Judas Priest, the Roots, and more

THURSDAY 7.2

The Roots

First Avenue

As far as Jimmy Fallon is concerned, the Roots are the best band in late-night. Though he's a tad biased—they back him up each weeknight on his Late Night show—he's also probably right. Not only that, the Roots are also possibly the best band in hip hop, and equally as refreshing in a live setting. While the group's roots (sorry, that's a sad excuse for a pun) go back over two decades, their first major success came with the 1996 album Illadelph Halflife. Largely motivated by the success of a video that poked fun at rap clichés, the Roots went on to achieve great success by mashing their thoroughly eclectic music with the powerful rhymes of the group's MC, Black Thought. Adding to the list of band's bests, the Roots might also be the best band when it comes to time management, sneaking in a tour between recording their ninth studio album and their Late Night residency (not to mention DJing dates across the country). With such a pedigree, and so many accolades, it wouldn't be out of line to think that the Roots' First Avenue gig will be another best for the group and its fans. 18+. $30. 6 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. Chris DeLine

Robert Cray

Cabooze

Robert Cray was the blues laureate of infidelity in the '80s and early '90s, a smooth and innovative classic-soul craftsman who brought synthesizers to blues, gave John Lee Hooker a career-jolting backing band, and crossed over to MTV with 1986's "Smoking Gun" on pure strength of haunting riff, murderous lyric, and tersely expressive guitar solo. Cray may be best known for that and other songs included on the 1999 Mercury retrospective Heavy Picks—The Robert Cray Band Collection, many written by longtime producer Dennis Walker. But he won a Grammy for that same year's post-Mercury, post-Walker Take Your Shoes Off, a straight-up tribute to the Hi Records sound. And the 2006 concert album Live from Across the Pond showcases an increasingly rich '00s career, culminating in Cray's own "Twenty." Drawn from the 2005 album of the same title, this live version belongs on any mix of essential anti-Iraq War tracks, sung from the point of view of a soldier in the desert who signed up after 9/11 ("This ain't the country that I had in mind"). It captures so much of what Cray does beautifully besides convince you he's a cheater: Within a few words and snapping guitar gestures, he makes a world open up out of his blues. 21+. $35. 8 p.m. 917 Cedar Ave. S, Minneapolis; 612.338.6425. Peter S. Scholtes

Charles Lloyd Quartet

Dakota Jazz Club

First off, the members of Charles Lloyd's latest, incomparable quartet: pianist Jason Moran, drummer Eric Harland, bassist Reuben Rogers. It's a given that all three are brilliant, and extraordinary that Lloyd has brought them together. Each is among the leading contemporary players on his instrument, and, like Lloyd, each maintains a critical sense of jazz history while moving the music in fresh, innovative directions. Moran, especially, in recent years has emerged as a bandleader and musician of extraordinary vision. Then there's the incomparable Lloyd, a saxophonist and flautist whose long career has helped shape jazz's post-bop landscape, as an experimenter with free jazz, jazz-rock fusion (making him a Fillmore-level star in the psychedelic rock era), and world music. This quartet's first album was last year's Rabo de Nube, recorded live in Switzerland, the title taken from a lovely ballad by Cuban singer-songwriter Silvio Rodríguez. The other compositions are all Lloyd's, ranging from the exotic, Eastern-sounding "Ramanujan" (on which Lloyd plays tárogató, a Hungarian woodwind) and soulful tribute to the late jazz trumpeter and Lloyd's childhood friend Booker Little ("Booker's Garden") to the episodically ferocious "Prometheus" and a sizzling new version of the 45-year-old "Sweet Georgia Bright." $50 at 7 p.m.; $35 at 9:30 p.m. 1010 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis; 612.332.1010. —Rick Mason

FRIDAY 7.3

Judas Priest

Harriet Island

There isn't much new to say about Judas Priest except that they may be even more important to the genre of heavy metal than most people think—and many already think they are one of the most important bands, metal or otherwise. However, it could (and should) be argued that they are ultimately the most important metal band of all time. To wit: Rob Halford provided the genre with a template to use and/or wholly rip off in his leather-and-studs getups and banshee howls. K.K. Downing has the best rock name ever, save for Motörhead's Lemmy Kilmister, and Priest's unimaginably loud, shattering riffs are the stuff of legend. The masterstroke, however, was Halford announcing on MTV in 1998 that he was, in fact, gay, without any collateral damage to his legacy or his career—which was (and really still is) astounding given the time and the hyper-masculine genre in which he operates. But it's a testament to what Judas Priest are all about: They never gave in or gave up and have always stayed true to themselves—even in the face of adversity, even if it meant a smaller market share. These are things that other metal bands didn't do, and why hardly any of them are held in such high regard today. With Whitesnake. $10 (includes $10 in food tickets); free with festival entry between noon and 3 p.m. 7 p.m. 200 Dr. Justus Ohage Blvd., St. Paul; 651.266.6400. Pat O'Brien

Toots and the Maytals

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