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Here's a thought to warm the hearts of music fans on a cold, dark February night: think of sunny, warm spring days spent with U2, 'N Sync, Eric Clapton and Dave Matthews.

And the Backstreet Boys might be thrown in for good measure.

That's the scenario that could make June one of the best months in recent local concert history.

The fun actually starts on May 31, when U2, fresh off winning three Grammy Awards Wednesday, plays the HSBC Arena. The band's "Elevation Tour" comes to town as Bono and the band will be performing, "Beautiful Day," which won the Grammy for record of the year.

Youth will be served on June 10, when 'N Sync returns to the area for a third consecutive year with a concert in Ralph Wilson Stadium. In the past, the group had played Darien Lake and the HSBC Arena.

Now 'N Sync will be the first boy band or teen act to headline at the Orchard Park stadium. The group has the drawing power to attract over 40,000 fans.

Eric Clapton will come to the HSBC Arena on June 15 as part of his world tour. The guitar legend and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer will be part of the Buffalo Niagara Guitar Festival, which runs from June 14-17, said Donald K. Boswell, who organized the festival.

A number of downtown clubs will participate in the festival, and jazz performers Charlie Hunter and John Scofield will play the Tralf. Dave Matthews is scheduled to play Ralph Wilson Stadium on June 20, and talented R&B singer Macy Gray is opening the show. Matthews played the stadium last year, and another huge crowd is expected.

The Backstreet Boys remain among the top acts in the world and although nothing has been finalized, the boy band is reportedly considering a June date here.

Another hot teen act, O-Town, just might show up here in May as part of the Kiss radio high school spirit contest, but it's only a rumor at this point.

Fans won't have to wait that long to see other big-name stars. March 13 is shaping up as a double-header for major national acts.

Bela Fleck, the banjo master who fuses jazz, rock and classical music, plays with his band the Flecktones in the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts. Matchbox Twenty, Everclear and Lifehouse offer a hard rock show in the HSBC Arena.

Ani DiFranco brings her combination of folk and punk sounds to a hometown gig on April 4 in Kleinhans Music Hall. Willie Nelson is tentatively scheduled to play Shea's Performing Arts Center on April 7, while folksinger Gordon Lightfoot is at the UB Center for the Arts on April 22.

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, who combine ska and rock with a party atmosphere, are expected to open the season for Thursday at the Square with a performance on May 24.

For those willing to travel, Elton John and Billy Joel are scheduled to perform May 5 in the Syracuse Carrier Dome.

Stay tuned - the concert season (unlike the weather) is just heating up.

Chuck Harrington is a local singer with a big band sensibility and a passion for Broadway. Both are apparent on his new CD, "You're Gonna Hear From Me - The Many Moods of Chuck Harrington."

This is a pop album in the mold of Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra, filled with a big, sophisticated sound and polished arrangements. Harrington covers such standards on the CD as "The Best is Yet to Come" and "My Funny Valentine." The CD has been getting airplay on local stations WJJL-AM 1440 and WXRL-AM 1300.

Pop Notes

ORENGUE is a local tropical dance band that makes its debut at 10 tonight in the Pearl Street Brewing Co., 76 Pearl St. Oren Hollasch, of Outer Circle Orchestra, is in the band along with Nick Brabson, Jose "Chelo" Centeno, Eddie Caldelario, Jose Gonzalez, Jake Smith, Aaron Smith and Jeremy Kunz.

RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE has been looking for a new singer since Zach de la Rocha left in October. Chris Cornell, ex-lead singer of Soundgarden, has been jamming with the band of late, but it appears it will not be a full-time job. Tom Morello, lead guitarist for the band, told MTV there are no plans to make Cornell Rage's new frontman.

Looks like Canada's MATTHEW GOOD BAND is ready for the big breakthrough in the States. The Vancouver band is getting radio airplay for its modern rock track, "Hello Time Bomb." The song is featured on the band's current album, "Beautiful Midnight," and will be performing at "Variety Rocks" at 7 p.m. March 2 in the Sideshow Music Hall in Lackawanna. Tickets are $10, $6 in advance.

Usually it's virtually impossible to hear female artists on the Edge, 103.3 FM. But the local alternative station's male-dominated playlist should open up to P.J. HARVEY. The singer will be opening for U2 when the band plays Buffalo, and because of that local gig, the Edge may actually give her some airplay.

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