Big Gigs, June 20-26: John Legend, Bruno Mars, Nick Cave

  • Updated: June 20, 2014 - 11:06 AM

Concert spotlights for the week, also including the Old 97's, Jack Brass Band's release party, Los Lobos, Widespread Panic, Lissie.


John Legend

Photo: Dave Allocca, ASSOCIATED PRESS - AP

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He collected nine Grammys before scoring a big pop hit. Now John Legend is finally a household name, thanks to the chart-topping ballad “All of Me,” which could be the wedding song of 2014. Indeed, he performed it at the recent nuptials of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, who discovered Legend. The hardworking romantic returns for an acoustic evening — his grand piano, string players and an acoustic guitarist — of creamy, dreamy soul-pop. (8 p.m. Fri., Mystic Lake Casino, sold out.) Jon Bream


The Old 97’s have too much fun together to ever call it quits, even when frontman Rhett Miller went solo in a not-so-fun adult-contemporary way. Still, there’s a comeback/reunion vibe to the Dallas twang-rockers’ first record in four years, “Most Messed Up,” full of the barn-burning, barroom-dazed story songs that defined the quartet’s early albums. The guest appearance by Tommy Stinson fits in perfect with the album’s bleary eyes and bleeding fingers. Bluesy St. Louis band Kentucky Knife Fight and Dallas singer/songwriter Madison King open. (9 p.m. Fri., First Avenue, $20.) Chris Riemenschneider

When Bruno Mars thrilled a sell-out crowd at Xcel Energy Center last July, he was clearly the biggest broad-appeal male pop star to come along since Justin Timberlake. Two more hit songs and a Super Bowl halftime performance later, he’s bigger than ever. Watch him sing, dance, drum — do it all. Plus, the 28-year-old has written and produced hits for Travie McCoy, B.o.B. and CeeLo Green when he’s not busy with his own music. Opening is Aloe Blacc, best known as the voice of the Avicii global hit “Wake Me Up.” (8 p.m. Sat. Xcel Energy Center, $45-$102.) Bream

In the 12 years since their last Twin Cities gig, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds have rearranged their lineup — guitarist Mick Harvey is gone, most notably — but the Aussie rockers haven’t lost their dark luster. In concert, they make a strong case for last year’s underrated if a bit drab album, “Push the Sky Away,” while adding interesting textures to such classics as “Tupelo” and “Red Right Hand.” Of course, Cave himself — last seen in town tearing up First Ave with Grinderman— remains one of rock’s most electrifying and engaging frontmen. Los Angeles’ slow-humming, ethereal rock quartet Warpaint opens. (8 p.m. Sat., State Theatre, sold out.) Riemenschneider

After taking a rare hiatus in 2012, Widespread Panic celebrated its 25th anniversary last year on a tour that played the Orpheum Theatre. But this great jam band belongs outdoors. It’ll be joined by a commendable lineup that includes New Orleans’ funky jammers Galactic, Conspirator (a Disco Biscuits spinoff), Colorado singer/songwriter Jerry Joseph and hard-charging Minnesota bluegrassers Pert Near Sandstone. (4:30 p.m. Sat., Somerset Amphitheater, $25-$54.50.) Bream

If you can’t afford or don’t appreciate this year’s Rock the Garden lineup, there’s another bash Saturday with some of Minnesota’s best indie-rock acts in one of the state’s coolest outdoor venues: Mankato’s fourth annual Arts by the River Festival features elegant chamber-rock faves Cloud Cult along with last year’s most memorable RTG performer, Low, and Wisconsin’s ambient twangers Field Report. (5-10 p.m. Sat., Vetter Stone Amphitheater, Mankato, free, Riemenschneider

A few months ago on the Experience Hendrix tour, Jonny Lang tore it up doing songs Jimi made famous. Now the Fargo-born, Minneapolis-launched guitar hero is back to play his own tunes, including “Lie to Me” and “Red Light.” Perhaps he’ll preview the new blues-rock album he’s working on — an overdue return to the sound that made him famous. Nashville’s funky Jonny P opens. (7:30 p.m. Sat., Minnesota Zoo, $65-$77.50.). Bream 

The Jack Brass Band stands out no matter what it does, since it’s the Twin Cities’ only New Orleans-styled, second-line-ready brass ensemble to make a name for itself in the Crescent City. With its latest album, “For Your Body,” the seven-man party machine sets itself up as even more of an anomaly, blowing out a fun blend of sexy R&B standards ranging from Usher’s “There Goes My Baby” and R. Kelly’s “Freaky in the Club” to more vintage fare like Carl Carlton’s “She’s a Bad Mama Jama” and Mel Walter’s “Got My Whiskey.” As if to show the JBB can hang with the rest, though, the collection ends with a far more obvious but no less enjoyable tear through the Meters’ “They All Asked for You.” Gypsy jazz ensemble Lulu’s Playground opens the release party. (11 p.m. Sat., Icehouse, $6-$8.) Riemenschneider

OneRepublic may have displaced the Fray as Colorado’s biggest hitmakers. But the piano popsters behind “How to Save a Life” are touring behind this year’s “Helios,” which has led to radio play for the stomping “Love Don’t Die,” co-written and co-produced by OneRepublic’s ubiquitous Ryan Tedder. Indeed, America’s answer to Coldplay won’t die. Barcelona and Oh Honey open. (7:30 p.m. Sun., Myth, $49.) Bream

Los Lobos were one of the late concert promoter Sue McLean’s favorite bands, which is just one reason it’s a mutual love fest anytime the East L.A. Mexi-Americana rockers play the Minnesota Zoo (which is just about every year). Well deserving of a Rock Hall of Fame induction, the quintet marked its 40th anniversary with a new live album, “Disconnected in New York City.” Opener Crystal Bowersox is an “American Idol” runner-up who recorded with Lobos’ Steve Berlin. (7:30 p.m. Sun., Minnesota Zoo, $45.) Riemenschneider

Two zoo regulars, roots rocker John Hiatt and bluesman Robert Cray, are teaming up for the first time and the timing couldn’t be better. Hiatt is expected to preview his bluesy July 15 album “Terms of My Surrender.” The title track — a spare, bluesy ditty — sounds like an outtake from Bob Dylan’s “Love and Theft” with more appealing vocals. Cray’s commendable new disc, “In My Soul,” heads in a Memphis soul direction, complete with a cover of Otis Redding’s “Nobody’s Fault but Mine” and a reunion with producer Steve Jordan. (7:30 p.m. Mon., Minnesota Zoo, $54-$66.50.) Bream

Beloved by both Cities 97 and 89.3 the Current, Lissie is a Midwestern-reared, California-based vocal powerhouse. She was an organic singer/songwriter on her 2010 debut, “Catching a Tiger,” and on last year’s “Back to Forever,” she added a variety of rock tones, from Stevie Nicksian charmers to full-tilt rockers. Her tastes are wide-ranging, as evidenced on her new EP, “Cryin’ to Me,” on which she covers tunes by Danzig, Drake and Dylan. (8 p.m. Mon., Fitzgerald Theater, $28.50.) Bream

One of the godliest of the ’80s metal guitar gods, Swedish virtuoso Yngwie Malmsteen put in time with the C-list bands Steeler and Alcatrazz before becoming an unlikely B-list MTV star on his own in the heyday of hair-band videos. He’s headlining Guitar Center’s Guitar Gods 2014 Tour with former Guns N’ Roses curiosity Buckethead and Boston shredder Gary Hoey. (6 p.m. Mon., Skyway Theater, $40.50-$65.) Riemenschneider

“Salad Days,” the Pitchfork- and NPR-buoyed sophomore album by Montreal-reared indie-rocker Mac DeMarco, offers all the laid-back, slacker charm and coolly lo-fi sonic play you’d expect of a 24-year-old Canadian living in Brooklyn. The disc is defined by warped-sounding, Hawaiian-hazy guitar work and Stephen Malkmus-like songwriting, with a taste of Ray Davies’ witty pop intelligence. Calvin Love and Meatbodies open. (9 p.m. Mon., 7th Street Entry, sold out.) Riemenschneider

Neon Trees frontman Tyler Glenn brought more attention to his band of Mormons by telling Rolling Stone magazine this spring that he’s gay. That suits the band’s confessional new album, “Pop Psychology,” a collection of catchy synth-pop including “Sleeping With a Friend” that fits right in with the Utah group’s earlier hits “Everybody Talks” and “Animal.” Smallpools and Nightmare & the Cat open. (6:30 p.m. Mon., First Avenue, sold out.) Bream

Whether living in England, Los Angeles or Nashville, Albert Lee has been a first-call guitarist for the Everly Brothers, Emmylou Harris, B.B. King, Muddy Waters and Eric Clapton, among others. His new album, “Frettening Behaviour,” is a little twangy, a little rootsy and a little reminiscent of the Mavericks. His band features another top-notch guitarist, former Asleep at the Wheeler Cindy Cashdollar. (7 & 9 p.m. Wed.-Thu., Dakota, $25-$35. ) Bream

Didn’t get your Grateful Dead fix last weekend with RatDog at the new Northrop? Then catch the splendid Dead tribute band the Dark Star Orchestra, which has now performed more concerts than the Dead itself actually did. (6 p.m. Thu., Cabooze Plaza, $30.) Bream

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  • Press photo of Lissie, provided by Paradigm Agency

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