July is heading into the home stretch, which means summertime is burning. Make the most of the season with a set of retro-inclined performances this weekend in Cincinnati.
Heart, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Cheap Trick
The retro rock pick of the weekend is this Cincinnati triple bill of chart-topping acts from the 1970s and ’80s that have managed to stay artistically relevant in the 21st century.
Headliner Heart — meaning, of course, sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson — has just issued a new album called “Beautiful Broken” that offers new recordings of older tunes. But the twist is that the revisited songs aren’t hits, but comparative obscurities from forgotten albums like “Passionworks,” “Bebe Le Strange” and “Fanatic.” The co-billed Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (whose 2013 album “Unvarnished” was an uncompromising affirmation of Jett’s post-punk leanings) and Cheap Trick (which released the fine album “Bang, Zoom, Crazy … Hello” in April) were inducted into the Rock and Hall of Fame in 2015 and 2016, respectively.
Cincinnati Music Festival
Aretha Franklin with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra
While we’re taking a backward glance, you have no finer weekend at hand if vintage R&B is your passion. Two huge events embracing the soul sounds of the ’60s, ’70s, ’80 s and more hit Cincinnati beginning Friday night.
First up is the two-day Cincinnati Music Festival, the current incarnation of the stadium-size R&B summit that has been staged in the Queen City since 1962. The locale this time is Paul Brown Stadium. Friday’s lineup features New Edition, Babyface, Fantasia, The Whispers and Judith Hill. Saturday’s bill stars Charlie Wilson, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, Ledesi, Leela James and The Deele. The Whispers and Maze have been mainstay guests of the event. They obviously weren’t performing at the festival in its earliest days, but both acts have been regulars for roughly three decades.
Then on Sunday, the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, teams with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra at Riverbend. Do you think that at age 74, Franklin can’t deliver a tune with the vocal power and conviction she conjured in the 1960s? Then cue up her televised performance of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” at last year’s Kennedy Center Honors. Better yet, check out the reaction from the song’s composer and KCH inductee, Carole King. Long live the Queen.
Earl-ly in the evening
They’re called The Earls of Leicester, and their trade is the bluegrass traditions of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, hence the name. Led by dobro pioneer, veteran bluegrass-and-more journeyman and onetime Lexingtonian Jerry Douglas, the band makes its local debut July 25 for the “WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour” at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center, 300 East Third Street (6:45 p.m., $20). In Saturday’s Living section, Douglas will discuss the Earls’ new recording, “Rattle & Roar,” and the excitement he senses in preserving and, in many cases, reintroducing one of bluegrass’s most cherished sounds.
Lyle and Emmy
Already looking ahead to next weekend? Then mark your calendars for the July 29 Lexington Opera House return of Lyle Lovett and his Large Band (7:30 p.m., $85.50). But for those who crave an extra serving of the long tall Texan’s brand of jazz, country, blues, Americana and more, head to Cincinnati’s PNC Pavilion on July 28, where Lovett and his many onstage pals will share the bill with the incomparable Emmylou Harris (7 p.m. $43.50-$75).