Bring the lawn chairs with you because you’ll want to sit back, relax, and enjoy pretty some awesome music this summer out-of-doors, courtesy of Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn Borough President. The annual Brooklyn Concerts series in Coney Island and Wingate Park brings some of the most popular acts in music from years past to the borough, and the best thing about it is that it’s all free. Here’s a rundown of who’s performing this summer:
Seaside Summer Concert Series
West 21st Street and Surf Avenue in Coney Island; take the D, N, F or Q trains to Coney Island/Stillwell Avenue. Shows are free; rental chairs available for $5. For information, call 718-222-0600.
Friday, July 12
For me, (with the sole exception of Big Star), Cheap Trick is the preeminent power-pop band with their catchy Beatlesque songs delivered with punk-like aggression. This year marked the 35th anniversary of the Rockford, Ill. group’s triumphant appearance in Tokyo, captured on the now classic live record At Budokan. which yielded the band’s signature hit “I Want You To Want Me.” I have seen this band live a few times and they always put on a great and energetic show–it’s an opportunity to witness Rick Nielsen’s guitar heroics and his onstage antics, whether it’s his hilarious facial expressions or him tossing custom-made guitar picks out into the audience. Expect the band to also throw out some of their great hits such as “Surrender,” “Dream Police” and maybe even that ’80s power ballad “The Flame.”
Thursday, July 18
The quintessential Southern rock group (besides the Allman Brothers Band, of course), Lynyrd Skynyrd is still going strong, long after the tragic death of singer Ronnie Van Zant in 1977 and a series of personnel changes over the years. Their songs–a combination of swagger, atttiude and poignancy–have been longtime staples of classic rock radio: among them “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Gimme Three Steps,” “That Smell,” and the band’s epic signature song “Free Bird.” Skynyrd’s most recent album was 2012’s Last of a Dyin’ Breed, a very appropriate title for a group that has weathered the loss of several of its members and changing musical trends. This legendary band is going to show Brooklyn what real Southern hospitality is.
Thursday, July 25
Bob Dylan once described Motown legend Smokey Robinson as America’s greatest poet and as usual Dylan is right. Robinson has written so many great songs throughout his career as the leader of the popular the Miracles and for other artists: “Crusin’,” “My Girl,” “You Really Got a Hold on Me,” “Shop Around,” “Ooh Baby Baby,” and “Tears of a Clown” are part the American music canon and not just Motown’s. Personally, Robinson has a special place in my heart: anytime I hear his 1981 solo song “Being With You,” makes me think of my dad and his JVC boombox back in the day. Robinson is still active and an ambassador of classic era Motown and he is releasing a new record this fall. This is an opportunity to see a legend, and an important figure in American music, that should not be missed.
The Go-Go’s/Tom Tom Club
Thursday, August 1
A little taste of ’80s New Wave is the theme of this evening. The Go-Go’s were the first commercially successful all-female rock band–their songs, like “We Got the Beat,” “Our Lips Are Sealed” and “Vacation” (one of pop music’s definitive summer anthems) are cornerstones of the MTV era. I caught the band two years ago on the 30th anniversary of the Beauty and the Beat album and they sounded great live. Meanwhile, Tom Tom Club is one-half of the legendary Talking Heads–real-life husband and wife Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth–who launched their own solo side project beginning with 1981’s self-titled debut. Their biggest success of course is an early dance/rap classic,“Genius of Love,” which will definitely get the crowd dancing to its infectious grooves.
Huey Lewis and the News
Thursday, August 15
If you were a kid growing up in the early 80s, then Huey Lewis and the News was your soundtrack. There was totally no avoiding this band’s songs on the radio or on MTV—their style of catchy, crowd-pleasing bar-band rock struck a chord with a huge audience thanks to big hits “I Wanna New Drug,” “The Heart of Rock and Roll,” “Heart and Soul,” and “If This Is It.” Those songs are off the band’s multiplatinum album Sports, which, on the occasion of its 30th anniversary this year, was just reissued. As part of their current tour, the News will perform the Sports album in its entirety as along with their other hits from the great ’80s. To fans of Huey, it’s still hip to be square in 2013.
Wednesday, August 21
I’ll argue this ’til the cows come home: Chicago should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. According to The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, Chicago is ranked as one of the Top 20 acts in the rock and roll era. For over four decades now, this horn-driven rock band from the Windy City has churned out so many memorable hits such as “25 or 6 to 4,” “Saturday in the Park,” “If You Leave Me Now,” “You’re The Inspiration,” and “Hard to Say I’m Sorry.” This show in Coney Island is also a special homecoming for one its founding members, keyboardist Robert Lamm, who is actually from the borough. I caught Chicago at Radio City Music Hall several years ago and the group performed nearly all of the great hit songs. So don’t expect anything less from them for this upcoming gig in Brooklyn, USA.
Martin Luther King Concert Series
Wingate Park on Brooklyn Avenue between Rutland Road and Winthrop Street in Lefferts Gardens; take the 2 or 5 to Winthrop Street or the Q to Parkside Ave. Shows are free; audience goers should bring their own chairs as seating is limited. For information, call 718-222-0600.
Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds
Monday, July 15
In the early to mid 90s, Babyface was the King Midas of R&B and pop–everything he touched turned into hit-making gold. In addition to his successes as a performer, first with the group The Deele (“Two Occasions”) and as a solo artist (“For the Cool in You” and “When Can I See You”), he has collaborated with a virtual who’s who in the business as a producer and/or songwriter: Madonna, Whitney Houston, Eric Clapton, Toni Braxton, Bobby Brown Aretha Franklin and Celine Dion, to name just a few. With his romantic vocals in addition to his impeccable well crafted sound that both swings and seduces, Babyface is sure to make July 15 feels like a sweltering Valentine’s Day.
Old School Night: Rakim, Whodini, Big Daddy Kane, Chubb Rock
Monday, July 22
With the 40th anniversary of hip-hop coming up in August, it’s appropriate that this show spotlights the music of these pioneers of the genre, especially Big Daddy Kane and Rakim, one-half of the legendary duo with Eric B. Just seeing who’s on the bill gives you a nostalgic feeling for the old school days. Personally, I’d want to go see Whodini–I remember watching the trio on TV back in the day, (it might have been “Video Music Box” on channel 31, ususally after school) and hearing such memorable hits as “Funky Beat” and “One Love.” Today’s hip-hop megastars owe a debt to these guys.
Annual Gospel Night
Israel Haughton and the New Breed
Monday, July 29
Annual Caribbean Night
Monday, August 5
Monday, August 12
Bridging the multiplatinum success of late ’80s/early 90s stars Whitney and Mariah and today’s divas Beyonce and Nicki is singer Toni Braxton. Right off the bat, she became hugely popular throughout the ’90s first with her self-titled debut that yielded a flurry of hits including “Another Sad Love Song,” “Breathe Again,” “You Mean the World to Me,” and “Love Shoulda Brought You Home.” She followed that up a few years later with the Secrets album, which contained that inescapable Diane Warren ballad “Unbreak My Heart.” And like with the Babyface show, the diva–who these days recently added reality TV star to her credits with her show The Braxtons–is likely to make it a hits-filled evening of romance songs with a bit of heat and tenderness.
Monday, August 19
Two R&B titans and Rock and Roll Hall of Famers team up for a dream twin bill. In the pantheon of the greatest female soul singers ever, Gladys Knight is right up in the top 10. Her iconic work with the immortal Pips speaks for itself, especially during the ’70s and the ’80s: “Midnight Train to Georgia,” “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “Love Overboard,” “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye),” and “Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me.” Knight’s professional career, which is nearing 50 years, is still going strong, which can also be said for the O’Jays, one of the quintessential vocal groups associated with ’70s Philly soul. Fronted by the passionate and romantic vocals of Eddie LeVert, the O’Jays had a string of hit songs in the ’70s that have become pop music staples as well as soul music benchmarks: “Love Train,” “Back Stabbers,” “For the Love of Money,” “and “I Love Music.” One could hope these two legends will get on stage together and do a duet or two—that would accentuate the evening perfectly.