Who is on the schedule for the 2018 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival?
A Fats Domino tribute is a safe bet. So, too, are appearances by Irma Thomas, Galactic, Walter "Wolfman" Washington, the Revivalists, Big Sam's Funky Nation, Kermit Ruffins, the Soul Rebels, Michael White, Anders Osborne, Tab Benoit and the hundreds of other Louisiana artists that make up the foundation of the festival.
But speculation about the Big Name Acts — the “BNAs,” in the shorthand of online Jazz Fest fan forums — heats up in early January, as other major festivals around the country reveal their rosters.
Deducing who won’t be at Jazz Fest is always easier than determining who will be. Educated guesses can be made based on touring schedules, stylistic considerations and the occasional indiscreet tweet.
A disclaimer: nothing is official until Jazz Fest says it is. The big unveiling will likely be later this month.
Meanwhile, here are my predictions about who you might, and definitely won't, hear at the Fair Grounds this spring:
Eagles, Steely Dan, Bon Jovi, the Doobie Brothers, Dead & Company, Luke Bryan, Chicago, Maroon 5, Joe Bonamassa, John Prine, Trey Anastasio, Chris Stapleton, Kacey Musgraves
All of these acts are on tour this spring/summer and have either played the festival before, or fit within its broad, contemporary parameters. But none of them will be at the Fair Grounds in 2018 because they’re already booked for their own stand-alone concerts elsewhere in New Orleans. Verdict: Definitely not.
With a new album to promote, Eminem is making the rounds of major American festivals this year, including Coachella in southern California, Boston Calling in Massachusetts, The Governors Ball in New York and Bonnaroo in Tennessee. But the Real Slim Shady is a little too real, and raw, for the (mostly) family-friendly Jazz Fest. It’s more likely he’ll return to the Voodoo Experience in City Park for the third time this fall. Verdict: Not happening.
ELO, Rod Stewart, Fleetwood Mac
Fleetwood Mac is reuniting for what could be a final tour, but it reportedly won’t get underway until June. Rod Stewart will be in town for the Endymion Extravaganza in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Feb. 10, but his summer tour doesn’t kick off until June 25. Jeff Lynne has reactivated Electric Light Orchestra for a major North American tour, but it doesn’t launch until Aug. 2. Thus, the timing doesn’t work for any of these. Verdict: Extremely unlikely.
He postponed 19 shows on his fall 2017 tour to undergo back surgery, but his recovery has apparently progressed nicely. His website says rescheduled dates have been mapped out for “a coast to coast reboot of the tour this spring.” One postponed concert was in Houston; if it is rescheduled for late April/early May, a Jazz Fest add-on is feasible. If Seger does fire up his Silver Bullet Band at the Fair Grounds, Jazz Fest can finally check off one of the last major, still-active, baby boomer legends from its wish list (following previous appearances by Elton John, Eric Clapton, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, etc.). One potential snag: AEG Live co-produces Jazz Fest, but Live Nation, AEG’s main competitor, is promoting the Seger tour. Verdict: Maybe.
The itinerary of the pop star’s arena headlining tour includes two shows in Houston on April 28-29, two nights in Dallas on May 1-2, then Denver on May 8. So it’s entirely feasible that Pink could perform during Jazz Fest’s second weekend in the female pop diva slot previously occupied by the likes of Lorde, Christina Aguilera and Meghan Trainor. One caveat: Pink couldn’t stage her full, extravagant production in the daylight at Jazz Fest. Verdict: Maybe.
The voice of Led Zeppelin is on the road in 2018 promoting a new album, “Carry Fire.” A brief North American run concludes March 2, at which point Plant heads to Australia through April 8. His subsequent touring schedule is blank until a few European dates starting in late May. Most acts wouldn’t travel to the U.S. for a one-off gig at Jazz Fest – but Plant has done it before. In 2014, he and his Sensational Space Shifters took a break from recording an album in England to play a single show on the Gentilly Stage. An unabashed fan of New Orleans and its music, Plant previously performed at Jazz Fest with Patty Griffin in 2011 and Alison Krauss in 2008. Verdict: Maybe, but a long shot.
Chic featuring Nile Rodgers
Arguably the greatest disco band of all time will bring its “Good Times” to Coachella the weekend before Jazz Fest. They’d be a whole lot of fun at the Congo Square Stage. Verdict: Possible.
The modern-day guitar hero has performed at Jazz Fest with various projects. He’s on the festival circuit this year, hitting The Governors Ball, Boston Calling and, more relevant to a New Orleans routing, Atlanta’s Shaky Knees, which is May 4-6. Verdict: Possible.
The former Talking Heads frontman with a penchant for oversize suits has spent the past couple decades dabbling in music from around the globe. The weekend of April 20-22, he’s at Coachella; the weekend of May 4-6, he’ll perform at Shaky Knees. His schedule in between could easily incorporate a Jazz Fest date. Verdict: Likely.
John Hiatt & the Goners
On Jan. 11-12 in Lafayette, the roots rock singer-songwriter kicks off a tour celebrating the 30th anniversary of his band the Goners, which features Lafayette slide guitar ace and Jazz Fest favorite Sonny Landreth. The announced itinerary concludes March 31, then resumes Aug. 31. Especially given the Landreth connection, Hiatt would be a natural fit for either the Fais Do-Do or Gentilly stages. Verdict: Probably.
Even in the years he isn’t officially on the bill, Mr. Margaritaville shows up to hang out and have fun. Last year, he made a surprise appearance with Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds. This year, he’ll likely sing for his gumbo once again. Verdict: Likely.
The surfer-dude's chill acoustic ruminations are right in Jazz Fest’s wheelhouse, and he has played the fest once before. He has gigs booked in Texas on April 25-27, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on May 1 and Nashville on May 2, which means scheduling a stop at Jazz Fest either weekend is not just possible but convenient. Verdict: Likely.
This one is easy. The contemporary R&B/soul star, who is embarking on a farewell tour this year, apparently didn’t get the memo about keeping Jazz Fest bookings secret until the full festival’s unveiling. On Jan. 2, she tweeted, “Did s’one say N’Awlins??? If they did, I’d say ... yep. We headline the Jazz Heritage Fest this yr.” She’ll likely headline the Congo Square Stage, but that's one detail she kept to herself. Verdict: Definitely.