Fifteen can’t-miss concerts coming to Toronto this summer
The reigning kings of rap, the megafest WayHome and the rest of the season's best shows
June 16 to 25, Various venues
Last year, NXNE largely ditched its million-show, club-crawling model for a weekend in the Port Lands. They’re staying the course this summer, once again transforming the industrial wasteland into a sonic wonderland. Headlining acts include Polaris Prize–winning DJ Kaytranada, Boston indie rockers Passion Pit and Post Malone, the 21-year-old singer who exploded after touring with Justin Bieber. The undercard features acclaimed acts like Sleigh Bells, Bleachers, Cold Specks, and The Soul Rebels featuring Talib Kweli. Pack sunscreen.
June 23, Rogers Centre
The 30th anniversary of The Joshua Tree—arguably Bono and Co.’s best—is the inspiration for the megagroup’s latest summer showcase. Which is to say, longtime fans should find the set list they’re looking for.
The Decades Project
To June 24, Roy Thomson Hall
In 2015, the TSO began chugging through the music of the 1900s in 10-year bursts. This month: the ’30s, when global turmoil powered both radical innovation and nostalgia for simpler eras. Kurt Weill’s The Seven Deadly Sins, a satirical sung ballet with mezzo-soprano Wallis Giunta, contrasts with the neo-Romanticism of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings (June 14 and 15). And Carmina Burana, Carl Orff’s ebullient cantata, looks back to the songs of medieval monks (June 21 and 24).
Ron Sexsmith and the TSO
July 1, Nathan Phillips Square
A sunset, a symphony and a whole lot of sad songs—it may not be the city’s most boisterous Canada Day bash, but it’s likely to be the most beautiful. Backed by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, troubadour Ron Sexsmith will strum his way through an orchestral set of his best tunes, with help from Halifax-based singer-songwriter Rose Cousins.
July 1, Sony Centre
If you’ve never seen the 75-year-old Queen of Soul belt out selections from her fathoms-deep catalogue of bluesy hits, well, best you make an appointment with Ms. Franklin your top priority at this year’s Jazz Fest. A voice this rich deserves to be heard.
July 5, Air Canada Centre
One of the greatest songwriters of all time recently dove deep into the archives to produce Triplicate, a 95-minute, 30-track, three-disc epic in which he reimagines classics from the American canon, like “Stormy Weather” and “As Time Goes By.” Joined by a full band, the 76-year-old icon will rock out to those hits and, we hope, a few of his own.
July 7 and 8, Air Canada Centre
The English singer-songwriter and his I-woke-up-like-this ginger haircut hit Toronto for as part of his blockbuster North American excursion. Sheeran will balance some of his earnest early singalongs with radio hits from his third record, the pop smash Divide.
July 10, Air Canada Centre
What was once a flight-of-fancy project by Blur’s Damon Albarn and graphic artist Jamie Hewlett has become a colossal phenomenon. In support of Humanz, Gorillaz’s recent rap-filled LP and their first in seven years, the group will mount a full-scale arena show with striking visuals to match the sonic assault.
Toronto Summer Music Festival
July 13 to August 5, various venues
This festival dominates the summer classical scene. The St. Lawrence String Quartet (July 13) kicks things off with works by Haydn, Beethoven and Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer, whose Quartet No. 3 is an exhilarating display of string playing bolstered by literal yelps, barks and screams from the players. Then, Canadian violinist James Ehnes (July 17) offers a smartly designed program of Bach solo partitas and modern works inspired by, or in homage to, JSB. Opera fans get their fix when singers Julie Nesrallah, Roger Honeywell and Gary Relyea (July 27) cherry-pick arias and ensembles from works by Puccini, Verdi, Mozart and others. And, on July 31, violinist Jonathan Crow and pianist Philip Chiu celebrate Canada’s birthday with works by composers—including Debussy, Ravel and Elgar—from two of our founding nations, France and England.
July 25 and August 23, Air Canada Centre
In a city besotted with Drake, attending a Kendrick Lamar concert almost seems like an act of treason: the Compton rapper is Drizzy’s only true rival in the fight for today’s hip-hop crown, and his skillful new album, Damn, features more than a few shots at the 6 God. Live, Lamar is an enthralling firebrand, flailing across the stage as he rhymes off biblical allusions, stories from the streets and musings on his own inner demons. The July show features warm-up from trap star Travis $cott, while August’s encore brings the gangsta leanings of Y.G.
July 28 and 29, Air Canada Centre
The pride of Fayetteville, N.C., multiplies his Canadian fan base with every new release: he started with humble club shows and is now filling the ACC twice over. This July, he goes back to back in Toronto, one of his favourite homes away from home, in support of his down-tempo, lyrically insightful fourth studio album, 4 Your Eyez Only.
July 28 to 30, Burl’s Creek Event Grounds, Oro-Medonte
In two short years, WayHome has established itself as Toronto’s answer to Osheaga. The three-day campout returns with an eclectic third edition that pairs the alt-rock of headliners Imagine Dragons with Frank Ocean’s sultry R&B and Flume’s atmospheric electropop. There’s plenty of local talent, too: soulful 20-something Daniel Caesar, punk ascendants Pup, and indie-rock veterans Constantines and Death From Above 1979.
August 4, Massey Hall
The Seattle folk outfit’s brilliant harmonies will ring heavenly in the acoustic paradise of Massey Hall. After a six-year wait and a few lineup shifts (see: the next concert in this list), frontman Robin Pecknold should be eager to test out tunes from the new album, Crack-Up, on live audiences.
The details of Drake’s eighth OVO Fest are still under wraps, but it’s a safe bet Toronto’s Very Own won’t let Labour Day weekend slip by without hosting a summertime extravaganza jam-packed with surprise guests, fireworks and more chart toppers than the CN Tower has views.
Father John Misty
September 18, Massey Hall
The heart-on-sleeve writing of erstwhile Fleet Fox Josh Tillman should soar with the support of a mini orchestra. Expect to hear this year’s masterful Pure Comedy, an ambitious folk manifesto with heady lyrics that sail from prehistory to a dystopian future, and a sprinkling of songs from his previous two records.
More Summer Culture
An earlier version of this post contained incorrect line-up information for NXNE.