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summer arts preview | Pop music

Summer schedule banks on the buddy system

Stars band together in double bills at Hub-area venues

In June, James Taylor and Carole King play the TD Garden. In June, James Taylor and Carole King play the TD Garden. (James O'Mara)
By Sarah Rodman
Globe Staff / May 23, 2010

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For live music fans, summer is the season for doubling your pleasure.

From Boston legends Aerosmith and the J. Geils Band banding together at Fenway Park Aug. 14 to modern troubadours Ray LaMontagne and David Gray sharing their tales at the Bank of America Pavilion Aug. 17 and 18, Hub-area venues will host more than a dozen double bills. Many more feature headliners who have chosen well-known names to serve as opening acts to help boost ticket sales and musical bang for the buck, including Rihanna with Ke$ha at the Comcast Center Aug. 8.

“I think everybody understands that in this particular economic climate you want to really offer fans the appearance of a good value to motivate them to pick you out of the hundreds of shows that are playing the Boston area this summer,’’ says Gary Bongiovanni, editor in chief of concert industry trade publication Pollstar.

The configurations range from artists who will actually perform together — such as singer-songwriter legends James Taylor and Carole King, who play the TD Garden June 19 and 20 — to mini-festivals of genre and generation-spanning acts, such as the lineup of rock veterans the Eagles with country rockers the Dixie Chicks and Keith Urban at Gillette Stadium June 12. There are metal fests including the unholy alliance of Slayer and Megadeth at the Tsongas Center on Aug. 14. And of course there are a plethora of classic rock caravans featuring acts from the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s teaming up for a hit-packed, often nostalgic night including REO Speedwagon and Pat Benatar Aug. 29 at the Bank of America Pavilion and 311 and The Offspring at the Comcast Center on July 11.

For Taylor and King, the tour is a personal reunion between old friends to celebrate their often interwined legacies.

“It’s been a real pleasure to work with him again after all of these years,’’ says King, writer of one of Taylor’s biggest hits, the tour-appropriate “You’ve Got a Friend.’’ “We see this effort as a partnership, and we’ve said to each other how great it is to have a partner, because some of the time he can carry the weight and other times I can carry the weight, and it’s just great.’’

Adds Taylor: “We count the first number off, and before you know it we’re finished, the whole show is gone, and it’s like, Where did the time go?’’

Many of the bills are cooked up by savvy managers, as was the coupling of Squeeze and Cheap Trick, who will ply their simpatico brands of melodic pop July 14 at the Bank of America Pavilion. The groups, which enjoyed commercial heydays in the ’70s and ’80s, did a one-off at the venue two summers ago and hit it off.

“We were really pleased at how the show went and thought it seemed like a pretty natural pairing and the crowd really dug both bands,’’ says Squeeze singer-songwriter Glenn Tilbrook. “Everyone’s hurting in one way or another all over the place right across the board, so it just makes sense to package two great bands rather than just one.’’

For socially conscious rockers State Radio and the John Butler Trio, buddying up — including a show at the Bank of America Pavilion on June 18 — was less a business decision and more an ideological one.

“We just want to use our music to create a positive effect and movement on the planet and be part of a shift and change,’’ Butler says. “I think our audiences will be very similar on that front — that they’re going to be wanting something deep as opposed to just belting out a few tunes.’’

Sarah Rodman can be reached at srodman@globe.com.

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