Welcome to the "Never Say Never" summer.
After the struggles of last year -- when several high-profile tours, including Christina Aguilera, the "American Idols Live" and Lilith Fair either canceled or shortened their runs, and overall ticket sales were down 26 percent, according to Billboard magazine -- promoters aren't taking many chances this summer. In tough times, the concerts that generally succeed are the "once-in-a-lifetime" experiences, the unusual pairings and those at the very top of the charts.
Yes, this summer features massive tours hitting Nassau Coliseum, including pop queens Katy Perry (June 17), Rihanna (July 19) and Britney Spears (Aug. 2). The "Glee" kids (June 18) and the "American Idol" finalists (Aug. 23-24) are coming as well. But the big change this summer is the unexpected tours and festivals -- the kind of shows that wouldn't have seemed possible only a few years ago.
One truly unexpected pairing is NKOTBSB (July 31, Nassau Coliseum), which brings together '80s heartthrobs New Kids on the Block with '90s heartthrobs Backstreet Boys for a new tour on which both groups will sing new songs and previous hits together. Perceived '80s teen rivals Tiffany and Merrick native Debbie Gibson (July 29, NYCB Theatre at Westbury) have joined forces for a tour they say will celebrate their decade, separately and together. And even Rockville Centre-based Taking Back Sunday (July 17, Best Buy Theater), which has had fiery personal disputes and more than its share of personnel changes over the years, has reunited the lineup that helped break the Long Island scene nationally with its debut, "Tell All Your Friends."
This summer also is bringing music to some unexpected locations -- including the Shinnecock Reservation, which will host the inaugural "Escape 2 New York Festival" with Patti Smith and the Psychedelic Furs Aug. 5-7, and the East Hampton Airport, where the "MTK: Music to Know Festival," featuring Vampire Weekend and Bright Eyes Aug. 13-14, will debut. Yes, both of those festivals will be in Suffolk County, which is trying to change the negative reputation in the concert industry it earned after driving the Field Day Festival, including Radiohead and the Beastie Boys, away from the area in 2003.
While Sade (June 21, Nassau Coliseum), returning to the stage for her first tour in 10 years, will be enough to draw her fans, other veteran acts are adding new twists to their shows to make them even more special. Elvis Costello & the Impostors (July 24, Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center) will spin a wheel onstage to determine what song they will play next. Mötley Crüe (July 20, Nassau Coliseum) will put drummer Tommy Lee on a "drum roller coaster" that rotates 360 degrees and had their fans vote on the songs they will play on tour.
Will all these unexpected attractions draw crowds? Maybe. Experts say it depends more on gas prices than anything else, but they are cautiously optimistic. After all, as noted economic theorist Justin Bieber declared earlier this year, never say never.
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14 concerts you don't want to miss
"Hot 97 Summer Jam" (June 5 at New Meadowlands Stadium). It will likely be the biggest of Lil Wayne's post-prison celebrations (so far), with so much of his Young Money crew, including Drake and Birdman, on the bill, as well as recent collaborator Chris Brown and tour mate Rick Ross.
Joseph Arthur (June 11 at Looney Tunes, June 12-22 at The Living Room). After hooking up with Ben Harper and Dhani Harrison in Fistful of Mercy, his new album, "The Graduation Ceremony," is another breakthrough for the singer-songwriter, and his residency at The Living Room should help build some much-deserved buzz.
"Glee Live! In Concert!" (June 18 at Nassau Coliseum). Between the New Directions and the Warblers at the show, there will be a whole lot of happiness (and screaming!). Hold on to that feeling!
Sade (June 21 at Nassau Coliseum). For her first tour in a decade, Sade will weld together a set of her timeless, jazz-tinged classics as well as last year's more R&B-influenced "Soldier of Love."
Alicia Keys (June 30 at Beacon Theatre). The singer-songwriter will celebrate the 10th anniversary of her Grammy-winning breakthrough album, "Songs in A Minor," with a new deluxe edition and a special concert.
Taking Back Sunday (July 17 at Best Buy Theater). The Rockville Centre-based band hasn't just reunited the "Tell All Your Friends"-era lineup, it has recorded a new album together and is set to head out on the road again with Thursday, Colour Revolt and We Are the In Crowd.
Rihanna (July 19 at Nassau Coliseum). She pulled off quite the surprise by getting Britney Spears to duet with her on the "S&M" remix and has followed that with a rare ballad, "California Kinh Bed." Let's see what else she has up her sleeves with her upcoming tour with Cee-Lo Green.
U2 (July 20 at New Meadowlands Stadium). It hasn't been a very good year for Bono and friends, with his back injury and the ongoing question mark that is his and The Edge's Broadway debut, "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark." Hopefully, getting back to the comforts of the world's biggest rock band will help.
Aretha Franklin (July 27 at Nikon at Jones Beach Theater). The Queen of Soul has rebounded from her recent health issues with a new look, a new album and her biggest tour in years. And at Jones Beach, she doesn't have to worry about the air-conditioning.
"Escape 2 New York Festival" (Aug. 5-7 at Shinnecock Reservation). Patti Smith, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, the Psychedelic Furs and The Vaccines will help launch the East End festival from the producers of England's "Secret Garden Party."
Kenny Chesney (Aug. 13 at New Meadowlands Stadium). Already on track to be the year's biggest tour, the country superstar's "Goin' Coastal" tour is set for a rare East Coast stop with Zac Brown Band and Billy Currington.
"MTK: Music to Know Festival" (Aug. 13-14 at East Hampton Airport). Vampire Weekend and Bright Eyes will headline the inaugural festival at the East Hampton Airport, with other Downtown Music stars, as well as Tom Tom Club and M. Ward on the eclectic bill.
And keep in mind . . .
Katy Perry (June 17 at 7:30 p.m.), Nassau Coliseum, $41.50-$51.50, nassaucoliseum.com, 516-794-9300
k.d. lang (June 20 at 8 p.m.), Beacon Theatre, $39.50-$89.50, thegarden.com, 212-465-6500
Florence and the Machine (June 24 at 6:30 p.m.), Central Park Summerstage at Rumsey Playfield, $35, summerstage.org, 212-360-2777
NKOTBSB (July 31 at 7:30 p.m.), Nassau Coliseum, $29.60-$89.50, nassaucoliseum.com, 516-794-9300
"American Idol Live!" (Aug. 23 at 7 p.m.), Nassau Coliseum, $40-$60, nassaucoliseum.com, 516-794-9300
The Decemberists (June 14 at 6 p.m.), Prospect Park Bandshell, $35, bricartsmedia.org/celebrate, 718-683-5600
Eddie Vedder (June 21-22 at 7:30 p.m.), Beacon Theatre, $79.50, thegarden.com, 212-465-6500
Soundgarden (July 9 at 7:30 p.m.), Nikon at Jones Beach Theater, $39.50-$87.50, livenation.com, 516-221-1000
Kings of Leon (Aug. 10 at 7 p.m.), Nikon at Jones Beach Theater, $60-$90, livenation.com, 516-221-1000
Panic! at the Disco (Sept. 1 at 7 p.m.), Central Park Summerstage at Rumsey Playfield, $29.99, summerstage.org, 212-360-2777
The B-52s (June 11 at 8 p.m.), Irving Plaza, $55, livenation.com, 212-777-6800
Elvis Costello (July 24 at 8:30 p.m.), Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center, $150-$275, whbpac.org, 631-288-2350
Debbie Gibson and Tiffany (July 29 at 8 p.m.), NYCB Theatre at Westbury, $29.50- $39.50, livenation.com, 516-334-0800
Psychedelic Furs (Aug. 5 at 7:30 p.m.), Tanner Park, Free, townofbabylon.com, 631-957-3000
Mötley Crüe (July 20 at 7 p.m.), Nassau Coliseum, $36-$91.50, nassaucoliseum.com, 516-794-9300
R&B AND HIP-HOP
Talib Kweli (June 21 at 7 p.m.), Red Hook Park, Free, summerstage.org, 212-360-2777
Rakim (June 22 at 9 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.), The Blue Note, $35, bluenote.net, 212-475-8592
Brian McKnight (July 23 at 7 p.m.), Apollo Theater, $55-$100, ticketmaster.com, 800-745-3000
Wiz Khalifa (July 25 at 7:30 p.m.), Central Park Summerstage at Rumsey Playfield, $35, summerstage.org, 212-360-2777
Chrisette Michele (July 28 at 7 p.m.), Springfield Park, Free, summerstage.org, 212-360-2777
Get Up Kids (June 8 at 7 p.m.), The Crazy Donkey, $24, thecrazydonkey.com, 631-753-1975
Guided by Voices (June 18 at 5 p.m.), "Northside Festival" at McCarren Park, $30, ticketfly.com, 877-435-9849
Animal Collective (July 12 at 5:30 p.m.), Prospect Park Bandshell, $35, bricartsmedia.org/celebrate, 718-683-5600
Bon Iver (Aug. 9 at 8 p.m.), United Palace, $45, ticketmaster.com, 800-745-3000. Also, Aug. 10 at 7:30 p.m., Prospect Park Bandshell, $37.50, bricartsmedia.org /celebrate, 718-683-5600.
Sonic Youth (Aug. 12 at 5:30 p.m.), Williamsburg Waterfront, $32.50, ticketmaster.com, 800-745-3000
COUNTRY AND AMERICANA
Tim Easton (July 2 at 7:30 p.m.), Mercury Lounge, $10, mercuryloungenyc.com, 212-260-4700
Great South Bay Music Festival (July 15-17), Shorefront Park, $26.99, great southbaymusicfestival.com, 631-331-0808
Emmylou Harris (July 18 at 5 p.m.), Central Park Summerstage at Rumsey Playfield, $40, summerstage.org, 212-360-2777
Lucinda Williams (July 21 at 8 p.m.), Beacon Theatre, $39.50-$75, thegarden.com, 212-465-6500
Trace Adkins (Aug. 6 at 8 p.m.), NYCB Theatre at Westbury, $39.50-$49.50, livenation.com, 516-334-0800
JAZZ & BLUES
Tab Benoit (June 3 at 8 p.m.), Brooklyn Bowl, $10, brooklynbowl.com, 718-963-3369
Medeski Martin and Wood (June 11 at 7 p.m.), Central Park Summerstage at Rumsey Playfield, Free, summerstage.org, 212-360-2777
Dave Brubeck (June 13-15 at 8 p.m.), The Blue Note, $45-$75, bluenote.net, 212-475-8592
Governors Ball Music Festival (June 18 at 11:30 a.m.), South Island Field@Governors Island, $95, governorsballmusicfestival.com
Lykke Li (Aug. 1 at 6 p.m.), Central Park Summerstage at Rumsey Playfield, $30, summerstage.org, 212-360-2777
Friendly Fires (Aug. 7 at 3 p.m.), Central Park Summerstage at Rumsey Playfield, free, summerstage.org, 212-360-2777
Identity Festival (Aug. 21 at noon), Nikon at Jones Beach Theater, $94, livenation.com, 516-221-1000
Electric Zoo (Sept. 2-4 at 11 a.m.), Randalls Island, $249 (three-day pass), madeevent.com/electriczoo
Jones Beach concert schedule
JULY 9 7:30 p.m. Soundgarden
JULY 11 7 p.m. Yes and Styx
JULY 12 7:30 p.m. Def Leppard, with Heart
JULY 17 7:30 p.m. Furthur
JULY 21 7 p.m. Miranda Cosgrove with Cody Simpson and Greyson Chance
JULY 24 7 p.m. Goo Goo Dolls
JULY 29 7 p.m. Weezer and The Flaming Lips
AUG. 10 7 p.m. Kings of Leon
AUG. 12 7 p.m. Maroon 5 and Train
AUG. 17 7:30 p.m. Journey with Foreigner and Night Ranger
AUG. 19 8 p.m. Jimmy Buffett
AUG. 20 7:30 p.m. Ke$ha
AUG. 21 Noon. Identity Festival
AUG. 23 7:30 p.m. Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Doobie Brothers
AUG. 24 5 p.m. Whitesnake
AUG. 27 7 p.m. B.B. King Rib Rock Fest
Tickets are available at the theater box office or through Live Nation, livenation.com, 800-745-3000.