Flowers are in bloom, the trees are now bedecked with leaves and concert venues are starting to fill their stages with an array of pop superstars, rock legends and up-and-coming hip-hop acts. Festival stages will be hosting everyone from Childish Gambino to Phish to Brandi Carlile this summer, and breakout artists from Noname to Billie Eilish will be turning concertgoers on their ears in venues as large as Red Rocks. Since this is one of the most exciting times of the year to go to concerts, we’ve picked a bakers’ dozen worth of gigs you don’t want to miss before the mercury drops.
May 31 – August 4
God is a woman — a strong, confident, resilient one whom nothing seems to hold back — and she’s playing arenas all over North America this summer. What will make this tour a winner is the breadth of music Ariana Grande to draw from, since she has been putting out practically an album a year since 2013 —Thank U, Next came out just six months after Sweetener — so she has more than enough material to pack into the supersized, eye-popping, five-act show (plus an encore) that she debuted earlier this year.
May 30 – July 13
When the Beatles played Shea Stadium, they spent less than an hour onstage before saying goodnight. Now, more than half a century later, Paul McCartney thrills fans with nearly four-hour shows, packed with favorites by the Beatles and Wings, solo hits and the occasional surprise, whether that’s the synth-laden “Temporary Secretary,” his Kanye-Rihanna collabo “FourFive Seconds” or the Beatles’ “Things We Said Today,” depending on your level of fandom.
May 31 – August 21
Last year, Rolling Stone dubbed Noname “one of the best rappers alive,” and now she’s hitting the road to defend the title. Her second album, Room 25, blends jazz, easy listening and bassy beats with her deftly mellifluous rhymes about Blaxploitation, feeling fragile and how she can’t believe that recently #MeToo’d actor Morgan Freeman is still acting. Throughout, she shifts from topic to topic with blink-and-you’ll-miss-it ease. “Y’all really thought a bitch can’t rap, huh?” she asked on the album’s intro with a laugh. Now she’ll be proving the doubters wrong onstage.
May 31 – June 23, July 6 – July 21
Billie Eilish’s music is custom-made for intimacy: quiet, ASMR-nuanced tracks with light trap beats that she whisper-sings over. This summer, though, she’ll be performing “Bad Guy” and “Bury a Friend” on some of North America’s biggest stages, including Red Rocks and Chicago’s United Center. Luckily for her, she’s had time in recent months to find her sea legs, playing Coachella and large venues around Australia and the U.K. Most impressive is that she has done all this and hasn’t even turned 18 yet.
Death Cab for Cutie with Jenny Lewis
June 2 – September 8th
By this point, Death Cab for Cutie and Jenny Lewis are indie rock–era survivors and both have experienced creative renaissances lately, so this tour will find them at the peak of their powers. Plus, there’s always the hope that getting Ben Gibbard on the same stage as Lewis would lead to new music from their indie-pop-defining side project, the Postal Service. Some dates of Death Cab’s tour feature Mitski and Car Seat Headrest, among others, as openers, and Jenny Lewis has a few dates of her own planned before she comes back in the fall with the Watson Twins.
June 13 – June 16
The original jam fest returns to its roots somewhat this year with three sets by Phish (two of which are on the same day) as well as a diverse set of headliners that include the Grand Ole Opry, Childish Gambino, Post Malone, the Lumineers and Cardi B. Whether you’re checking out “This Tent,” “That Tent” or “The Other,” as they’re known, there will always be something happening until the wee hours of the morning, at which point it starts all over again.
The Rolling Stones
June 21 – August 31
Mick Jagger has recovered from heart surgery and is already dancing like a man a third of his age, in preparation for the rescheduled dates of Stones’ upcoming No Filter Tour. The band will be playing stadiums on the trek (“It’s a thrill when we play stadiums … the energy is always amazing,” Jagger said in a statement) and with no new album to promote, fans should expect to hear their biggest hits, a few deep cuts and the occasional blues rave-up, all sung with a rejuvenated spirit.
July 9 – August 31
The magnetic country belter continues his long-running All-American Road Show Tour this summer, playing arenas around North America with support from previous Road Show openers Margo Price and Brent Cobb on select dates. If the gigs are anything like last year’s installment, fans can expect a mix of hits like “Broken Halos,” his take on “Tennessee Whiskey” and “Parachute,” along with guest spots from his openers. The real star, however, will always be Stapleton’s unique intensity.
Queen and Adam Lambert
July 10 – August 23
After Bohemian Rhapsody won four Oscars, Queen and Adam Lambert will likely be singing “We Are the Champions” with a little more gusto on this summer’s arena tour. With a little extra cash from the movie, they’re teasing a bigger “visual spectacle” this year, but that probably just means more supersized imagery of a mustachioed Freddie Mercury — and we’re OK with that.
July 18 – September 25
“Eddie” and the boys will be focusing on the classics and some more surprising fare for their summer jaunt this year. Set lists from the band’s recent European leg of the tour found them performing little-played fan favorites like “Flight of Icarus,” as well as a couple of stellar tunes frontman Bruce Dickinson had shied away from like “The Clansman” and “Sign of the Cross” — which they’d recorded with his late Nineties replacement. Add to that the larger-than-life spectacle of their corpse mascot decimating the stage and it’ll be a metal odyssey for the ages.
July 24 – August 10
Ms. Jackson (if you’re nasty) will be turning Las Vegas into Rhythm Nation this summer when she performs a career-spanning set as part of her Metamorphosis residency at the Park Theater at Park MGM. The recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee’s spring gigs there found her singing around 37 songs a night for nearly two hours(!) with a heavy emphasis on her Rhythm Nation 1814, Control and The Velvet Rope hits, all while performing the sort of sexy chair dances Bob Fosse would have envied.
August 1 – August 4
The original alternative-music festival has grown to embrace all styles of music, and this year’s installment of the four-day fest, set to take place in Chicago’s Grant Park, has a surprisingly diverse lineup. The headliners include Ariana Grande, Childish Gambino, Twenty One Pilots and the Strokes, and the rest of the bill features Perry Farrell, Kacey Musgraves, Mitski, Rosalía, Gary Clark, Jr., H.E.R., Lil Wayne and many others. If you don’t like at least one artist on this bill, you’re reading the wrong website.
August 16 – August 18
Although this celebration of the mother of all festivals has been on shaky ground recently — its financier and a producer both severed ties with the event — it could still be a fun time if its organizers can pull it off. The lineup features a mix of Woodstock OGs (Santana, Dead & Company, John Fogerty) and today’s hit makers (Jay-Z, Miley Cyrus, Chance the Rapper); now all it needs is to get to the point that its organizers can focus on the “peace and love.”
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