Critics' Picks: U2, Sia, Steve Earle, and more

U2

TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday 7.23

With the social and commercial ambitions of the Clash times Michael Jackson, U2 are too big to fail boringly: "Green" mansions and Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark are what they do instead of crashing cars into swimming pools. What's amazing is how often they get it right, which in concert is all the time. Playing the Target Center six years ago not long after Hurricane Katrina, Bono took a rare moment of speech-making to say the disaster brought out the best in America. He gracefully saved any implicit criticism for a music video the following year—a cover of the Skids' "The Saints Are Coming," with Green Day—that showed an imaginary U.S. military redeployment from Iraq to New Orleans. On the heels of Israel's war in Gaza a few years later, during a performance of "Pride (In the Name of Love)" at Obama's inaugural celebration, the Irishman paused to suggest that Martin Luther King's was "also a Palestinian dream." These might seem like crumbs, but in pop, they're the gestures of giants—and gutsy ones. U2 are ultimately just four guys who play incredibly well together, their rattlesnake groove and Christmas Krautrock production lifting 2009's No Line on the Horizon to the ether despite fewer great songs than 1997's savaged Pop (whose "Wake Up Dead Man" haunts "Cedars of Lebanon"). All ages. $30-$250. 7 p.m. 2009 University Ave. SE, Minneapolis; 612.624.8080. —Peter S. Scholtes

Gillian Welch

Bono and Co. make their triumphant return to the Twin Cities
courtesy of the artists
Bono and Co. make their triumphant return to the Twin Cities

Location Info

Map

TCF Bank Stadium

2009 University Ave. SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Category: Sports and Recreation

Region: University

Fitzgerald Theater

10 E. Exchange St.
St. Paul, MN 55101

Category: Theaters

Region: St. Paul (Downtown)

Triple Rock Social Club

629 Cedar Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55454

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)

First Avenue

701 1st Ave. N.
Minneapolis, MN 55403

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)

400 Bar

400 Cedar Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55454

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)

Minnesota Zoo Weesner Amphitheater

13000 Zoo Blvd.
Apple Valley, MN 55124

Category: Performing Arts Venues

Region: Apple Valley

Pantages Theatre

710 Hennepin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55402

Category: Performing Arts Venues

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)

Fitzgerald Theater on Wednesday 7.20

Eight years after her last album under her own name, Gillian Welch returns with The Harrow and the Harvest, an excellent collection of sepia-toned country-folk monologues played with mostly slow and muted conviction, as if to give the songs their full due without waking the baby. As usual she's joined by her longtime musical partner and co-writer, David Rawlings, an able and subtle guitarist whose vocal harmonies are especially felt when minor-key verses give way to lovely major choruses. Welch and Rawlings began inserting some more contemporary references into their songs on 2001's Time (the Revelator), but their project remains essentially historical; at times this leads to a certain movie-set nostalgia, but just as often they get the timelessness they're after, and whether by intention or not their downcast, sometimes wearily optimistic new songs suit present-day recessions and stumbling recoveries. All ages. $32. 7:30 p.m. 10 E. Exchange St., St. Paul; 651.290.1200. —Dylan Hicks

Off With Their Heads and Riverboat Gamblers

Triple Rock Social Club on Wednesday 7.20

Consider it a "grand opening" for the Out of Step podcast when Off With Their Heads, Riverboat Gamblers, and Dead to Me swing through town on their national tour, with Humanoids and the Manix opening. After a decade on Radio K, host Adam Mehl is moving his popular punk show off the dial and moving to an electronic format, with Wednesday's show serving as a launch party. The Riverboat Gamblers, from Texas, play punk-infused big, raw rock, and frontman Mike Wiebe is known for climbing walls, flailing his body recklessly, and swinging his mic stand with little regard for this band's well-being. The three headliners are also supporting a tour-only three-way split release. Few radio shows last 10 years, so get to the Triple Rock, eat some free bacon, and be prepared to hit that snooze button on Thursday. 18+. $14. 8 p.m. 629 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.333.7399. —Loren Green

Sia

First Avenue on Thursday 7.21

Owner of one of the sexiest voices in pop, jazzily sultry where the dominant style is tough, Australian-born New Yorker Sia Furler has been performing and recording since she was a teenager in the '90s—her "Breathe Me" (from a mellower period) soundtracks the final scene of Six Feet Under. Following collaborations with Christina Aguilera, she promised a star-coming-out party with last year's We Are Born, its bold musicality like an AM-radio Janelle Monae, and with the Strokes' Nick Valensi adding crisp, trebly guitar. But she stopped touring, for health reasons, after playing the Fine Line last year. Now she returns, still something of an eclectic folk-pop neo-soulstress live, but ready for dance. With Oh Land. 18+. $20. 6 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. —Peter S. Scholtes

The Blow

400 Bar on Friday 7.22

"That's an interesting question. What's the Blow?" That's Khaela Maricich—a.k.a. the Blow—self-posing a query which you can safely expect to remain unanswered after her performance this week, and the next, and the next. It's not that it's difficult music, all minimalist pop production and Maricich's strong and restrained voice, but that it's not strictly about the music at all. At a performance last year, Maricich gazed into the audience from her empty stage, struck a hip-thrust pose, and asked: "Do these people think they can have me?" That question is at the root of the Blow in its current state; a sort of in-person evaluation of the pop princess, with Maricich as the monologuing jester, the self-doubting star, and the actual, vulnerable artist behind it all. Don't go looking for answers, and don't be surprised if you get a few anyway. With He's My Brother, She's My Sister. 18+. $10/$12 at the door. 8 p.m. 400 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.332.2903. —Andrew Flanagan

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