The 10 Best Concerts In Houston This Weekend: Kenny Chesney, Grady Gaines, Slash, The Nightowls, Drake, etc.
BBVA Compass Stadium, May 22
Kenny Chesney is getting up there in years, but his latter-day career has given him a sort of gravitas he didn't have in his youth. In those days his albums were pretty much standard-issue '90s hat-act country, not that bad but more than a little callow; now he's America's favorite singing beach bum not named Jimmy Buffett. That said, Chesney has actually dialed down the surf and sand a bit in favor of small-town Americana on his latest album, The Big Revival, a collection of sentimental character sketches that radiates wistful nostalgia rather than sun-dappled easy times. It's a pretty good look for Chesney too, but don't expect Corona Light to totally vanish from the picture Friday...it's the "Big Revival" tour sponsor, after all. With Jake Owen and Chase Rice.
The Big Easy Social & Pleasure Club, May 22
Always-fly sax man/rock and roll pioneer Grady Gaines turned 81 on May 14, but he’ll celebrate his birthday Friday night at the Kirby Drive blues dive. Gaines’s new biography, I’ve Been Out There (co-authored by Rod Evans), chronicles his career from high school in the Fifth Ward to megastardom as the leader of Little Richard’s band. Before he went on to back giants like Sam Cooke, Little Willie John, James Brown and Otis Redding, Gaines’s spontaneous leap onto Little Richard’s white grand piano in the 1956 B-movie Don’t Knock the Rock has become an iconic photo representing the glory and wildness of the first rock and rollers. His big band runs to five horns and three vocalists, and can put a party on you before you can lace up your dancing shoes. Gaines will have his book available Friday, so don’t miss this rare chance to get one autographed by one of the Mt. Rushmore figures of rock and roll. (WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH)
Photo courtesy of the Nightowls/Continental Club Houston
Continental Club, May 22
Like a snake eating its tail, only a few years after the vintage-soul revival led by labels like Brooklyn Dap-Tone Records, now we have groups of musically inclined young people starting vintage-soul bands of their own, like Austin's the Nightowls. (Call it the circle of soul.) Founded in 2011, the ten-piece ensemble's first full-length LP, 2013's Good as Gold, placed in the Top 10 of the 2014 Austin' Music Awards' Albums of the Year; this Continental Houston stop is part of a brief Texas tour celebrating the album's recent release on vinyl. The Nightowls will also play their first-ever Austin City Limits festival this fall, by which time the followup to Good as Gold — recorded at FAME, the historic Alabama studios featured in the documentary Muscle Shoals — should be available.
Photo courtesy of Fanatic PR
The Wheel Workers
Fitzgerald's, May 22
The Wheel Workers are a band of the people. Steven Higginbotham's five-piece is one of Houston's most eclectic indie-rock groups, often working pointed populist messages into their multi-textured songs. On their third full-length album, Citizens (due out Tuesday), the sentiments sync up perfectly with the October Revolution artwork by Matt Brinker and Cory Say, but what's really on display is Higginbotham's best and most fully realized set of songs to date. The Workers can definitely do niche material, like the raucous barroom shout of "Yodel" — which was recently premiered by Blurt magazine — or exquisite New Wave of "Burglar," but songs like "Whole Other World" and "Smokescreen" approach the broad appeal of a group like Death Cab For Cutie, a skill set that could carry Higginbotham and his comrades far indeed. With New York City Queens and Oil Boom.
Photo by Scott Uchida/Courtesy of MSO PR
House of Blues, May 23
Why are there all of 17 songs on Slash's new album? “Because that's how many guitar solos he had written,” quipped a colleague. There may be something to that; it's the famous top-hatted Les Paul enthusiast's name on the album, World On Fire, so why wouldn't the music come first? Slash's second album with former Alter Bridge singer Myles Kennedy holding the microphone, World tilts a little more toward vintage Iron Maiden/Dokken speed-metal than Slash's previous, bluesier endeavors (even on the slower songs), but it still amounts to an hour and change of satisfying, occasionally thrilling hard rock. There's never any question about who's steering this ship, that's for sure. Legit wrestling champ Chris Jericho's equally legit metal band Fozzy opens.
Photo by Marco Torres
Toyota Center, May 24
What is there left to say about Houston's favorite Canadian? Well, there's this to consider: in 2015, Drake may actually be better than he's ever been. Consider the first five tracks on his most recent, surprise release If You're Reading This It's Too Late. Really give them a listen. They are, pretty much without question, the best run of songs in his entire discography. You can name five better Drake songs, but at no point in his career has he put together a run of tracks as well-constructed, musically interesting and utterly Drake as these five. And even if he hadn't put out this new record, we'd still be talking about Drake coming to Houston; it's his second annual Houston Appreciation Weekend, after all. That's always something to get excited about. (CORY GARCIA)
FOUR OTHER SHOWS WORTH CONSIDERING
White Ghost Shivers: Austin gonzo-vaudeville troupe is a guaranteed good time; with Hadden Sayers. (McGonigel's Mucky Duck, May 22)
RailFest: Celebrate Metro's new Purple and Green light-rail lines with the R&B, jazz and Latin sounds of Ne-Yo, Frankie J, Ernest Walker Band and Zenteno Spirit. Plus TSU's “Ocean of Soul” Marching Band! (BBVA Compass Stadium, 5 p.m. May 23)
Kevin Sekhani: Cajun singer-songwriter and veteran Austin musician makes a rousing debut on New Orleans' Louisiana Red Hot Records with this year's Day Ain't Done. Catch a 1 p.m. matinee/preview at Cactus Music, too. (Natachee's Supper N' Punch, 9 p.m. May 23)
Underworld: Memorial Day installment of Houston's favorite goth/industrial/EBM monthly. (Numbers, May 23)
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