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This week's 27 best concerts: March 29 - Apr. 4

The Gift of Gab

The Gift of Gab

Rounding up the week's best concerts in the Twin Cities.

Son Volt
First Avenue, Wednesday 3.29
In recent years, Jay Farrar has zeroed in on the roots of Son Volt’s rough-and-tumble sound: pure Bakersfield country on 2013’s Honky Tonk, gritty blues on the new Notes of Blue. Pedal steel and snarly electric guitar conspire with Farrar’s dry, serrated voice to etch brooding lyrics that fit Trumpocalyptic times on “Promise the World” and “Back Against the Wall,” and the searing electric mayhem of “Static” launches a journey into the blues’ heart of darkness. Farrar revs up his slide, borrows harrowing themes (no redemption), lyrical threads (“my time ain’t long”), and guitar tunings from country blues icons like Skip James and Mississippi Fred McDowell. His anguished moans and fingerpicked guitar transport “The Storm” and “Cairo and Southern” into early blues’ dusty realm, while the raging intensity of “Lost Souls” suggests an affinity for North Mississippi deep blues’ punkish fervor. Eclectic roots singer, songwriter, guitarist, and longtime Farrar associate Anders Parker opens. 18+. 7 p.m. $20. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612-338-8388. —Rick Mason

  • LOUDON WAINWRIGHT III March 29, 7:00 a.m. at Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant
  • SENSES FAIL March 29, 6:00 p.m. at Cabooze
  • AGNES OBEL March 29, 7:00 p.m. at The Cedar Cultural Center

Big Sean
Myth, Thursday 3.30
Detroit rapper Big Sean may not be commonly mentioned in “best rapper alive” conversations, but he’s such a consistent hitmaker he’s a major player in hip-hop regardless. Sean famously earned a deal with GOOD Music after impressing Kanye with a freestyle at a radio station, and there’s evidence that he can be an elite rapper (on both the thrilling original of “Paradise” and its extended version, for instance). But Sean is more widely beloved for his well-rounded hit records and his ear for beats, which helped his last two albums debut at No. 1. The 29-year-old is at his most open and personal on I Decided, released last month, and the best songs tend to be the boldest: the top 10 hit “Bounce Back,” its follow-up single “Moves,” and the Migos-featuring “Sacrifices.” With MadeinTYO, Neisha Neshae, and DJ Mo Beatz. 7 p.m. $46.50-$136. 3090 Southlawn Dr., Maplewood; 651-779-6984. —Michael Madden

  • COMMUNIST DAUGHTER March 30, 7:30 p.m. at 7th St. Entry
  • ANDY SHAUF March 30, 7:30 p.m. at The Cedar Cultural Center
  • WAX LEAD March 30, 8:00 p.m. at Turf Club

Gift of Gab
Amsterdam Bar and Hall, Friday 3.31
Bay Area rapper Gift of Gab started alongside DJ/producer Chief Xcel in Blackalicious, one of underground rap’s most celebrated and creative groups. If all you know them for is 1999’s lyrical workout “Alphabet Aerobics” (thanks to Daniel Radcliffe’s 2014 viral performance on Fallon), their catalog is worth investigating. Besides Gab’s hyper-technical verses and Xcel’s classicist production, the group kept rap Afrocentrism alive during the late ’90s and early ’00s with two EPs, Melodica and A2G, and two albums, Nia and the 2002 magnum opus Blazing Arrow. Gab has since been active as a solo artist, and his most recent album, The Next Logical Progression (2012), succeeds in part thanks to his uncommon positivity. In 2015, Blackalicious returned with the warm and assuring Imani Vol. 1, their first album in a decade and the start of an expected trilogy, which was written while Gab was being treated for kidney disease, rendering it not just a success but a triumph. With Tek, CMJ, and DJ Snuggles. 18+. 8 p.m. $15-$18. 6 Sixth St. W., St. Paul; 612-285-3112. —Michael Madden

  • LIL WAYNE March 31, 7:00 p.m. at Target Center
  • JAIN March 31, 8:00 p.m. at 7th St. Entry
  • WOMEN OF SUBSTANCE PRESENTS: LIZZO March 31, 7:30 p.m. at O'Shaughnessy Auditorium

Green Day
Xcel Energy Center Saturday 4.1
Green Day’s creative peak, American Idiot, was inspired by Dubya’s misguided presidency, which seems an era of enlightenment compared to our current draconian miasma. Not coincidentally, Green Day bounced back from a period of artistic and personal uncertainty last fall with Revolution Radio. The new album presaged our plunge into the abyss with tunes like “Troubled Times,” whose video now sports hooded Klansmen frolicking with a spike-toothed Trump, his orange coif ablaze, and they’ve reportedly been knocking it out of the park with politically charged shows lambasting the new president’s atrocities. Though the lyrics on Revolution Radio mostly sketch rather than detail angst, slogans like the title track’s “legalize the truth” ring loud. More personal songs like “Somewhere Now” and “Outlaws” may wax nostalgic for the trio’s renegade youth, but the potency of their assault and political focus suggest Green Day haven’t strayed far from the cause in middle age. Fellow punk-pop provocateurs Against Me! open. 7:30 p.m. $29.50-$69.50. 199 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul; 651-726-8240. —Rick Mason

  • JON MCLAUGHLIN April 1, 7:00 p.m. at Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant
  • LUCY KAPLANSKY April 1, 7:00 p.m. at The Cedar Cultural Center
  • MAGGIE ROGERS April 1, 7:00 p.m. at Triple Rock Social Club

Foxygen
First Avenue Sunday 4.2
Though the L.A. duo of Sam France and Jonathan Rado were already known for trawling the gullies of classic rock for inspiration, nothing quite prepared listeners for Hang. A grandiose exercise in pop pomposity that unearths an extravagant array of musical artifacts, Foxygen’s fourth album would be the height of absurdity if it wasn’t so fascinating. Deftly assembled and apparently devoid of irony, Hang works its retro conceits with the guileless charm of the film La La Land. Over barely a half hour, France, Rado, a few friends, and a 40-piece orchestra rip through a rococo riot: time signatures morph, the Ramones dance with Bowie, pedal steel cavorts with piano pop. Ambitious, idiosyncratic, and apparently without bounds, Foxygen dive into pop-soul on “Follow the Leader,” as zinging strings dally with disco and Brit-invasion horns. “Avalon” traverses music-hall tinkling, ABBA, prog convolutions, Texas swing, and an R&B sax break. The lyrics are an equally odd mishmash, serious implications bathed in silliness, with recurring references to flamingos and candelabra. Weird, wacky, and wonderfully fun. Australian singer-songwriter Gabriella Cohen, erstwhile Furr, opens. 18+. 7 p.m. $16-$18. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612-338-8388. —Rick Mason

  • KATE TEMPEST April 2, 7:00 p.m. at 7th St. Entry
  • SHARON ISBIN AND ISABEL LEONARD: MUSIC FROM SPAIN April 2, 2:00 p.m. at O'Shaughnessy Auditorium
  • FELLOW PYNINS April 2, 7:30 p.m. at Icehouse

Whitney
Triple Rock Social Club, Sunday 4.2
Guitarist Max Kakacek and singer/drummer Julien Ehrlich formed Whitney after the 2014 breakup of their old band, the precocious Chicago glam-rock revivalists Smith Westerns. Expanding to take in five more members, Whitney, named for an imagined bandmate who helped move along Kakacek and Ehrlich’s songwriting process (or something), may just prove to be both those guys’ most successful group yet. Frequently compared to the defunct San Francisco band Girls, Whitney play earnest pop-rock infused with elements of ’70s country (a la Gram Parsons) and even Stax soul. At just 10 songs and 30 minutes in length, the band’s Jonathan Rado-produced first album, Light Upon the Lake, was remarkably efficient and one of the year’s best debuts in any genre, highlighted by the stunning opener “No Woman” and the jauntier “Golden Days.” 18+. 8 p.m. $16-$18. 629 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612-333-7399. —Michael Madden

  • OMNI April 3, 7:30 p.m. at 7th St. Entry
  • THE ROE FAMILY SINGERS April 3, 8:00 p.m. at 331 Club
  • SIGHT AND SOUND: CHRISTOPHER LUDTKE April 3 at Solid State
  • THE 4ONTHEFLOOR April 4, 8:00 p.m. at Triple Rock Social Club
  • MINUS THE BEAR April 4, 7:00 p.m. at Fine Line Music Cafe
  • COSMONAUTS April 4, 7:00 p.m. at 7th St. Entry