will The Forum. Opening will be epic Los Angeles prog band the Mars Volta. The Forum, 3900 W. Manchester Blvd., Inglewood. July 22, 8 p.m. $39.50-$69.50.

Sugarland, Sara Bareilles, Casey James. A night of pleasant, uplifting twang and strum under the stars with Sugarland, the Atlanta duo of Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush who proved that rock-solid songwriting and honest emotion could penetrate the protective sheen that sometimes covers commercial country music. Also on the bill are Venice, Calif.-based Sara Bereilles and singer/songwriter Casey James. The Greek Theatre, 2700 N. Vermont Ave., L.A. July 25-26, 7:30 p.m. $40.50-$96.

L.A. Rising featuring Rage Against the Machine, Muse, Lauryn Hill, Rise Against, others. Will rock succeed where raves failed? Longtime Angeleno agit-prop band Rage Against the Machine brings volume and beats to the same venue that caused so many problems for Electric Daisy Carnival in 2010, the Los Angeles Coliseum. Rage teams with promoter Goldenvoice to bring rock and soul to downtown L.A.: British art rock band Muse joins the suddenly ubiquitous Lauryn Hill, Orange County fury-punks Rise Against, and Immortal Technique and El Gran Silencio. The L.A. Coliseum, 3939 S. Figueroa St. L.A. July 30, 1 p.m. $69-$99.


Lykki Li. Swedish pop singer Lykki Li first caught ears at South by Southwest in 2009, where the globetrotting genre-bender jumped from tiny stage to tiny stage perking the ears of anyone who would listen. Since then, she’s persistently worked to gain America’s attention one smart, catchy dance pop single at a time. Her recent “Wounded Rhymes” suggests that she’s succeeded. The Greek Theatre, 2700 N. Vermont Ave., L.A. Aug. 3, 7:30 p.m. $40.

Hard Summer, featuring Odd Future, Duck Sauce, Chromeo, others. Chinatown will echo with electronic beats as Hard Summer comes to downtown’s L.A. State Historic Park for a night of electronic dance music. The day-long festival will feature some of the best beatmakers in the world, including the driving, quirky techno of Duck Sauce, the static-dance of Boys Noize, and the Los Angeles festival premiere of Odd Future, the controversial, buzzing L.A. hip hop crew. The big question on everyone’s minds: Will Earl Sweatshirt be back from Samoa by then? L.A. State Historic Park, 1245 N. Spring St., L.A. Aug. 6, 1 p.m. $60-$75.

Sade, John Legend.

The British band Sade makes a rare return to the southland for a series of big concerts, first at Staples Center then at the Honda Center in Anaheim. Fronted by the magnetic Sade Adu, the group has been crafting sweet, sensuous grooves for nearly 30 years, each as timeless and striking as the last. Opening is one of her inheritors, John Legend, who offers Staples Center, 1111 S. Figueroa Blvd., L.A. Aug. 19-21, 8 p.m. $49.50-$179.50. (Also Aug. 30-31 at the Honda Center in Anaheim.)

Sunset Junction Street Fair. The annual Silver Lake fete shuts down the interection of Santa Monica and Sunset Boulevards to offer music reflecting the many sounds of the city. This year’s party is more rock heavy than in years past, and will feature, among others, Hanson, Peaches, Charles Bradley, the Belle Brigade, Butthole Surfers and Tapes n Tapes. Sunset Junction, L.A., Aug. 27-28, 11 a.m.-11 p.m., $25.

Tribute to Serge Gainsbourg. The late singer Gainsbourg never quite translated in America the way that he did in his native France, where from the 1960s through his death in 1991 he was a bad-boy superstar whose devil-may-care Casanova persona masked the serious pop songwriter beneath. In songs like “Je t'aime... moi non plus,” “Bonnie and Clyde,” and the notorious worldwide duet with his daughter Charlotte (now an acclaimed actress and singer), “Lemon Incest,” Serge Gainbourg offered quirky (and sometimes shocking) insights on love, lust, and heartbreak. His legacy will be celebrated at the Hollywood Bowl, led by Gainsbourg’s collaborator Jean Claude Vannier and featuring Beck, Victoria Legrand of Beach House, Ed Droste of Grizzly Bear, and Sean Lennon, among others. The Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave., L.A. Aug. 28, 7 p.m. $12-$134.


Kara DioGuardi. Before she was a shunned American Idol judge, Kara GioGuardi was a powerful, chart topping pop songwriter who crafted monster smashes by Miley Cyrus, Christina Aguilera, Avril Lavigne and dozens of others while herself remaining a behind-the-scenes presence. The songwriter, however, has a huge voice, one that can consume a room, especially one as intimate as the El Rey. The El Rey, 6615 Wilshire Blvd., L.A., Sept. 8, 7 p.m., $40.

The National, Neko Case, Sharon van Etten. A solid bill of three of North America’s most promising young songwriters, the show is presented as part of KCRW’s World Festival. The National’s Matt Berninger writes simmering rock songs that sound like Pearl Jam on qualuudes, or American Music Club with harder guitars. Singer Neko Case has, over the past decade, become one of the singular roots rock voices of today, whose instantly recognizeable tone works well both solo and part the band for which she sings, the New Pornographers. And Sharon van Etten’s 2010 album, “Epic,” landed on many critics’ best of the year lists, and deservedly so; her lyrical precision is equaled only by her rock solid delivery. The Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave., L.A. Sept. 11, 7 p.m. $12-$134.

Kesha, LMFAO, Spank Rock All hail big, dumb dance-pop music, the kind that shoves its cartoon debauchery in your face until you can’t resist but bounce along with odes to shots, whiskey, parties, dancing, more shots – oh, and sex. Pop princess Kesha rules the charts, but is there an ironic subtext beneath it? Perhaps. No such quandry exists with L.A. party rap dou LMFAO, whose simple output is an insult to anyone who’s ever enjoyed a well-turned lyric. Baltimore’s Spank Rock can get the party started, most certainly. To what end, though? Gibson Amphitheatre, 100 Universal City Plaza, L.A. Sept. 17, 7 p.m. $39.50.

Tears for Fears. Tears for Fears reunite to celebrate its drama-filled, forlorn synthesizer pop music, the kind that comforted countless dance-goth bedroom mopers in the 1980s. The group will no doubt perform their hits “Shout,” “Sowing the Seeds of Love,” and “Mad World,” but hopefully they’ll also dip into their under-praised masterpiece, “The Hurting.” The Wiltern, 3790 Wilshire Blvd., L.A. Sept. 17, 8:00 p.m. $49.50-$65.

[For the Record, 7:01 p.m. May 31: A previous version of this post referred to Lauryn Hill as Lauren Hill. Thanks to commenter @TruetotheBlue for the heads up. Additionally, the post earlier incorrectly stated Sade’s Los Angeles dates as Sept. 19-21. They are, as pointed out by commenter @EFP, Aug. 19-21.]

-- Randall Roberts

Top photo, left to right: Singer Adele (Sean Gallup /Getty Images); Eddie Vedder (Jonathan Hayward / The Canadian Press / Special to The Times); A member of Tinariwen (Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times); Bruno Mars (Dave Hogan / Getty Images); Lykke Li (Atlantic Records)

Second photo: Singer R. Kelly shakes hands with the audience after performing at the 2011 Clive Davis Pre-Grammy Gala and Salute to Industry Icons Honoring David Geffen at the Beverly Hilton. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

Third photo: Merrill Garbus, a.k.a. Tune-Yards. Credit: Anna M. Campbell

Fourth photo: Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush of Sugarland perform during The Incredible Machine tour at the Bridgestone Arena on April 16, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee. Credit: Royce DeGrie/Getty Images

Fifth photo: Nigerian-British singer Sade performs on stage at the 02 Arena in Berlin on May 13, 2011. Credit: Photo credit should read Britta Pedersen/AFP/Getty Images.