Jennifer Hudson, Common, Elvis Costello and Flying Lotus top The Rady Shell 2022 season lineup

The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park
(Photo courtesy of San Diego Symphony)

Other artists booked for the San Diego Symphony’s outdoor summer lineup range from Joss Stone and Mariachi Los Camperos to Bernadette Peters and Gipsy Kings


How will the San Diego Symphony follow last year’s splashy debut of its $85 million bayside concert venue, The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park?

By getting bigger, without getting bigger. And, no, that’s not a space-warping scenario for the latest film sequel to “The Matrix.”

But it is a timely move for the orchestra’s expansive 2022 season at The Shell, as the outdoor venue is also known.

The Shell won’t be expanding its footprint within the 3.6 acre site it occupies at downtown’s Embarcadero Marina Park South. That would be impossible, since three of The Shell’s four sides are just a few yards away from the adjacent bay.

But the venue will expand its median capacity for each concert to 4,718, up from 3,500 last year, by adding five new rows of seating. That’s an increase of nearly 30 percent for the venue, whose original 2020 opening was pushed back more than a year by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Not coincidentally, The Shell will bring in a number of prominent artists — including Bonnie Raitt, Common and Joss Stone — whose 2020 and 2021 tours were derailed by the pandemic.

“Clearly, we discovered and learned a lot from the 50-plus concerts we did at The Shell in 2021,” said San Diego Symphony CEO Martha Gilmer. “Now, we know what the venue can do.”

Running from June 24 to Oct. 3, with more fall concerts still to be announced, the upcoming season will also feature such disparate artists as Sheryl Crow, Trombone Shorty, Flying Lotus and Mariachi Los Camperos.

That diversity of styles reflects a desire to continue building a larger audience following last year’s season, at which 52 percent of the concertgoers were attending a symphony-presented event for the first time. A slew of pre-opening publicity built anticipation for the new venue, while orchestral concerts by hip-hop veteran Nas and former Police drummer Stewart Copeland helped draw fresh audiences.

“A lot of the new people who came said: ‘We didn’t even know you were out here’!” Gilmer said.

As in 2021, this year’s opening night at The Shell will feature San Diego Symphony music director Rafael Payare conducting the orchestra, which he has led for the past four years. Payare will also be at the podium for the “1812 Tchaikovsky Spectacular” on Aug. 26.

“The two concerts I will be conducting are going to be quite special,” he said.

“On opening night it’s the West Coast premiere of the piano concerto by Reinaldo Moya and we will be using (projections of) wonderful drawings by Carlos Cruz-Diez, this fantastic Venezuelan artist that the piano concerto was inspired by. We are also going to be doing the traditional ‘Tchaikovsky Spectacular,’ including the 1812 overture. We’re going to have a couple of surprises during that concert...”

Jennifer Hudson
Jennifer Hudson will perform Aug. 28 at The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park, where she will be accompanied by the San Diego Symphony.
(Christina House/Los Angeles Times)

The other concerts in the last week of August include Jennifer Hudson, a double-bill of Elvis Costello & The Imposters and Nick Lowe, and a triple-bill of George Benson, War and The Commodores.

The concerts are booked by Lea Slusher, who has been the symphony’s vice president for artistic administration and audience development since 2018. The pandemic saw her, like the symphony itself, become adept at pivoting in response to repeatedly rescheduling the lineup of performers when entire tours were postponed or canceled altogether.

“Lea has often said that not all the artists we will present this year at The Shell were touring last year. But, with those who were, we had a tremendous opening season,” Gilmer noted.

“The number of opportunities to book artists who are on the road again is up, a lot, this year. And now that our new venue is known to artists, Lea was really able to create a dazzling lineup for our second season.”

Slusher was previously the artistic projects director at Carnegie Hall in New York. Some of the performers she had booked for The Shell’s original summer 2020 opening date were pushed back to 2021 and some to this year. The rescheduling is an ongoing process.

“We have artists we couldn’t fit in for 2022 who we are now looking at for 2023,” Slusher said. “So, we’ll start booking our 2023 Shell season by this September. And we’re open to other promoters renting the venue, whether it’s Goldenvoice/AEG, Live Nation or someone else.”

In fact, both of those rival concert production companies have already rented The Shell for later this year.

AEG is bringing teen vocal sensation Olivia Rodrigo in for a sold-out May 18 concert, while Live Nation is presenting Norah Jones on June 28. And The House of Music, a San Diego nonprofit that provides free instruments and lessons to underprivileged youths, is doing a May 1 fundraising concert headlined by the legendary Cuban band Los Van Van at The Shell.

AEG also rented The Shell for an Aug. 14 performance by comedian Sebastian Maniscalco. The capacity for that sold-out show was 7,000 and extra rows of seats were added in place of some of the four-person dinner tables on one of the venue’s terrace sections.

More options, more concerts

Steve Martin, left, and Martin Short
Comedians Steve Martin, left, and Martin Short will perform June 19 at The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park, just five days before the San Diego Symphony opens its 2022 summer season at he bayside venue.
(Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

“Because The Shell is a year-round venue, we can add shows,” Slusher said. “If someone already going out on tour decides they want to play here, we have no problem accommodating them, like we did with the (June 19) Steve Martin and Martin Short show that we announced back in January.”

The Shell’s expanded seating capacity will enable the symphony to better accommodate larger audiences at the venue. Judging by how well the venue’s 2021 debut season went, that’s a sound move.

Despite not opening until last August — a month later then the symphony’s pre-pandemic summer seasons — the Shell drew 48,000 attendees to its first 15 concerts last August and more than 40,000 to its 13 concerts in September. That came out to an average of 3,100 per show.

That 88,000-plus total attendance was a record. It exceeded the number of concertgoers during any other two-month period in the symphony’s decades of previous outdoor summer seasons.

Moreover, because The Shell was built as a year-round venue, another 18 nights of music took place there between October and mid-November, followed by three holiday shows and two concerts with films in December.

A total of 126,831 tickets were sold for The Shell’s inaugural season, which coincided with the start of a $125 million renovation of the symphony’s indoor home, Jacobs Music Center’s Copley Symphony Hall. That renovation is scheduled for completion before the end of the year.

By comparison, the 13 concerts held in 2021 at the nearly 20,000-capacity North Island Credit Union Amphitheatre in Chula Vista drew a combined audience of 109,327, according to Pollstar, the nation’s leading live-events publication.

The five additional rows of seating at The Shell, which will be installed near the rear of the venue in the Bridge View section, will still leave room at each concert for 300 general admission lawn tickets behind the new rows. That’s the same number of unreserved lawn tickets that was available for last year’s season, but now the unreserved lawn area — which were behind Row T last year — will be behind Row Z.

“One of the things we learned in the first year of operating The Shell was flexible seating, because you can expand or contract based on the size or types of performances,” said Craig Hall, the symphony’s vice president for communications and marketing.

“Successful as we were in the first year, and happy as we were with the feedback we got from patrons about the variety of concerts and the number of concerts, our second year should be even better.

“We’re starting almost six weeks earlier, which we couldn’t do last year because of COVID, and more artists are available this year, so we’ll have more concerts.”

The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park 2022 Season Lineup

All concerts are at 7:30 p.m., unless indicated otherwise.

Friday, June 24: Opening night — “Orchestral Technicolor,” featuring the San Diego Symphony, conducted by Rafael Payare, $20-$95

Saturday, June 25: Boyz II Men with the San Diego Symphony conducted by Christopher Dragon, $40-$210

Sunday, June 26: “Straight, No Chaser: The Music of Thelonious Monk,” featuring Charles McPherson, Gilbert Castellanos, Gerald Clayton, Lewis Nash & Rodney Whitaker, $20-$75

Friday, July 1: “Black Panther in Concert,” with the San Diego Symphony, conducted by Anthony Parnther, $30-$130

Saturday, July 2: “Toy Story in Concert,” with the San Diego Symphony, conducted by Susie Benchasil Seiter, $30-$130

Sunday, July 3: Common, with the San Diego Symphony, conducted by Damon Gupton, $30-$130

Monday, July 4: Kool & The Gang, July 4, $30-$130

Thursday, July 7: Tower of Power and Lettuce, with the San Diego Symphony, conducted by Christopher Dragon, $30-$130

Friday, July 8: “The Best of Times: Megan Hilty Sings Jerry Herman,” with the San Diego Symphony, conducted by Rob Fisher, $20-$95

Saturday, July 9: “Uptown Nights,” with Carmen Bradford and Leo Manzari with the San Diego Symphony, conducted by Byron Stripling, $20-$95

Sunday, July 10: “The Midtown Men,” featuring stars from the original Broadway cast of “Jersey Boys,” $20-$95

Friday, July 15: Beethoven by the Bay: Symphony No. 7, with the San Diego Symphony, conducted by Edo de Waart, $20-$95

Saturday, July 16: “Get Happy: Michael Feinstein Celebrates the Judy Garland Centennial,” with the San Diego Symphony, conducted by Ted Sperling, (Orchestral Premiere) $20-$95

Sunday, July 17: Joss Stone, with KT Tunstall, $30-$130

Friday, July 29 and Saturday, July 30: “Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, Part I, In Concert,” with the San Diego Symphony, conducted by John Jesensky, $30-$130

Tuesday, Aug. 2: Sheryl Crow, with Keb’ Mo’, $40-$210

Friday, Aug. 5: “Philharmonia Fantastique,” with the San Diego Symphony, conducted by Jason Seber, $20-$95

Saturday, Aug. 6: The Beach Boys, with the San Diego Symphony, conducted by Sean O’Loughlin, $40-$210

Sunday, Aug. 7: Bernadette Peters, with the San Diego Symphony conducted by Marvin Laird, $30-$130

Friday, Aug. 12: “The Princess Bride In Concert,” with the San Diego Symphony, conducted by David Newman, $30-$130

Saturday, Aug. 13: “The Music of John Williams: 90th Birthday Celebration,” with the San Diego Symphony, conducted by David Newman, $20-$95

Sunday, Aug, 14: Trombone Shorty’s Voodoo Threauxdown, 6 p.m. $30-$130

Thursday, Aug. 18: Pink Martini, with the San Diego Symphony, conducted by Stuart Chafetz, $30-$130

Friday, Aug. 19: “Disco Inferno — A 70’s Celebration,” featuring Scott Coulter, with the San Diego Symphony conducted by Stuart Chafetz, $20-$95

Sunday, Aug. 21: Gipsy Kings, featuring Nicolas Reyes, $20-$95

Tuesday, Aug 23: Flying Lotus and Hiatus Kaiyote, with the San Diego Symphony, conducted by Christopher Dragon, $20-$95

Friday, Aug. 26: “1812 Tchaikovsky Spectacular,” with the San Diego Symphony, conducted by Rafael Payare, $20-$95

Saturday, Aug. 27: George Benson, War and The Commodores, 7 p.m., $40-$210

Sunday, Aug. 28: Jennifer Hudson, with the San Diego Symphony, conducted by Steven Reineke, $45-$270

Wednesday, Aug. 31: Elvis Costello & The Imposters, with Nick Lowe, 7 p.m., $30-$130

Saturday, Sept. 10: Classic Albums Live performs Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” $20-$95

Sunday, Sept. 11: Classic Albums Live performs the Beatles’ “Let it Be,” $20-$95

Friday, Sept. 16: “Broadway Sings ... and Swings!”, featuring Rob Fisher and Bryonha Marie, $20-$95

Saturday, Sept. 17: “Fandango at the Wall,” featuring Arturo O’Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, $20-$75

Sunday, Sept. 18: CeeLo Green’s “Tribute to James Brown,” with Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, $30-$130

Tuesday, Sept. 27: Bonnie Raitt, with Mavis Staples, 7 p.m., $40-$160

Monday, Oct. 3: Aida Cuevas, with Mariachi Juvenil Tecalitlán and Mariachi Los Camperos, $20-$95

Tickets: Series tickets are on sale online at and by phone at (619) 235-0804. Single tickets for most concerts go on sale May 3.

Series packages: Friday “A” package: 8 concerts, $144-$670; Friday “B” package: 4 concerts, $81-$372; Friday “C” package: 4 concerts, $72-$340; Saturday “A” package: 8 concerts, $200-$969; Saturday “B” package: 4 concerts, $131-$657; Saturday “C” package: 4 concerts, $81-$372; Sunday “A” package: 7 concerts, $154-$683; Sunday “B” package: 3 concerts, $81-$351; Sunday “C” package: 4 concerts, $84-$375; Weekday “A” package: 6 concerts, $143-$668; Weekday “B” package: 3 concerts, $81-$351; Weekday “C” package: 3 concerts, $72 - $359; Jazz at The Rady Shell package: two concerts, $36-$134