Pop Concerts Crank Up the Volume
BOSTON — As you scroll through the summer concert schedule - Spice Girls, Pearl Jam, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Hanson - it adds up to an intensely busy summer. Rock 'n' roll shifts into high gear this weekend, and bands will be going bumper to bumper on the concert highway.
You won't see any megabands this season - no Rolling Stones, no U2, no Pink Floyd. But there is an abundance of events. Small acts as well as superstars will perform in every genre of music - from classic to cutting-edge rock, as well as blues, oldies, country, reggae, and ethnic music.
"This could be the biggest summer concert season ever," says Gary Bonjiovani, editor of Pollstar, a concert-industry magazine. And there's a surge in music that appeals to young people.
For the past few seasons, Generation Xers have complained that summer concerts were blasts from the past.
Not anymore. This year, there's plenty for everyone. Promoters still have their sights on baby boomers. Rod Stewart, Jimmy Buffett, Page & Plant, and the Allman Brothers will be on the road along with other familiar names from the Woodstock era.
But a new generation of performers has also become top-concert draws. The all-female Lilith Fair was last year's most successful festival, attracting 750,000 fans throughout North America. Lilith is not alone. Last weekend the Dave Matthews Band joined the ranks of blockbuster bands with its first-ever stadium act. The band sold out all 55,000 seats in Foxboro, Mass.
Top-40 radio stations have given a boost to new-era bands, as opposed to classic rockers, and industry sources say the much-anticipated return of Pearl Jam cements the trend.
Summer has always been a great time for music. Here's a sampling of performances worth watching:
* Eric Clapton is a great journeyman. "The studio has always been an alien place," Slowhand once said. He will be touring with a 20-piece band.
* Janet Jackson, her dancers, lavish sets, and vibrant personality take the stage for the first time since 1993.
* Jimmy Page and Robert Plant will pitch a new album "Walking Through Clarksdale," their first album together in almost two decades.
* Also on tour are classic rockers Deep Purple and Emerson Lake and Palmer; Boyz II Men, Chicago with Hall & Oates, Michael Crawford, Ani DiFranco, and Metallica.
Missing this year is Lollapalooza, the mother of all traveling summer-rock festivals. But the many multiple festivals it spawned will make up for its absence.
Lilith Fair promises to be the most-talked about festival - again. It headlines founder Sarah McLachlan, as well as Natalie Merchant, Indigo Girls, Missy Elliott, and Bonnie Raitt. There's some Irish flavor as well. The Guinness Fleadh festival features Sinad O'Connor, the Chieftains, Chumbawamba, Tracy Chapman, Los Lobos, and Patti Smith.
Surviving members of the Grateful Dead reunite for the Furthur Festival. And after a successful tour last year, the Vans Warped Tour returns. The skateboarder-oriented event is headlined by Bad Religion, Rancid, and the Specials. Also featured: newcomers Cherry Poppin' Daddies and Less Than Jake.
From Africa comes one of the most eclectic festivals. Africa Fte '98 features Salif Keita & The Wanda Band, Papa Wemba and Molokai, Maryam Mursal, and Cheikh L.
The season's most political music event is the Tibetan Freedom Festival, in Washington, D.C., on June 13-14. Its impressive lineup includes Pearl Jam, the Beastie Boys, Dave Matthews Band, Verve, Beck, Tracy Chapman, and more.
The Chinese government is protesting the event. In response, organizers have invited Chinese officials to rock 'n' roll right along with them.
Visit the Web For Tour Information
Pollstar, the leading concert-industry magazine, offers a one-stop-search Web site at www.pollstar.com. It has information on every tour, artist, venue, and city.
Or if you prefer to visit a Web site specific to a festival or individual artist, here's a partial list:
Furthur Festival: www.dead.net/cavenweb/furthur/index.html