Here are my Top 10 picks, in order, of the concerts that I'm looking forward to seeing this summer.
1. The Flaming Lips July 17, Artpark, Lewiston; $5 advance.
The Lips performed at Artpark in 2011, and the show was stunning, a joyful, psychedelic bacchanal presided over by ringmaster Wayne Coyne. Now, the band returns with material from its disquietingly brilliant new album, “The Terror.” The pre-eminent psychedelic/alternative band of its generation is likely to give us one of the summer's most memorable shows.
2. An Evening with Todd Rundgren Aug. 15, Thursdays at Canalside; free.
Rundgren is one of the few American artists in the post-Beatles world who might reasonably be described as a visionary. He's been a singer/songwriter, prog-rock wizard, guitar hero, electronic music pioneer, pop singer, industrial rocker, balladeer and punk. The only constant in Rundgren's career has been constant change tempered by impeccable musicianship. Rundgren rarely skips Buffalo on his tours, but we've never had the chance to catch him on a major outdoor stage. This one will be tough to beat this summer.
3. Primus June 9, Niagara River Rocks Concert Series at Gratwick Riverside Park, North Tonawanda; free.
Primus. For free. Outdoors, on the banks of the Niagara River. If this strikes you as a gift, well, that's because it most definitely is one. Expect some slippery funk, some oddball instrumental workouts, some eerily beautiful music and some top-flight musicianship.
4. Bob Dylan with Wilco and My Morning Jacket July 18, Darien Lake Performing Arts Center, Darien Center; $40-$79.50.
Dylan's University at Buffalo show in early April was a winner. Dylan performed like he cared, and when he cares, his shows are mighty. Add to this the presence of Wilco and My Morning Jacket – two of the most consistently interesting bands of the past 15-plus years – and you've got a party worth attending. Note, too, that Dylan seems to respond well to a challenge – when he plays with other bands he respects, he raises his game.
5. The Tragically Hip with Grace Potter and the Nocturnals July 19, Outer Harbor Concert Series; $48.
The twin nights at the Town Ballroom, the four-night residency at Artpark, the record-setting appearance at the Erie Canal Harbor Central Wharf: The Tragically Hip has played some epic shows in our area. This mid-summer gig, the band's first appearance in town since the release of its latest collection, “Now for Plan A,” promises to be the same.
6. Chick Corea and the Vigil Aug. 2, Artpark; $30-$45.
This is a no-brainer. Corea is one of the greatest living jazz musicians, but he's never been interested in surviving on the strength of past glories. His new band, the Vigil, is made up of some of the finest younger players extant in bassist Christian McBride, sax/flute/bass clarinet maestro Tim Garland, drummer Marcus Gilmore and guitarist Charles Altura. The evening's program will offer a blend of old and new.
7. Rockstar Energy Drink Uproar festival with Alice in Chains, Jane's Addiction and Coheed & Cambria Aug. 11, Darien Lake P.A.C.; $20-$85.
If you caught Jane's Addiction at Artpark last summer, then you probably already purchased your tickets for this one. The band really brought it to the Lewiston stage that night, transforming the amphitheater into a seedy Los Angeles underground nightclub, circa 1989. Add Alice in Chains to the bill, and anyone who loves the alternative heavy rock of this era should be sold. Coheed and Cambria is a nice addition – that band's take on contemporary prog-metal is always intriguing, and adds some dynamic heft to the program.
8. The Black Keys July 8, Outer Harbor Concert Series; $48.
Whoa. Count your blessings, Buffalo. This is a major score for the Outer Harbor Concert Series, and it really makes plain the level that event organizers are operating on. If we're getting shows of this caliber on that site, then the construction of a permanent waterfront amphitheater can't be too far off. And, of course, the Black Keys in concert are a force to be reckoned with.
9. The Tea Party July 14, Niagara River Rocks Concert Series at Gratwick Riverside Park; free.
For the past two years, you've had to essentially stand shoulder to shoulder in the middle of a parking lot to catch the mighty Tea Party (the band, most decidedly not the political group) during its annual sojourn to our area. This year, you can enjoy the band in the comparably bucolic setting of Gratwick Park, with the Niagara River right next to you. The group's blend of “raga-rock,” alternative and psychedelia has stood the test of time remarkably well. Maybe Jeff Martin and the guys will play “The River” in honor of their surroundings.
10. The Allman Brothers Band with Steve Winwood Aug. 23, Darien Lake P.A.C; $29.50-$65.
The Allman Brothers rarely give a less-than-stellar show. The guitar firepower in this band – Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes – dwarfs just about anyone else's. Winwood in the opening slot makes perfect sense and gives added value to the gig – particularly if Winwood favors Traffic-era material and takes the opportunity to get good and jammy.