The epicenter of this summer’s music landscape will be the home of the Kansas City Chiefs. Arrowhead Stadium has booked three concerts in the span of 36 days: a British boy band, two country superstars and one of the most revered rock bands in history.
There will be plenty going on at other venues, indoors and out, including a one-and-only pairing at Starlight Theatre and plenty of performers who haven’t stopped in Kansas City for years. Here’s a look at the highlights of a busy summer music season.
Rolling Stones, June 27: Make all the age jokes you want, the Stones can still bring the thrill to a live show, even in a stadium. Their last show in Kansas City was in April 1999. Sixteen years later, the set list hasn’t changed too much. But reviews of the 2014 tour were widely favorable.
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One Direction, July 28: They’re a quartet now, after the departure in March of Zayn Malik, and they are forging on without him. The four have been in the studio recording the fifth One Direction album and gearing up to resume their tour in June. It will be One Direction’s second Kansas City performance. Their previous show was at Sprint Center in July 2013.
Kenny Chesney with Jason Aldean, Aug. 1: Chesney knows Arrowhead well. This will be his fourth show in five summers at the stadium. As he has every tour, he’s bringing a heavyweight co-headliner with him: Jason Aldean. Previous co-headliners were the Zac Brown Band, Tim McGraw and Eric Church.
Shania Twain, Aug. 7: Her previous Kansas City show was in November 2003, at Kemper Arena. After a hiatus and a long withdrawal from the music business, she is re-emerging, hoping to revive one of the most successful careers in country music. She remains the top-selling female artist in her genre.
Other big shows: Jimmy Buffett, June 6; Romeo Santos, June 13; Rob Thomas, June 22; Rush, July 9; Foo Fighters, Aug. 21.
Beck and Willie Nelson and Friends, May 15: We got lucky. This will be the only time their paths will cross this summer. This pairing isn’t as odd as it might seem to some. They have performed together previously. YouTube has several videos of the two performing “Peach Pickin’ Time in Georgia.” Beck is touring off his lovely “Morning Phase” album, which won the Grammy for album of the year.
Alabama Shakes with Father John Misty, May 29: For many fans, this is a co-headlining show, too. Alabama Shakes just released “Sound and Color,” its second album and first No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. The quartet is led by Brittany Howard, a powerhouse vocalist whose recent “Saturday Night Live” performance generated waves of positive review on social media. Father John Misty is Joshua Tillman, formerly of Fleet Foxes. He is touring on his second album, “I Love You, Honeybear,” an early contender for album of the year.
The Avett Brothers with Old Crow Medicine Show, June 4: Another perfect pairing. OCMS does old-timey country, country-blues and bluegrass. The Avetts blend folk, rock and country into a flavor that is distinctive, if not unique. Both are stellar live bands.
Phish, Aug. 5: They sold out Starlight in August 2012. They’ll likely do it again and give their diehard fans three hours and more of something to dance about.
Hozier, Sept 14: In late February, the Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter from County Wicklow, Ireland, with one album in his catalog sold out Liberty Hall in Lawrence. Here’s a review of that show. He’ll have a bigger duty this time in a venue that can hold nearly 8,000 fans.
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Luke Bryan, June 19: Bryan is one of the most successful country music artists, both in terms of touring and record sales. Critics say his music isn’t country, but his legions of fans don’t care. They imbibe it copiously, like beer.
Dave Matthews Band, July 14: Matthews will be back in town for his first show since Willie Nelson opened for him at the Sprint Center in October 2009. Matthews has invited some friends and guests to join him on this tour, including Bela Fleck, who will play shows in New York and Colorado. No word yet whether one of those guests will join him in Bonner Springs.
Van Halen with Kenny Wayne Shepherd, July 22: Three years after they played the Sprint Center, David Lee Roth and the Van Halens return to our area. Their shows aren’t as high-kicking as they used to be, but Eddie still has his flashy, inimitable ways with the guitar.
Other big shows: Tim McGraw with Billy Currington, July 24; the Vans Warped Tour, July 30, featuring local heroes Beautiful Bodies, who will perform the entire Warped Tour.
Wilco, July 11: They haven’t played in Kansas City since December 2011 when they sold out the Uptown Theater — Nick Lowe opened (and joined them on “Cruel to Be Kind”). They’re unofficially celebrating their 20th anniversary — “A.M.” came out in March 1995 — which means they’ll be giving crowds the usual dose of great songs from all of the band’s eight studio albums.
Other big shows: Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals, June 5; Flogging Molly, June 9; Lucinda Williams, June 11; Gogol Bordello, July 3; the Psychedelic Furs with the Church, Aug. 27.
D’Angelo and the Vanguard, June 11: In December, he released “Black Messiah,” his first album in 14 years. The critical response has been effusively positive: It received seven perfect 100 scores at Metacritic, which aggregates reviews. This show will be his first in Kansas City, and he’s bringing with him the Vanguard, the all-star heavyweight band that supported him in the studio. “Black Messiah” is provocative lyrically and musically, fusing soul, jazz, funk and R&B. The album of the year could be the soundtrack to the show of the year.
Other big shows: Spoon, May 18; Smashing Pumpkins, June 22
Belle & Sebastian with Courtney Barnett, June 18: This will be Belle & Sebastian’s first-ever Kansas City show and their first in the area since they performed at Liberty Hall in November 2003. They’re touring off “Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance,” the most diverse of their nine studio albums. At a recent show in Madison, Wis., the set list focused heavily on the new album, but it included old favorites like “The Boy With the Arab Strap.” Don’t miss the opener. Courtney Barnett writes great songs and puts on a lively show.
Other big shows: Tame Impala, May 31; Tears for Fears, June 15; Graham Nash, July 25.
The Hillbenders, Friday: If you didn’t catch their bluegrass version of the Who’s “Tommy,” now is your chance. If you’re a Who fan, it’s not to be misssed.
Other big shows: Alejandro Escovedo, Saturday; the Devon Allman Band, July 30.
Westport Roots Festival, May 23: This second-annual festival celebrates all music roots: rockabilly, country, country-punk, folk, bluegrass. This year it will feature nearly four dozen bands in several Westport venues.
Rockfest, May 30: It’s an annual rite of spring. On a Saturday in May, tens of thousands of hard-rock fans descend upon downtown Kansas City and fill the park around the Liberty Memorial into the all-day music orgy that is Rockfest. Attendance approaches 50,000 — about as many as will attend each Arrowhead show. Fifteen bands will perform on two stages. This year’s headliners: Rob Zombie, Anthrax, Vol Beat and hometown hip-hop hero Tech N9ne.
PorchFest KC, June 13: This festival was launched in 2014 in a 20-block radius of the West Plaza area, where 34 homes hosted 70 bands. Admission is free. The bands play for tips.
Center of the City Fest, June 18-20: The punk fest is moving to Harling’s, 3941 Main St., where dozens of punk bands will perform. Visit Center of the City Fest on Facebook for more information.
Boulevardia, June 19-21: The inaugural Boulevardia was one of the musical highlights of 2014. Set in the West Bottoms underneath the 12th Street viaduct, it’s a celebration of food, beer, music and visual art. The headliners for this year’s festival include the Mowgli’s, Mayer Hawthorne, J. Roddy Watson & the Business and Big Head Todd & the Monsters. More than a dozen local bands also will perform, most on the second stage.