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Check out these Queen City concerts

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There are always a couple of things you can count on when it comes to summertime in the South. For one, it's going to be unbearably hot and humid. It's also the time when our shed opens its gates and usually plays host to numerous big names and popular acts from the worlds of pop, rock, rap and country. Of course, our city-owned venues -- Charlotte Coliseum, Cricket Arena and Ovens Auditorium -- sometimes land a coup or two as well. The 2001 summer concert tours offered a bit of everything from Madonna, who hadn't seen the road in years, to Rod Stewart, who, as long as there are hot-blooded women on this planet, is sure to sell plenty of tickets. The original Black Sabbath reunited for a second time to headline OzzFest, while other geezer acts like Styx, Journey and the Allman Brothers Band took to the road as well.

While it's still a tad early in the season to know exactly who all will be heading our way this summer, one thing does seem certain so far -- you might have to hit the road yourself to see a few of the bigger names hitting the touring circuit this summer. The Who and Cher's farewell tour (and let's hope it's truly just that) will both be passing Charlotte by (at least at press time, it appeared that way). But of the acts who are scheduled to pay a visit to the Queen City, there's a nice mix of gospel, R&B, new and old rock (and that's very old in most cases), and pop, including an appearance by Ms. Britney (could I possibly be more famous) Spears herself.

Herewith, we provide potential concertgoers with a quick overview of what to expect, including some "unofficial" dates, which at press time were currently listed with Pollstar.com but not the actual venues (these dates are more likely to pan out in most cases than not). As with last year's tours, "packaging" still seems to be the thing to do, whether it be a neatly, consistent package of similar acts (i.e. Deep Purple, the Scorpions and Dio) or ones with a little bit of everything tossed in (i.e. Joan Jett, LL Cool J and Course of Nature). With few exceptions, most ticket prices appear to be slightly more reasonable this year than in the past, even for the Rolling Stones, who actually don't start their tour until the fall -- and who are another one of those big name acts who've apparently opted to skip over the Queen City according to their preliminary itinerary.

While on the subject of old farts who just don't seem to ever go away, Rush is an act that's headed our way this summer. And for the diehard Rush fans -- which is probably the only way they come these days -- we did find out that RushCon II (www.rushcon.org), "the ultimate pilgrimage for the Rush fan," is slated to take place in the band's hometown of Toronto, Canada two weeks after the show here (July 12-14) -- we shit you not!

In the Gospel category, a hot ticket to have will be for the Winans Family's "Together We Stand Tour," which will see the entire family (including four third-generation Winanses) performing together for the first time in 10 years. They're "unofficially" scheduled to appear at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre on June 2.

Nu-gospel artist Kirk Franklin, another notable act worth mentioning, is scheduled for Paramount's Carowinds Paladium on May 25.

What we know we're getting at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre:

* Usher with Faith Evans, Nas and Mr. Cheeks, May 31 ($20.50-$45.50)

* Chicago, June 7 ($15-$30)

* Brooks & Dunn with Dwight Yoakam, Gary Allen, Trick Pony, and Chris Cagle, June 15 ($19.50-$44.40)

* Melissa Etheridge, June 16 ($31.50-$79)

* Deep Purple and The Scorpions with Dio, June 21 ($15-$35)

* Rush, July 1 ($27.50-$72)

* "Jeep World Outside Festival," with Sheryl Crow, Train, Ziggy Marley and O.A.R., July 10

* Phil Lesh & Friends with Dickey Betts & Great Southern, July 26

One act that's returning to VWA again as sure as the summer is hot is the Dave Matthews Band, which of course is already sold out -- July 12 ($31.50-$46.50). No opener announced yet, but Dave is usually supported by some of the best.

Lenny Kravitz and Pink will appear with Abandoned Pools on August 1, the day before the always-cool punk blowout known as the Warped Tour. Of course, few lineups this season appear more warped than the Kravitz/Pink pairing.

We found a few additional shows via Pollstar.com listed for the Amphitheatre, which again, are more likely to happen on or around the given dates. Some we've crossed our fingers on -- others, well, we wouldn't necessarily be offended if they fell through:

* Rick James and The Stone City Band, June 22

* Vans Warped Tour, featuring 28 Days, Bad Religion, NOFX, Reel Big Fish, Five Iron Frenzy, and more, August 2

Tremont Music Hall has a nice selection of mid-level acts, including the following:

* Dead Blue Sky, June 9

* The Juliana Theory with Piebald & Glassjaw, June 12 ($10!)

* Ben Folds with Comedy Divine, June 17

* The 440's with Cretin 66, June 18

Several other venues will offer some notable acts for your listening pleasure, including the Neighborhood Theatre (David Wilcox, June 15; Taj Mahal & The Phantom Blues Band, August 24). In addition, Independence Boulevard will host biggies like Tony Bennett with the Charlotte Symphony, June 20 at Ovens Auditorium; Incubus with Phantom Planet, June 25 at Cricket Arena; and the "Down From the Mountain Tour" on July 13, also at Cricket. Based on the soundtrack to the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?, it features Ricky Skaggs, The Del McCoury Band, Alison Krauss & Union Station, Dan Tyminski, Jerry Douglas, Emmylou Harris, Ralph Stanley, Patty Loveless, Norman & Nancy Blake, and more. Tickets are a respectable $62.50, $48 and $34. The Dixie's Tavern Parking Lot (now there's a venue) will see the aforementioned Joan Jett & The Blackhearts and Course of Nature at the 2nd annual "Uncle Sam Jam." Did we mention L.L. Cool J would also be there?

For those looking for a reason to go to South Carolina since the crackdown on video poker, check out O-Town with LFO, June 23 at Paramount's Carowinds Paladium, and Lifehouse, August 10 at the same venue.

If that's not enough teeny-pop for you, there's always the queen of teen herself, Britney Spears, who will hit Charlotte (one more time) July 11 at the Charlotte Coliseum (tickets are $39.75-$75.50).

Big shows we're missing? The Ozz Man will skippeth over the Queen City. The venerable OzzFest, with headliner System of a Down, stops at Raleigh's Alltel Pavilion (at Walnut Creek) on July 24 and Atlanta's "HiFi Buys" Amphitheatre on July 28.

Moby's Area:Two Tour with David Bowie, Busta Rhymes, Carl Cox, John Digweed, and a host of others comes only as close as Bristow, VA, on July 28. There have also been reports that Lollapalooza would make its return this year, but who it will feature, and when and where it will actually surface, are questions we'd still like to find out.

Of course, we'd be remiss if we didn't at least mention this one: Sammy Hagar with David Lee Roth, only coming as close as Ohio. Then again, it beats waiting on Van Halen to put out another album. *

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