The Big Gigs for the week of 4/27

  • Article by: STAR TRIBUNE STAFF , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 27, 2012 - 9:30 AM
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Fountains of Wayne

Photo: Violette Alvarez,

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POP/ROCK

Three years ago, Gladys Knight did a U.K. farewell tour. But if you've caught her on "Dancing With the Stars" this season, you realize that, at 67, she's far from the retiring type. Although she hasn't released a new album since 2006, the Empress of Soul has sung on "American Idol," in a Tyler Perry movie and at Michael Jackson's funeral, and performed regularly in Las Vegas and on tour. With classics like "Midnight Train to Georgia," "If I Were Your Woman" and "Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me," the underappreciated Knight has a top-shelf repertoire of pop-soul. (8 p.m. Fri., Mystic Lake Casino, $55-$69.) Jon Bream

This week's edition of MPR's "Wits" pairs Grammy-winning songwriter Dan Wilson -- who penned "Someone Like You" for Adele, "Home" for Dierks Bentley and "Not Ready to Make Nice" for the Dixie Chicks -- with veteran comic actor Fred Willard, who has shown he knows his way around music in such films as "This Is Spinal Tap" and "A Mighty Wind." Reuniting Wilson with "Wits" music director John Munson, his bandmate in Semisonic and Trip Shakespeare, should also make for good times. (8 p.m. Fri., Fitzgerald Theater, $32. SOLD OUT.) Bream

New York-bred boy/girl duo School of Seven Bells just dropped a 7-inch cover of Siouxsie & the Banshees' classic "Kiss Them for Me" for Record Store Day, which was a perfect reflection of their ethereal but not overly electronic synth-pop. They also found a great match in current tour partners Exitmusic, another coed duo from New York with a similarly moody sound but more dramatic, Florence Welch-like vocals. The newcomers played a powerful live set at South by Southwest and will release their debut, "Passage," May 22. (9 p.m. Fri., Triple Rock. $15.) Chris Riemenschneider

Veteran New York singer/songwriter Freedy Johnston is best known for his mid-'90s alt-pop hit "Bad Reputation" but he's earning a good reputation touring with Twin Cities singer/songwriters Kevin Bowe and Alison Scott. Johnston teamed up with some other pals, Susan Cowsill and Jon Dee Graham, for a new trio album, "At Least We Have Each Other." (9 p.m. Fri., Amsterdam, $10.) Bream

Twin Cities rocker Brian Cristofono flirted with rock stardom in the late '90s and early '00s with the Drive, which briefly blew up in Europe. He's back with a solo album that still sounds rock-starry and 15 years ago, a polished Brit-poppy set that (no slam) aimed more at listeners of K-Twin FM than 89.3 the Current. It features Michael Bland on drums and Drive bassist Jeff Ringate, a survivor of the Interstate 35W bridge collapse. Cristofono is hosting a dual release party with Modern Day Ruin. Control Theory opens. (9 p.m. Sat., Fine Line. $6.) Riemenschneider

Between its Westerbergian/Big Starry power pop, wry and witty storytelling and sheer stick-to-it-iveness, Fountains of Wayne has found a permanent place in the hearts of Twin Cities music lovers. The New Jersey band is still best known from the MTV hit "Stacy's Mom" and the soundtrack to the Tom Hanks film "That Thing You Do," but its new album, "Sky Full of Holes," is a solid reminder of how masterful co-leaders Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood are at their craft. Fellow Jersey native Nicole Atkins opens. (8 p.m. Sat., Varsity Theater. $22-$25.) Riemenschneider

Still in great voice and good humor at 71, Judy Collins' recent Dakota Jazz Club shows have been big treats. Now the folk-pop hitmaker of "Both Sides Now," "Send in the Clowns" and "Amazing Grace" (and the inspiration for "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes") bumps up to the larger but still comfy and intimate Guthrie Theater. She may tell fewer stories in the bigger room, but you'll still get chills from her blessed clarion voice. (7:30 p.m. Mon., Guthrie Theater, $40.) Tom Surowicz

Local rockers Howler might learn a thing or two from the Drums. The young, Florida-bred, New York-based band endured its own burst of British music-press mania in 2009 with its debut EP, "Summertime!," generating cocky comments from frontman Jonny Pierce and the eventual departure of guitarist Adam Kessler. But the band sharpened its brooding, Smiths-copping sound to win everyone over again with its second full-length, "Portamento." Craft Spells and Part Time open. (8 p.m. Mon., Fine Line. $15.) Riemenschneider

No doubt the only cello ensemble that covers Kanye West, Justin Timberlake and Pantera tunes, the Portland Cello Project is on a mission to bow their way into the musical mainstream. To that end they've collaborated onstage with everyone from the Dandy Warhols and Dan Bern to Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul & Mary. At this show, they will saw away with help from opening act Emily Wells, a violinist, "loopist" and singer/songwriter with a new CD, "Mama." (7:30 p.m. Tue., Cedar Cultural Center, $12-$15.) Surowicz

How ironic that "Huh?" is scrawled across the cover of the new Spiritualized record, "Sweet Heart, Sweet Light." That was a common reaction to past Spiritualized albums, which were steeped in hazy '60s psychedelia and grandiose ambition to a fault at times. But madcap genius Jason Pierce seems to have found the right mix here, balancing subtle Velvet Underground-like jams with sweeter, Stonesy Brit-pop. The new material could very well produce one big "Wow!" in concert. We're getting one of the first U.S. shows in the aftermath of Pierce's treatment for a degenerative liver disease. (8 p.m. Wed., First Avenue. $20-$22.) Riemenschneider

Canadian pickers Great Lakes Swimmers beat Mumford & Sons and the Head & the Heart by a few years in bringing rootsy, wistful folk-rock to young indie-rock fans, and they're still crafting some of the loveliest. Sandy-voiced frontman Tony Dekker and his crew toy with lusher string arrangements but keep a loose, spirited sound on their fifth record, "New Wild Everywhere." They're returning to one of their favorite venues with Cold Specks. (7:30 p.m. Thu., Cedar Cultural Center. All ages. $12-$15.) Riemenschneider

"Weird Al" Yankovic will tell you that his core audience is 11-year-old boys. They get his nerdy humor. But he really is an inspired parodist, whether it's his classic Michael Jackson sendup of "Bad" ("Fat") or "CNR," his White Stripes-inspired original on last year's "Alpocalypse." The new disc includes winning takeoffs on Miley Cyrus' "Party in the U.S.A." and T.I.'s "Whatever You Like." (7:30 p.m. Thu., State Theatre, $32.50-$52.50.) Bream

HIP-HOP

One of the originators of collegiate/backpack brand hip-hop, De La Soul should need no introduction, period. Younger Twin Cities fans are now especially hip to the Long Island-bred old-school heroes after their rousing set at last year's Soundset festival and their return to the charts a few years back with the Gorillaz hit "Feel Good Inc." For better or worse, they're one of the most-played rap acts on 89.3 the Current. The original trio is back on the road gearing up for more summer fest gigs. More Than Lights, featuring the local rap pioneers from Kanser with a live band, open along with Duenday. (9:30 p.m. Fri., Cabooze. $23-$25.) Riemenschneider

WORLD

A Gipsy Kings concert is like a musical travelogue that visits France, Spain and any nation where flamenco music is practiced. But these adventurous singer/guitarists don't limit their musical horizons; elements of salsa, rumba, funk, pop, reggae and even electronica are part of the mix. (8 p.m. Sat., State, $53.50-$63.50) Bream

JAZZ

The adjective "veteran" gets tossed around lightly. But it certainly applies to sax players Dave Karr and Brian Grivna, Twin Cities jazz masters with more than a century's worth of bandstand experience between them. The self-deprecating Karr plays every reed from piccolo to bari sax, though tough and tasty tenor is his weapon of choice when cheerfully locking horns with altoist Grivna, who once toured with the mighty Buddy Rich big band. These fellows know thousands of tunes and never fail to have fun together, inspiring themselves and all within earshot. (9 p.m. Fri.-Sat., Artists' Quarter, $10.) Surowicz

At her wedding last summer, Chelsea Clinton danced to Steve Tyrell's version of "The Way You Look Tonight" from the soundtrack of "Father of the Bride." He's a smooth crooner with a taste for R&B who has recorded tributes to Frank Sinatra, Burt Bacharach and Disney music. On this year's "I'll Take Romance," he explores the Great American Songbook again, with the accent on love. (7 & 9 p.m. Sun.-Mon., Dakota, $30-$45.) Bream

FOLK

Twin Cities folk duo Curtis and Loretta are billing it as a double anniversary celebration: 35 years singing together and 25 years of marriage. Their first gig in April 1977 was in Santa Cruz, Calif., the same day they met on the beach. Their instruments have expanded from two acoustic guitars to mandolin, banjo, Celtic harp, harmonica, kazoo and more. (8 p.m. Fri., Ginkgo Coffeehouse, $8-$10.) Bream

A former engineer who didn't become a full-time musician until age 40, Bronx native Bruce Molsky has beaten all the odds to emerge as a world-class Appalachian-style fiddle player and splendid folk, old-time country and blues singer. Molsky also plays great guitar and banjo, and is adept at tackling music from all over Europe as well. In short, he's a one-man folk festival. (7 p.m. Sat., Cedar Cultural Center, $18-$20.) Surowicz

On their fifth album, "Leaving Eden," Carolina Chocolate Drops have expanded beyond their traditional African-American string-band concept. They brought in a cellist, a beat boxer and Americana ace Buddy Miller as producer. The Grammy-winning front-porch trio has become a spirited house party. (7:30 p.m. Wed., Cedar, $25-$30.) Bream

BLUES

One of the last links to the golden era of Chicago blues, James Cotton played with everybody who was anybody back in those glory years -- Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Muddy Waters, Otis Spann, et al. At 76, he's still blowing up a hurricane on harmonica, though he leaves the singing these days to the capable Darrell Nulisch, of Texas Heat and Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets renown. Nulisch is quite a good harp player himself, so don't be surprised if they trade "Mississippi saxophone" licks. (7:30 p.m. Sun., Famous Dave's Uptown, $15-$20.) Surowicz

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