Best Outdoor Summer Concerts in Southern California – Hollywood Bowl

The two best outdoor concert venues in Southern California are the Hollywood Bowl and Humphrey’s by the Bay. Each consistently offers great concerts, great sightlines and great service.

As we swing into the summer concert season, here is a look at the highlights at the Hollywood Bowl. Mark your calendar.



Dr. John

Dr. John

Dr. John & Yes We Can Can: An Allen Toussaint Salute (July 20) – The late great Allen Toussaint had a profound effect beyond his stomping grounds of New Orleans. He played a tremendous set last summer at the Belly Up, and his influence will be celebrated at the Bowl with an all-star lineup including Cyril Neville and Irma Thomas. Laissez le bon temps rouler, indeed.

Gladys Knight & Tower of Power (August 3) – This is a stunning double bill of two mighty RnB legends. Knight has won seven Grammys, and her live performances are nothing less than amazing. She has recorded 38 albums and notched myriad chart-topping hits. Her command of the stage is mesmerizing. Coming into their fifth [sic] decade of performing, Tower of Power gained prominence on their own and as the go-to horn band in the studio for artists as diverse as Aerosmith, Elton John, Little Feat, Phish, Santana and Heart. About the only place you will see those bands listed together is when ToP studio credits are the subject. This will be a glorious  evening under and among the stars.

Booker T

Booker T

Booker T & Stax Revue (August 24) – The Stax label’s importance keeps growing, as new generations of musicians and fans discover the deep, rich vault. Expect an evening of funky R ‘n B from an eclectic blend of performers, including Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Marcus Miller.  Carlos Santana and Cindy Blackman Santana rejoin the lineup, making this an even more impressive evening.

Fireworks Finale with Jeff Lynne’s ELO (September 10) – Lynne’s original Electric Light Orchestra rose phoenix-like in England from the ashes of Roy Wood’s Wizzard and defined the successful blend of strings and rock through the 70s and 80s. Lynne later hooked up with George Harrison as the latter’s producer and then found himself surrounded somewhat improbably by the cream of likeminded tunesmiths in the Traveling Wilburys. No word if the remaining living Wilburys (Dylan, Petty) will make surprise appearances, but expect an evening of sonic and visual splendor. In that ELO was one of the first bands to use lasers in their stage shows, an evening of fireworks decades later should be no surprise.

Flying Lotus

Flying Lotus

Brainfeeder at the Hollywood Bowl  (September 17) – In terms of legacy artists casting a wide shadow across the current music landscape, no shadow is wider than that of George Clinton. His recent work with Kendrick Lamarr is only the latest in a long line that stretches back to the early days of sampling. Clinton is still awaiting adequate acknowledgement (to say nothing of appropriate compensation) for all his beats, hooks and samples that propelled countless tracks by other artists. Assembling to pay homage to his influence is the suitably eclectic line up of Flying Lotus, Thundercat, Shabazz Palaces, The Gaslamp Killer and of course Parliament / Funkadelic. Even if you can visit the Smithsonian to see his Mothership, don’t miss this evening.

Van Morrison at the Shrine, January 2016

Van Morrison at the Shrine, January 2016 (photo by Brad Auerbach)

Van Morrison and Tom Jones (October 13) – The seemingly improbable pairing of the Celtic Belfast Cowboy and the Welsh Crooner promises to be a wistful end of the summer Hollywood Bowl season. As we have covered endlessly and happily in these pages, Van Morrison can offer some of the best concert moments. The only other time I have seen Tom Jones was in Las Vegas, where he was appropriately enjoying what seemed to be a final victory lap on the heels of his cover of Prince’s “Kiss.” That song will undoubtedly have a place of prominence on this mid-October evening. Expect the purple lights to come back up when Morrison sings about the heather in his Irish homeland.


Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.