The annual ritual of reviewing the summer concert schedule generally kicks off when Humphrey’s announces their lineup. Here are some of the highlights we won’t be missing.
The Waterboys May 15 – Mike Scott has led the band through various incarnations and solo turns for many decades. With a healthy dose of traditional Irish roots coupled with rock and soul influences, Scott’s songs range from the rousing to the melancholy. Touring in support of the new album Modern Blues, the band features a crack team of American musicians: Muscle Shoals bassist David Hood (in his first tour since playing with Traffic in 1972), soul deep Texas guitarist Zach Ernst (Black Joe Lewis, The Relatives), drummer Ralph Salmins (Van Morrison), longtime Waterboys fiddler Steve Wickham, and Memphis keyboardist “Brother” Paul Brown. I will be looking for Guinness on offer at the bar.
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds May 16 – A night later the chairs will be stored for a rare general admission SRO evening, with the former Oasis guitarist highlighting songs from his sterling new album. His former band ruled the charts in Britain late last century, but never had the same overpowering influence in the colonies. Nonetheless, fans of Oasis know that the volatile combination of brothers Noel and Liam resulted in some stirring concerts. No word if Noel will dip into the Oasis catalog on this tour, but he claims there is zero chance of the band reuniting.
Brian Wilson June 19 – Undoubtedly one of the towering giants of American songwriters, Brian Wilson will be joined by a few familiar compadres Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin. They will focus on Wilson’s new album No Pier Pressure, but fans will hope for as much of the landmark Pet Sounds album as possible. Wilson will also bulk up his setlist with the innumerable radio hits that have filled the airwaves over the last five decades. This is the real deal. (You can also see the Beach Boys undoubtedly performing many of Wilson’s songs later in the season). And opening the evening is the phenomenal Rodriguez, whose improbably true story was captured in the engrossing “Searching for Sugarman” documentary. Rodriguez was at Coachella a few years ago, and he is also the real thing. Not to be missed.
David Gray and Amos Lee July 7 – This is one of the summer’s great double bills. Both are consummate singer songwriters, both have headlined tours in the past and this summer they will alternate the closing slot. In San Diego, Gray will finish the evening. His tenth album will figure heavily in the set list, but Gray will draw from his deep catalog including Draw the Line. Lee’s 2011 album Mission Bell brought him wide and deserved attention. A veteran of many festival gigs, Lee will be right at home at Humphrey’s intimate setting.
Lyle Lovett July 20 – Lovett will again bring his Large Band, wit and classy style to Humphrey’s. The Texan is a favorite around these parts. His eclectic blend of country, western swing, blues, gospel is a satisfying sonic stew. When not recording and touring, Lovett has found time to appear in over a dozen films, mostly playing his self-deprecating self.
Chris Isaak August 10 – Another Humphrey’s veteran, Isaak will notch his 26th visit to the venue. After berating and then embracing the boaters nearby, he will give the audience a great evening of songs with his crisp band. Even when someone wisely re-releases his great TV show, his live performance is not to be missed. He will likely draw on his album of covers by Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis, all of them discovered and made famous on the seminal Sun Records label.
Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club August 20 – The long-awaited thawing détente with Cuba provides the bittersweet yet perfect timing for this ‘Adios Tour.’ When Ry Cooder in 1997 risked the wrath of the State Department to pursue the story of the seemingly forgotten veterans of the Cuban music scene, the results were a joyful discovery for world music lovers. Cooder apparently went well into debt as a result, but sadly infrequent tours showed the world the vast richness of Cuba’s musical history. Original band members who will be fondly recognized from the Buena Vista Social Club® film: band leader and trombonist Jesús “Aguaje” Ramos, trumpeter Guajiro Mirabal, laúd virtuoso Barbarito Torres, vocalist and guitarist Eliades Ochoa and the incomparable vocalist Omara Portuondo. A younger generation of Cuban musicians is represented by such talents as vocalist Carlos Calunga and pianist Rolando Luna.
Diana Krall August 24 – With an unprecedented eight albums to debut at the top of the Billboard jazz charts, Krall has established herself as a towering figure in modern jazz. Her latest album Wallflower has her assaying classic pop songs, including an unreleased composition from Paul McCartney (“If I Take You Home Tonight”). In that Macca has worked with her husband Elvis Costello, the affection is obviously mutual. Overall, Krall’s albums have garnered 5 Grammy® Awards, eight Juno® Awards and have also earned nine gold, three platinum and seven multi-platinum albums.
Other gigs to note:
Herb Alpert & Lani Hall May 7 at Belly Up – This seated show pairs the legendary trumpeter and record label founder with his favorite vocalist, his wife. She rose to fame as the lead singer of Sergio Mendes’ group, Brasil ’66. Brasil ’66 was signed to A&M Records by the co–founder of the label (and Lani’s future husband), Herb Alpert. Lani has the distinction of recording more than 22 albums in three different languages, four alongside her husband, and in 1983, she sang the title song for the James Bond film, Never Say Never Again. Alpert’s ninth Grammy was garnered last year, and he was honored by President Obama with the National Medal of Arts in 2013. Alpert has sold a staggering 72 million records, and placed 28 albums in the Billboard 200, including five #1s. Not many musicians have graced the Belly Up stage with that track record. Expect many songs from the new album In The Mood and classics from their mutually rewarding songbook.
The Bangles May 9 at Belly Up – There were two all girl bands that exploded out of LA in the 80s. The Go-Gos generated perky hits and bubbled up the charts. The Bangles had a less frothy demeanor, and their music was more heartfelt. Indeed The music of The Bangles is less date-stamped, which is why this show at the Belly Up should provide a great evening. I first saw the band at the Roxy, and his purple highness Prince was perched safely in the balcony while the band performed the hit he wrote for them “Manic Monday.” Core members from the original lineup (Susanna Hoffs, Debbi Peterson, and Vicki Peterson) will lead the band through an impressive collection of hits, drawn from their several platinum albums.
Vaadat Charigim May 12 at Casbah – From Israel, this band is a dreamier version of Jesus and Mary Chain, with elements of Joy Division and War on Drugs. Give the band kudos for singing entirely in Hebrew. The name of the band is pronounced “Vah-dot Ha-ree-gim” and means something like ‘exceptions committee.’ International shoe gazing was never this mesmerizing.
Rolling Stones May 24 Petco Park – Many huge tours start in the lower left corner of the country and roll out from there. San Diego thereby witnessed tour opening gigs by U2 [twice] and Tom Petty, among others. The bad boys from Richmond will play the first gig of their Zip Code Tour (and presently their only gig on the west coast) in San Diego. Rumo[u]rs abound as to what emphasis the setlist will have on the latest reissue of Sticky Fingers; old school fans would love to see the album played in its entirety. Mick Taylor was instrumental in the album’s creation, and he was invited onstage for various dates the last time the band went out, but the other Mick in the band has said he isn’t sure the slower songs from that epochal album will work onstage.
Blue Highway June 13 at Del Mar Powerhouse – this will be one of the cooler gigs of the summer. Rarely will you be able to hear such great bluegrass mere steps from the ocean. Hailing from Tennessee, this quintet has garnered a host of awards since their 1994 formation. Two recent CDs understandably caught the attention of the Grammy nominating folks. The Del Mar Powerhouse is a small venue, and this should be a great evening of southern picking’ and Pacific breezes.
Bootsy’s Rubber Band June 27 at Belly Up – few artists hold the funk street cred of Bootsy Collins. After maintaining a key role in James Brown’s band, he spun out to join George Clinton in the Parliament / Funkadelic in 1971. That orbit resulted in solid riffs and hooks that have been sampled endlessly by rap and hip hop artists to this day. Clinton urged Collins to start his own band in the mid 70s, and the jams kept coming. He brought some funk credibility to Jerry (Talking Heads) Harrison and Malcolm (Sex Pistols) MacLaren, which further exposed Collins to a mixed race audience.
Bruce Cockburn July 24 at The Coachouse – When history looks back at the gems of singer songwriters, Cockburn will still be shining brightly. He has quietly been producing music of sterling quality for many decades. His social conscience, guitar dexterity and evocative voice have combined to deliver a songbook of consistence excellence almost unmatched. A great documentary Pacing the Cage and an autobiography have added great insight. This will be his only California date on calendar, so make your plans now.
Hurray for the Riff Raff August 5 at Belly Up – Much like paying homage to the audience made up of groundlings, Alynda Lee Segarra pays tribute to her fans with her nom du stage. Her acoustic explorations of Americana belie her early NYC punk and riot grrrl stylings. On this return to Solana Beach, expect a swath of brilliant songs from their major label debut “Small Town Heroes” and selections from earlier releases (including the woefully underrated “Look Out Mama” produced by Andrija Tokic of Alabama Shakes).
Jackson Browne August 12 at San Diego Civic – Having seen Browne several times in each of the last four decades, I can attest that he always delivers a solid performance. Although this venue can be somewhat cavernous, he will reduce it to the intimate setting befitting his songs. His backstory is wonderful, drifting north from home in Orange County to become part of the seminal Los Angeles folk rock scene (he shared a house with Glenn Frey at one point) after spending time in the Greenwich Village folk scene and an improbable romance with Nico. Whether his 8×10 glossy was fished from the trash can by a secretary, forcing a reconsideration of his demo tape, should remain a mystery. His heartfelt songs resonated for a generation of listeners, and although his output has slowed of late last year’s tribute album and his “Standing in the Breach” remind us of his enduring influence. The gig in San Diego will be in the midst of a long tour, after many stops in Europe. Expect this veteran to deliver like few still can.
Kaaboo September 18-20 at Del Mar Fairgrounds – The musical festival explosion has landed by the ocean in San Diego. The inaugural lineup is quite impressive, with acts including headliners No Doubt, The Killers and Zac Brown Band. Other notable artists include Brandi Carlile, Justin Townes Earle, Los Lobos, Michael Franti & Spearhead, O.A.R., The Roots, among many others. Dawes will be on the tail end of a large tour in support of their brilliant fourth album; their appearance by the sea should be tremendous. My teenage daughters will probably not agree with the prior highlights, which goes to prove the festival will have something for everyone. Comedy and artisanal food will also be on offer. Given that Bing Crosby was instrumental in opening up Del Mar racetrack, this is a suitable venue for such a musical gathering. And a fine close to the extended summer concert scene in San Diego.