Rihanna Toyota Center, April 15
Rihanna has combined her athletic stature, formidable vocals, down-for-whatever attitude and some alarming life choices to become a flashpoint pop star, a lightning rod for controversy that even Lady Gaga would have trouble rivaling these days. Musically, the Barbados native kneads her Caribbean roots into one collaboration with today's top hip-hop and EDM producers after another, ensuring she's out of the charts about as seldom as she's out of the headlines.
The hits just don't stop -- her recent "Diamonds," a massive set-piece from last year's Def Jam album Unapologetic, is Rihanna's eighteenth Billboard Top 10 single overall and arguably her biggest to date. With A$AP Rocky. CHRIS GRAY
Suzanna Choffel Cactus Music/McGonigel's Mucky Duck, April 16
An eclectic, undeniably sexy performer and singer-songwriter, Suzanna Choffel appeared on Season 3 of NBC's The Voice last fall, advancing three episodes in the singing-competition show and turning in a memorable performance of Florence + the Machine's "Dog Days are Over" in one of its "battle" rounds. Now based in New York, Choffel said she turned out to be too much of a "wild card" for the show, but the native Austinite became one of that city's most popular young talents behind her albums Shudders & Rings (2006) and Steady Eye Shaky Bow (2011).
She recently posted a new song produced by Grupo Fantasma's Adrian Quesada on her Web site, the soulful "Guardians." Choffel plays a Cactus Music in-store at 5 p.m. Tuesday before her 7:30 p.m. set at the Duck. CHRIS GRAY
Nick Greer, The Niceguys Fitzgerald's, April 17
One of the brightest stars in the current explosion of Houston music, Nick Greer is a bow-tied redheaded wunderkind, able to flitter between piano pop and hip-hop -- he helped out on the Niceguys' James Kelley, and could join them onstage Wednesday -- with the flick of a wrist and the slightest touch. Starting at a Montrose open-mike at age 14 in 2001, Greer soon set off on a course of his own devising, melding keys, blues and funk. He's surely a lifer, this one. Also with Lower Life Form and the Trimms. CRAIG HLAVATY
Har Mar Superstar Mango's, April 17
It sounds like noted semi-nude rapper Har Mar Superstar (real name Sean Tillmann) has resurrected the late Billy Preston with Bye Bye 17, striking out as a slow-burn soul singer on this new disc. Whereas Har Mar's previous catalog has been of the sweaty, hyper-sexual R&B that would make R. Kelly smile in approval, his new sound has its roots in the Al Green and Bill Withers universe.
One would think this might come off as hokey on paper, but if you remember Tillmann's Sean Na Na project, you'll be in heaven. But does this mean he's abandoned the underwear in favor of suits and ties? With Knights of the Fire Kingdom. CRAIG HLAVATY
Son Volt Continental Club, April 18
Son Volt leader Jay Farrar fancies himself a musical descendant of Woody Guthrie, a watchful steward of American roots music as well as one of its main practitioners. He, My Morning Jacket's Jim James and Centro-Matic's Will Johnson honored Guthrie on the 2012 album New Multitudes, and Son Volt's 2009 LP American Central Dust was covered in the same populist grit.
On the recent Honky Tonk, Son Volt's first album in four years, Farrar packs up the wagon and heads west to salute Bakersfield, the sunny '60s scene that spawned honky-tonk immortals such as Wynn Stewart and Merle Haggard. CHRIS GRAY
Wavves Fitzgerald's, April 18
In a few short years, San Diego's Wavves have become a big fat ray of sunshine in the all-too-glum indie-rock ecosystem. Mastermind Nathan Williams combines quintessentially Californian hooks and a quick wit -- song titles include "I Wanna Meet Dave Grohl," "Beat Me Up" and "Super Soaker" -- to go with his snotty attitude and steadfast love of weed and stir up the kind of hazy, lo-fi fuzz-pop that would make J. Mascis proud.
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His fertile mind has already extended to collaborations with virtual siblings Best Coast and Big Boi and B.o.B. on the ex-Atlanta rapper's 2012 LP Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors. Mom & Pop Records/Warner Bros. released Wavves' fourth proper album, Afraid of Heights, last month. CHRIS GRAY