It begins in the frigid cold and before it’s over, you’ll be frolicking at open-air shows, with the summer season just around the corner.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Most of these recommended pop concerts are happening in cozy clubs and theaters and even opera houses, oh my.
Besides the shows highlighted below, there are others of note, starting with a run of activity at the Met Philadelphia, the newly rehabbed North Philadelphia showplace that reopened in December. Among them: Boyz II Men on Feb. 16, Tedeschi Trucks Band on Feb. 26, Massive Attack on March 19, Bon Iver on March 27 and 28, and Amos Lee on April 6.
Other nights of note: Cherry Glazerr and Sneaks at the First Unitarian Church on Feb. 14, Bob Mould and Titus Andronicus at Union Transfer on Feb. 15, crooner Michael Bublé at the Wells Fargo Center Feb. 24, J.S. Ondara at World Cafe Live on March 22, the Soul Rebels with Rakim at Ardmore Music Hall on March 28, Kiss at the Wells Fargo Center on March 29, Noura Mint Seymali at the Kimmel Center SEI Innovation Studio on March 30, and Rodney Crowell at the Sellersville Theatre on April 6.
Along with live acts, there are several artists with highly anticipated new albums coming this winter and spring. Hozier’s Wasteland, Baby! is due March 1, Jenny Lewis' On the Line arrives March 22, Steve Earle & the Dukes' Guy on March 29 and Lizzo’s Cuz I Love You on April 19.
Also, several buzzed-about albums do not yet have release dates, including Lana Del Rey’s Norman F- Rockwell, Run the Jewels 4 by the hip-hop duo, and as-yet untitled albums from Jack White’s Raconteurs and Sleater-Kinney, the latter of which is being produced by St. Vincent.
Joe Jackson (Feb. 12, Scottish Rite Auditorium). British songwriter Jackson smoothly transitioned from his “Is She Really Going Out with Him?” angry young man beginnings in the late 1970s to something more cosmopolitan by the time of Night and Day in 1982. It’s to that sophisticated palate that he turns on the engaging new Fool, his 20th album. (ScottishRiteAuditorium.com, 856-858-1000).
Vince Staples (Feb. 19, the Fillmore). The Long Beach, Calif., rapper again demonstrated that he’s one of the most intriguing characters in hip-hop with FM!, his 2018 mini-album. It clocked in at a mere eight songs and 22 minutes but was nonetheless packed with clever ideas and a faux-radio show concept that provided him an effective outlet for his subversive sense of humor. (thefillmorephilly.com, 215-309-0150)
The Chills (Feb. 23, the Trocadero). When this rare appearance by the Chills, the New Zealand rock band fronted by Martin Phillipps, was announced at Kung Fu Necktie, the club seemed too tiny to accommodate the fan base of the underrated cult band. And, sure enough, the show with the band that broke through in the U.S. with gems like “Heavenly Pop Hit” and “Familiarity Breeds Contempt” has been moved to the much larger Chinatown venue. (thetroc.com, 215-922-6888).
Anderson .Paak & the Free Nationals (Feb. 24, the Fillmore). California rapper, singer, bandleader, and drummer .Paak is a multitalented force who came to prominence with his many contributions to Dr. Dre’s Compton album in 2015 and who distinguished himself the next year with his own Malibu. The hip-hop soul man’s latest is last year’s rock-solid Oxnard, named after another California town crucial to his upbringing. (thefillmorephilly.com, 215-309-0150)
The Flesh Eaters (March 15, Johnny Brenda’s). The Flesh Eaters are a punk rockabilly band from Los Angeles' late 1970s-early 1980s scene fronted by Chris Desjardins, the street poet better known as Chris D. The band’s vital new album I Used to Be Pretty reunites their classic lineup, which features a veritable Who’s Who from that classic era, including John Doe and DJ Bonebrake of X, Dave Alvin and Bill Bateman of the Blasters, Steve Berlin of Los Lobos, and Julie Christensen, who sang with Chris D. in his band Divine Horsemen. (215-739-9684, johnnybrendas.com).
Meek Mill (March 15 and 16, the Met Philadelphia). The rapper who was sprung from prison in April has stepped is up for both his fourth album Championships, which was released in November, and as a public face of criminal justice reform, with his role as co-chair of the Reform Alliance announced last month. The proud North Philly rapper brings his Motivation tour to his local neighborhood venue for two nights. (800-653-8000, themetphilly.com)
Fleetwood Mac (March 9, Boardwalk Hall; March 22 and April 5, Wells Fargo Center). Can it really be Fleetwood Mac without Lindsey Buckingham? Last year, the songwriter behind such big Mac hits as “Go Your Own Way” and “Second Hand News” lost a power struggle and was kicked out of the band famously full of strong personalities. It’s taken two to replace him, with Tom Petty guitarist Mike Campbell and Crowded House singer Neil Finn on board. The band is altered, but the brand carries on. (609-348-7000, boardwalkhall.com and 215-336-3600, wellsfargocenterphilly.com).
Ariana Grande (March 26, Wells Fargo Center). The diminutive singer’s profile has been growing ever larger. She’s continued to produce hit after hit as she has found herself at the center of one news cycle after another, whether it be the tragedy of the 2017 bombing in Manchester, England, that left 22 dead or the ceaseless coverage of the end of her romance with Saturday Night Live comic Pete Davidson. That breakup partly inspired “thank u, next,” the meme-inspiring mega-hit that also gave a title to her new album, though this particular tour is named after her 2018 release, Sweetener. (215-336-3600, wellsfargocenterphilly.com).
Jawbreaker (March 27, Franklin Music Hall). How much have fans of the San Francisco punk band Jawbreaker, the emo pioneers who broke up in 1996, been hoping that the Blake Schwarzenbach-fronted band would get back together? So much so that there’s another band called Jawbreaker Reunion that formed to take advantage of search engine optimization. But now Jawbreaker have actually reunited and are out on a full-fledged tour said to be accompanied by new music. (215-627-1332, bowerypresents.com)
Gary Clark Jr. (March 29, the Met Philadelphia). Texas guitar hero Clark has expanded his blues-based sound on his new album This Land, which he says is “meant to sound like D’Angelo, Parliament-Funkadelic, and Cream.” The album drops on Feb. 22, and the Grammy-winner comes to North Philly five weeks later. (800-653-8000, themetphilly.com)
Mariah Carey (March 30, Etess Arena; April 3, the Met Philadelphia). After her lip-sync debacle that kicked off 2017, Carey bounced back nicely last year, with Caution, her surprisingly understated, mid-tempo album in which she made an attitude of utter disdain work nicely for her on singles like “GTFO.” (609-449-1000, hardrockhotelatlanticcity.com, 800-653-8000, themetphilly.com)
Better Oblivion Community Center (April 2, Union Transfer). This surprise team-up between Omaha bandleader Conor Oberst and similarly disenchanted songwriter Phoebe Bridgers might be the sad person’s collaboration of the year. Oberst and Bridgers — who is also one third of supergroup boygenius — entwined their voices to enticing effect on a version of Oberst’s “Lua” a few years back when he played the Xponential Festival, and their BOCC album is a winningly depressive treat. (215-232-2100, utphilly.com.)
Hayes Carll / Ben Dickey (April 4, Ardmore Music Hall). A cool roots songwriter double bill with Carll, the Texas troubadour whose barbed wit is on display on What It Is, his new album coproduced by his fiance, Allison Moorer. Opening up is Ben Dickey, the Arkansas native who was one half of the former Philadelphia band Blood Feathers and who made his feature film debut last year with a stellar performance in Blaze, playing songwriter Blaze Foley in the biopic directed by his pal Ethan Hawke. (610-649-8389, ardmoremusic.com)
Patty Griffin / Ruston Kelly (April 4, Union Transfer). Terrific double bill with Griffin, the soulful Americana singer who writes with emotional acuity and whose 10th, self-titled album is her first since a hiatus due to a battle with cancer. Kelly, who is Kacey Musgraves' husband and a former competitive figure skater, proved himself one of Nashville’s brightest young lights with his 2018 album Dying Star, which was partially a chronicle of recovery from substance abuse. (215-232-2100, utphilly.com.)
Mott the Hoople ’74 (April 8, Keswick Theatre). Classic rock reunion tour of the year. In the early 1970s, Ian Hunter-led Mott the Hoople had their own distinct brand of swaggering excellence, bridging the gap between the blues-rock of bands like the Rolling Stones and the glitzy glam influence of David Bowie, who wrote and produced the title song of their 1972 album All the Young Dudes. Late members Overend Watts and Buffin Griffin will not be on hand, but Hunter will be joined by core members Ariel Bender and Morgan Fisher, as well as other musicians, for the first Mott tour of the U.S. in 45 years. (215-572-7650, keswicktheatre.com.)
Cher (April 20, Wells Fargo Center). Expect this to be the over-the-top cheesy beloved diva spectacle of the season, staged 17 years after her first farewell tour. Get ready for a Here We Go Again tour stage entrance atop an animatronic elephant and an “I Got You Babe” duet with her late husband Sonny Bono. (215-336-3600, wellsfargocenterphilly.com).
Strand of Oaks (May 10, Union Transfer). Mount Airy’s Timothy Showalter, who records as Strand of Oaks, might seem like he’s due for a break after following up 2017′s Hard Love with its altered iteration Harder Love last year, and he also toured performing his songwriting hero Jason Molina’s songs with the Goshen Electric Co. project. But instead, he’s back with a new album, Eraserland, due out March 22, recorded quickly in the fall with members of My Morning Jacket in Louisville, Ky. (215-232-2100, utphilly.com)
Josh Ritter (May 14, Keswick Theatre). Introspective and erudite songwriter Ritter teams with Southern rock and country outfit Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit on his new album Fever Breaks, due April 26. Isbell produced the Moscow, Idaho, native’s 10th album, and, judging from the first single, “Old Black Magic,” the swaggering 400 Unit is taking Ritter in a more muscled-up direction. (215-572-7650, keswicktheatre.com.)
Billy Joel & The Who (May 25 and 26, Citizens Bank Park). Ho-hum, Billy Joel is playing at Citizens Bank Park. It’s the impressive sixth year in a row the Piano Man is doing so. His Friday night show will be the first of a two-night Memorial Day weekend ballpark back to back. On Saturday, The Who will follow him, with unretiring duo Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey back on the road once again behind their first album of new material in 13 years. (215-463-1000, phillies.com)
The Rolling Stones (June 4, Lincoln Financial Field). Or the “strolling bones,” as they used to be called the 1990s, when they were only in their 50s. Now, the four current members of the leading white blues band of the British Invasion are closing in on an aggregate age of 300 and said to be working on a new studio album. They were once the greatest rock and roll band in the world. On a good night, can they still be? (267-570-4000, lincolnfinancialfield.com).