The 20 best outdoor concerts in Toronto this summer
An all-star OVO Fest, a Blink 182 comeback and the rest of the season's best shows under the stars
Pop and Rock
Wednesday, July 6. Molson Canadian Amphitheatre.
A lot of listeners justifiably tuned out during the aughts, when the band was churning out cheap singles and filler-stuffed albums with names like Raditude. But the flag-bearers of ’90s alt-rock are on the upswing: this year’s White Album features the same playful hooks and powerful progressions that turned them into ’90s rock legends.
Thursday, July 7. Molson Canadian Amphitheatre.
There are anthems, and then there’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” a song that can make any karaoke bar seem like a sold-out stadium concert. The kings of kitschy arena rock unite with classic rock warhorses the Doobie Brothers for a night of throwback hits.
Dave Matthews Band
Tuesday, July 19. Molson Canadian Amphitheatre.
You adored them in high school—and, let’s be honest, you still (perhaps secretly) love them now. The band celebrates their 25th anniversary with this nostalgic tour. They have no new album to plug, so expect a quarter-century’s worth of sensitive and sometimes shatteringly high-pitched hits, including the enduring anthem “Crash Into Me.”
Hall and Oates
Thursday, June 23. Molson Canadian Amphitheatre.
Philly’s gift to blue-eyed soul should get the lawn crowd on its feet. “Kiss on My List,” “Maneater,” and “Rich Girl” are ’80s retro at its finest, and we’re not being ironic. Make sure to catch rhythmic descendant Mayer Hawthorne, a perfect warm-up act.
Sunday, August 21. Molson Canadian Amphitheatre.
After another long hiatus, the irreverent SoCal pop-punk trio has reunited (sans guitarist Tom DeLonge) to promote their new record, California. “It’s a long way back from 17,” goes a line from new song “Bored to Death”—even if that’s the exact era they’re trying to recreate at this show.
Rap and Hip Hop
Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa
Saturday, July 29. Molson Canadian Amphitheatre.
The Amphitheatre will billow like a smokestack when Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa, weed aficionados from two different rap generations, bring their punny High Road tour to the Ontario Place grass. The show is part of Drake’s OVO Fest, so we’ll be expecting some special guests beyond the already-billed Kevin Gates, Jhene Aiko, Casey Veggies and DJ Drama.
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
Wednesday, June 15. Echo Beach.
The Seattle rapper writes about homophobia in hip hop, addiction and, increasingly, his place as a white rapper. His divisive new album, This Unruly Mess I’ve Made, is a frank attempt to craft verses out of heady identity politics (see the plainly titled single “White Privilege II”). Controversy aside, one thing’s certain: Macklemore is a nimble wordsmith and, backed by the oft-unsung production efforts of Ryan Lewis, his shows are rowdy, rapturous affairs.
Ghostface Killah and Schoolboy Q
Friday, June 17. Port Lands.
NXNE is switching gears, ramping down its usual city-wide scope in favour of a more traditional outdoor music festival in the Port Lands. Fierce rap master Ghostface Killah and L.A. MC Schoolboy Q headline the first, hip-hop-oriented night of the weekend, supported by Las Vegas wunderkind Shamir and Daniel “the next Weeknd” Caesar.
G-Eazy and Logic
Sunday, July 24. Molson Canadian Amphitheatre.
West Coaster G-Eazy and wordy Logic, the white rappers du jour, headline this July blockbuster, and openers YG and Yo Gotti are rugged undercards who should more than hold their own. All four solo MCs have new material to promote, so expect some fresh tunes.
Run the Jewels
Saturday, August 6. Fort York Garrison Common.
Dynamic duo El-P and Killer Mike made the best rap album of 2014 and are cooking up a follow-up for release later this year. Before then, they’ll bring their epic stage antics to Time Festival. Arrive early to catch opener Joey Bada$$’s ’90s-inspired raps.
Folk and Country
Mumford and Sons
Monday, June 13. Molson Canadian Amphitheatre.
The bucolic rockers set aside their banjos, upright basses and 19th-century outfits on Wilder Mind, the Mumfordian equivalent of an Electric Dylan controversy. The record pairs Kings of Leon–like pop rock with those trademark hollered harmonies. The real question is whether the boys will bust out their Victorian duds when they play foot-stomping classic hits like “Little Lion Man.”
Friday, July 8 and Saturday, July 9. Molson Canadian Amphitheatre.
The erstwhile American Idol judge hits Toronto to support his recent album, Ripcord, which continues the polished trajectory of his twangy country tunes—he’s been edging closer to pop with singles like “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16.”
City and Colour
Friday, June 17 and Saturday, June 18. Molson Canadian Amphitheatre.
Dallas Green continued his evolution from screamo rocker to sensitive troubadour with 2015’s If I Should Go Before You, the fifth album under his pseudonym. It’s the first he wrote with the help of his touring musicians, a process that injected a bluesy twang into his characteristic acoustic sound.
Tuesday, June 21 and Wednesday, June 22. Molson Canadian Amphitheatre.
This world tour ends a period of semi-retirement, which began back in 2007, a year after the documentary Shut Up and Sing chronicled their opposition to the Iraq War. They haven’t released a studio album since, so fans can expect a catalogue of dependable hits like “Travelin’ Soldier” and “Not Ready to Make Nice”—and an updated list of political peeves.
Thursday, July 28. Molson Canadian Amphitheatre.
The radio-friendly folk rock from singer-songwriters Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites will be the perfect soundtrack for the waterfront sunset. Langhorne Slim & The Law and Rayland Baxter open, and 2013’s inescapable “Ho Hey” will almost inevitably close.
Jazz and Classical
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings
Saturday, June 25. Nathan Phillips Square.
If you’ve never seen 60-year-old Queen Jones stomp through a sweaty revue of timeless soul platters, get yourself to Nathan Phillips Square. She’s a damn treasure who dances and sings as hard as she battles cancer.
Thursday, July 14. Toronto Music Garden.
Montreal’s Pallade Musica features baroque violin, baroque cello, harpsichord, theorbo (a large lute) and, in this program of songs about female characters, soprano Andréanne Brisson Paquin. None of the selected composers are household names, but two were revered in their day: the 17th-century Benedictine nun Rosa Giacinta Badalla, and Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, whose keyboard skills and compositional range captivated Louis XIV.
Robert Glasper Experiment
Wednesday, June 29. Nathan Phillips Square.
Glasper, a Grammy-winning modern-jazz powerhouse, joins force with drummer Mark Colenburg, saxophonist/vocoderist Casey Benjamin and bassist Derrick Hodge for an electronic act that bends genres with abandon. Or, as Glasper puts it, “We all have musical ADD and we love it.”
Amor Mi Fa Cantar a la Francesca
Sunday, August 28. Toronto Music Garden.
At this intriguing (and free) outdoor concert of medieval music, the title translates to “love makes me sing in the French style.” On hand to illustrate: soprano Julie Ryning and clavicymbalum player Katelyn Clark, founding members of the early-music ensemble Musica Fantasia.
The Massey Hall Band Plays R.E.M.
Friday, June 17. Roy Thomson Hall Patio.
Massey Hall’s resident big band hits the downtown oasis that is the Roy Thomson patio to serve up a playlist of classically arranged hits by Michael Stipe and co. while audience members munch on top-notch barbecue from Barque. Lose your religion, find your slow-smoked brisket.