We know summer's here when the festival bills and outdoor series lineups start to get announced, and, as is the norm, the Hudson Garden Series is offering some wonderful bills for those partial to classic rock and soul. Here are ten highlights.
10. Jefferson Starship
Sunday, June 5, with Blue Öyster Cult
There once was a band called Jefferson Airplane, and it was wonderful. When that imploded, some of the members formed Jefferson Starship, and that was pretty great, too. When that imploded, some of the members formed Starship, and those guys recorded “We Built This City.” Starship is still out there touring and, bizarrely enough, so is Jefferson Starship. Longtime vocalist/guitarist Dave Freiberg and drummer Donny Baldwin are carrying the flame on, with Cathy Richardson taking Grace Slick’s parts.
9. Gladys Knight
Sunday, June 19
The Empress of Soul might not be bringing the Pips with her, but you can be sure that she’ll be playing a bunch of those old R&B gems, like “Every Beat of My Heart,” and “I Feel a Song (in My Heart).” The lady still has a voice like silk, and in 2014, she put out the Where My Heart Belongs album, her thirtieth release in the Top 40 R&B charts.
8. Lita Ford
Sunday, June 26, with the Sweet and the Babys
The former Runaway disappeared for a long time to raise her kids following a successful solo career in the 1980s and early '90s, so it’s wonderful that she’s back on the road — with a book to plug, no less. In a very male-heavy metal world, Ford proved that she could play guitar with the best of them, and while she was fond of some revealing leather outfits, she didn’t have to rely on sex to sell her killer product. Expect to hear “Kiss Me Deadly,” "Shot of Poison,” and maybe even a blast through “Cherry Bomb.”
7. The Sweet
Sunday, June 26
There are two versions of the Sweet in existence right now, and that might be embarrassing. The shame is tempered somewhat by the fact that guitarist Andy Scott’s Sweet sticks to touring Europe, while it's bass player Steve Priest’s Sweet that we get in the States. He’s put together a decent band, too, including journeyman vocalist Joe Retta. Whether this is really Sweet is up to you to decide. At the very least, you’ll get to hear OG man Priest playing classics like “Fox on the Run,” “Ballroom Blitz,” “Action” and “Little Willy."
6. The B-52’s
Sunday, July 10
Arguably the ultimate summer party band, the Athens, Georgia, post-punkers still look and sound insanely good. The distinctive dual vocals of Fred Schneider and Kate Pierson have always been what make this band tick, and both appear to be defying the aging process successfully. You know what you’ll get: “Rock Lobster,” “Roam” and, of course, “Love Shack.” It’ll be a party, with dancing and big smiles the norm.
5. Boz Scaggs
Sunday, July 24
One has to wonder what the former Steve Miller Band singer thought of Miller’s outburst at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. The softly spoken blue-eyed-soulster has never really been one to court controversy, though he did have a string of solo hits in the mid-1970s through the early '80s. Highlights from his whole career will likely be played here, including “Lowdown,” “Lido Shuffle” and “What Can I Say.”
4. Weird Al Yankovic
Saturday, August 6
Be honest – who heard “Eat It” back in the 1980s and thought, “This guy could make a career out of this stuff"? No, most of us heard a mildly witty parody tune and assumed the man behind it would disappear soon. In fact, he’s gone from strength to strength and is now considered a comedy-music pioneer and stalwart. Yankovic is showing no signs of going away, and he’ll likely make for a fun evening of giggles in the sun.
Sunday, August 14, with Los Lonely Boys
Many people forget that funk band WAR was originally put together by Eric Burdon, the English singer from the Animals (of “House of the Rising Sun” fame). Besides a one-off London show in 2008, Burdon hasn’t been with the band since 1971, but they’ve soldiered on with longtime member Lonnie Jordan. By all accounts, they still bring the funk.
2. The Gin Blossoms
Sunday, August 21, with Tonic
Even when they were in their pomp, there was something very wrong about seeing Arizona’s Gin Blossoms in the winter. These jangly, poppy alt-rockers are built to play under a shining sun, making them a good fit for a summer concert series. The band broke up in the late '90s, then re-formed in 2001, and has been consistently putting out records since. Still, we'll bet that most of the crowd will be waiting to hear the big hits from the band's very popular early records, like "Hey Jealousy" and "Found Out About You."
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Sunday, September 4
Like Sweet and WAR, there remains just the one original member of Foreigner: guitarist Mick Jones. Singer Kelly Hansen has been with the band for a decade but, still, it just doesn’t look right without Lou Gramm. We can't deny that Hansen can truly belt out tunes like “Juke Box Hero,” “Cold As Ice,” and “I Wanna Know What Love Is.” Is it a tribute band? It’s hard to tell anymore. Just sit back and soak it up.
The Hudson Gardens and Event Center is located at 6115 South Sante Fe Drive, Littleton. For more information, go to hudsongardens.org.