West African magic
That Harbourfront Centre has managed to score the first-ever Toronto appearance by Senegal's stupendous Orchestra Baobab July 10 is amazing in itself. But believe it or not, that's being followed up August 22 with a free show by Guinean groovemasters Bembeya Jazz,featuring the dazzling guitar work of West African legend Sekou "Diamond Fingers" Diabate. Two stellar Toronto debut concerts at Harbourfront by legendary Cuban-influenced West African bands - both groups suddenly reunited after years of silence - is nothing short of miraculous. 235 Queen's Quay East. $15 (Orchestra Baobab). 416-973-4000.
This year's version of the Warped Tour looks to be their biggest summer punkfest ever. Yet with 29 bands all set to go off at Molson Park in Barrie on August 2 - notably including Rancid, Glassjaw, the Suicide Machines, Dropkick Murphys, Less than Jake, Pennywise and the Used among others - the question of quantity vs. quality arises. Even though the event's enormous lineup is reasonably solid all the way through, bigger isn't neccessarily better. $tba. 416-870-8000.
As soon as the star-stacked list of performers for the Toronto Bluesfest was announced for July 23 to 27 at the CNE, there was controversy. For all of the big names - including Sheryl Crow, John Hiatt, Bela Fleck, Richard Thompson, George Clinton, Blind Boys of Alabama, Alejandro Escovedo and George Thorogood - the genuine blues content appears to be relatively small, particularly in the case of homegrown Canadian blues. Still, the presence of Robert Cray, Eddie "the Chief" Clearwater and Anson Funderburgh on the three outdoor stages and planned meet 'n' greet sessions should thrill blues fans. $55 all-inclusive; day passes $20 Wednesday and Friday-Sunday, $25 Thursday. Exhibition Place. 416-870-8000.
Crazy Horse rides again
Other artists have got to be insanely envious of Neil Young's career. Any time he feels the urge to get out and play with his old pals in Crazy Horse, a few calls can be made to arrange a summer tour without having to beg a beer company to underwrite it. And he can rest assured that despite the lack of a hot video or even a new album, most gigs will be sellouts. Wisely, Lucinda Williams has hitched her wagon to Young's Crazy Horse roadshow, which pulls into the Air Canada Centre June 23, rather than risk a headlining tour of her own. 40 Bay. $49.50-$95. 416-870-8000.
Pearl Jam on
Grunge is dead and gone, yet Pearl Jam haven't given up. Evidently, flooding the market with their own line of bootlegger-thwarting live discs wasn't the best way to keep themselves in vintage wine, so the Seattle stadium rockers are coming out of seclusion for a summer tour that brings them to the Molson Amphitheatre June 28. Good move, because the show sold out in minutes. Even better news is that they've hired the reunited Buzzcocks, led by the ever-fab Pete Shelley, as a warm-up act. Hurrah! 955 Lakeshore West. Sold out.
You don't have to wait for Harbourfront's summer schedule to kick in to get a fix of African music. This year's AfroFest, set for July 5 and 6, offers free non-stop shows at Queen's Park from 1 to 10:30 pm both days. Along with a rare local appearance by Stella Chiweshe, Zimbabwe's mbira queen, and the Drummers of Burundi, the weekend blowout also boasts Somalia's Shego Band, Congolese soukous hotshots Star Five, Senegalese kora griot Boubacar Diabate and Moroccan oud maestro Hassan el Hadi among many others. Check the AfroFest Web site at www.afrofest.org for details. Queen's Park. Free. 416-469-5336.
The Warped Tour's main competition in the massive travelling concert package summer sweepstakes is the heavyweight Summer Sanitarium tour - boasting Metallica, limpbizkit (formerly known as Limp Bizkit), the Deftones, Linkin Park and Mudvayne. Despite the heavy rock thrust of the latter, there's lots of crossover appeal. And since Summer Sanitarium happens at Skydome July 5, it has the strategic advantages of easier accessibility and the fact that it happens a month earlier. 1 Blue Jays Way. $81-$91. 416-870-8000.
Elvis is in the building
While Elvis Costello has always been sweet on Canadians, the recent announcement of his engagement to easy-listening singer Diana Krall caught many by surprise. It's only fitting that the future Mr. Krall has decided to launch his current world tour here - at the Hummingbird Centre July 2 - backed by his Imposters Steve Nieve, Pete Thomas and ex-Cracker bassist Davey Farragher. Expect Costello to debut new songs from his new album due in September. No word yet whether there'll be any romantic duets with his fiancée. 1 Front East. $49.50-$79.50. 416-872-2262.
Justin vs. Christina
Sure, Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera are best buddies now, but wait till they start touring together and - god forbid - sharing a makeup mirror. Luckily, the members of the Black Eyed Peas will be on hand for their Air Canada Centre show July 29 to keep any pre-show beefs from escalating into physical violence. Since Aguilera started bulking up, if, say, a pair of eyebrow tweezers should go missing, Timberlake could be in a world of trouble. 40 Bay. $49.50-$97.50. 416-870-8000.