The Five Best Concerts in Houston This Week: Ariana Grande, Gang of Four, Whitehorse, etc.
Photo courtesy of Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo
Ariana Grande NRG Stadium, March 17
Little Cat Valentine is all grown up, figuratively speaking. Ariana Grande, the former Nickelodeon TV star turned pop diva, is still all of 5 feet tall, but she's becoming an increasingly big figure in the pop-music landscape, while only courting some of the tabloid drama that surrounds similar stars. While she's probably never going to chop all her hair off and become a twerk queen, the stories about her being carried around like a baby or that she wants her fans to die are kind of weird, true or not.
It's enough to forget that she has some real solid pop gems to her name, including her collaborations with Zedd ("Break Free") and The Weeknd ("Love Me Harder"). Will her voice be enough to fill NRG Stadium? Either way, it's set to be one of the most talked-about shows of rodeo season. CORY GARCIA
Down Under Sounds Continental Club, March 17
Put down that green beer on St. Patrick's Day and head over to the Continental to soak up some fresh sounds from the land that gave us AC/DC, INXS, Midnight Oil and Iggy Azalea...mate. Sponsored by the Houston branch of the Australian-American Chamber of Commerce, the annual Down Under Sounds night is now in its sixth year, offering Houston music fans yet another opportunity to reap the benefits of SXSW without actually going to Austin.
This year's lineup looks pretty stout, too: Canberra's Safia, whose moody, soulful electro-pop won them a spot on Lorde's Australian tour last year; fashion-forward Melbourne boy-girl duo Satellite Sky, who take their cues from Franz Ferdinand rather than the White Stripes; and Anthony Snape, a singer-songwriter in the Pete Yorn/Bob Schneider mold who has already recorded one album, Live at the Vintage, in Houston. These cultural-exchange boosters must be on to something. CHRIS GRAY
Gang of Four Warehouse Live, March 17
Among the handful of late-'70s bands seduced by punk's no-frills musical ethos but disgusted by its "Pretty Vacant" intellectual bankruptcy - see also Public Image Ltd., Wire, the Fall, Mission of Burma, etc. -- Gang of Four applied the same intensity to their lyrics, which were often hypercritical of capitalism and various other social maladies, as to their bristling guitars and rhythms that were funky almost in spite of themselves. In so doing they helped establish a sonic template that would soon be adopted in various quantities by alt-rock heavyweights like R.E.M., U2, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Nirvana.
Gang of Four's half-life was a long enough to outlast a lineup that began to splinter after 1979 debut Entertainment!, but the band itself wasn't easily stamped out, either. Various members have come and gone since 2005 "reunion" album Return the Gift, and in 2015 founding guitarist Andy Gill is the one carrying on the brand; last month's What Happens Next features Allison Mossheart of the Kills, among other guests. CHRIS GRAY
More shows on the next page.
Photo courtesy of Sweet Talk Publicity
Florida Georgia Line NRG Stadium, March 18
The biggest duo to hit Nashville since Brooks & Dunn, Florida Georgia Line are out to show they're about more than just gettin' their shine on and have some real staying power. After 2012's Here's to the Good Times became a runaway success behind the relentlessly catchy singles "Cruise" and "Stay." Last year they took on the inevitable task of releasing a followup, which became the album Anything Goes and another No. 1 hit in "Dirt," a ballad that, if not quite an ode to settling down, makes it clear they've got their priorities straight. They were back in the Top 5 last month with latest single "Sun Daze." CHRIS GRAY
Whitehorse McGonigel's Mucky Duck, March 19
It's hard not to think fondly of Timbuk 3 when listening to Whitehorse, because the Canadians' deadpan delivery and quirky take on Americana are definitely along the same path as the Austin '80s duo. Melissa McLelland and Luke Doucet, a husband and wife from Hamilton, Ontario (near Toronto and Niagara Falls) were shortlisted for the Polaris, Canada's top music prize, for their 2012 album The Fate of the World Depends On This Kiss, which wrapped their intertwining guitars around smoldering tunes like "Achilles' Desire" and "Devil's Got a Gun." Last month they returned with Leave No Bridge Unburned (Six Shooter), which expands the pair's fascination with American roots music while retaining a certain chilly Northern identity. CHRIS GRAY
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