Big Gigs: The best Twin Cities concerts Oct. 4-10

  • Updated: October 3, 2013 - 4:38 PM

B.B. King


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At 88, blues giant B.B. King in concert is more about laughs than Lucille, his trusty guitar. He tells some stories and jokes, lets his band carry the load and, a few times each night, will rise to the occasion to deliver with authority a classic such as “The Thrill Is Gone,” which is as true as it is ironic. Opening is Sena Ehrhardt, the fast-climbing blues darling from Rochester. (8 p.m. Fri., Mystic Lake Casino, $59-$69.) Bream


He’s well-known as the musical mayor of St. Paul and one of the Twin Cities’ most poetic Americana songwriters, but Martin Devaney covers a lot of other ground on his sixth album, “House of Rust.” It opens with a song about an eatery in Austin, Texas, and visits the South Dakota prairie before winding up at St. Paul’s Fountain Cave, with several stops at Heartbreak Hotel along the way. Recorded on the Iron Range at Rich Mattson’s Sparta Studio, the music ranges from rollicking, Slim Dunlap-style rave-ups to moody and dark, Joe Henry-ian downers, with backers including fiddler Jake Hyer, Bellwether drummer Mick Wirtz and Big Wu keyboardist Al Oikari. Mattson’s Ol’ Yeller opens the release party with the Cactus Blossoms. (8 p.m. Fri., Cedar Cultural Center, $10-$12.) Chris Riemenschneider

Ra Ra Riot is touring without its co-founding cellist, Alexandra Lawn, which may or may not have something to do with the fact that the collegiate rockers from Syracuse, N.Y., are also touring with a more synth-poppy, less chamber-folky sound à la their new record, “Beta Line.” The disc tellingly opens with a giddy foot-tapper called “Dance With Me” and maintains a light, bouncy vibe throughout. Southern California beach boys Cayucas open. (9 p.m. Fri., First Avenue, $15.) Riemenschneider

After two well-crafted pop albums that made her a Twin Cities radio favorite, Scottish-born, London-based singer/songwriter KT Tunstall has gone all artiste on her third album, “Invisible Empire/Crescent Moon.” As dry as the desert depicted on the cover photo, this is a slow, stripped-down, deeply felt collection about divorce and death. The disc has some lyrical images, ambient textures and glacial vocals that suggest Beth Orton and k.d. lang. Tunstall may not have lang’s shimmering power, but she does have her glass-of-wine-alone intimacy. (8 p.m. Sat., Cedar, sold out.) Jon Bream 

Other-worldly sci-fi metal gurus GWAR still sound like they’re having a bloody good time on their new album, “Battle Maximus,” even though the title and themes pay homage to late guitarist Cory “Flattus Maximus” Smoot, who died of a heart attack after the band’s bus pulled away from First Avenue in November 2011. Ringleader Oderus Urungus and his mavens have produced an all-new stage show for their Madness at the Core of Time Tour, featuring Metal Blade labelmates Whitechapel with Iron Reagan and another costumed fantasy band, Band of Orcs. (6 p.m. Sat., First Avenue, $20-$23.) Riemenschneider

Eight years after Gary Louris produced their breakthrough album “Exploration,” married picking partners Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion got another Golden Smog alum, Jeff Tweedy, to co-curate their latest with his Wilco bandmate Pat Sansone. The duo play around with their sound on “Wassaic Way,” adding a Beatlesque psychedelic pop sheen without forsaking their sweet harmonies and the Guthrie family folk tradition. (9 p.m. Sun., 7th Street Entry, $12.) Riemenschneider 

Singing surfer dude Jack Johnson is totally chill on last month’s “From Here to Now to You,” his sixth studio album. He offers more breezy, hummable ditties with sweet, simplistic messages like “I Got You” and “Never Fade” (“our love can never fade”). Occasionally, he shows a willingness to pick up the tempo. “Tape Deck,” a flashback about his days in a punk band, swings gently. The blithely syncopated “Shot Reverse Shot” could be a mellow Billy Joel on acoustic guitar. And “Radiate” gives off a jaunty reggae-funk vibe. (7:30 p.m. Mon., State Theatre, sold out.) Bream

As with the BoDeans, we have to accept Barenaked Ladies with one of their lead singers no longer participating. This summer’s “Grinning Streak” is BNL’s second studio album without Steven Page. Despite the title, this is a mostly serious, reflective pop album with an electronica sheen, though frontman Ed Robertson gets a little playful on “Boomerang” and “Odds Are.” Whitehorse opens. (7:30 p.m. Wed., State Theatre, $37.50-$65.) Bream

Oregonian twang-rockers Blitzen Trapper subtly changed to a more rhythmically driven sound on their seventh album, “VII.” Frontman Eric Earley sounds like a rapping Bob Dylan in some of the more adventurous, groove-laden tracks, while at other times he and the boys sound like the Eels as an Americana band. The disc is quite a mess, but the band is reliable live. Cuddly college-hippie ensemble Phox, from Madison, Wis., opens. (8 p.m. Wed., First Avenue, $16-$18.) Riemenschneider

Franz Ferdinand’s buzz came on so strong with its debut album in 2004, the Scottish dance-rock band wound up playing Target Center — a woefully under-attended show that proved how much it had been over-hyped. A decade later, the lads are still brandishing a charmingly rapid-fire, two-guitar grind on record, but they are thinking in much smaller terms on tour, booking an intimate club gig to promote their first album in four years, “Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action.” Former Dum Dum and Vivian Girl Frankie Rose opens. (8:30 p.m. Wed., Skyway Theatre, $32.) Riemenschneider

On “All That for This,” her second post-“American Idol” album, Crystal Bowersox finds her voice. Her 2010 debut attempted to put her in the pop mainstream with ill-fitting power ballads whereas this new disc, produced by Steve Berlin of Los Lobos, is right in her hippie-soul groove. She shows an undeniable soulfulness and a bit of a country swagger on this Americana-flavored record. (7 p.m. Thu., Dakota Jazz Club, $25.) Bream

Coming across like Beach House on coffee, Phantogram broke big in indie circles in 2009 via the single “Mouthful of Diamonds,” boasting a siren-voiced singer in Sarah Barthel and an ambient but uptempo electro-pop sound. The duo from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., has since collaborated with Big Boi and the Flaming Lips but has yet to release a sophomore album. A new self-titled EP will have to suffice. Baltimore trio Future Islands opens. (8:30 p.m. Thu., First Avenue, $20.) Riemenschneider


As one of the three singers in British psych-pop band Gomez, Ben Ottewell’s name may not ring a bell, but his sandy voice certainly has a distinctive familiarity. He’s on tour playing a few of his regular band’s songs alongside tracks off his not-far-from-the-tree solo album, “Shapes & Shadows.” (7:30 p.m. Thu., Cedar Cultural Center, all ages, $15.) Riemenschneider


From Niger’s capital city of Nimey, Tal National is a guitar-driven sextet that has been crisscrossing its home country for years, playing four-hour sets four or five nights a week. The band recently signed with U.K./U.S. ska and punk label Fat Cat Records and is finally crossing the Atlantic to play Chicago’s World Music Festival, with a Minneapolis date tacked on. It combines Niger’s crossroads-like music traditions with manic energy, from the desert blues sound of Bombino to Fuji’s percussion traditions. Chicago’s psychedelic rock band Cave headlines this Cedar Presents show. (9 p.m. Sun., Belmore/New Skyway Lounge, $12-$15.) Riemenschneider

Need more proof that music is the greatest international language? Listen to how eloquently Sean Gaskell, a young fella from the grunge and coffee mecca of Seattle, plays the 21-string West African kora, a gourd-bottomed harp that delivers both acres of melody and gently rippling rhythms. Gaskell has performed at festivals in Gambia and Senegal, and knows well the deep Malian roots of his instrument. His music is the real deal, now coming to a bowling alley near you. (10 p.m. Sun., Bryant-Lake Bowl, $10-$12.) Tom Surowicz

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