Summer 2010 follows the pattern of recent years with a clutch of appearances from ageing legends playing for their pensions. Stevie Wonder is arguably the juiciest coup of the bunch, but anyone who has seen Paul McCartney and Leonard Cohen in recent years will tell you that they're two of the few artists worth such a hefty ticket price. As for new talent, Sweden's The Tallest Man on Earth and Dún Laoghaire man Conor O'Brien's Villagers project are good bets for becoming the sound of this summer, says Eamon Sweeney.
Sunday, May 2, Tripod, Dublin (€25.50-€32.50)
Get your summer off to a flying live start at this weekend's appearance from Gil-Scott Heron. His new studio album, I'm New Here, is one of the finest of the year to date.
DINOSAUR JR/ BUILT TO SPILL
Monday, May 10, Black Box, Galway (€33.20);
Tuesday, May 11, Vicar St, Dublin (€29)
It's the indie Americana double bill of the summer. Both acts love their meaty guitar hooks and Dinosaur Jr are one of the loudest bands on the planet. Don't forget your earplugs.
Thursday, May 22, Cleere's, Kilkenny (€10);
Friday, May 21, Roisin Dubh (€10); Sunday, May 23, The Button Factory, Dublin (€15)
Snap up tickets for Villagers' Irish tour now before it's too late. You'll be able to boast of seeing a small show before he goes supernova.
THE TALLEST MAN ON EARTH
Thursday, June 10, Whelan's, Dublin (€15.95)
Swedish folkster Kristian Matsson plies his trade as The Tallest Man on Earth. While he isn't literally the tallest man on earth, he's one of the most handsome, judging by the ladies swooning at his last Dublin show. His new album, The Wild Hunt, is beginning to blow up Stateside.
Saturday, June 12, RDS, Dublin (€70-€156.25)
Tickets for Macca are the most expensive of the season, but if this is even half as good as the O2 last Christmas, they'll be worth every cent. Some commentators went as far as to hail that show not just the gig of the year, but the gig of the decade.
Thursday, June 24, 02, Dublin (€65.70-€96.25)
I'm sure you've heard that bad joke about Stevie Wonder not playing Dublin because he couldn't see the Point. Seeing as it's now the state of the art O2, this bona fide living legend finally plays Ireland.
HARMONIC FEATURING GRIZZLY BEAR / MIDLAKE / CAMERA OBSCURA / VILLAGERS
Friday, June 25, Marquee, Cork (€35)
This is the must-see line-up for the indie fraternity. Grizzly Bear played out of their skins in Vicar St last year, as did Midlake in January. By the time this show comes around, Conor O'Brien of Villagers fame could be bigger than the rest of the bill combined.
Friday, July 16, Iveagh Gardens, Dublin 2 (€45)
In recent years, the Iveagh Gardens have hosted a Taste of Dublin, the Comedy Carnival and the Dublin Fringe Spiegeltent, introducing some Dubliners to this gorgeous park for the very first time. Live music gets an outing this summer with the first Tori Amos Dublin show in aeons.
BONNIE 'PRINCE' BILLY & THE CAIRO GANG
Wednesday/Thursday, July 28/29, Whelan's, Dublin (€29)
It's been a while since Will Oldham has been round our way. He returns to his favourite Irish venue with the Cairo Gang in support of their new album, The Wonder Show of the World.
Lissadell House, Co Sligo, Saturday, July 31/Sunday, August 1 (€80-€115)
You could argue that the sense of surprise about a Cohen show is diminished as this is now the third summer in a row that Loopy Len has hit our shores. However, as anyone who saw him in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham or the O2 will tell you, he's in a different class. It will be interesting to savour him in this historic setting.
With the release of Iron Man 2 this week, the 2010 blockbuster season begins in earnest. And after a fairly dour summer in 2009, there's a fair amount to look forward to over the next few months. Ridley Scott's Robin Hood is up first, and Sex and the City 2 is sure to re-engage the franchise's loyal following. There's another Shrek, Toy Story 3, remakes of Karate Kid and Nightmare on Elm Street, as well as Christopher Nolan's post-Batman outing in the sci-fi thriller Inception. And the next Twilight instalment, Eclipse, is sure to be one of the year's biggest draws. Here is Paul Whitington's pick of the summer highlights
Never mind the bright green tights and derring-do of previous Robin Hood incarnations, because Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe are sure to serve up a more macho and testosterone-fuelled Nottingham outlaw. Cate Blanchett is a recently and conveniently widowed Maid Marian, while Matthew Macfadyen plays the sinister Sheriff whose cruel regime Robin will endeavour to bring to an end. Mark Strong and Max Von Sydow also star.
Due out May 14
A Nightmare on Elm Street
For better or worse, Wes Craven's 80s slasher classic is reimagined for a new generation in this Samuel Bayer film. At 5ft 5, Jackie Earle Haley will cut a rather diminutive figure as Freddy Krueger, the horribly disfigured killer who haunts the dreams of a group of terrified teenagers played by Rooney Mara, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker and Kellan Lutz.
Due out mid-May
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Based rather inauspiciously on a popular video game, Disney's big budget summer action film is set in sixth-century Persia and stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a peasant boy who's adopted by the king after showing valour in battle, and is made heir to the whole kingdom. English beauty Gemma Arterton co-stars as Princess Tamina, with whom our hero teams up to rescue the Sands of Time from Ben Kingsley's baddie.
Due out May 28
Sex and the City 2
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, Carrie Bradshaw and chums return in this sequel to the hugely successful 2008 film based on the TV show. Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis and Cynthia Nixon all reprise their roles, and there'll also be cameos from the likes of Miley Cyrus and Penelope Cruz. Will Carrie and her Mr Big finally live happily ever after? Do you really care?
Due out May 28
Teenage females will be swooning in the aisle as Robert Pattinson and Co return to the big screen for this third instalment in the Twilight franchise. While Victoria hovers in the shadows determined to get her revenge, Bella will be forced to choose between Edward and Jacob. Isn't that the plot of the last one? Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner and Bryce Dallas Howard co-star.
Due out June 30
Shrek Forever After
In what we are promised will be the last instalment of the much-loved animated series, Mike Myers reprises his role as the loveable ogre, who after being tricked by Rumpelstiltskin ends up in a parallel universe where Donkey is a bookish intellectual who's never met Shrek, Puss in Boots is fat and lazy, and Fiona is the leader of a group of outlaw orgres.
Due out July 9
Knight and Day
Tom Cruise will endeavour to revive his A-list career and prove he can still front up a summer blockbuster with this whimsical action thriller directed by James Mangold (Walk the Line). Cruise plays Roy Milner, whose blind date with a woman called June (Cameron Diaz) takes a disastrous turn when he's forced to involve her in a desperate race to find a vital and missing power source.
Due out July 14
Leonardo DiCaprio, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy and Michael Caine are among the cast of this eagerly awaited sci-fi drama from Christopher Nolan. DiCaprio is an agent who drugs high-flying business people and enters their dreams to find out their secrets and strategies, which he then sells to the highest bidder. But he ends up on the run when a heist goes spectacularly wrong.
Due out July 16
Toy Story 3
Certain to be one of the biggest-grossing films of the year, Pixar's sequel reunites Woody, Buzz and the rest of Andy's toys in a new and terrifying adventure. Andy is 18, and when his mother tries to throw the toys out, they decide to run away and end up in a daycare centre where Barbie meets a smooth-taking Ken (Micheal Keaton) and Buzz gets badly damaged.
Due out July 23
In yet another 80s remake, the teen martial arts hit is revived, with Jackie Chan playing the part of kung-fu mentor Mr Han. The film is produced by Will Smith and designed as a star vehicle for his 12-year-old son Jaden, who plays a Detroit high-school kid who is not best pleased when his mother decides to relocate to Beijing. Taraji P Henson co-stars.
Due out July 30
In this adaptation of the daft but much-loved 80s TV show, Liam Neeson assumes the George Peppard role of Hannibal, leader of a group of former US Special Forces soldiers who've gone on the run after being accused of a crime they didn't commit and do battle with all and sundry as they try to clear their name. Bradley Cooper, Jessica Biel and District 9 star Sharlto Copley co-star in a film that won't be short on action.
Due out July 30
The Last Airbender
M Night Shyamalan changes tack a bit with this adventure fantasy based on an animated TV show. In an ancient world where the elements of fire, earth, air and water can be controlled by people regrettably known as 'benders', the ruthless Fire Nation is waging war to subjugate the world and only a young boy called Aang can stop them. It's supposedly the first part of a trilogy, but we'll see about that.
Due out August 13
In what promises to be a Dirty Dozen for our times, action legends Sylvester Stallone, Jet Li, Jason Statham and Dolph Lundgren play a group of disreputable mercenaries who are sent to a South American country to provoke a regime change by all possible means. Stallone directs, Mickey Rourke co-stars and there'll be cameos from Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Due out on August 20
Angelina Jolie will find out if she has the pulling power to front a summer blockbuster on her own in this Phillip Noyce thriller. Tom Cruise was originally supposed to star, but the role of Eveyln Salt was rewritten for Jolie, who plays a CIA operative who's forced to go on the run when a defector accuses her of being a KGB sleeper agent. With Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor. Opens August 20.
Dinner for Schmucks
Based on the brilliant 90s French film Le Diner des Cons, this dark comedy stars Paul Dano as an ambitious government tax executive who thinks he has found the perfect twit to take to his boss's annual 'dinner for idiots', an event where the employee who brings the biggest fool wins a prize. Steve Carell literally plays the fool, and a fine cast includes Zach Galifanakis and David Walliams.
Due out late August
If you think summer festivals start with Oxegen and finish with Electric Picnic, you really couldn't be more wrong. The country is bursting with festivals of all shapes, sizes and persuasions and there's bound to be a perfectly formed intimate event just for you. Doing the festive merry-go-round needn't involve roughing it, so leave the wellies at home and set off to any or all of Eamon Sweeney's top 10 summer festivals.
CARLSBERG CAT LAUGHS
June 3-7, various venues, Kilkenny City, tickets from €10-€39
The line-up isn't exactly jaw dropping this year, but tickets are already flying out the door for Ireland's original and most successful comedy festival. Madcap Edinburgh-endorsed troupe The Idiots of Ants make their festival debut and a veritable who's who of Irish comedians will perform around the Marble City.
FLAT LAKE FESTIVAL
June 4-6, Hilton Park, Clones, Co Monaghan, tickets from €45 one day to €100 for weekend
One of Ireland's newest and most exciting festivals is a platform where literally anything goes. For their fourth instalment, there is talk of Lily Allen teaming up with Crystal Swing, a comedy symposium chaired by Alexei Sayle featuring the maestro of satire that's Chris Morris, Dominic West from The Wire reading sonnets and rumours of an appearance from Nick Cave.
CORK MIDSUMMER FESTIVAL
June 12-27, Cork City, tickets €15-€60
This annual arts extravaganza will be headlined by Philip Glass, an exclusive presentation of Sigarev's acclaimed Russian drama Plasticine , a powerful play from a teenage perspective called F*ck My Life and international dance star Jerome Bel. A full programme will be announced at the end of May.
BODY & SOUL SOLSTICE GATHERING
June 19/20, Ballinlough Castle, Co Westmeath, tickets weekend camping €109/Sunday day ticket €55
The Body & Soul area has been one of Electric Picnic's biggest hits and the best place to end up after the live music festivities. Capacity for their inaugural stand-alone event is limited to 1,500 and early bird tickets have sold out already. A costume and masquerade ball, Jape, !!! (Chk Chk Chk), Tunng and packed holistic arts schedule are just some of the attractions at what looks like the most interesting new kid on the festive block.
SEA SESSIONS SURF MUSIC FESTIVAL
June 25/26 Bundoran, Co Donegal, weekend tickets €79.95, day tickets subject to availability
The Modfather himself, Mr Paul Weller, headlines the country's biggest surf and music festival. Fun Lovin' Criminals, Andrew Weatherall, David Holmes, Trojan Sound System, David Kitt, Cathy Davey, Tom Baxter and the Frank & Walters are just some of the cast involved. You might even catch a glimpse of Weller on a surfboard.
EARAGAIL ARTS FESTIVAL
July 9-18, various venues, north west Donegal, tickets TBC
The country's largest bi-lingual, multi-disciplinary arts festival has a noble tradition of bringing maverick legends such as Chuck Berry and Mark E Smith to Donegal. It takes over the North-West corner of Ireland, from Letterkenny to the Inishowen peninsula and the Gaoth Dobhair Gaeltacht.
GALWAY FILM FLEADH
July 6-11, Galway, tickets TBC
This six-day international film festival is now in its 22nd year. At previous events, Anjelica Huston, Peter O'Toole, Jeremy Irons, Neil Jordan, Matt Dillon, Anthony Minghella, Michael Winterbottom and Oliver Reed are just some of a galaxy of stars to have made an appearance.
GALWAY ARTS FESTIVAL
July 12-25 , Galway, tickets TBC
The country's biggest arts festival bar none, with more than 150,000 people heading west to attend throughout July. This makes this an even bigger draw than Oxegen and Electric Picnic combined. Keep your eyes peeled in the coming weeks for the full programme for an illustrious event that many UK arts journalists actually prefer to Edinburgh.
FESTIVAL OF WORLD CULTURES
July 23-25, Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin, tickets free -- TBC
The 10th anniversary of what is easily Dublin's best free festival sees the event revert back to three days and brought forward into July. The vast majority of events are completely free and the festival has been blessed by good weather in recent years. The World Food Fairs are a must.
July 31/August 1, Charleville Castle, Tullamore, Co Offaly, tickets €99
While it's virtually impossible to rival the big two (Oxegen and Electric Picnic) Cherry Cool Promotions have done a sterling job in offering an alternative platform to Irish acts over the past five years. Mercury Rev will bring an international psychedelic flavour to the proceedings in 2010.
Early summer always sees a few big guns and hip young gunslingers unleash a new studio album on the world just in time for the festival circuit. LCD Soundsystem, MIA and The Chemical Brothers lead the electronic pack, while the Drums could well be the biggest thing in rock before the summer's out. Meanwhile, all local eyes and ears will be on the imminent release of Becoming a Jackal by Villagers. 2010 has been a good year for albums to date, with Joanna Newsom, Gil Scott-Heron, JJ, Laura Marling and Caribou all releasing crackers. Expect some of the following to be in the running for the end-of-year polls, says Eamon Sweeney.
High Violet (4AD), out May 7
You could stream the third album from The National in its entirety earlier this week on The New York Times website. On initial digital spins, it sounds like a solid addition to an excellent body of work. Already hailed as "a masterpiece" on a Melbourne music blog, High Violet was awarded an impressive 9.5 out of 10.
Becoming a Jackal (Domino), out May 7
It's a pleasure to report that the most keenly anticipated Irish album of the year doesn't disappoint. Conor O'Brien will provide the soundtrack for the summer with a terrific album that's destined to be a hit both at home and away.
Total Life Forever (Transgressive), out May 10
Foals exploded out of Oxford in 2008 with a thrilling debut album entitled Antidotes, but its successor will be the true test of their credentials. Described somewhat puzzlingly by the band as "tropical prog" and "like the dream of an eagle dying", it's reported that the band have gone for a more expansive soundtrack-feel. Let's hope there are a few dancefloor corkers too.
This is Happening (DFA), out May 14
Taster track Drunk Girls is disappointing, but we have to give James Murphy the benefit of the doubt considering that The Sound of Silver is one of the last decade's finest albums. The third and supposedly final LCD Soundsystem album has already leaked online, despite impassioned pleas from Murphy onstage in New York to anyone who had a copy. "I don't care about money," he said. "After it comes out, give it to whoever you want for free. But until then, keep it to yourself."
Shadows (PeMa), out May 31
This Glaswegian institution for jangly pop might be well past the point of being teenagers, but they're one of the most enduring and consistent guitar pop bands around. Blessed with at least three essential albums, the Fannies should at least give their contemporaries a good run for their money.
THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS
Further (Freestyle Dust/Parlophone), out June 7
A few short years ago, I'd written off the Chemical Brothers as has-beens. How wrong I was. Their closing set at Glastonbury 2007 remains one of the finest dance shows I've ever seen and they've also hit cracking recent form in the studio. Early reports and snippets suggest that Further is the most melodic and psychedelic Chems albums yet.
The Drums (ISLAND), out June 7
Recorded in flats in Florida and New York City and a cabin in Woodstock, the new album from the highly touted Brooklyn band looks set to be a big one. Responsible for Ed Power's album-of-the-year accolade for 2009, the quartet can be seen on these shores supporting Florence and the Machine at the Olympia.
MIA (XL), out June 28
Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam follows up the crossover success-grabbing Kala with an eponymous third album. Although I'd consider Kala to be a highly over-rated album, you just can't argue with songs of the calibre of Paper Planes. The leaked track Born Free is a rocker that samples Ghost Rider by Suicide.
Night Work (Polydor), out June 20
It's been a while since Jake Shears, Ana Matronic and Co have been strutting their power-pop stuff. We've missed them and they're a sure bet for brightening up the summer with a riot of fun and colour.
Aphrodite (Parlophone), out July 5
Jake and Babydaddy from the Scissor Sisters also joined an army of songwriters, producers and collaborators for Kylie's latest attempt to seize the crown of the Queen of Pop. Touted as a return to the dancefloor, Aphrodite could well be the pop blockbuster of the season. Here's hoping it's Lucky, Lucky, Lucky.