This summer’s pop music calendar goes big, and it goes outside. The list of 20 shows highlighted below starts off with a busy June indoors at the Wells Fargo Center, but after that they’re mostly al fresco affairs, taking place in amphitheaters, city streets, open fields, and football stadiums.
All the big-deal events aren’t covered in detail: There’s also Zac Brown playing the BB&T Pavilion in Camden on July 19 and 20, Billy Joel returning to Citizens Bank Park for the fifth straight year on July 27, an Atlantic City beach series that includes dates with Sam Hunt (July 1), the Chainsmokers (July 26), and Demi Lovato (July 29), plus a flurry of smaller but more intriguing shows at Festival Pier, including Neko Case (June 22), Arcade Fire (July 19), and Beck (July 20).
Cool things will still be happening indoors, like Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks on June 16 at the TLA, Raphael Saadiq at Union Transfer on July 24, Bombino at World Cafe Live on July 10, Wussy at MilkBoy on July 13, My Bloody Valentine at the Fillmore on July 30, and George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic at Ardmore Music Hall on Aug. 1.
And let’s not forget the usually free intimate outdoor spaces that can make hearing music in the summer a joy, such as Spruce Street Harbor Park, where Ivy Sole performs June 28, the Sundown Music Series in Haddon Heights, where Chuck Prophet plays July 11, and the Pastorius Park series in Chestnut Hill, were Suzie Brown will play on July 26.
U2 (June 13 and 14, Wells Fargo Center). Last June, U2 brought their 30th anniversary Joshua Tree tour to Lincoln Financial Field. This month, the Irish quartet move indoors (and next door) for their Experience + Innocence Tour, pulling from the music on their two most recent albums, whose titles are lifted from English poet William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience. (215-336-3600, wellsfargocenterphilly.com)
Firefly Music Festival (June 14-17, Woodlands at Dover Downs). This year’s Firefly features headlining performances by two of the greatest rappers of all time: Eminem and Kendrick Lamar, one of whom is on the downside of a long career and the other of whom is in his Pulitzer Prize-winning prime. Other intriguing attractions at the Delaware fest include rapper Lil Wayne, jazz man Kamasi Washington, and Brit rockers Arctic Monkeys, who sound like a lounge act on the moon on their new album. (855-281-4898, fireflyfestival.com)
Harry Styles & Kacey Musgraves (June 15, Wells Fargo Center). A smartly paired double bill. Styles is the One Directioner who succeeded in showing he’s an artist of substance with his 2017 self-titled debut (and a small role in Dunkirk). Musgraves is the country singer whose new Golden Hour hews more to ’70s Fleetwood Mac and is ready to be discovered by Styles’ screaming fans. (215-336-3600, wellsfargocenterphilly.com)
Paul Simon (June 16, Wells Fargo Center). It’s going to be a busy few days at the South Philly hockey arena. Seventy-six-year-old Paul Simon is on the top of the growing list of aging acts that have been announcing their alleged retirements from the road. His Homeward Bound — Farewell Tour will be a career-spanning two-hour-plus cavalcade of hits. (215-336-3600, wellsfargocenterphilly.com)
Clifford Brown Jazz Festival (June 17-24, various venues in Wilmington). It’s the 30th anniversary of the fest honoring Brown, the great jazz trumpeter who died in a car wreck in 1956 at 25. R&B singer Brian McKnight, Cuban trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, and the Lao Tizer band are among the acts on the free weeklong fest. (302-576-2139, cliffordbrownjazzfest.org)
Dr. Dog (June 23, Festival Pier). The Philadelphia fivesome led by Toby Leaman and Scott McMicken sound reenergized on their enticing new Critical Equation, and this outdoor venue will be their biggest hometown show ever. Havertown-bred musical polymath (Sandy) Alex G opens. (215-922-1011, festivalpierphilly.com)
Carrie Underwood (June 29, Mark G. Etess Arena). Former American Idol champ and country star Underwood is the grand opening act at the new Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, which takes over the Boardwalk space previously inhabited by the Trump Taj Mahal. Pitbull (who headlines the Welcome America fest in Philly on July 4) also plays that weekend, and the lineup is very pop-country-heavy through the summer. (609-449-1000, hardrockhotelatlanticcity.com)
Jill Scott. (June 30, Mann Center for the Performing Arts). Jilly from Philly headlines the first Summer Block Party presented by WDAS-FM (105.3). It’s part of Scott’s Live in the Moment tour, which comes three years after the release of her 2015 album, Woman, and it teams her with a Philly special lineup of Boyz II Men and DJ Jazzy Jeff. (215-546-7900, manncenter.org.)
Ry Cooder & Emmylou Harris (July 3, Mann Center for the Performing Arts). The roots music double bill of the summer. The virtuoso slide guitarist and musicologist has rarely toured over the years, and this show in support of his new Prodigal Son is his first solo date in Philly in decades. He’s paired with angelic harmony singer and longtime country standard-bearer Harris, so here’s hoping they’ll sing together. (215-546-7900, manncenter.org.)
Vans Warped Tour (July 13, BB&T Pavilion). It’s not only artists who are retiring: It’s also tours. This year will be the final full cross-country go-round for the Vans Warped Tour, the skateboard-shoe-sponsored pop-punk and emo rite of passage that since 1995 has been presenting scads of high-energy bands that all begin to sound the same after a while. (865-365-1300, bbtpavilion.org)
Ms. Lauryn Hill (July 13, Festival Pier). It’s the 20th anniversary tour for The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, the 1998 meisterwork by the then-Fugee gone solo that along with OutKast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below is one of only two hip-hop albums to win Grammy album of the year honors. (215-922-1011, festivalpierphilly.com)
Taylor Swift (July 13 and 14, Lincoln Financial Field). Wyomissing’s unstoppable force pop superstar is back on the road in support of her Reputation, last year’s mega-selling, catchy, well-constructed enterprise. The album finds the 28-year-old former country singer still fixated on her haters, who are represented in the tour’s dominant visual motif: snakes. (267-570-4000, lincolnfinancialfield.com).
Britney Spears (July 19 and 20, Borgata). The “Toxic” now-36-year-old former teen pop star has survived career ups and downs to become a reliable Las Vegas attraction, and now she’s hitting the road in the U.S. for the first time in seven years. In addition to these Atlantic City dates, she’s also at the Sands Hotel & Casino in Bethlehem on July 17. (609-317-1000, theborgata.com).
Xponential Festival (July 27-29, Wiggins Park and BB&T Pavilion). This year’s Camden waterfront summer fest presented by WXPN-FM (88.5) has strong headliners in its BB&T slots, with David Byrne and Sylvan Esso and Grammy-winning Philadelphians the War on Drugs and Sturgill Simpson. Highlights of the more intimate Wiggins Park portion of the show include Margo Price, Tank & the Bangas, Blind Boys of Alabama, Natalie Prass, and more. (865-365-1300, xpnfest.org.)
Beyoncé & Jay-Z (July 30, Lincoln Financial Field). In 2014, Beyoncé & Jay-Z were On the Run together in a tour that played Citizens Bank Park. Then in 2016, it seemed Jay-Z was on the run from Beyoncé after she caught him cheating with “Becky with the good hair” and walked down the street smashing car windows with a baseball bat in the “Hold Up” video from Lemonade. Now, they’re back On The Run II at the Linc after Jay apologized profusely for his transgressions on last year’s 4:44. (267-570-4000, lincolnfinancialfield.com).
Radiohead (July 31 & Aug. 1, Wells Fargo Center). It’s been six years since Radiohead, the Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood-led British art-rock band, played in the Philadelphia area, when they performed in Camden on the King of Limbs tour. The trailblazing quintet’s most recent album is 2016’s A Moon Shaped Pool. (215-336-3600, wellsfargocenterphilly.com)
Erykah Badu (Aug. 10, Dell Music Center). The godmother of neo-soul released her last (great) album, New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh), in 2010, but she’s always a provocative and unpredictably entertaining presence on stage. Her reputation as an enlightened artist took a hit recently when she drew heated criticism for her “I saw something good in Hitler” comment in an interview with New York magazine. Patti LaBelle also plays the Dell, with Gregory Porter, on Aug. 23. (215-685-9560, dellmusiccenter.com)
Philadelphia Folk Festival (Aug. 17-20, Old Pool Farm). In its 57th year, the Folk Festival is making a push to diversify its lineup. With Patty Griffin, Valerie June, and Wynonna Judd, all three days have female headliners, and Senegalese percussionist Elage Diouf, Native American percussionist Martha Redbone, and country-folk singer Mary Gauthier are also on the bill, along with familiar faces like David Bromberg, Chris Smither and Riders in the Sky. (215-247-1300, pfs.org)
Miranda Lambert & Little Big Town (Aug. 18, BB&T Pavilion). Along with the Chris Stapleton-Marty Stuart-Brent Cobb show at the BB&T on June 29, this is the mainstream country show of the season, mainly because of Lambert, the formidable Oklahoma songwriter whose 2016 The Weight of These Wings was a rugged and revealing tour de force. She’s teamed up on the Bandwagon Tour with Little Big Town, the country quartet who’s 2017 album The Breaker broke big on the strength of “Better Man,” a hit single written by Taylor Swift. (865-365-1300, bbtpavilion.org)
Stevie Wonder (Aug. 25 and 26, Borgata Event Center). Any appearance by the 68-year-old genius is a cause for celebration: Wonder’s tours this decade playing his 1976 Songs from the Key of Life in its entirety were truly wondrous, transcendent affairs. He’s back this summer with an extremely limited tour for Stevie Wonder Song Party: A Celebration of Live, Love & Music. (609-317-1000, theborgata.com).
Made in America (Sept. 1 and 2, Benjamin Franklin Parkway). The headliners for the seventh edition of the Jay-Z-helmed Budweiser-sponsored blowout on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway this year are Nicki Minaj and her former boyfriend, recently out-on-bail Philadelphia rap star Meek Mill, plus “White Iverson” rapper Post Malone. Other attractions of note on the raucous two days of hip-hop, R&B, and EDM Labor Day weekend street party: electronic deejay-producer Diplo, Atlanta pop-funk-R&B star Janelle Monáe and Los Angeles genre-blending songwriter Miguel. (855-893-5684, madeinamericafest.com)