Who will play Jazz Fest in 2017? Handicapping the lineup

Paul Simon performs on the Acura Stage on the second Friday of Jazz Fest in New Orleans on Friday, April 29, 2016.
Paul Simon performs on the Acura Stage on the second Friday of Jazz Fest in New Orleans on Friday, April 29, 2016. Advocate staff photo

The 2017 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival schedule will be unveiled soon. Until then, fest fans will bide their time guessing, and hoping.

Indigenous south Louisiana acts are Jazz Fest’s heart and soul. But speculation about the BNAs — Big Name Acts — drives much of the discussion, and the rumors, every year.

Word is that at least one major headlining slot has been tough to fill this year. So even though the roster may still be in flux, here are my entirely unofficial predictions about who you might, and who you definitely won’t, hear at the Fair Grounds between April 28 and May 7.

Paul McCartney: Macca tops many wish lists. The festival has, in years past, pursued him to no avail. As of this writing, the only announced dates on McCartney’s 2017 schedule are three shows in Tokyo on April 27, 29 and 30. That obviously rules him out for Jazz Fest’s first weekend. But could he bang out three shows in Japan, then fly around the globe to overflow the Fair Grounds five or six days later? Verdict: Maybe, but that would be an especially 'Long and Winding Road,' even for the indefatigable Sir Paul.

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers: The band’s 40th anniversary tour hits Atlanta on April 27, Houston on April 29 and Austin on May 2. A first-weekend Jazz Fest appearance is feasible on either side of that Houston show, with Sunday, April 30, being more likely. Petty and the Heartbreakers turned in a killer set on the Acura Stage in 2012; a return engagement looks likely. Verdict: 'The Waiting' will be over this spring.

U2: Bono and company embark on a stadium tour built around the 30th anniversary of “The Joshua Tree” on May 12 in Vancouver. In the midst of last-minute tour rehearsals, traveling to New Orleans for a festival show would make no logistical sense. Additionally, U2 will headline the Bonnaroo festival in Tennessee in June. Bonnaroo is making a big deal about how this is U2’s first-ever American festival date. They couldn’t make that claim if U2 was playing Jazz Fest. Verdict: 'With or Without You'? More like 'Without U2.'

Roger Waters: The Pink Floyd mastermind hits the road in May. But his elaborate production — with its intricate videos, lights and lasers — requires darkness. Verdict: 'Wish You Were Here' still applies.

Metallica will riff its way across North America this year. Jazz Fest isn’t as averse to loud guitars as it once was. But Metallica is just too heavy. Verdict: 'For Whom the Bell Tolls'? Not at Jazz Fest.

Lady Gaga: She and her classy pal Tony Bennett graced Jazz Fest in 2015. She’ll announce a new tour right after her Super Bowl halftime show. It may include a New Orleans date, but at the Smoothie King Center, not the Fair Grounds. Verdict: 'Paparazzi' won't be photographing her at Jazz Fest.

Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats headline the 3,800-capacity Sugar Mill in the Warehouse District on April 28. Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals are at the Orpheum Theater the same night. Jazz Fest likely wouldn’t allow them to do these nighttime concerts if they were booked at the Fair Grounds. Verdict: Nighttime is the right, and only, time to see them.

The Mavericks: Featuring one of Americana’s most sumptuous voices in Raul Malo, the Mavericks are performing near San Antonio on Saturday, April 29. A long, but do-able, overnight tour bus ride could deposit them at Jazz Fest on either the first Friday or Sunday. Anyone who saw the Mavericks’ stellar Gentilly Stage set in 2013 should have their fingers crossed. Verdict: Hopefully.

Stevie Wonder: His much-anticipated 2016 Jazz Fest show was rained out. The festival could try again this year, though Wonder hasn’t announced any touring plans for 2017. Verdict: Possibly a 'Ribbon in the Sky' instead of rain clouds.

Dave Matthews: It’s been a couple years since Dave Matthews strummed at the Fair Grounds. The DMB finishes a European tour on April 11; no additional dates have been announced. A return engagement, either for the DMB or Matthews’ unplugged duo with Tim Reynolds, could happen. Verdict: Possible.

Find out who else is a yes, a no or a maybe at TheAdvocate.com.