Hamilton’s Leslie Odom Jr. to Headline 4th of July Concert

Yazz the Greatest and Christina Perri will also perform. Also new this year: Fireworks will start at 10, instead of 11. Welcome America says it will announce more acts in early June.

Wawa Welcome America logo

The 4th of July concert is going to have an all-Philadelphia feel this year.

Two headliners for the annual 4th of July concert on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, which organizers call the “largest free concert in America,” are both Philadelphia natives. Leslie Odom Jr., who stars as Aaron Burr in the Broadway smash Hamilton, will perform and emcee the event. Rapper Yazz the Greatest, who plays Hakeem Lyon on Fox’s Empire, will also perform. Philadelphia Business Journal reports Bucks County native Christina Perri is a third artist on the main 4th of July bill.

Odom Jr. was raised in East Oak Lane. Yazz was born in West Philadelphia. But they’re not the only two: There will also be a concert featuring music from The Sound of Philadelphia, with The O’Jays, Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes, The Intruders and The Sound of Philadelphia Orchestra (aka the Urban Guerrilla Orchestra).

“We want our Philly artists to shine both on the big stages and the small stages,” Welcome America CEO Jeff Guaracino said. “From millennials to boomers, you will find something that you will love. … let’s not forget, The Sound of Philadelphia, T-S-O-P, ‘Money, money, money.’ That was on Donald Trump’s Apprentice!”

But the biggest news of the day, at least for residents near the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, was this: The concert will begin at 5 p.m. The fireworks will begin at 10 p.m. This is an hour earlier than in recent years.

“We heard from everyone that we wanted fireworks to go off earlier,” Guaracino said. “It also is, for the next four years, a work night. For people to come and see and participate in our festival, we wanted them to know that they could be home at a normal hour.”

Guaracino said moving the fireworks an hour earlier also saves the city $40,000. Welcome America — which has Wawa as its title sponsor once again — says last year’s budget was $2.1 million, and this year it is $2.2 million. “Our new partnerships have been able to open up incredible opportunities,” Guaracino said. It is the first year Live Nation is a partner in the event.

Guaracino said the contracts are just being finalized for two additional artists who will perform on the Parkway on the 4th of July. One, Welcome America hinted, was named one of the “10 New Artists You Need to Know” by Rolling Stone. Recent Philly people on such lists are Lil Uzi Vert (a 21-year-old with a mix of a Philly and trap sound), Japanese Breakfast (the side project of Little Big League’s Michelle Zauner) and Sports (two band members moved to Philly after graduation). Or maybe it’s someone else.

This is the first time The Roots will not headline the festival for the first time since 2008. “#goodluckwiththat,” Questlove tweeted in March.

Last year, Miguel and Jennifer Nettles played the show with The Roots, a year after Nicki Minaj caught some ire for a profanity-laden performance. Philadelphia magazine’s Victor Fiorillo was not a fan of last year’s concert, writing that “Philadelphia Has Officially Ruined the Fourth of July.

Perhaps in response to some criticisms of recent concerts as too adult-themed, Welcome America has also added an afternoon concert on the Parkway on the 4th this year: Kidz Bop — where a group of kids cover pop songs — with Biz Markie. (The local connection here is that… Biz Markie was born in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey.)

Fiorillo also wrote a long history of Philly 4th of July performances in 2014, stretching back to 1994. (In 2002, Philly had Brian McKnight and The Baha Men!)

Welcome America runs from June 27th to July 4th, with the concert and fireworks show serving as the grand finale of the event. There will also be two more fireworks shows on July 1st and July 2nd at the Delaware River waterfront. Wawa will also serve up a 5-ton hoagie, and offer free admission to the Constitution Center for two days. The Barnes Foundation will also be free for one day. Telemundo (Channel 62) will also broadcast the event in Spanish for the first time.

Follow @dhm on Twitter.