A Midsummer Dream List of Concert Evenings

Don’t look now, but we’re past the halfway mark of July. There are still plenty of great summer concerts in Los Angeles. Here ten gigs that are sure to deliver a great evening.

Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman, Marty Stuart – Ace Hotel, July 24 and 25. A show by any of these veterans is cause for celebration, but when two of the founding members of the Byrds (McGuinn and Hillman) are joined by Stuart to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the crucial Sweetheart of the Rodeo album, it is an evening not to be missed. When the Byrds released the album, many folks thought they had lost the plot. Joined by Gram Parsons, the band delved deep into their affinity for country music. The album further opened the door for myriad bands to explore the intersection of country and rock. Stuart will be playing the famous 1954 Fender Telecaster originally owned by legendary country-rock pioneer Clarence White, who was in the Byrds when Sweetheart was recorded.

Bon Iver – Hollywood Bowl, August 5. St. Paul’s TU Dance troupe joins with Bon Iver to deliver a unique collaboration. Blending classical ballet and modern dance stylings, the Minnesota dancers will add an amazing angle to Bon Iver’s “rustic chamber pop with an experimental edge” (Pitchfork). Kudos to KCRW for curating this eclectic evening.

Randy Newman – Hollywood Bowl, August 12. A week later one of the nation’s great songwriters will deliver his home town audience an evening of songs stretching across his prolific career. Titled “The Albums 1968-2018” the evening should run the gamut from his early forays into songwriting through his memorable soundtrack work. I am hoping to hear “Feels Like Home,” covered often (including at out wedding), but never quite duplicated. Two years ago he wrote the song “Putin,” and it will be worth the price of admission to hear his introduction to this song given the current headlines.

Randy Newman

Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats – Greek Theatre, August 15. These guys blew me away at Coachella a few years ago, and they have been going from strength to strength. Their new album Tearing at the Seams has received widespread critical praise—Rolling Stone says, “Rateliff’s restless throwback sound feels like it’s moving toward real revelations.” They are a big band, with a big sound. Nikki Lane opens.

Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats

Brandi Carlile – The Greek Theatre, August 17th (and The Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara, August 18th). Elton John took time out preparing for his three year farewell tour to call Carlile’s By The Way, I Forgive You his “Album Of The Year.”  That’s high praise for someone who knows a thing or two about songwriting. He was not alone in shouting out, the album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Current Albums chart, Rock Albums chart and Americana/Folk Albums chart and No. 5 on the Billboard 200 chart. She has made the rounds of high profile TV appearances, but seeing her live is optimal.

David Byrne – Shrine, August 25. I have been shouting praises about this tour. With only 12 bare feet improbably touching the stage, Byrne delivers a jaw dropping set of solo cuts and Talking Heads’ classics. Having seen his shows at Coachella and San Diego in April, I can attest his voice is in fine form. No doubt by the time he descends on the Shrine he will be even more limber as he leads his band through a well-choreographed evening.

David Byrne

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit with special guest Aimee Mann – Greek Theatre, August 31. This delightful double bill is sure to please. Isbell has been drawing attention with his well-crafted songs and stellar back up band. Their forthcoming Live From the Ryman will showcase their current live chops, but here is the chance to see the band first hand. Aimee Mann’s current album Mental Illness builds on her lengthy career. As the voice of Til Tuesday (their big hit was “Voices Carry”) she began to draw attention to her insightful lyrics. By 1990 Paul Thomas Anderson brought her in to handle all the original music in his film Magnolia, with the understandable Grammy and Oscar nominations. She has honed her songwriting skills with each successive album.

Aimee Mann

Harry Connick – Hollywood Bowl, September 7-9. I attended his LA debut eons ago at Catalina’s, just Harry and his bassist. Even then, his between song patter was sterling. Rob Reiner figured there was something there, and added Connick’s music as a crucial part of “When Harry Met Sally.” Connick’s subsequent gigs in LA grew larger, and now he has a three night run at the Bowl, complete with fireworks. Note to the programming folks: you should launch the fireworks immediately after a clip of Meg Ryan’s orgasm scene, including the immortal “I’ll have what she’s having” observation by Reiner’s mom.

Simple Minds – Orpheum Theatre, October 24. Blazing through a massive world tour, this often overlooked British band has a strong songbook and a history of great shows. They were pigeon-holed via the massive airplay garnered by “Don’t You Forget About Me,” but their new album Walk Between Worlds delivers their solid musicianship.

Gary Clark Jr. – The Fonda Theatre, November 12-15. What a great venue to check out this scorching guitarist from Austin. He whips up a stew of blues, rock, soul and dashes of hip hop. Stalwarts like BB King, Eric Clapton and the Stones have taken note, inviting Clark to open their gigs.

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.