2011 summer arts guide — music

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by DANIEL DURCHHOLZ, Special to the JEWISH light

When it comes to summer concerts in St. Louis, there’s a single show that threatens to suck nearly all of the oxygen out of the room: U2’s July 17 appearance at Busch Stadium. The sold-out show is supersized in every fashion, from the giant stage, which resembles something between a crab claw and an alien spaceship, to the box office receipts. Over the last two years, U2 360º has become the most successful rock and roll tour in history.

Of course, it’s to the Irish band’s credit that its abilities over a 30-year career have kept pace with the lead singer’s alleged ego (you know the old joke: What’s the difference between Bono and God? God doesn’t wander around Dublin pretending to be Bono) that makes U2 worthy of being the biggest band on the planet. Expectations are that the band’s show here will be worthy of the hype.

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 Still, there are plenty of other concerts playing in St. Louis this summer. Here’s a quick list of some of our picks for the must-see shows of the coming months.

Mumford & Sons: June 5, the Pageant – The British folk/bluegrass/rock act got a major “Grammy bounce” from singing alongside Bob Dylan on the awards show earlier this year. But their debut album, “Sigh No More” had already won them a legion of fans that continues to grow. Tickets for this show vaporized in minutes.   


Robert Plant and the Band of Joy: June 15, Fox Theatre – Having been one of rock’s “Golden Gods,” what do you do for an encore? If you’re Robert Plant, you move forward instead of looking back. His last two albums, the latest of which is the brilliant “Band of Joy,” offer a new spin on American folk music.


Eddie Vedder/Glen Hansard: July 1, Fox Theatre – Taking a break from his regular gig fronting Pearl Jam, Eddie Vedder is kicking back with a solo venture that finds him playing…ukulele? It’s true. Don’t miss opening act Glen Hansard of the Frames and the Swell Season. His song with Marketa Irglova, “Falling Slowly” from the film they starred in, “Once,” won the pair an Oscar in 2008.


Fleet Foxes, July 19, the Pageant – A throwback to classic folk-rock styles, Robin Pecknold and his band of bearded, harmony-crazed northwesterners are poised to become the 21st century’s answer to Crosby, Stills & Nash. Tickets for this show sold out quickly.


Sade: July 28, Scottrade Center – After vanishing from the stage and recording studio for the better part of a decade, Sade popped up last year with the excellent “Soldier of Love” album. Her return to the concert stage is one of the summer’s most longed-for comebacks.


LouFest: August 27-28, Central Field, Forest Park – Last year’s debut LouFest came off without a hitch. This year, the indie-rock extravaganza promises even more musical bang for the buck, with a lineup that includes the Roots, TV on the Radio, Cat Power, the Hold Steady, !!!, the Low Anthem and more.  (http://loufest.com)


Beyond those shows, there’s plenty of offerings of almost every musical stripe. Here’s a look at what else is out there.


Scottrade Center has a busy summer that already in full swing. Big-voiced pop sensation Josh Groban appears on May 27. Country superstar Keith Urban checks in on June 29, followed by a show that brings together boy bands – New Kids on the Block and the Backstreet Boys – from two different eras. “Glee” star Matthew Morrison recently canceled his own show in St. Louis to sign on for this event, stretching the potential audience age demographics even further.

American Idols Live returns on July 31, followed by two shows from country ingénue Taylor Swift – August 13-14 – and one from pop belter Katy Perry on August 20. (http://scottradecenter.net/)


Other arena shows include the Family Arena’s bill of fare, including Gary Sinise & the Lt. Dan Band on May 27 (a benefit show) and Lynyrd Skynyrd on June 24. (http://familyarena.com) Chaifetz Arena hosts R&B bad boy R. Kelly on June 17. (http://thechaifetzarena.com)


Verizon Wireless Amphitheater offers a host of country concerts that include Brad Paisley, Black Shelton and Jerrod Niemann (June 17); Rascal Flatts, Easton Corbin and Justin Moore (June 26); Kenny Chesney, Billy Currington and Uncle Kracker (July 28); and more. In terms of other genres, Verizon hosts hip hop artists Wiz Khalifa on June 12 and Lil Wayne on August 21, and hair metalists Motley Crue and Poison, with punk progenitors the New York Dolls opening, on June 22. Expect a heavy, sweet smelling cloud over the venue for 311/Sublime on July 9 and plenty of guys wearing wifebeater t-shirts for Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow on July 16. Classic rock is represented by a co-bill of Yes and Styx on July 24; Journey, Foreigner and Night Ranger on July 27 and Def Leppard and Heart on August 10. A pair of all-day affairs, the hard rock/metal Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival (July 19) and the alt-rock Vans Warped Tour (August 3), are also booked. (http://livenation.com)


At the Fabulous Fox, you can find classic R&B act Earth Wind & Fire on June 18; top-notch singer/songwriters Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt share the stage on June 21. The ever inscrutable Steely Dan returns on August 24, followed by a jazz-rock double bill of Return to Forever and Zappa Plays Zappa on August 25. Teen star Selena Gomez takes the Fox stage on August 29 and rock guitar god Carlos Santana performs there on September 6. (http://fabulousfox.com)


Two summer concerts are booked into the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center, both of them spotlighting jazz. The Jazz Crusaders perform on June 11, followed by DMS, featuring George Duke, Marcus Miller, and Kirkwood native David Sanborn. (http://www.touhill.org)  


Club shows abound over the summer months (Visit the various venue websites for complete listings). Among the highlights on the Pageant’s schedule are bizarro funk-metalists Primus (May 29, sold out); alt-rockers Bright Eyes (June 6); piano man Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers (June 10); smooth jazzers Norman Brown and Richard Elliott (June 25); the great Elvis Costello (July 1); British sensation Florence & the Machine (July 5, sold out); Hasidic reggae artist Matisyahu (July 9); ever-evolving rock band My Morning Jacket (August 2); and hometown heroes Ludo (August 6). (http://thepageant.com)


Blueberry Hill’s Duck Room has rock and roll icon Chuck Berry (May 25); a double bill of The Head and the Heart and Abigail Washburn (June 13); Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers (July 20); and St. Louis favorite, the Peter Mayer Group (July 29), among other shows. (http://www.blueberryhill.com) Pop’s schedule includes Danzig (May 25); Bone Thugs & Harmony (June 16); Ted Nugent (July 19) and Tech N9ne (August 6). (http://popsrocks.com)  


Among Off Broadway’s summer shows are T Model Ford (May 26); the Wood Brothers (June 3); Clare Burson (June 14); Thao & Mirah (June 15); the Dynamites featuring Charles Walker (June 17); Ian McLagan (June 19); Jon Dee Graham (June 30); Dave Alvin & the Guilty Ones with Springfield, Mo., greats the Skeletons (July 7) and a special showcase of music from the film “Winter’s Bone,” performed by the original musicians (July 9).

Off Broadway also offers terrific music shows for kids on occasional weekend afternoons. (http://offbroadwaystl.com)


At the Old Rock House, you’ll find Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit (May 31); Ben Sollee (June 3); Alejandro Escoved & the Sensitive Boys (June 5); Rusted Root (June 12); Hawthorne Heights (June 13); Little Feat (June 26); Kaki King (June 27); and more (http://oldrockhouse.com)


Two festivals of note return once again. Twangfest is back for its 15th edition. Once again this year, the fest debuts at the Pageant on June 8 and moves to the Duck Room June 9-11. The bill includes Hayes Carll, Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis, Robbie Fulks with Nora O’Connor and the Baseball Project. (http://twangfest.com)


And once again the Big Muddy Blues Festival will be held Sept. 3-4 on Laclede’s Landing. The lineup was not available at press time. (http://bigmuddybluesfestival.wordpress.com/)


Happy listening!