May 30--Summer brings more sun and hot shows. But where you catch the concert is just as important as who's onstage.
If the acoustics sound like the performer is singing into a paper bag, if the seats are more punishment than comfort, if your view of the stage is obstructed by an architect's blunder, then the entire experience feels like a waste of time -- and money.
Fortunately for a geographical cul-de-sac like Hampton Roads, good to excellent venues abound, each with its own personality. Here's a look at not-to-miss shows coming to the area this summer and the venues hosting them.
nTelos Wireless Pavilion
16 Crawford Circle, Portsmouth
With a prime location on the banks of the Elizabeth River, nTelos is an ideal spot for the summer concert experience. The combination of the stage lights and the crowd, all under a pavilion, can make things a little sweaty. But after sundown, there's usually a nice breeze off the river, cooling things while the music sizzles. Shows there cover an array of styles, but most cater to middle-class baby boomers and Generation Xers.
Best for classic pop and rock shows
Traffic issues Generally flows smoothly with convenient parking in safe lots and a garage within close walking distance
Pro tip Save $3 per ticket with a AAA membership
Earth, Wind & Fire
June 7 In the '70s, the dazzling band led by soul visionary Maurice White topped the pop and R&B charts with an unlikely, gnarly mix informed by Egyptian mysticism, black nationalism and sugar-dusted romance. It was all given an attractive pop sheen on classics like "Shining Star," "Serpentine Fire" and "Reasons."
Carly Rae Jepsen
June 8 A Canadian pop sensation who placed third on the 2007 season of "Canadian Idol," Jepsen scored a worldwide hit with "Call Me Maybe," one of last year's most inescapable songs. On her latest album, "Kiss," Jepsen plays up her no-fuss, girl-next-door persona, the antithesis of overdone pop fantasies like Rihanna and Nicki Minaj.
July 5 In the early '80s, critics predicted that the rainbow-haired New Yorker would be bigger than a brash upstart from Michigan named Madonna. Things didn't quite pan out that way, but Lauper's music and image still helped define the neon '80s. Lately, Lauper has concentrated her energies on Broadway, but in concert she still performs such hits as "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" and "She Bop" with guts and boundless energy.
Aug. 28 Her brash, party-centric persona has fueled a handful of ubiquitous pop hits, including the No. 1 smash "TiK ToK." Ke$ha comes to nTelos promoting her third studio album, "Warrior," which debuted on Billboard's Top 10 after its release in December.
June 12 The Lumineers
June 15 LL Cool J, Ice Cube, Public Enemy, De La Soul
June 22 The Avett Brothers
June 23 Straight No Chaser
July 12 Mindless Behavior
July 18 Sublime with Rome
Aug. 11 Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers
Aug. 12 Kiss
Farm Bureau Live
3550 Cellar Door Way, Virginia Beach
The area's largest amphitheater, Farm Bureau Live at Virginia Beach, has gone through three name changes since opening in 1996. Concerts span the gamut, from cloying country to brazen hip-hop, but the venue attracts the biggest names of any genre. Surrounded by tall, thick trees and manicured lawns, the amphitheater can feel intimate, as though you're watching a show in your backyard with 20,000 friends.
Best for big, bombastic productions of any genre
Traffic issues Parking is usually well-directed. But remember where you parked; the large grassy lot looks very vague after dark.
Pro tip Don't lose your ticket. The security staff can be sticklers about making people show their tickets every time they cross an entry point -- like coming back from the concession stand.
June 28 The charismatic heartthrob is one of the most consistently successful road shows in country music, generating multimillions in ticket sales every time he gasses up his tour bus. Paisley recently sparked a wave of criticism and Internet discussion with "Accidental Racist," a clumsy collaboration with veteran rapper LL Cool J. But all the buzz accomplished Paisley's ultimate mission: spurring sales for his latest album, "Wheelhouse," which debuted at No. 2 on Billboard's pop album chart after its April release.
July 28 The New Orleans rap superstar has been in the headlines lately for asinine lyrics (misappropriating the 1955 death of Emmett Till) and hospitalization due to seizures. His summer tour supports his new album, "I Am Not a Human Being II," which missed crowning the pop chart by one position after it hit the streets in March.
Aug. 24 A little more than a decade ago, Mayer was one of the most overhyped singer-songwriters to come along in a while. Here and there, he's delivered on the promise, with thoughtful, well-crafted albums like 2005's "Try! John Mayer Trio Live in Concert" and 2006's "Continuum." After a two-year hiatus, most of it spent recovering from a serious throat operation, Mayer is on the road again supporting his new album, "Born and Raised," an exploration of Americana and folk-tinged pop.
Sept. 8 Camera-friendly Adam Levine fronts one of the slickest pop bands around. The sextet's blend of lite-funk, R&B affectations and heavy pop gloss applications makes for bright bits of radio candy, such as "This Love," "She Will Be Loved" and "Moves Like Jagger." Kelly Clarkson, the inaugural "American Idol" winner and the franchise's most consistently satisfying pop star, is the opening act.
June 6 Kenny Chesney
June 15 Shaggfest featuring J. Cole and Pusha T
June 24 Heart and Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience
July 9 Vans Warped Tour
July 11 Train
July 13 Jimmy Buffett
July 14 311
July 19 Blake Shelton
July 24 Bob Dylan, Wilco, My Morning Jacket
July 26 Dave Matthews Band
July 27 Tim McGraw
Aug. 8 Matchbox 20 and Goo Goo Dolls
Aug. 17 Backstreet Boys
Aug. 22 Miranda Lambert
Sept. 4 Allman Brothers Band
1000 Coliseum Drive, Hampton
The artful design of the multipurpose arena is either a crown or a spaceship, depending on the type of show within its walls. Over the years, Hampton Coliseum has hosted everything from Cirque du Soleil extravaganzas to narcotics-friendly Phish jams. Millions of jazz and urban-pop fans know it for being the place for the Hampton Jazz Festival, an arena attraction since the doors first opened in 1970; as of now that annual festival is the only concert booked there this summer.
Best for casual shows that don't require too many bells and whistles
Traffic issues It gets a little congested leaving the venue, but the parking lots are safe and well-lit.
Pro tip Security seems to be fine with patrons flowing in and out of the venue to have a smoke or get some fresh air between sets. But be sure to hold on to your ticket to get back to your seat.
Hampton Jazz Festival
June 28-30 Gladys Knight, the festival's most frequent headliner in its 45-year history, returns, along with '70s mighty soul trio the O'Jays. Neo-soul queen Jill Scott and New Edition lead singers Bobby Brown, Ralph Tresvant and Johnny Gill, collectively known as Heads of State, round out this year's lineup.
HOT CLUB DATES
The summer doesn't bear too much fruit for the club music scene, but that doesn't mean there won't be big shows on the club level. Here are some of the more important club concerts slated for Hampton Roads.
600 Nevan Road, Virginia Beach
June 19 Patterson Hood and the Downtown Rambler
317 Monticello Ave., Norfolk
June 8 Social Distortion
June 11 Atlas Genius
June 20 Lamb of God
June 23 Rancid
July 12 Marilyn Manson
Aug. 2 Dark Star Orchestra
Rashod Ollison, 757-446-2732, email@example.com. Check out Rashod's blog at www.hamptonroads.com/behindthegroove.
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