This week, you could see Loudon Wainwright III and Twenty One Pilots on the very same night. I dare you.
Big Thief @ First Avenue
Big Thief’s two 2019 albums, U.F.O.F. and Two Hands, are beautiful models of contained quietude. Beneath a deceptively calm folk-pop veneer, the Brooklyn band’s small, plucky guitar figures weave around Adrianne Lenker’s trembling voice with such hushed, intricate energy that the music’s unlikely coherence seems a spiritual triumph over decay. With Palehound. 18+. 7 p.m. $21/$23. 701 First Ave. N. More info here.—Lucas Fagen
Tom Morello @ Varsity Theater
After an extended break, Morello resumes his touring behind the EDM-inflected Atlas Underground, the first album issued under his own name, which dropped almost exactly a year ago. Like the disc, the live showcase, produced by the dude who backdrops Roger Waters, is plenty shiny but still scabrous, fueled by Morello’s scathing guitar riffs and the “social justice ghost stories” he claims as the thematic thread of the record. 8 p.m. $35. 18+. 1308 SE 4th St., Minneapolis. More info here.—Britt Robson
Complete Monday music listings here.
Natasha Bedingfield @ Varsity Theater
Natasha Bedingfield’s two great motivational mid-‘00s anthems are harsher and weirder than you remember: The warmly dissonant “Unwritten” aims for vacuous uplift even as her voice cracks, mewls, and hisses, while the streamlined electrosnarl of “Pocketful of Sunshine” is pugnacious and defiant for apparently no reason. The English singer’s new Roll With Me is her first album in nine years. 6:30 p.m. $35-$52. 1308 Fourth St. SE. More info here.—Lucas Fagen
Complete Tuesday music listings here.
Ricki Lee Jones @ Cedar
The hipster demi-beatnik who splashed the scene with the beret and jive of “Chuck E’s In Love” is 40-year old nostalgia now, and Ricki Lee Jones is eligible for Medicare next month. Good for her. The phenomenon of her breakthrough debut steadily dimmed over the decades because in the end she really was an artist instead of a sell-out. She’s touring behind, Kicks, a wide swath of covers (from “Bad Company” to “Mack The Knife”) she tweaks with the flavors of her adopted New Orleans hometown and her own incessant, jazz-compulsive muse. 7:30 p.m. $45-$60. 416 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis. More info here.—Britt Robson
Complete Wednesday music listings here.
Loudon Wainwright III @ Dakota
Loudon Wainwright’s nose can sniff out the odiferous. His only hit, decades ago, was “Dead Skunk,” “stinkin’ to high heaven,” also an apt description of the Trumpster dumpster predicted in his 2016 pre-election nightmare single “I Had A Dream.” And no one, especially himself, exactly smells like a rose in his decades of wittily acerbic, merciless chronicles of Wainwright clan foibles. But LWIII is getting a bit sentimental lately, with tributes to artists he admires (Charlie Poole, Mose Allison) plus a project (Surviving Twin) intertwining his tunes with parallel jottings by his father, Life magazine writer LWJr. Dan Israel opens. 7 p.m. $35—$40. 1010 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis. More info here.—Rick Mason
Twenty One Pilots @ Target Center
Twenty One Pilots have invented their own emo pop-rock sound, a fusion of dark guitar rumble and tight synthpop bounce. The Ohio duo’s much-vaunted genre syncretism means they have at their disposal a giant kitchen sink of sound effects with which to disrupt the groove, chopping songs into ever jumpier fragments. Their love songs and depressed songs share a tender, rousing pathos. With Misterwives. 6:30 p.m. $39.50+. 600 N 1st Ave., Minneapolis. More info here.—Lucas Fagen
Jarrelle Barton @ Khyber Pass Café
Barton plays the guzheng, a Chinese zither. He was intoxicated by the instrument as a kid growing up in Cleveland, to the point of building his own crude version out of a tea tray and guitar strings, learning Mandarin and convincing his grandmother to first buy him the real deal and then move to the Twin Cities so he could study with guzheng master Li Jiaxiang in Burnsville. This solo performance in the uber-intimate Khyber is likely to be the most palpable primer you can get on the instrument. 9:30 p.m. $10 ($5 for students). 1541 Grand Ave., St. Paul. More info here.—Britt Robson
SPCO @ Turf Club
Obviously the entire St. Paul Chamber Orchestra would be a difficult fit in the scruffy University Ave. rock joint. Instead, five members of the SPCO’s string section will perform Dvorak’s “Bass Quintet” and “Nocturne in B.” The title of the first piece alludes to the instrumentation—a classic string quartet with a bassist added—which was written in 1875. The nine-minute “Nocturne” was originally one of five movements in the “Bass Quintet,” but removed because Dvorak thought back-to-back slow sections made the work lag. (The “Bass Quintet” will be performed as part of a fuller SPCO concert at Sanctuary Church in North Minneapolis and Sundin Hall in St. Paul the following three days.) 7:30 p.m. $20 (includes a free drink). 1601 University Ave. W., St. Paul. More info here.—Britt Robson
Complete Thursday music listings here.