The Big Gigs: The best of the next seven days

  • Updated: December 18, 2008 - 4:07 PM
HOLIDAY

In the mid-1980s, Mannheim Steamroller pioneered the concept of a touring classical/rock holiday pageant. This year, Chip Davis' Christmas juggernaut is borrowing a strategy from its main rival, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. For the first time, Mannheim will offer two separate touring ensembles, thus avoiding the cult-of-personality approach originally built around Davis. The change can be attributed to a new tour producer: Magic Arts & Entertainment, which also presents "Michael Flatley's Lord of the Dance" and "The Magic of David Copperfield." (8 p.m. today and 1:30 & 6:30 p.m. Sat., Orpheum Theatre, $43-$63.) (J.B.)

George Winston's annual December appearance doesn't necessarily mean that he'll play holiday music. The pianist and slack-key guitarist has some meditations on winter in his repertoire but he's been on a New Orleans jag since Hurricane Katrina, so watch out for "When the Saints Go Marching In" and other Crescent City classics. (7 p.m. Sun., Orchestra Hall, $29-$41.) (J.B.)

Longtime director Gary Hines promises some new wrinkles in Sounds of Blackness' 30th annual presentation of "The Night Before Christmas: A Musical Fantasy," which returns to the Guthrie after a seven-year absence. The Grammy-winning choir's African American-centric production is always one of the freshest holiday stagings in the Twin Cities. (7:30 p.m. Mon., Guthrie Theater. $32.50.) (J.B.)

POP/ROCK

Hard to believe it, but Soul Asylum has not played a public gig within the Minneapolis city limits since its First Ave show a year ago. What a treat that was, too, full of ample old nuggets going back to their Twin/Tone days plus an impressive display of the underrated 2006 disc "The Silver Lining." Wrapping up a year mostly spent on festival dates, the guys should be extra happy to be back in the club they rode in on. High-energy openers the Melismatics show a lot of Soul Asylum influence on their new album, "The Acid Test." (8:30 p.m. today, First Avenue. 18 and older. $17-$20.) (C.R.)

After 4,000 fans turned out for their 2006 reunion gig at a Chicago festival, Windy City punk pioneers Naked Raygun have been playing sporadic gigs for special occasions, such as the Triple Rock's 10th anniversary series. Led by Jeff Pizzati, also of Big Black fame, the band followed Hüsker Dü's lead in the '80s by melding melodic British punk with fiercer, guitar-driven noise and sociopolitical angst. Modern-day Chicago bands like Fall Out Boy and Rise Against have sung their praise. Fellow Chicago band the Arrivals, now featuring D4's Patty Costello, opens with the Framed. (9 p.m. Sat., Triple Rock. 21 & older. $13-$15.) (C.R.)

Peter Himmelman returns home with the same game plan that Kimya Dawson recently used at the Cedar, offering one show of regular tunes and another for children. The St. Louis Park native, who got his start locally with the band Sussman Lawrence before becoming a big-time L.A. musicmaker, has enjoyed a lot of success with his two children's CDs, earning a Grammy nomination for last year's "The Green Kite." He also should have gotten a nod for last year's "adult" album, "The Pigeon Couldn't Sleep." (8 p.m. Sat., Cedar Cultural Center. $25-$28; 11 a.m. Sun., $15, free for kids 2 & under.) (C.R.)

Think you've been too busy to enjoy live music this holiday season? Alexei and Channy Moon Casselle, the husband/wife singer/songwriter team behind Roma di Luna, just welcomed their first child last month and are still finding time to host a holiday show. This year's moving RdL album, "Casting the Bones," showcased the group's transformation from an intimate neo-folk duo into an electrified, hallowed-sounding band. The lineup includes guitarist Ben Durrant (better known as a producer), bassist J.G. Everest (ex-Lateduster) and, for this show, string player Michael Rossetto (Spaghetti Western String Co). Soulful songbird Chastity Brown opens. (7:30 p.m. Tue., Cedar Cultural Center. $10-$12.) (C.R.)

REGGAE

Mainstays in the Upper Midwest reggae scene for nearly a decade, Dred I Dread came out of the gate fast with its 1999 album "Listen to the Revolution," produced by Black Uhuru's Tony (Asher) Brisset. The socially conscious and ethnically diverse septet -- led by New Orleans native Peewee Dread with a team of immigrants and local natives -- finally has a new album, "A Piece of Americana." It features six studio tracks and two songs recorded live at Mayslacks, including covers of "I Will Survive" and Black Uhuru's "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." DiD's release party will be headlined by reggae/funk favorites the Root City Band. Newcomers 8 Switch Assembly open. (9 p.m. today, Fine Line. 18 and older. $7.) (C.R.)

R&B

Dig if you will this billboard: Morris Day's face standing three stories high atop First Avenue -- right near where he was tossing people into dumpsters in Prince's "Purple Rain" in 1984. Day is still doing his Time shtick -- the suave gigolo seducing with funky R&B from a band as tight as Britney's dress. Don't confuse this ensemble with the original Time that reunited this year; this group features only drummer Jellybean Johnson, keyboardist Monte Moir and singer Day from the original lineup. (8 p.m. Sat., Treasure Island Casino, Red Wing, Minn. $20-$40.) (J.B.)

BLUES

The Twin Cities has always been a good market for guitar slinger Corey Stevens, and he's solidified the connection by employing St. Paul keyboardist Paul Testa, Crow drummer Norm Steffens and local bass legend Larry Wiegand (of South 40 and original Crow lineup fame). Last year Stevens put out a fun salute to one of his heroes, "Albertville," including such Albert King favorites as "Cold Women With Warm Hearts" plus a menacing "Blue Suede Shoes," and a groovy original, "Another Pretty Face." (9 p.m. today, Famous Dave's Uptown. $6.) (T.S.)

Twin Cities music manager Miki Mulvehill has helped launch the careers of Jonny Lang, Susan Tedeschi and Keri Noble. Her latest find is blues guitarist and singer Alex Wilson, already well-established in his native Wisconsin, and known for backing Charlie Musselwhite on tour throughout China. The Alex Wilson Band is a family affair, featuring uncle Marc Wilson -- a blues veteran on 50-some CDs, including sessions with Robert Ealey, Otis Grand, Mike Morgan and Anson Funderburgh -- on drums, plus brother Matthew Wilson on bass and backing vocals. The band's local "showcase" gig is at an unlikely venue. (8 p.m. today, the School II, 600 Market St., Chanhassen, 952-361-9463. $5.) (T.S.)

A fixture of the New Orleans scene for decades, blues guitarist and singer Luther Kent is a Jazz & Heritage Festival favorite who's also done a lot of commercial jingle work -- he's the official voice of the Louisiana Lottery and Harrah's Casino in the Crescent City. Serving up blues and R&B classics by Albert King, Lattimore, Earl King and Muddy Waters and mixing in lots of gritty originals, Kent has toured the globe as a bandleader and sideman for everyone from Blood, Sweat & Tears to the Dukes of Dixieland -- but never played the Twin Cities until now. (7 & 9:30 p.m. Sun., Dakota Jazz Club. $22-$35.) (T.S.)

JAZZ

Together for a dozen years, with a half-dozen CDs now part of the catalog of the respected hard-core jazz label Sunnyside Records, Happy Apple remains one of Minnesota's most inspired and offbeat club acts. Their mix of free-jazz sax, rockin' electric bass, quirky drumming and absurdist song intros is sui generis around these parts, drawing big steady crowds weaned on alternative rock. The trio's most recent CD is "Happy Apple Back on Top," yet we can't remember a time when they were ever down. (9 p.m. today-Sat., 8 p.m. Sun., Artists' Quarter. $12.) (T.S.)

Contributors: Staff critics Jon Bream and Chris Riemenschneider and freelancer Tom Surowicz.

For his third annual holiday tour, Twin Cities gospel great Robert Robinson has added some hip-hop dancers and new material. But expect the same magnificent voice, aided by the Twin Cities Gospel Choir and classically trained Holly Collison. Robinson, longtime star of Lorie Line's holiday extravaganza, has three shows left on his eight-city Midwestern Christmas tour. (7:30 p.m. today, Paramount Theater, St. Cloud, 1-320-259-5463; 8 p.m. Sat., Benson Great Hall, Bethel University, St. Paul, 651-638-6333; 7:30 p.m. Tue., Buffalo Performing Arts Center, Buffalo, Minn. 763-682-8770.) (J.B.)

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