The Best Concerts In Houston This Week: Josh Groban, Drake, Janelle Monae, Rihanna, etc.
Photo by Jay Lee
Josh Groban Toyota Center, November 12
An all-American opera-singing pop star you can take home to Mom, Josh Groban almost doesn't seem human: he's smart, good-looking, self-deprecating, and his radiant baritone can thaw a glacier. It has no trouble filling sports arenas, that's for sure, a good thing because Groban's popularity is in no danger of declining.
He's on tour behind new album All That Echoes, which steers him further away from Caruso in favor of the bright-cornered rock of Green Day/Paramore producer Rob Cavallo, and production numbers built around Jimmy Webb's "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress" and the Celtic folk tune "She Moved Through the Fair." Really looking forward to this one. I actually took my mom to see Groban when he was here in May 2011, and she loved it. I kinda did too. CHRIS GRAY
Slayer Bayou Music Center, November 12
I remember seeing promo pictures of these guys in metal magazines and thinking, "Whoa!" So, I caught the bus to the nearest record store, bought Reign In Blood on cassette, threw it in my Walkman (no iPods back in the golden age...) and gave it a listen. Being a young teenager and listening to "Angel of Death" for the first time... I can't really describe it, but my mind was blown. GILBERT ALFARO VIA LEILA CHEMAM-ALFARO
Drake Toyota Center, November 13
You'd be hard-pressed to find a solo artist currently having as much widespread commercial success as Drake. Whatever the Toronto native touches turns to instant radio-friendly magic, be it a Lil Wayne track one of the 12 No. 1 singles off his own albums like this year's Nothing Was the Same. If Drake's touched it, good luck trying to hold it back -- sure, we can point fingers at him for spawning the term "YOLO," but that seems like a minor indiscretion in the face of his mounting stockpile of hits. With Miguel and Future. ANGELICA LEICHT
Janelle Monae House of Blues, November 13
The most exciting new R&B talent in years, Janelle Monae is the kind of performer whose genre-busting vision and show-stopping charisma are finally beginning to earn the kind of high profile she deserves, like last month's debut appearance on Saturday Night Live. The Kansas City native and ontime Cee-Lo protege has been around a few years, but her high-concept sci-fi future-pop -- which tosses Motown, Jimi Hendrix, hip-hop, and your typical James Bond theme into a 21st-century shuffle -- finally all clicks on the brand-new Electric Lady.
If you can judge an artist by her collaborators, just look at the guest list: Lady is loaded with not just fellow young stars like Miguel and Esperanza Spalding but also Prince and Erkyah Badu, who more and more seem like Monae's peers rather than influences. With Roman GianArthur. CHRIS GRAY
More shows on the next page.
Rihanna at Toyota Center in July 2011
Photo by Groovehouse
Rihanna Toyota Center, November 14
Pop's reigning naughty girl, Rihanna has spent the past few years embracing her rough-as-nails side, and we're right there with her, studs and all, because fans dig that edginess. Standing under her umbrella was great and all, but the way the Barbados native pulls out those whips and chains is R-rated pop perfection. Her most recent Eminem collab, "The Monster," reiterates how good Ri-Ri can be when she's oh so bad. With A$AP Rocky. ANGELICA LEICHT
Terri Nunn & Berlin Numbers, November 14
It's hard to imagine another band whose reputation has been as sullied by a hit song as Berlin. Take away "Take My Breath Away," their maudlin Jerry Bruckheimer-size power ballad from 1986's Top Gun, and the L.A. group was actually one of the sleeker -- and sexier -- synth-pop acts of the '80s. The record to get is 1982 EP Pleasure Victim, whose steel-plated singles "Sex (I'm A...)" and "The Metro" will forever be in heavy rotation on Sirius/XM's First Wave channel, but 1984 proper album Love Life hit those same giddy heights on "No More Words."
Nunn left Berlin shortly after "Take My Breath Away" hit big, but returned some time after and today runs the show. Recent single Animal," from Berlin's 2013 album of the same name, suggests she's lost few of her seductive powers. With Houston's the Dead Links. CHRIS GRAY
The Head and the Heart Warehouse Live, November 14
A band from all over that germinated in Seattle tavern Conor Byrne, The Head and the Heart has a soft-pedaled, warm-hearted sound rare in this cynical, overextended age, but popular all the same. The band's self-titled 2010 debut came almost out of nowhere to become one of the best-selling albums in Sub Pop history, with little more than crisp melodies and richer harmonies, a kind of acoustic spin on classic Beatles tunes.
Not long after that the band was selling out San Francisco's Fillmore, and off they went. Expect many singalongs Saturday at Warehouse Live, even from THATH's brand-new (and well-named) sophomore effort Let's Be Still. With Thao & the Get Down Stay Down and Quiet Life. CHRIS GRAY
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