Monday 2.7 at State Theatre

These two masterful songwriters, quirky characters, and especially vital forces of musical nature have been doing these sort of intimate song-swapping shows periodically for more than 20 years. Armed with acoustic guitars and deep reservoirs of memorable songs, both Lovett and Hiatt have ample room to roam in their respective catalogs, each etched with roots running from country to blues. Lovett's tend more to the surreal, along with evocative (and often metaphoric) sketches of the windswept western landscape, infused with western swing and chamber folk. Hiatt is more of a classic storyteller whose myriad roots entwine a rock 'n' roll heart. The pair's between-tunes banter could be as entertaining as the music, but make sure you hydrate beforehand, since Lovett's witticisms are as notoriously dry as the Mojave. $43–$78.50. 7:30 p.m. 805 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 612.339.7007. —Rick Mason

James Hunter

Monday 2.7 and Tuesday 2.8 at Dakota Jazz Club

The best male neo-soul singer to emerge from Britain this century started out in the pubs as Howlin' Wilf (a name seemingly culled from This Is Spinal Tap), even while still a railroad worker in Colchester. With splendid R&B pipes and an uncanny ability to channel the likes of Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, and even James Brown's yowl, James Hunter eventually emerged with his own persona, albeit one comfortably ensconced in the aura of the '50s and '60s. His two U.S. releases—People Gonna Talk, The Hard Way (the last from 2008)—were highly addictive revelations, his originals naturally slipping among the classics, driven by honking horns and his own bristling guitar work, informed by jump jazz and seminal funk. Hunter returns leading his six-piece band. $40. 7 p.m. 1010 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis; 612.332.1010. —Rick Mason

The Decemberists

Sunday 2.6 at State Theatre

The last two times that the Decemberists have come through Minneapolis, it was in support of their elaborate prog-rock opera The Hazards of Love, with the band playing the album in its entirety each time, only revisiting their older material during the extended encores. This time around, there aren't any high-minded concept albums to support, just the understated majesty of their brilliant new record, The King Is Dead, an album which finds the band indulging their R.E.M. proclivities as well as hearkening back to their whimsically diaphanous early work. Not only do we get to hear these gorgeous new songs performed live for the first time in the area, but a more flexible set list will allow for a comprehensive sampling of the band's outstanding back catalog. An often overlooked aspect of the Decemberists' live show is the fact that frontman Colin Meloy, despite the self-seriousness of his bookish songs, is actually quite funny onstage, continually providing witty asides that will only add to your enjoyment of the performance. But the stellar songs are clearly the main draw here, brought to life by the supremely talented group of musicians that will be joining Meloy (sadly, though, no Peter Buck or Gillian Welch, who contributed significantly to the new record), including Nickel Creek violinist Sara Watkins, who will be handling the majority of Welch's vocal parts on the new songs. All ages. $32.50. 6:30 p.m. 805 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 612.339.7007. —Erik Thompson

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Minnesota Concert Tickets

Concert Calendar

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