Critics' Picks: Rush and More

THURSDAY 5.22

Leisure Birds

Turf Club

From the starter pistol to the finish tape, tonight's Turf Club show is poised to unfold like an Olympic sprint. This evening, two of the Twin Cities' most well conditioned and aurally challenging veterans, Skoal Kodiak and Daughters of the Sun (who are flying high after last week's Heliotrope Festival appearances) welcome Leisure Birds to our humble stage with much cacophonous fanfare. Filled out by members of Count Vesuvius, Daughters of the Sun, and the sadly bygone Thunder in the Valley, Leisure Birds bring a tremendously strong pedigree to our bustling musical nursery. First shows are like rookie cards—snatch them up while you can, because a lucky acquisition can easily earn you the right to say "I saw them when..." without seeming like an insincere, elitist jerk. There're only three bands, so smoke fast, get your drinks upstairs, and don't blink. Ain't nothing in the house tonight you won't kick yourself for missing. 21+. 9 p.m. 1601 University Ave., St. Paul; 651.647.0486. David Hansen

Rush

Xcel Energy Center

There are three ways people regard Canadian super-prog/metal legends Rush: There are the fanatics, the camp of Rush haters, and the middle ground of folks who know all the singles, but rarely stray beyond them. Wherever you stand, it's impossible to deny their influence on rock 'n' roll. Geddy Lee's almost-robotic falsetto is one of a kind, while the importance bestowed on Neil Peart by drummers everywhere has reached almost comedic proportions. Add in the smoking guitar of Alex Lifeson, and you have a powerful combination that melds philosophy, math, and classic-rock kinetics and has kept them filling arenas for decades. All this boils down to one question: Don't you have to see Rush in an arena when given the chance, at least once, especially when combined with the grandeur of the Xcel's acoustics? Haters, you can just zip it. $47.75-$89.75. 7:30 p.m. 175 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul; 651.726.8240. Jen Paulson

FRIDAY 5.23

The Small Cities

Turf Club

There's only one problem with the Small Cities's debut EP: It's four tracks long. The self-recorded, self-titled disc plays like a dream, with intricate pop structures reminiscent of a more moody Shins or slightly less moody Kid Dakota. Even the wavers in drummer David Osborn's voice seem perfectly timed to express a particular emotion: On closing track "I'm Gone," a slow-burning, blistering kiss-off, Osborn's delivery on the line "There's a whole in my heart where you stand" is painstakingly sincere. "What to do with the space in the bed, and everything that went unsaid?" The band responds in turn with echoing harmonies and a hair-raising crescendo that falls off into silence—the silence at the end of a disc that is too short and leaves the listener clamoring for more. The Small Cities celebrate the release of their EP with Black-Eyed Snakes, Mighty Fairly, and Fitzgerald. 21+. 9 p.m. 1601 University Ave., St. Paul; 651.647.0486. Andrea Myers

Alicia Wiley

Varsity Theater

A young woman who considers herself on the shy side, Alicia Wiley looks nowhere near timid when she's sitting behind her piano onstage. Combining a variety of soulful music genres, Wiley is an extremely talented jazz pianist with a voice that's both sexy and refreshing. Solo or with a band, jazz piano like Wiley's is best complemented by an attractive date and a martini of your liking. Hints of Fiona Apple or Tori Amos's voluptuous vocal tones mix with elated Norah Jones-style melodies, helping audience members sit back and breathe easy. Wiley's occasional salsa or Spanish-inspired songs are a stirring treat in between her bluesier repertoire, which can win over any ear in range. Wiley has three full-length albums to date and is currently recording her fourth, meaning there are plenty of gems to play. As she traditionally performs in jazz clubs around the city, the romantic atmosphere of the Varsity Theater will be that much more of a perfect setting in which to be swooned by Wiley's gorgeous creations. With Jistoray and 2wurds. 18+. $10. 8 p.m. 1308 Fourth St. SE, Minneapolis; 612.604.0222. —Amber Schadewald

SATURDAY 5.24

Company Inc.

Turf Club

On 2007's Limited Liability, Company Inc. let us take a peek into their weird, wonderful world. Cellos that start, bounce along, and disappear just as abruptly as they arrived. Guitar riffs that resemble the beginnings of guitar solos. Lyrics that seem to be intensely personal but at the same time are often incoherent and mumbled. At their core, the songs have the same sort of ambling gait that many Gorillaz songs have but bear more resemblance to a prog-rock Sonic Youth covering Radiohead with the odd time shifts, a sound that could be easily described as "polished lo-fi." Emily Dantuma's off-kilter soprano wail emanates from the ether every so often to command attention, and the tension is often so thick you couldn't make a scratch with an A-bomb. Their sophomore effort, Mr. Person, delivers more of the same. They have been cruising along well below the radar up to this point, somehow, but much like the stealth bomber, they seem poised for a sneak attack. There's no shame in admitting you haven't heard of them—but there will be should you choose to ignore them. With Lazer Forever, Dragons Power Up, and the Japanese Space Program. 21+. 9 p.m. 1601 University Ave., St. Paul; 651.647.0486. Pat O'Brien

SUNDAY 5.25

Soundset 08

Metrodome Parking Lot

The list of notable indie rappers performing at the Soundset 08 festival is obscenely long—if they have low ticket sales, they can probably still fill the Metrodome parking lot by having the participants stand around and watch each other. That scenario is doubtful, however, with all the big names crammed onto this 35-act bill: In addition to it being Atmosphere's only Minneapolis stop on their When Life Gives You Lemons... tour, Soundset will feature local heavy-hitters Brother Ali, Eyedea + Abilities, P.O.S, and I Self Divine alongside national acts like Dilated Peoples, Beat Junkies, and Aesop Rock. How much literate, socially conscious hip hop can this city handle in one day? Looks like we're about to find out. Local fans, check out the Fifth Element stage for Twin Cities favorites Doomtree, Muja Messiah, Trama, M.anifest, and pretty much every other rapper in the metro area. All Ages. $25. 11 a.m. Fifth Street and 11th Avenue, Minneapolis; 612.377.0044. —Andrea Myers

Dave Brubeck Quartet

Orchestra Hall

Decreed a "living legend" by no less than the Library of Congress, pianist Dave Brubeck continues a robust career at age 87, playing with sprightly elegance and leading a superbly honed quartet, three-quarters of which has been intact for nearly three decades. Brubeck's 60-something years as a working musician have been especially memorable because he has enjoyed substantial popular acclaim—especially during the 1950s and early '60s—while playing a cerebral strain of jazz featuring odd time signatures, polytonality, quirky harmonies, and striking counterpoint. Brubeck's original quartet, significantly including alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, produced such jazz/cultural touchstones as "Take Five" and "Blue Rondo a la Turk." As a composer, Brubeck also has been an innovator in integrating jazz and classical music, and has written works for orchestras, choral groups, chamber ensembles, and ballets. His latest album, 2007's Indian Summer (Telarc), is a gorgeous solo piano set that features reflective, autumnal tunes such as Kurt Weill's "September Song" and standards like "Georgia on My Mind." Although the theme would seem to be bittersweet, Brubeck plays with such sparkling spirit and imagination that the songs bask in a sunny glow. $25-$65. 7 p.m. 1111 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis; 612.371.5656. —Rick Mason

TUESDAY 5.27

George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic

First Avenue

It's difficult to imagine the elderly George Clinton resting on his laurels, sipping RC Cola and catching a Golden Girls rerun—even though that bitch Dorothy is pretty funny. No, those rainbow hair extensions would just look out of place anywhere except on an enormous stage. Clinton has been preaching funkiness to decades' worth of stoned college kids with no end in sight. Whether it's the delectable kitsch of "Atomic Dog" or the face-melting qualities of "Maggot Brain," Clinton and his Parliament Funkadelic are a must-see. Don't think of this as just another lackluster has-been tour: Clinton is notorious for outstaying his welcome, playing so long venues pull the plug. Besides, it's doubtful Clinton has rent to pay. He probably lives on a space ship. 18+. $25. 8 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. Erin Roof

Eddy Burke & the Consequences

Lee's Liquor Lounge

Eddy Burke's folk smirks with a smart, other-side-of-the-tracks wisdom. Taking on a variety of influences, it ranges from moments of rock 'n' roll to deeply affecting folk romanticism. His more sparse acoustic tracks have the old-timey sound of a wayfaring troubadour, like gravel under the tires of a Model T Ford, while other songs are more rousing and upbeat. Burke's live performances are a treat, his vocals reminiscent of Jonathan Richman's articulated lilt. To anyone who hasn't seen him live, he remains among coal, a diamond waiting to be discovered. Opening the evening is the Chicago-based country-folk of Melinda Bosco. 21+. Free. 9 p.m. 101 N. Glenwood, Minneapolis; 612.338.9491. —Jen Paulson

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