Nicki Minaj, Glen Campbell, Wilco among L.A.'s top summer concerts
Southern California’s summer pop music calendar includes Hard Summer, Make Music Pasadena and Rock the Bells festivals.
Nicki Minaj. Skrillex. Glen Campbell’s goodbye tour. Wilco. Some big names in pop are coming to Southern California this summer, promising a decent warm-weather season and the extension of a concert year that already has promoters singing.
Last month, promotion giant Live Nation, which also operates Ticketmaster, reported a 6% increase in ticket sales for the first quarter of 2012 compared with the same period last year -- no doubt due to a spring that has seen Bruce Springsteen, Van Halen, the Beach Boys and Roger Waters touring; the Beverly Hills-based company also just promoted three sold-out Coldplay shows at the Hollywood Bowl. With artists such as Justin Bieber and Madonna not making it out West until the fall, the year’s blockbuster tours would seem to conveniently miss L.A.’s summer months.
But music fans still have a lot to celebrate this summer.
The annual downtown dance event known as Hard Summer has expanded from one day to two, and the yet-to-be-announced rock-centric festival known as FYF, also downtown and produced by the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival promoter Goldenvoice, has also stretched from one to two days over Labor Day. A festival spokeswoman says to expect the lineup to be revealed by the end of this month. What’s more, the Dave Matthews Band, one of the concert industry’s biggest stars, will swing through Southern California in September.
Gary Bongiovani, editor of concert-tracking publication Pollstar, also notes that tours are maximizing value: “We’re seeing good solid three-act shows these days. One way to stand out of the fog is to combine and offer fans real value. We see Enrique Iglesias, Jennifer Lopez, Wisin Y Yandel. That’s a great tri-bill. In previous years, we may not have seen that combination of talent.”
Here’s a look at just a few of the big-name acts and can’t-miss shows coming to the L.A. this summer.
When it comes to pop music, Pasadena’s most famous contributions are arguably Van Halen and a little old lady immortalized in a Jan & Dean song. This 12-hour city-wide festival will briefly turn the region into a musical hot bed, with performances that include pep-rally-ready locals Grouplove, the city’s own vintage dance ace Dam-Funk and the shadow-illuminating grooves of Grimes. Downtown Pasadena. www.makemusicpasadena.org. Free.
Glen Hansard & Kelly Hogan
This is an evening of exquisite, rootsy song craft, courtesy of local label Anti-. Hansard, as one-half of the Swell Season, has long specialized in pairing intimate melodies with romantic torment. Hogan, meanwhile, has been backing up the likes of Neko Case and Jakob Dylan. Her knockout voice is the most impressive instrument on her graceful debut, “I Like to Keep Myself in Pain.” The Wiltern, 3790 Wilshire Blvd. Tickets: $25-$45.
In what will likely be Campbell’s final L.A. performance, this promises to be a celebratory and heartbreaking retrospective on his lengthy career. Campbell, suffering from Alzheimer’s, will be joined by contemporaries and young ’uns alike, as he revisits timeless songs such as “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Galveston” and “Rhinestone Cowboy” with Kris Kristofferson, Lucinda Williams, Jenny Lewis and more. Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave. www.hollywoodbowl.com. Tickets: $12-$136.
El-P & Killer Mike
This double bill showcases two collaborators, each offering a different side of hip-hop intensity. El-P’s vision is sci-fi bleak, its futuristic sounds paired with tales of regular folks gone bad. Killer Mike, however, packs a lifetime of street-wise bile into “R.A.P. Music,” an album that doesn’t echo vintage gangsta rap so much as illustrate the destructive impact of the oft-romanticized lifestyle. Echoplex, 1822 Sunset Blvd. www.attheecho.com/. Tickets: $25.
July 20, 21
There are only three cities on Maxwell’s summer tour, but the R&B seducer and his 11-piece band will perform two nights per stop, promising to play every song in Maxwell’s four-album catalog. A rare experience from a relatively elusive artist, and one where he’ll explore the full spectrum of romantic vulnerability. Staples Center, 1111 S. Figueroa St. www.staplescenter.com. Tickets: $29.50-$275.50; two-night packages are available: $53-$500.
The London-based indie rock band’s new album won’t be out until September, but get a preview at this mid-summer gig. Its self-titled debut was minimalist soul at its most cold, with little more than sleek electronics or wayward guitars shining light in the dark corners. The Fonda Theatre, 6126 Hollywood Blvd. www.fondatheatre.com. Tickets: $30.
While she’s had the occasional appearance at Largo, Apple hasn’t released an album since 2005. Her new one, due June 19, boasts a title that’s 23 words long, and the music behind it offers redeeming cathartic moments and/or torrents of dangerously unchecked emotion. Live, Apple is gripping and frantic, even as she plays piano. Hollywood Palladium, 6215 Sunset Blvd. Tickets: $49.50.
One of the biggest rock stars in L.A. right now is electronic sensation Skrillex. He’ll anchor Hard Summer, which is returning for a third year to its downtown locale. Reflecting the growth of electronic music and the strength of the festival market, Hard Summer goes from one to two days this year. Others on the bill: Miike Snow, Bloc Party, Boys Noize, Bloody Beetroots, Nero and LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy. Los Angeles State Park, 245 N. Spring St. www.hardfest.com. Tickets: $119-$250.
Aug. 11, 16, 18, 23 and 25
Diamond returns to the scene of his career-defining 1972 album, “Hot August Night,” a live effort that was recorded during a 10-night stay at the Greek Theatre 40 years ago. Today, Diamond the showman has slowed a bit, but his voice is as sturdy as ever and his catalog, equally sentimental and anthemic, still strikes a universal chord. The Greek Theatre, 2700 N. Vermont Ave. www.greektheatrela.com. Tickets: $49-$250.
Minaj’s mix of Top 40 craftsmanship and fiercely vicious hip-hop can be as weirdly fascinating as it is oddly off-putting. She’s a foul-mouthed, nimble rapper with a soft spot for ballads, and she comes from the Madonna/Lady Gaga school of spectacle. The Nokia Theatre, 777 Chick Hearn Court. Tickets: $49.75-$79.75.
Rock the Bells
Guerilla Union’s annual Rock the Bells provides a handy snapshot of hip-hop’s past, present and future. Wiz Khalifa and Kid Cudi top the bill, which also includes veterans such as Common, Nas and Ice Cube. Look for up-and-comers J Cole and Kendrick Lamar to also get prime slots. NOS Events Center, 689 S. E St., San Bernardino. rockthebells.net. Tickets: $184-$984.
Dave Matthews Band
No act sold more tickets than the Dave Matthews Band did for the period that stretched from 2000 to 2009, according to touring stats released by industry trade Billboard. DMB returns to the road with the promise of a new album, one recorded with veteran producer Steve Lillywhite, who the group collaborated with on its first three studio albums. Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, 8808 Irvine Center Drive. Tickets: $53.85-$89.90.
Bonnie Raitt & Mavis Staples
The careers of Raitt and Staples span multiple decades, and each continues to fine-tune traditions and challenge expectations. Raitt’s roots are tied to the blues, but her band is adept at detours into soul and jazz. Staples’ gospel-trained rasp, meanwhile, is a national treasure. The Greek Theatre, 2700 N. Vermont Ave. www.greektheatrela.com. Tickets: $35.50-$75.50.
After three sold-out shows here in January, Wilco is back to close the Hollywood Bowl’s summer season, playing what will be its largest headlining L.A. show to date. The Chicago rock band views the entirety of the American pop songbook with reverence, be it experimental tug-of-wars between guitars and electronics or comforting heartland folk. Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave. www.hollywoodbowl.com. Tickets: $25-$65.
-- Todd Martens
Photos: Fiona Apple (Jack Plunkett / Associated Press), Nicki Minaj (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times) and Maxwell (Sean Gardner / Getty Images).