The Big Gigs: Live music options for May 4-10

  • Article by: STAR TRIBUNE STAFF , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 4, 2012 - 10:10 AM
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Retribution Gospel Choir

Photo: Cameron Wittig,

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POP/ROCK

Probably the last time Yanni played a small theater in the Twin Cities was with Chameleon, his Minneapolis rock band before he became the maestro of romance. Yes, Yanni was one of us, a University of Minnesota grad and a rockin' keyboardist. Now he is a global icon who's headed to South America and China after a North American tour, promoting "Live at El Morro, Puerto Rico." His group still includes percussionist Charlie Adams, drummer in Chameleon. (8 p.m. Fri., Mystic Lake Casino, $57-$68.) Jon Bream

After last year's welcome return of his better-known trio Low, Alan Sparhawk's continued commitment to Retribution Gospel Choir might have seemed in question. Not anymore. The Duluth trio has stormed back with "The Revolution EP," anchored by the power-crunch anthem "The Stone" and three more heavy hitters. RGC is stopping here on its way home from a seven-city tour. The Farewell Circuit opens. (9 p.m. Fri., Triple Rock. $12.) Chris Riemenschneider

Since picking up its Minneapolis roots and relocating to Portland, Ore., in 2009 -- before IFC's "Portlandia" series made it uncool to do so -- folky boy/girl harmony group the Lower 48 has developed a plusher sound and a pretty decent following all over the country. Its second album, "Where All Maps End," offers charming traces of Sufjan Stevens and local favorites Communist Daughter while spotlighting the sweet chemistry between singer/songwriters Ben Braden and Sarah Parson. Eau Claire's Sky Lion opens. (8 p.m. Fri., Cedar Cultural Center. All ages. $10-$12.) Riemenschneider

Six months after packing the Entry, and about 200 spins later for his single "Polish Girl" on 89.3 the Current, Alan Palomo's one-man synth-pop band Neon Indian returns to play the First Ave main room. The Texas-bred chillwave wiz kid's sophomore album, "Era Extraña," extracts heavily from the era of big hair and bad Spandau Ballet videos, but it does offer mesmerizing moments of mopey bliss. The record was mixed by Dave Fridmann, whose pals the Flaming Lips collaborated with Palomo on an EP last year. San Francisco dance trio Lemonade opens. (9 p.m. Fri., First Avenue. $14.) Riemenschneider

Tortoise makes a point of disavowing labels, jumping from jazz to dub to krautrock and so on with brainy ease. The instrumental rockers will be joined by the Minneapolis Jazz All-Stars --Douglas Ewart, Mike Lewis, Greg Lewis, JT Bates and Michelle Kinney. (8 p.m. Fri., Walker Art Center, $18-$22.) Jay Boller

The delightfully twisted Loudon Wainwright III contemplates family and mortality on his splendid new "Older Than My Old Man Now." He's frank and funny as he addresses aging, health ("My Meds"), a longer life, divorce and outliving his journalist father ("The Here & the Now," featuring his four children and the mother of one of them). Laugh until you die. (8 p.m. Sat., Cedar Cultural Center, $25-$30.) Bream

Folky California songstress Kina Grannis, 26, won the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl Contest in 2008, but instead of becoming a cheesy pop star she carved out an impressive niche as a wholesome indie act, highlighted by heavy VH1 rotation for her jellybean-starring video "In Your Arms." Her latest album, "The Living Room Sessions," is an all-covers set featuring songs by Bon Iver, Kings of Leon and Katy Perry. (6:30 p.m. Sat., Varsity Theater. All ages. $15-$17.) Riemenschneider

Earth, Wind & Fire is such an exciting live band that the PACER Center is bringing the Rock Hall of Famers back for its 30th annual benefit after showcasing them four years ago. Don't expect the pyrotechnics of EWF's regular tour but do expect Philip Bailey's soaring vocals, Verdine White's dynamic energy and nonstop fun, punctuated with party jams, sophisticated jazz-soul musicianship and romantic ballads. PACER works with children with disabilities. With fundraiser auction. (5 p.m. Sat.; music around 8 p.m. Minneapolis Convention Center, $65-$550, 952-838-9000.) Bream

Not a lot of bands could cover the Flaming Lips and Feist for Record Store Day releases and retain the respect of diehard metalheads, but Mastodon is that kind of band. The Atlanta-reared prog-metal quartet took its sweet time coming to town to support last year's masterful, blasting opus "The Hunter," but local fans aren't complaining, since Swedish death-metal favorites Opeth are co-headliners. Concertgoers might gripe over the venue change from the reconfiguring Brick, but at least there will be more room to headbang. Ghost, also from Sweden, opens. (8 p.m. Mon., Myth. All ages. $35. Original tickets to the Brick will be honored.) Riemenschneider

Justin Townes Earle is on a roll. "Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now" is his fourth impressive album in four years. The title track of his previous effort, the excellent "Harlem River Blues," won the Americana Award for song of the year. The 30-year-old Nashville-born New Yorker is still unlucky in love on the lonely, melancholy new made-in-North-Carolina album, which has a slight Stax Records vibe with its muted horns and sweet guitar fills. Opening is off-kilter Nashville indie-pop singer Tristen. (8 p.m. Mon., Varsity, $20.) Bream

Twins fans at Wednesday's game might think they're hearing the faint sounds of a garbage disposal running, but it will actually be the low, guttural thunder of Rammstein spilling out of neighboring Target Center. The absolutely melody-less and brutal-sounding German industrial-metal band puts on a spectacle-filled, wham-bam of a live show that's part fireworks show, party Blue Man Group gig and part monster-truck rally -- and pretty much brainless. But that's not to say it lacks in fun. (8 p.m. Wed., Target Center. $39.50-$80.) Riemenschneider

Even though k.d. lang recorded last year's "Sing It Loud" in Nashville, it is not a return to country. But it is a return to working with a fulltime band. The Siss Boom Bang is five American musicians, led by producer/guitarist Joe Pisapia, formerly of Guster. The album has a bit of pedal steel and banjo, but mostly it's the kind of arty, moody alt-pop that has become her signature since 1992's "Ingenue." St. Paul will be lang's first U.S. date in 2012. Artful Canadian singer-songwriter Jane Siberry opens. (7:30 p.m. Thu., the O'Shaughnessy, $52-$55.) Bream

Since we last heard James Morrison live in the Twin Cities, the British acoustic soul man lost his father, became the father of a little girl and released "The Awakening," his third album. Even though he sings soulfully about heartbreak and loss, the ballad-heavy album contains no indelible tunes (except maybe the gospelly "Right by Your Side"), but he's a captivating in-the-moment performer in the tradition of Van Morrison, his idol. HoneyHoney, a coed coffeehouse Americana duo, opens. (8 p.m. Thu., Fitzgerald Theater, $25.) Bream

Cities 97 has turned to Twin Cities country band Rocket Club to headline the annual Hope for the Heartland benefit for One Heartland, an organization with a camp that serves children with HIV/AIDS or diabetes. Aiding the cause with early-evening cameos are James Morrison (see above) and Lissie, a California flower child with powerful pipes. With auction items autographed by Dave Matthews, Brandi Carlile and other Cities 97 faves. (6:45 p.m. Thu., Brick, $24.97-$97.) Bream

Prog-rock mainstay Greg Lake, the original lead singer of King Crimson and one-third of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, is doing a one-man, interactive show that he says is not a storyteller's format. For the back story on "From the Beginning," "I Believe in Father Christmas" and other songs, you'll have to read his soon-to-be published autobiography, "Lucky Man." (8 p.m. Thu., Varsity Theater, $28.50-$30.50.) Bream

An "American Idol" finalist in 2010, Casey James finally released his debut this spring. His self-titled album is country-leaning, slightly bluesy, Southern-flavored slick pop (think Hootie & the Blowfish). James sneaks in a little guitar, too, but doesn't live up to the instrumental promise suggested on "Idol." He co-wrote many of the songs; the best ones -- including "Drive," "Love the Way You Miss Me" and the smoldering, Springsteenish "Miss Your Fire" -- should resonate more effectively live. (9 p.m. Thu., Toby Keith's, $10.) Bream

WORLD

West Coast conga player Poncho Sanchez revisits the 1940s flowering of Latin jazz on the new tribute album "Chano y Dizzy!" Co-starring trumpeter Terence Blanchard, it explores masterpieces by bop pioneer Dizzy Gillespie and Cuban congero Chano Pozo, including "Tin Tin Deo," "Manteca" and "Con Alma," plus plenty of fresh originals. It's an excellent disc, devoid of any of Sanchez's funk/R&B crossover moves. (7 & 9 p.m. Sun., Dakota Jazz Club, $25-$35.) Tom Surowicz

Although he's made only a handful of official recordings in his four-decade-plus career, Cuban singer-songwriter Pedro Luis Ferrer has had a big impact on the island. Ferrer's music is acoustic, tradition-minded, rhythmically engaging but gentle. Yet his poetic and pointed lyrics sometimes have enough bite to get banned by the Castro regime. Tape traders covertly circulated the controversial songs, and Ferrer's work eventually found its way to the greater world, starting in 1999 via an Atlantic Records contract. Now Minnesotans get a rare, close-up taste. (7 p.m. Tue., Dakota Jazz Club, $25.) Surowicz

The only act to release new albums on Minneapolis-based reissue label Secret Stash Records, Afro-Peruvian band Peña is coming from Lima to play the great cultural bastion of Fridley. Cory Wong, who opens the show with his jazz ensemble, grew up in the Minneapolis 'burb with his Secret Stash partner Eric Foss. Peña is actually a Buena Vista Social Club-like hodgepodge of musicians, so this is a rare treat. The sweltering, elegant music falls roughly in line with Buena Vista's, too. Ticket comes with a 5:30 p.m. barbecue dinner and benefits Fridley's Encore education program. (6:30 p.m. Wed., Fridley Community Center, 6085 7th St. NE. $35.) Riemenschneider

JAZZ

The busiest jazz singer in the Twin Cities, Charmin Michelle rarely gets a night off. That includes her birthday, apparently. You can help her blow out the candles at the swanky Lexington Restaurant in St. Paul, which has been welcoming quite a few jazz singers lately. Mark Asche, an old pal from her Solid Senders days, will be on piano. (6:30 p.m. Fri., the Lexington, 1096 Grand Av., St. Paul.) Surowicz

Something of a legend in vocal jazz arranging and hip choral work, Phil Mattson has been living quietly in the Twin Cities, occasionally accompanying some of our best singers at bar gigs. Mattson is the kind of guy that famous folks (the Four Freshmen, Manhattan Transfer, Bobby McFerrin) hire to write arrangements or play piano. The two-time Grammy nominee will show off the latest crop of his Phil Mattson Singers -- three females, three males, all well-schooled. (8 p.m. Thu., Artists' Quarter, $10.) Surowicz

FOLK/BLUES

You may have seen Iowa blues duo Joe & Vicki Price opening for Greg Brown recently. If not, you get two more chances this weekend, for free. If you like foot-stompin' down-home blues and cool guitar licks -- electric, resophonic, slide -- check out this fun couple. Joe Price used to play guitar alongside the now-famous Bo Ramsey in Patrick Hazell's Mother Blues Band way back in the mid-1970s. (10 p.m. Fri., 331 Club, no cover. 6 p.m. Sat., Hell's Kitchen, no cover.) Surowicz

CHORAL

The men of Cantus join the renowned National Lutheran Choir for "Sanctus: Spirit of Music," a program that weaves together sacred texts and wordless music. Works by Randall Thompson, Ralph Manuel and Rachmaninoff (including his Vocalise and movements from "All Night Vigil") promise a mystical experience. The two ensembles will also construct a vocal piece that is almost entirely improvisatory. (7:30 p.m. Sat., King of Kings Lutheran Church, 1583 Radio Drive, Woodbury; 4 p.m. Sun., Normandale Lutheran Church, 6100 Normandale Road, Edina, $30-$10, 612-722-2301, www.cantussings.org) William Randall Beard

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