While the recording
industry is panicked about the future of CD sales, live music has arguably
never been healthier -- revenues rose almost 20 percent in 2003 to about
$2.5 billion, an all-time high for the fifth consecutive year.
Some 70 percent of that business was generated between April and October.
It's that time of the year again, and we are once more seeing a summer
concert schedule jammed with pop-music offerings.
To some extent, the rosy outlook is deceptive: Much of that record profit
was generated by a relatively small group of superstars. The top 100
concerts sold 38.7 million tickets last year, with names like Bruce
Springsteen and Dave Matthews leading the pack. Many promoters continue to
be concerned about the dearth of new arena acts coming up from the clubs and
Nevertheless, as long as many of the older acts are alive and kicking and
eager to strut their stuff under the hot summer sun, the good times are
likely to continue for the concert biz -- and the ticket prices are unlikely
to drop (though they have at least leveled off in the last few years after
surging in the late '90s).
This summer's platinum road warriors include Madonna, Metallica, Sting,
Prince (who is finally delivering his long-promised greatest hits tour),
Eric Clapton (who's reneging on his promise to retire from touring and
instead is hitting the road with a tribute to Robert Johnson) and the
reunited Van Halen (who are, alas, still sadly lacking David Lee Roth).
As with the last few seasons, this year's bookings are a mix of the good,
the bad and the downright abysmal. The trend of many of the bigger concerts
opting to play indoors instead of at the "sheds" or outdoor amphitheaters
continues. And once again the most exciting lineups (and the best values)
are the multi-band festivals such as Ozzfest, the Warped Tour and
Lollapalooza, which expands this year to two consecutive days.
While we are blessed in Chicago with an impressive number of free
concerts, the Taste of Chicago bookings in Grant Park are less than stellar
in 2004. However, the city continues to promise a strong roster of acts to
launch the new Millennium Park Amphitheater when it opens in July, though
none of those artists have yet been announced.
Here are my choices for the 10 best concerts this summer (listed
chronologically), as well as a look at the rest of what has been announced
(All tickets are available through Ticketmaster, 312-559-1212 or
1. Dido, June 5, Chicago Theatre
With "Life for Rent," the melancholy trip-hop chanteuse proved that she's
no one-hit wonder, and she has plenty of staying power beyond singing a duet
with Eminem. I'm eager to hear her perform songs such as "White Flag" in
concert and see if she can conjure that unique, hazy but sexy vibe as well
onstage as she does on record.
2. Blink 182 and No Doubt, June 13, Tweeter Center
With their self-titled sixth studio album, the snotty punk trio Blink 182
made an unsuccessful attempt to grow up and get more mature in its
songwriting, while the last couple of releases by Gwen Stefani and her mates
have been mostly overproduced pop schlock. But both bands shine live, and
their effervescent charms remain a guilty pleasure in concert.
3. The North Mississippi Allstars and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, June
26, Skyline Stage at Navy Pier
With all due respect to the White Stripes, the best and most innovative
modern young blues band is the North Mississippi Allstars, and this is an
inspired pairing with the veteran New Orleans jazz and roots combo at what
remains the best-sounding and most scenic outdoor concert venue in the
4. Los Lobos, June 30, Park West; Aug. 21, Chill on Kingsbury street
Celebrating 30 years as a band and a strong new album called "The Ride,"
Los Lobos is a lot more than "just another band from East L.A.," and it
should be in top form on this summer's celebratory tour.
5. Madonna, July 11-12 and 14-15, United Center
Though the top ticket price of $300 (plus Ticketmaster service fees) is
unconscionable, Maddy has always set a new standard for live spectacle with
each and every tour, and her "Re-Invention" jaunt should be no exception.
6. Incubus and the Vines, July 14, Allstate Arena
Australia's Vines are pathetic young Nirvana wannabes, but California's
Incubus is one of the most inventive psychedelic guitar bands working today
(please don't call it "nu-metal"), with its live shows even better than its
7. Sting and Annie Lennox, July 18, Tweeter Center
Yuppie rocker Gordon Sumner failed to impress last summer with his
much-hyped corporate-sponsored concert in Grant Park, but sultry crooner
Annie Lennox, like Madonna, never fails to bring her music to new levels
onstage, and she tours all too infrequently. My advice: Enjoy Annie, catch a
little of Sting, leave early and beat the traffic.
8. Lollapalooza, July 29-30, Tweeter Center
God bless that crazy capitalist Perry Farrell: While we can gripe about
some of the bookings (there is definitely more than a little nostalgia in
this year's lineups) and the venues (the Tweeter Center is a spectacularly
unaccommodating setting for this kind of festival), the leader of Jane's
Addiction is once again giving us this summer's best bang for the buck ($40
for pavilion seats, though that price hits an obnoxious $57.25 once you
factor in Ticketmaster's online service fees and the additional venue
This year, the fun is spread out over two days. The July 29 lineup
features Morrissey, Sonic Youth, Modest Mouse, Le Tigre, Black Rebel
Motorcycle Club and the Von Bondies on the main stage, with second stage
highlights the Walkmen, Sparta, DJ Danger Mouse and the Datsuns.
The July 30 lineup includes jam-crazed headliners the String Cheese
Incident (leave early!), the Flaming Lips, Spearhead, Gomez and the
Polyphonic Spree on the main stage, and the Thrills, the Coup, Wheat and
more on the second stage.
9. Ozzfest, Aug. 14, Alpine Valley Music Theatre; Aug. 21, Tweeter
With everyone's favorite doddering heavy-metal legend Ozzy Osbourne, plus
the great Judas Priest (with Rob Halford back in the fold!), Slayer and
Dimmu Borgir on the main stage, Ozzfest had a strong lineup even before last
week's surprise announcement that Black Sabbath is joining the mayhem. Now,
it's out of this world.
Rounding out the chaos: Black Label Society, Superjoint Ritual, Slipknot,
Hatebreed, Lamb of God, Atreyu, Bleeding Through, Lacuna Coil, Every Time I
Die and Unearth. Bring your earplugs!
10. Devo, Sept. 24, Riviera Theatre
As far as New Wave nostalgia and synth-pop legends go, nothing would beat
the promised tour by German legends Kraftwerk, which, sad to say, is not
materializing. This rare reunion gig by Ohio's wonderfully twisted Devo is
probably the next best thing, though. And it is one of only a handful of
gigs in the United States.
Now, on to the rest of the summer fun.
MAY: Summercamp 2004 with moe., Leftover Salmon, Umphrey's McGee,
Sonia Dada and others, May 29-30, 3 Sisters Park, Chilicothe, Ill.
JUNE: Rush, 30th Anniversary Tour, June 5, Tweeter Center; Sam
Phillips, June 11, Park West; Wilco, June 12, Vic Theatre; Fleetwood Mac,
June 12, Tweeter Center; the Beach Boys, June 14, Ravinia Festival;
Ladysmith Black Mambazo, June 15-16, Ravinia; Skinny Puppy, June 15-16, Vic;
David Byrne, June 17 and 21, Skyline Stage; Rufus Wainwright and Ben Folds,
June 18, Ravinia; the Dave Matthews Band and O.A.R., 7 p.m. June 18, Tweeter
Center; the B-52's, June 18, Vic.
Chicago and Earth, Wind & Fire, June 19, Tweeter Center; Patti Smith,
June 24, Skyline Stage; Dark Star Orchestra, June 25, Skyline Stage; Teena
Marie, June 25, Petrillo Music Shell; Primus, June 26, UIC Pavilion; Mary
Chapin Carpenter, June 29, Ravinia; Lyle Lovett, June 30, Ravinia; Stephanie
Mills, June 30, Petrillo Music Shell.
JULY: Melissa Etheridge, July 1, Petrillo Music Shell; 311. July
1, Tweeter Center; Pat Benatar and Peter Frampton, July 2, Petrillo Music
Shell; Christina Aguilera, July 2, Tweeter Center; Tim McGraw, July 3,
Tweeter Center; Counting Crows and They Might Be Giants, July 4, Petrillo
Music Shell; Loopfest 4 with ZZ Top, the Doors of the 21st Century, Tesla
and Blue Oyster Cult, July 4, Tweeter Center; Jessica Simpson, July 6,
ABBA: The Music, July 6, Ravinia; Kiss and Poison, July 9, Tweeter
Center; Marc Anthony, July 9, Allstate Arena; Jimmy Buffet, July 10, Alpine
Valley; 3 Doors Down and Nickelback, July 10, Tweeter Center; k.d. lang,
July 11, Ravinia; John Hiatt, July 13, Ravinia; Robert Cray, July 14,
Ravinia; Natalie Cole, July 16, Skyline Stage; Eric Clapton, July 17, United
Center; Britney Spears, July 17, Tweeter Center; Cowboy Junkies, July 18,
Van Halen, July 19-20, United Center; There'll Be Another Spring: A
Tribute to Miss Peggy Lee, July 20, Ravinia; Vans Warped Tour with New Found
Glory, Rufio, Bad Religion, Alkaline Trio, Simple Plan and Nofx, July 24,
Tweeter Center; the Dead, July 24, Alpine Valley; Chris Isaak, July 25-27,
House of Blues; Hilary Duff, July 30, Allstate Arena; Hanson, July 31,
AUGUST: John Mayer and Maroon 5, Aug. 1, Tweeter Center; Styx,
Aug. 3, Vic Theatre; Creedence Clearwater Revisited, Aug. 4, Ravinia; the
Projekt Revolution Tour with Linkin Park, Korn, Snoop Dogg and the Used,
Aug. 7, Tweeter Center; Dave Matthews Band and Guster, Aug. 7-8, Alpine
Valley Music Theater; Josh Groban, Aug. 8, Tweeter Center; George Thorogood
and Big Head Todd, Aug. 10, Ravinia; Neil Sedaka and the Klezmatics, Aug.
Cheap Trick, Aug. 13, Skyline Stage; Michael W. Smith, Aug. 13, Alpine
Valley; Diana Krall, Aug. 17-18, Auditorium Theatre; John Prine, Aug. 18,
Ravinia; the Coors, Aug. 19, Ravinia; Aretha Franklin, Aug. 20, Ravinia; Rod
Stewart, Aug. 20, Tweeter Center; Hall & Oates, Michael McDonald and the
Average White Band, Aug. 20, Auditorium Theatre; Peter, Paul & Mary, Aug.
22, Ravinia; the BoDeans, Aug. 26-27, Ravinia.
The Projekt Revolution Tour, Aug. 27, Alpine Valley; Jimmy Buffet, Aug.
26 and 28, Tweeter Center; Metallica, Aug. 27-28, Allstate Arena; Tony
Bennett, Aug. 28, Ravinia; Gloria Estefan, Aug. 28, United Center; Sarah
McLachlan, Aug. 31, United Center.
SEPTEMBER: The Allman Brothers Band, Sept. 1, Rosemont Theatre;
Jack Johnson, Sept. 7, Aragon; Phil Collins, Sept. 8, United Center; Kenny
Chesney with Rascal Flatts and Uncle Kracker, Sept. 9, Tweeter Center; Norah
Jones, Sept. 12, Tweeter Center.