Hip-hop heroes

One of the cornerstone acts that first brought hip-hop off the New York streets toward the mainstream, Eric B. & Rakim finally reunited last year to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their debut album, “Paid in Full.” Now, the “I Ain’t No Joke” hitmakers are out on their first tour together in 25 years. In the meantime, Rakim asserted via solo ventures that he’s still one of the greatest rappers of all time. Ice Cube crony Yo-Yo opens.


8 p.m. Wed., Varsity Theater, Mpls., $20-$43.50, Ticketmaster.com

Fresh off musical biographies of cross-dressing pianist Billie Tipton and comic Joan Rivers, Nellie McKay, the queen of musical curveballs, offers another surprise: “Sister Orchid,” a collection of standards due May 18. It’s the most lonely romantic album imaginable with her dusky voice accompanied by her piano, with a bit of ukulele or cello. “Willow Weep for Me” starts as a yearning ballad before transforming into a boogie-woogie. Curveball, indeed.


7 p.m. Sun.-Mon. Dakota Jazz Club, Mpls., $30-$40, dakotacooks.com

Harrison David Rivers’ “This Bitter Earth” — his fourth new work to be seen already this year in the Twin Cities — isn’t strictly autobiographical but there are elements of his life in the witty drama about the challenges of a relationship between a black playwright who pours his passion into his work and a white man whose passion is for social justice. As the playwright, Jon-Michael Reese is spectacular.


Ends May 20. Penumbra Theatre, St. Paul, $15-$40, penumbratheatre.org

At 91, the unstoppable Tony Bennett remains an American musical treasure. This year, he won his 19th Grammy. He was recognized for “Tony Bennett Celebrates 90,” which featured such guests as Billy Joel, Lady Gaga, Elton John, Leslie Odom Jr. and Andrea Bocelli. Sharing the stage with such stars, the master crooner was in fine, full voice. Moreover, he has unparalleled charm in concert. No one reads the Great American Songbook like he does.


7:30 p.m. Thu. State Theatre, Mpls., $74.50-$130, ticketmaster.com

Arena Dances’ second annual Candy Box festival serves up a week’s worth of Twin Cities contemporary dance. Headliners include the always thrilling Black Label Movement and choreographer Taja Will’s new dystopian piece about the end of the world. In addition to main stage shows, the festival is packed with workshops, panel discussions, happy-hour performances and even an open dance jam.


7:30 p.m. Tue., Thu.-Sat., 2 p.m. Sat., Southern Theater, Mpls., $20-$24, southerntheater.org

“Excavating the Future City” goes deep into the architectural landscapes of modern-day Japan. From limestone-blasting quarries to a tsunami’s devastation of the artist’s hometown, Naoya Hatakeyama sees and photographs it all. Look for the more playful series, “Maquettes/Light” (1994-97), and “Yamate Don Blvd” (2008-2010), where he zooms in on the patterns of street signage. Never before has a crosswalk seemed so otherworldly.


Ends July 22. Minneapolis Institute of Arts, artsmia.org

Ralph Vaughan Williams’ symphonies are seldom heard in the States. English conductor Michael Francis (currently of the Florida Orchestra) steps up this week to lead the Minnesota Orchestra’s performance of the British composer’s turbulent, impassioned masterpiece Sixth Symphony. Also featured are Britten’s “Sinfonia da Requiem” and outstanding cellist Daniel Muller-Schott playing Schumann’s Cello Concerto.


11 a.m. Thu., 8 p.m. Fri.; Orchestra Hall, Mpls.; $12-$96, minnesotaorchestra.org

If you miss the residents of “Downton Abbey,” get your fix Minnesota-style with a tour of the largest house in St. Paul. Each Sunday the Gilded Age’s James J. Hill House is open for self-guided tours. The place was constructed for the Irish immigrant who built the Great Northern Railway. Guests can move freely about the 36,000-square-foot mansion and experience firsthand how the Hill family and their servants once lived.


Noon-5 p.m. Sundays, James J. Hill House, St. Paul, $6-$10, mnhs.org


Fresh off its daring staging of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” Twin Cities Ballet turns its focus to the classic tale of “Beauty and the Beast.” Don’t expect a rehash of the Disney version. Co-artistic director Denise Vogt has crafted an original adaptation, complete with brand-new score (by composer Jordan Cox) and a fresh take on the story line.


7 p.m. Thu.-Sat., 2 p.m. Sun., Ames Center, Burnsville, $20-$36, twincitiesballet.org