Former Nickelodeon star Ariana Grande, 21, has made big strides as a pop star. Her improvement in local Jingle Ball appearances from 2013 to 2014 was remarkable. She’s made a similar impressive leap on recordings, going from a Mariah Carey wannabe on her debut to a more well-rounded pop diva on last year’s “Everything.” As evidenced on such hits as “Problem” and “Break Free,” she’s hyper-dramatic and breathy but can belt through the EDM and hip-hop sounds and parade of guests including Iggy Azalea, Zedd and the Weeknd. St. Paul is the third night on Grande’s first tour as an arena headliner. Opening are Rixton, the British boy band, and Cashmere Cat, who produced Grande’s “Be My Baby.” (7:30 p.m. Sun., Xcel Energy Center, $29.50-$69.50) Bream


Blackberry Smoke surprised the music industry last week when it landed at No. 1 on Billboard’s country chart with its new album, “Holding All the Roses” — a surprise because the Nashville-based quintet sure looks and sounds like a rock band. The members could be cast in a Lynyrd Skynyrd biopic. Musically, they sound like a melding of Joe Walsh, .38 Special and the Georgia Satellites. Their heavy use of fiddle is the only thing overtly twangy. Ah well, they sure beat all the glossy pop acts passing themselves off as country music nowadays. The Temperance Movement and Ben Miller Band open. (8:30 p.m. Fri., First Avenue, $25.) Chris Riemenschneider

Sure, bluegrass music sounds better outdoors on a summer night. Pert Near Sandstone does the best it can in the dead of the cold season with its annual Winter String Gathering, housed in the best indoor space for acoustic music in town and featuring some of the best new bluegrassy acts from around the country that the local pickers could convince to come to Minnesota in winter. This year’s lineup features Austin, Texas, one-man string band Possessed by James on Night One and traditional-flavored Asheville, N.C., quintet Town Mountain on Night Two. (8 p.m. Fri. & Sat., Cedar Cultural Center, all ages, $17-$20/night or $26-$30/two-night.) Riemenschneider

Greensky Bluegrass has been picking its way up the folk, bluegrass and jam-band festival circuit over the past decade to land at No. 1 on Billboard’s bluegrass chart in September with its fifth album, “If Sorrow Swims.” The Kalamazoo, Mich.-reared quintet falls somewhere between Leftover Salmon and Trampled by Turtles with its traditionally rooted sound but forward-thinking songwriting style. The group will be back our way in June to play the Blue Ox Festival in Eau Claire with Del McCoury and Pert Near. Rayland Baxter opens. (8 p.m. Sat., Mill City Nights, $20.) Riemenschneider

After hosting “A Prairie Home Companion” twice last month in St. Paul, mandolin master and Mac­Arthur “genius grant” recipient Chris Thile returns with the excellent Punch Brothers. These superior pickers mix elements of bluegrass, classical, jazz, folk and pop into an intoxicating and intellectual sound that appeals to both the NPR and jam-band audiences. On this year’s “Phosphorescent Blues,” the Punch Bros became more ambitious, featuring part of a Debussy suite and choral harmonies that are somewhere between the Beach Boys and heaven. Read an interview with Thile at (8 p.m. Sun., First Avenue, $30-$32.) Jon Bream

A revue-style tribute and fundraiser timed to what would have been George Harrison’s 72nd birthday, “Harrison’s Jukebox” boasts the Twin Cities’ best-known Beatles revivalist, Curtiss A, who also leads the John Lennon tributes at First Ave. Other local vets such as Jiggs Lee, Tony Ortiz, Hot Rod Rodeo and the anchoring band Kyx will be playing the Dark Horse’s own tunes as well as those by some of his affiliates and heroes. Money goes to the American Cancer Society. (6:30 p.m. Sun., Amsterdam Bar & Hall, no cover but donations suggested.) Riemenschneider

While his ex-bandmates are touring with a replacement singer, Live’s original frontman Ed Kowalczyk is on an acoustic trek celebrating the 20th anniversary of his old band’s biggest record, “Throwing Copper” — which also happens to be one of the biggest albums ever recorded in Minnesota, with 8 million-plus copies sold. The Pennsylvanian alt-rockers made it at Pachyderm Studio in Cannon Falls with the Talking Heads’ Jerry Harrison producing. Kowalczyk should have a story or two to share as he and guitarist Zak Loy revisit songs including “Lightning Crashes” and “I Alone” with video accompaniment. (7:30 p.m. Mon., Cedar Cultural Center, all ages, $35-$40.) Riemenschneider

Lined up to play Justin Vernon’s Eaux Claires Festival in June, the Lone Bellow is a Brooklyn-based folk-rock trio whose new sophomore album was produced by Eaux Claires co-curator Aaron Dessner of the National. The results are damn lovely. Titled “Then Came the Morning,” the record incorporates jubilant, gospel-like harmonies and serene strings around frontman Zach Williams’ dramatic Americana tunes, sounding like a banjo-less Marcus Mumford or a more upbeat Damien Rice with deeper Southern flavor. Opener Odessa is a Los Angeles singer/violinist who was part of the Mumford-led Road Revival Tour, and whose song “I Will Be There” can be heard in a new Subaru commercial. (8 p.m. Tue., Turf Club, sold out.) Riemenschneider

Cinematic pop collective Milo Greene released an excellent follow-up to its 2012 self-titled debut last month. “Control” boasts the kind of artistic evolution necessary for a band looking to distinguish itself among the crowd of Los Angeles indie-pop acts. It’s a solid record of 13 songs that highlight the quintet’s distinct vocal styles and each member’s creative identity, with an up-tempo, rhythm-driven sound that’s a striking departure from the folk influence that characterized the first record. Duluth’s Toby Thomas Churchill opens. (8:30 p.m. Wed., Fine Line, $16-$30.) Alex Nelson

The Church put out some of the most elegant records in the “120 Minutes”-era alt-rock stable, with 1988’s hit “Under the Milky Way” only scratching the surface of their melodic moodiness. Even with three gifted singer/songwriters in the group, the Australian band’s core remained intact until its latest record, “Further/Deeper,” for which guitarist Marty Wilson-Piper was “unavailable.” Co-founders Steve Kilbey and Peter Koppes are marking the group’s 35th anniversary with Powderfinger guitarist Ian Haug for a replacement. Opening is the chamber-rock ensemble the Sharp Things, whose leader Perry Serpa has arranged strings for TV on the Radio and others. (7:30 p.m. Thu., Cedar Cultural Center, all ages, $30-$35.) Riemenschneider


Outstanding saxophonist and composer Pat Mallinger has been a mainstay of the Chicago scene for decades. The St. Paul native was also an Artists’ Quarter favorite in happier times. Now Mallinger is back as guest artist at the University of Minnesota Jazz Festival, an annual one-day event showcasing the university’s big bands. He’ll star on some of his own compositions: “Kings and Saints,” “Flash” and “Double Whammy,” from his recent “Elevate” CD with Bill Carrothers. There will be charts by sundry jazz legends, including Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Bill Evans, and octogenarian sax greats Phil Woods, Lee Konitz and Bill Holman. Expect excellent music, up ’n’ coming talent and an all-pro soloist at an unbeatable price — it’s free. (7 p.m. Sat., Ted Mann Concert Hall, 2128 S. 4th St., Mpls.) Tom Surowicz

Once a child prodigy in Havana, Cuban percussionist and singer Pedrito Martinez has been a smash hit in Manhattan for nearly two decades, working with jazz stars (Wynton Marsalis, Joe Lovano, Cassandra Wilson), rock stars (Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Sting) and Latin luminaries (Eddie Palmieri, Paquito d’Rivera, Arturo O’Farrill). He was a founding member of the high-energy band Yerba Buena and his own quartet’s debut CD was Grammy-nominated. The group features a bassist from Venezuela, Alvaro Benavides; a pianist, trumpeter and composer-arranger from Cuba, Edgar Pantoja-Aleman, and a fellow percussionist born in Peru, but raised in New York City, Jhair Sala. (7 & 9 p.m. Wed., Dakota Jazz Club, $17-$27.) Surowicz



Verdi’s “Requiem” belongs in a concert hall rather than a church. The theatricality and drama of the music would scare most mourners right out of the pews. From the thundering “Dies irae (Day of wrath)” to the serene and peaceful “Libera me (Free me, Lord),” this is some of the most expressive and powerful music that Verdi ever wrote. The Minnesota Orchestra presents rare performances of this masterpiece, led by renowned opera and orchestral conductor (and SPCO artistic partner) Roberto Abbado, joined by the powerful Minnesota Chorale and four soloists. (8 p.m. Fri.-Sat., Orchestra Hall, $34-$96, 612-371-5656, William Randall Beard