Critics' Picks: Best Coast, Gang of Four, Boz Scaggs

Summer is coming early this year with SoCal buzz band Best Coast

Summer is coming early this year with SoCal buzz band Best Coast

Best Coast and Wavves

Friday 2.11 at Varsity Theater

Sun-drenched SoCal noise-poppers Best Coast and Wavves have teamed up on a joint tour they've dubbed "Summer Is Forever." It's a pretty bold move, then, bringing that sweltering traveling sideshow through Minneapolis during the heart of winter, but hopefully their bright, vivacious brand of beach-side garage rock will warm all of us up for at least one night. Best Coast frontwoman Bethany Cosentino and Wavves mastermind Nathan Williams have an on again/off again relationship that will certainly make this tour an intriguing one for the two of them, but that familiarity should also forge a sense of togetherness and playful competition that will serve to energize their performances. While the dreamy pop featured on Best Coast's insanely catchy debut, Crazy for You, takes on a livelier, grittier edge in a live setting, you never truly know what you are going to get from a Wavves performance—and that unpredictability and instability is clearly part of the overall appeal of the band. Hopefully the memorable meltdowns in Williams's past are behind him, and he can instead focus proudly on the fervent batch of tunes featured on King of the Beach. Both bands should have no trouble building on one another's boundless energy on this night, which is made to remind all of us that winter will eventually be over. 18+. $18/$20 at the door. 8 p.m. 1308 4th St. SE, Minneapolis; 612.604.0222. —Erik Thompson

The Radio Dept.

Wednesday 2.9 at 7th St. Entry

The enigmatic Swedish dream-pop trio the Radio Dept. have been garnering plenty of well-deserved accolades both overseas and in the States for 2010's sublime Clinging to a Scheme. And now they bring their ever-evolving live show to the intimate confines of the Entry for an ethereal exploration of the band's distinct, whimsical sound. There is also a natural warmth found within the music of the Radio Dept. that seems to be restlessly at odds with the vast sense of space in their diaphanous arrangements, and it will be interesting to see how these competing qualities play out during this rare local live performance from these inventive Swedes. San Francisco psych-pop quintet Young Prisms open the night, and should also not be missed. 18+. $10. 8 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. —Erik Thompson

Kurt Elling Quartet

Wednesday 2.9 and Thursday 2.10 at Dakota Jazz Club

With a rich, supple baritone that roams multiple octaves and negotiates jazz's nuances with sparkling originality and finesse, Chicago's Kurt Elling is arguably the finest contemporary male jazz vocalist. Soulful, intense, and classically hip, Elling is a scat and vocalese master, can swing with the best of them, and is a particularly poetic lyricist and idiosyncratic interpreter of widely eclectic material. His spanking new The Gate, produced by veteran studio ace Don Was, typically runs the gamut from Miles Davis to the Beatles via King Crimson, Stevie Wonder, and Duke Ellington, all gaining fresh dimension from Elling's unique insight. Here, Elling will be accompanied by longtime pianist/co-arranger Laurence Hobgood, guitarist John McLean, bassist Harish Raghavan, and drummer Ulysses Owens. $40 at 7 p.m.; $30 at 9:30 p.m. 1010 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis; 612.332.1010. —Rick Mason

Gang of Four

Saturday 2.12 at First Avenue

Seminal Leeds post-punk outfit Gang of Four have been consistently rattling the cages of convention ever since their formation over 30 years ago. And while the original lineup that was featured in their 2004 reunion has since dissolved, founding members (and primary creative forces) Jon King and Andy Gill still sound indignant and agitated on their just-released seventh studio album, Content. The band's live show should prove to be just as incendiary, as they forever fight to reclaim the laurels heaped upon plenty of pale imitators. Whether it's Gang of Four's evocative social message that moves you or their rambunctious brand of rock 'n' roll, this should be a special performance from a band that clearly knows how to get things done right. With Hollerado. 18+. $20. 6 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. —Erik Thompson

Boz Scaggs

Saturday 2.12 at State Theatre

Silk Degrees may have been the name of singer Boz Scaggs's 1976 breakthrough album, but maybe it also indicates the Fahrenheit level of slyness in Scaggs's sleek mix of R&B, blues, soul, jazz, and sophisticated pop. These days Scaggs is in prime form and having a blast as a veteran pop savant. He's added jazz standards to his repertoire over the last few years. His smart phrasing and Gil Goldstein's agile arrangements made the Great American Songbook tunes on 2008's Speak Low glisten. Last summer, Scaggs toured with Donald Fagen and Michael McDonald as the Dukes of September. And now, Scaggs is on the road running through his greatest hits mixed up with standards plus maybe the odd R&B nugget. Meanwhile, he's got two new albums in the works: another collection of standards and an all-originals disc, his first in well over a decade. $48-$58. 8 p.m. 805 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 612.339.7007. —Rick Mason

Vusi Mahlasela

Sunday 2.13 at Dakota Jazz Club

Definitively known as the Voice, South African singer/guitarist Vusi Mahlasela is an icon revered not only for the passionate, supple strength of his vocals and the joyous spirit of his music, but also as an inspirational voice during the anti-Apartheid revolution and subsequent reconciliation. With lyrics that often still address social and political issues, Mahlasela's music embraces a wide swath of South African styles, from strictly traditional to township jazz, mixing them up with subtle bits of international folk and pop. His music is naturally effervescent, his sandy voice flirting with simmering rhythms, dancing guitar lines, and rich choruses. Mahlasela's new album, Say Africa, was recorded at Dave Mathews's Virginia studio and produced by Taj Mahal, who adds a few modest touches. This will be a duo performance: Mahlasela joined by guitarist/singer Mongezi Ntaka, who was Lucky Dube's lead guitarist. $25. 7 p.m. 1010 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis; 612.332.1010. —Rick Mason

Justin Townes Earle

Monday 2.14 at First Avenue

After canceling his previously scheduled U.S. tour to deal with his addiction issues, Justin Townes Earle is finally rolling through Minneapolis in support of his brilliant Harlem River Blues. Steeped in weathered songwriting and infectious, timeless arrangements, Earle's most recent record is a radiant pinnacle in a continually developing career that will hopefully only get better. Earle's distinct sound is a city dweller's take on countrified Americana, blending the rough edges of contemporary urban life with a spirited musical style that seems lifted straight from the good side of the dial of late-1950s radio. But Earle's vulnerable heart beats at the center of all of his songs, and his captivating live shows only enhance the stirring beauty of his music. The young chanteuse Jessica Lea Mayfield opens, and should set the mood quite nicely with her unique, transfixing sound. 18+. $15. 7:30 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. —Erik Thompson