Just about every week this summer boasts at least one show of note at venues large and small in and around Boston. Here are 10 that are worthy of a special mention.
By Adam Ellsworth.
While technically summer doesn’t start until June 21, for our purposes, the season starts a week early with the self-proclaimed “Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World.”
The Rolling Stones
June 12 and 14
TD Garden, Boston, MA
“I think we’re pretty well set up for at least another year,” Mick Jagger once told an interviewer who asked him how much longer the Rolling Stones would be around.
That was in 1965.
Five decades later, the Stones bring their “50 & Counting” tour to TD Garden for two nights.
The band has been working their way east since the tour kicked off last month in LA, bringing with them a “tongue pit” stage, special guests, former guitarist Mick Taylor, a choir, and 50 years’ worth of hits. It’s a regular rock and roll circus.
The “cheap seats” are all sold out (if you consider $85 cheap), but some premium seats are still available. So, if you’ve got $600 to burn and nothing going on this week, well, problem solved!
Counting Crows/ the Wallflowers
Bank of America Pavilion, Boston, MA
On Counting Crows’ breakthrough hit, “Mr. Jones,” Adam Duritz sang, “I want to be Bob Dylan.”
Fast forward 20 years, and he has apparently settled for a joint tour with Dylan’s son’s band.
While neither Counting Crows nor the Wallflowers ever reached iconic status, they both had some big hits that have aged surprisingly well. It should be a fun night for anyone yearning for some post-grunge ‘90s nostalgia.
Fenway Park, Boston, MA
For at least the past 10 years or so, when Sir Paul hits the road, he always turns “Hey Jude” into a massive sing-along. After a minute or so of everyone Na na na-ing together, the music drops out and McCartney conducts the throng: “All right, this time just the men. Just the fellas,” “This time just the girls. Come on ladies,” and then “Everybody all together now.” It is, easily, one of the most magical experiences in rock and roll. A goose bump inducing, tear triggering, “I know this is corny and he does it every night but I don’t care” moment.
When McCartney was last in Boston, at his Fenway show on August 5, 2009 (and perhaps something similar happened during his August 6 Fenway concert as well), he took things a step further by asking for “Just the people in the back.” The response was deafening.
McCartney then requested “Just the people in the front” (i.e., the people in the expensive seats). Their voices couldn’t compare to those of their poorer brethren, and they were lustily (and loudly) booed. Open class warfare! Pure rock and roll.
Well, compared to what’s still available for the Stones show, all the seats at McCartney’s Fenway show in July are cheap. Perhaps that’s why they sold out (even the most expensive ones) in five minutes. If you still want to go though, head to the secondary ticket market where as of this writing there are literally thousands of tickets up for grabs. God bless America.
Middle East-Downstairs, Cambridge, MA
This seems like too small a venue for Savages, which can only mean it will be a sweaty, grimy, riotous, good time.
Savages’ debut album, Silence Yourself, was just released last month, but the buzz for the band has been building for about a year now, starting in their native U.K. and rapidly crossing over to the States.
The recordings of their songs are intense enough; live they’re a whole other beast. Warning: it will be loud.
AmericanaramA Festival of Music
Featuring Bob Dylan, Wilco, and My Morning Jacket
Comcast Center, Mansfield, MA
For the fourth time in the last two years, Mr. Dylan returns to the greater Boston area. On his past two visits—TD Garden last November and Lowell’s Tsongas Center in April—the attendance was disappointing. Maybe it’s because he tours so often, maybe it’s because everyone has caught on that he doesn’t just “play the hits,” but whatever the reason, people don’t line up to see The Poet Laureate of Rock and Roll the way they used to.
So, wisely, Dylan has hooked up with Wilco and My Morning Jacket this summer for the AmericanaramA Festival of Music, which hits the Comcast Center in July. If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past few years, it’s that anything dubbed a “festival” makes people go bonkers, so ticket sales should be brisk (or at least respectable).
And why not? Even in his 70s, Dylan still puts on one of the most interesting shows in rock. He’s unafraid to mess with the arrangements to his “classics” or dig out an unloved deep cut and make it shine.
Add such celebrated live bands as Wilco and My Morning Jacket to the mix, and you’ve got a bill worthy of the name “AmericanaramA.”
Bank of America Pavilion, Boston, MA
No, it’s not really New Order without founding bassist Peter Hook, but since he’ll be in town with his new band in September (see below), you’re allowed to see the Hook-less New Order at Bank of America Pavilion and not feel guilty about it.
As a recording act, the Mancurian legends have seen better days. As a live band, however, they’ve still got it.
In addition to playing all your favorite New Order songs from the ‘80s (“Blue Monday,” “Temptation,” “5 8 6,” “Bizarre Love Triangle”), they typically also throw in some of your favorites from Joy Division. You know, that other band singer/guitarist Bernard Sumner and drummer Stephen Morris (and Peter Hook) were in.
“Which Joy Division songs?” you ask. Well, at Weekend One of Coachella, in addition to playing “Isolation” early in their set, they played an all Joy Division encore of “Atmosphere,” “Transmission,” and “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” It did not suck.
Bank of America Pavilion, Boston, MA
Whether you’re a fan of Beck or not, you’ve got to admit, the guy is never dull.
“Loser,” his early-‘90s slacker anthem, had “one hit wonder” written all over it, and yet he’s still here. It’s helped that he likes to change up his sound, keeping fans on their toes. Sometimes he’s dropping the funk (“Where It’s At”), while other times he’s a mellow folk singer (the album Sea Change). And then there’s his most recent release, 2012’s Song Reader, which, as it’s a collection of sheet music without any audio, doesn’t technically have any sound at all. So, if he plays any of those songs at Bank of America Pavilion in August, it will really be like you’re hearing them for the first time.
Boston Calling Festival
Featuring Vampire Weekend, Passion Pit, Local Natives, Kendrick Lamar, and others
September 7 and 8
City Hall Plaza, Boston, MA
Despite the terrible weather, the first installment of Boston Calling, held on Memorial Day weekend in May, was obviously a huge success because the organizers have wasted no time in scheduling a second installment of the festival.
Unlike that first edition of the festival, which featured fun. and the National as headliners, the headliners this time around are either literally or “spiritually” local. Vampire Weekend is from New York City, but with songs like “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” and “Boston (Ladies of Cambridge),” they might as well be from Massachusetts, while Passion Pit actually are from the Bay State.
Rounding out the lineup are Local Natives, Kendrick Lamar, the Gaslight Anthem, Major Lazer, the Airborne Toxic Event, Bat for Lashes, Solange, and others. Arguably, this lineup far surpasses what the festival offered in May.
Whereas New Order tends to tour a greatest hits set, founding New Order bassist Peter Hook (who last played with the band in 2006) usually picks a theme and sticks with it when he plays with his new band the Light.
Later this month, Hooky and his band will play the Joy Division albums Unknown Pleasures and Closer in their entirety in Macclesfield, the birthplace of the late Joy Division singer Ian Curtis.
But when the band comes to Paradise Rock Club in September, for the first date of their 2013 North American tour, they will be performing the first two New Order albums, 1981’s Movement, and 1983’s Power, Corruption & Lies, in their entirety. For good measure, they will also be performing the singles from this period, including “Blue Monday” and “Temptation.”
True, Hook wasn’t the singer on the recorded versions of these songs. That distinction belongs to Bernard Sumner. But Sumner wasn’t the original singer of the Joy Division songs New Order now perform at every show, and nobody’s complaining about that. Hooky has a fine, full voice, and even if he didn’t, his melodic, “lead” bass playing alone is enough to do these songs justice.
Paradise Rock Club, Boston, MA
Assuming you watch television, you’ve probably heard Jake Bugg. You just might not have realized it.
That’s him, and his song “Lightning Bolt,” you hear in the Gatorade commercial that’s been in heavy rotation (at least during sports programming) for the past few months.
Bugg has been a sensation in his native U.K. ever since his self-titled debut topped the charts (dethroning Mumford & Sons) in November 2012. He’s had a slower climb in the U.S., but appearances at on late night TV and at American music festivals, along with the Gatorade commercial, have helped his cause on this side of the pond.
The music on his debut is often driven by his busker-style acoustic guitar, but if you catch him live, make special note of his electric guitar playing. It’s far more nimble than you might expect