Shows of the Week: Smashing Pumpkins Are Still Arguing For a Hall of Fame Career
Revention Music Center, April 18
Note: Due to the heavy rains in the Houston area since Sunday night, Monday's show has been cancelled. Since the emergence of grunge music in the early 1990s, guitar players, with their extended solos and dominant riffs, have largely remained out of the spotlight. But that hasn’t stopped virtuoso rock and metal guitarists, and their small but loyal following from keeping the Marshalls turned up to 11. The latest incarnation/tour is Generation Axe, which descends upon Revention Music Center Monday with five heavy hitters from that bygone era including Steve Vai (David Lee Roth), Zakk Wylde (Ozzy Osborne), Nuno Bettencourt (Extreme), young Nigerian-born gunslinger Tosin Abasi and patriarch of ‘80s classically-influenced shredder metal, Yngwie Malmsteen. Get your earplugs and your devil horns ready. JEFF BALKE
SMASHING PUMPKINS, LIZ PHAIR
Cullen Performance Hall, April 20
Let’s all hope Billy Corgan, or should we say Smashing Pumpkins, gets into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame one day; not only because then Corgan will finally stop saying he should be in, but because he probably deserves to be anyway. It’s been a while since the Pumpkins have released a truly great album, although their last two, 2012’s Oceania and 2014’s Monuments to an Elegy, have at least made a strong case for Corgan as rock’s comeback artist of the 2010s. Not hurting his legacy at all is this acoustic-ish “In Plainsong” tour, which aims to strip back the crushing volume of the Pumpkins’ catalog to reveal the intricate songcraft at the core. A rare Houston date from opener Liz Phair, another of the ‘90s’ greatest alt-rock songwriters, is pretty much worth the ticket price regardless of your opinion of Corgan.
Raven Tower, April 21
Country music has been gifted with several young women lately who have simultaneously aligned with and rejected Nashville's old-guard traditions: Kacey Musgraves, Ashley Monroe, Margo Price and now Aubrie Sellers. Daughter of Texas-born superstar Lee Ann Womack, which is evident as soon as Sellers opens her mouth to sing, Sellers co-wrote 12 songs on her debut, this year's New City Blues, and wrote the other two outright. Produced by Nashville A-lister Frank Liddell, who happens to be Sellers' stepfather, New City tackles smoldering country-blues (“Light of Day”) and blazing rockers (“Living Is Killing Me”) alongside more traditional numbers (“Losing Ground”) to make a striking statement that should ensure Sellers has a long career. Despite obvious singles like “Magazines,” most of New City is way too ambitious for country radio; luckily, it's perfect for the outdoor-festival circuit – where Sellers will return to Houston at Free Press Summer Fest in June.
I LOVE THE '90s feat. SALT N' PEPA
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, April 22
“I Love the ‘90s” is here to meet all your nostalgia needs with a hip-hop package tour that already looks like a hell of a lot more fun than that Full House reboot. Along for the ride are Salt N’ Pepa; Rob Base (R.I.P. DJ E-Z Rock); All-4-One (“I Swear”); Tone Loc (“Funky Cold Medina”); Color Me Badd (“I Wanna Sex You Up”); Young MC (“Principal’s Office”); and Kid & Play (the House Party movies). Arguably, Kool Moe Dee (“Wild Wild West”); Rob Base (“It Takes Two”); Young MC (“Bust a Move”); Kid & Play (“Rollin’ With Kid & Play”); and Salt N’ Pepa themselves (“Push It”) did their most significant work in the ’80s, but let’s not split hairs. It’s just nice to see Salt N’ Pepa in something besides a GEICO commercial.
TONY VEGA BAND
The Big Easy, April 23
Admired by Billy Gibbons, set on his chosen path by a long-ago chance encounter with the late Albert Collins, Tony Vega is a stalwart of the local blues scene. The guitarist and singer has been fronting his eponymous band since 1997, a time span that has carried him through several albums and trips to Europe. Vega is back in the new-release racks with Black Magic Box, an album named after the 1947 black Gibson guitar Vega found at Houston's Rockin' Robin. Recorded and mixed in just two days, Vega's first studio LP in about five years is an engaging spin through popular blues and R&B styles from the 1940s through the '60s, the time of T-Bone Walker, John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters. Chicago-blues lovers' eyes will light up at Bob Reed's “I'm Leaving You,” while locals will delight in both Vega's down-home take on Lyle Lovett's “Penguins” and “Moody Park,” a Los Lobos-ish slice-of-life tribute to his native Near Northside. Vega will also appear at an in-store performance/listening party for Black Magic Box from 12:30-2 p.m. Saturday at Cactus Music, 2110 Portsmouth.
CALLIOPE MUSICALS, THE TOMES
Satellite Bar, April 23
Somewhere along the way, “jam band” became a pejorative term, not a very nice way to treat groups whose only misdemeanors include playing unusual instruments, using elastic time signatures and (often) smoking lots of weed. Acts like Houston's the Tomes are doing their best to reclaim jam bands' good name; a spicy hash of folk, alt-pop and classic rock, most of the songs on their 2016 debut The Importance of Being Shackleton cram so many idiosyncrasies into less than four minutes it would take most jam bands twice that time. If songs like “Hakeem Olajuwon” – a great H-Town anthem in the making, to be sure – put you in mind of Cake, the laconic California band turned unlikely '90s alt-rock superstars, you wouldn't be far off. Saturday, the Tomes should make a fine chocolate-and-cheese pairing with Austin's Calliope Musicals, whose new album Time Owes You Nothing threatens to steer traditional '80s-influenced pop somewhere much more dangerous. With A Girl Named Tiger and The Glass.
DURAN DURAN, CHIC
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, April 23
As iconic an '80s act as U2, Madonna or Prince, Duran Duran injected arena-rock ambition into suave New Romantic synth-pop with enough style that they can still headline major venues 35 years after their self-titled 1981 debut. After bottoming out with 1995's massive all-covers misfire Thank You (which still has a high point or two), the group's recent albums have been hit-or-miss affairs, but they arrive in The Woodlands on a high note thanks to last year's Paper Gods. Tweaking the classic sound that spawned megahits like “Rio” and “Hungry Like the Wolf” with the help of “Uptown Funk” mastermind Mark Ronson, their 14th studio album shows Duran Duran has still got it where it counts. Also making this show a must-see is opening act Chic, the '70s disco-rock deities whose founder Nile Rodgers both co-produced DD's 1986 LP Notorious with the band and reappears to do the same on Paper Gods.
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