Keane, Phoenix, the Wainwrights, and more

WEDNESDAY 8.11

Keane

First Avenue

Fans of '80s new wave may compare Keane to Ultravox, or Marillion. In other words: a band that has been hugely successful in their native Britain, but only managed a strong but loyal cult following in the U.S. Keane, however, has managed to gain airplay in America, something that eluded their predecessors. Indeed, their last two albums peaked in the Top 10 here. Fitting nicely with the likes of their countrymen Radiohead and Coldplay, Keane have stood apart from their contemporaries with their "guitar-less" rock. "It wasn't something we planned," says multi-instrumentalist Tim Rice-Oxley. Originally a quartet, the lifelong friends decided to soldier on as a trio after guitarist and co-founding member Dominic Scott left in 2001. "From there we sort of found our niche." Their influences are wide-ranging, from the '60s pop/rock of the Beatles to the dance stylings of the Pet Shop Boys. "I remember they were the first group I really got into apart from my parents' collection," Rice-Oxley says of the latter. "Richard Hughes, our drummer, and I used to listen to them for hours." Along with lead singer Tom Chaplin, the future pop stars discovered a love of music and early on laid the foundation for the band. Opening for Keane at their First Ave show will be Ingrid Michaelson and Fran Healy. 18+. $32/$35 at the door. 6 p.m. 701 1st Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. P.F. Wilson

Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright

Cozy up with Phoenix in the swanky confines of the State
Cozy up with Phoenix in the swanky confines of the State

Orchestra Hall

Throughout his career, Rufus Wainwright has flirted with cabaret, art song, the lush frontiers of pop, vintage crooning, even opera. Wainwright succeeds in making much of it highly original, even experimental. But it all seems to naturally emanate from the parlor, specifically the place where he and his mother and aunt—the wonderful Kate and Anna McGarrigle—gathered around the piano with sister Martha and extended family and friends, creating music as had been done in the pre-electric era. So it also feels natural to return to that parlor ambience for All Days Are Nights: Songs For Lulu, a sad, deeply reflective, starkly personal collection of songs obviously reflecting Kate's lingering illness and death last January. It's just Rufus' voice and sometimes florid piano, riding swells of emotion so artful that three Shakespeare sonnets he set to music fit right in. In concert, Rufus, accompanying himself on piano, will perform the new album, followed by older material. Martha, who will open with her own solo set, inherited more of dad Loudon Wainwright's acerbic temperament, indicated by such lyrical tunes as "Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole." She's actually a far more supple songwriter than that title suggests, also reflecting much of her mother's influence. Her latest album, recorded live, is an Edith Piaf tribute, Sans Fusils, Ni Souliers, A Paris. All ages. $26-$76. 8 p.m. 1111 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis; 612.371.5656. —Rick Mason

THURSDAY 8.12

Phoenix

State Theatre

Last year's Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is finely crafted, geeky art rock with dance aspirations, which might be why Phoenix seems to share much of the same young audience that made MGMT's "Kids" a collegiate disco hit. These aren't listeners likely to mind that singer Thomas Mars sounds like a wobbly Brian Eno: To the contrary, his intricate, nonstop hooks compressed into plucky, hermetic synth-guitar grooves were enough to convince critics, Grammy voters, and a host of famous remixers that his metallic whimper on the French band's fourth, breakthrough album is a thing of pop beauty. This listener suspects the show's the thing—they've got a good beat and you can dance to it. All ages. $37.50. 7:30 p.m. 805 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 612.339.7007. Peter S. Scholtes

FRIDAY 8.13

Dr. John and the Lower 911

Dakota Jazz Club

Night trippin' for near about a half-century now, Mac Rebennack, in his guise as the gris-gris totin' Dr. John, has been puttin' a serious hoit (as they used to say in the Lower Ninth Ward) on the 88s, tapping into and invigorationatin' (as he might say) the unique traditions of New Orleans piano playing and songwriting for so long he himself has achieved icon status. He is so cloaked in the essence of the Crescent City—from the patois to the hoodoo spirit to his encyclopedic knowledge of NOLA musical history—that he has become a symbol of the beleaguered City That Care—and lately the rest of the world—Forgot. Much to his credit, Mac has been in the forefront of lambasting those responsible for the catastrophes that keep turning the Big Easy into anything but, most prominently the botched response to Katrina and now the gulf oil fiasco. Consequently, Dr. John's last few releases have been sputtering with rage. His new Tribal, however, channels that still-prevalent anger into more philosophical musings—in his inimitable style—on the twisted state of the world, especially in Louisiana. Rather than just venting, Mac invokes that distinctly quirky NOLA sense of humor to try to make sense of the nonsensical. He acknowledges the medicinal power of song ("Feel Good Music"), riffs on a litany of evils ("Only in Amerika"), even gives some surprising nutritional advice ("Whut's Wit Dat"), while conjuratin' a luscious, expansive Crescent City sound that slyly touches on jazz, second line funk, Fess, Mardi Gras Indians, and Creole composer Louis Gottschalk. $35-$55. 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. 1010 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis; 612.332.1010. Also Thursday

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