Bayou City

Shows of the Week: The Well-Traveled Sting Circles Back to His Rock Roots

Sting performing in Poland in 2013
Sting performing in Poland in 2013 Piotr Drabik via Flickr Commons
Smart Financial Centre, February 23
As of his Tony-nominated 2014 Broadway production, The Last Ship, Sting’s considerable list of accomplishments had grown so long that it became somewhat easy to forget he could write great pop songs, too. Any questions of that nature were resoundingly put to bed with “I Can’t Stop Thinking About You,” the hit single from last November’s 57th & 9th, his new album named after the Manhattan intersection Sting passed every day walking to the studio from his Central Park West apartment. Recorded in just three months’ time, 57th & 9th is a lean, 40-minute testimony that the 65-year-old star’s rock songwriting skills have hardly suffered from being mothballed so long — before this, Sting’s last rock-oriented album was 2003’s Sacred Love — and here he flexes them with trademark mental agility and political subtlety. He’s keeping it in the family on this tour, inviting singer-songwriter son Joe Sumner as one of the openers; the others are the Last Bandoleros, the San Antonio-based rockers featuring two sons of late Tejano icon Emilio Navaira.

Dosey Doe Big Barn, February 23
Tift Merritt is one of the most respected Americana musicians of the new century to elude widespread mainstream attention, a real shame for anyone who hasn’t heard her dulcet voice. The North Carolina-raised singer is also an accomplished songwriter (Don Henley recorded her “Bramble Rose” on 2015’s Cass County) and a recent mother, which partially explains the four-year gap between Night, Merritt’s joint album with Brooklyn classical pianist Simone Dinnerstein, and the brand-new Stitch of the World (Yep Roc). Her sixth overall LP and first solo effort since 2012’s Traveling Alone, Stitch is a batch of carefully constructed, contemplative acoustic songs recorded at a friend’s farm in Marfa, served with a dash of roots-rock (“Proclamation Bones”) and a guest appearance by Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam on the album’s final three songs. With Sera Cahoon.

Stafford Centre, February 23
Formed in England in 1970 by  Dewey Bunnell, Dan Peek and Gerry Beckley, the sons of U.S. Air Force members stationed in London, America quickly established itself on their 1971 self-titled debut, which produced the Top 10 singles "A Horse with No Name" and "I Need You." Their lone No. 1 hit, “Horse,” is often mistakenly thought to be a CSNY song by many to this day, due to the similarity in sound to that band. America’s next couple of albums produced the popular single “Ventura Highway” and minor hit "Muskrat Love"; those and many other hits made the band huge on AM Top 40 and FM rock radio in the ‘70s. Peel amicably left in 1977 after their popularity had waned, while Bunnell and Beckley continue on to this day with help from touring musicians. History: America's Greatest Hits is on the jukebox at Montrose dive bar Lola’s Depot, so you know the band has to be cool, right? DAVID ROZYCKI

Walters Downtown, February 24
We can't figure out why Dallas-based thrash-metal gods Power Trip would chose to kick off a tour supporting their new record, Nightmare Logic, in Houston the night of its release; we really don't care, either. Any chance to see Power Trip live is the kind of metal show that will make you appreciate the sort of solid guitar work where one heavy riff comes after another. Their tour support is a solid pick, too. Iron Reagan will be promoting their own brand-new release, Crossover Ministry, self-described as "18 songs of punk-metal fury." Also with Skourge and Omerta. KRISTY LOYE

House of Blues, February 25
Latter-day outlaws with the long-haired, hard-rocking swagger to back it up, the Cadillac Three are something of an anomaly in today’s scrubbed-up Nashville big leagues, but their road-tested chops make them ideal for the role of hot country’s designated hellraisers. As far as credentials go, front man Jaren Johnston has written songs for heavyweights like Tim McGraw and Keith Urban, and the band has logged time on the road with Eric Church, Dierks Bentley and, most recently, Florida Georgia Line. Lots of time: Bury Me In My Boots, TC3’s Big Machine debut — the Music City powerhouse label re-released their eponymous 2012 debut in 2013 — was released last August, at which point the group had been parceling out singles like “The South” and “Party Like You” for years, piecing together the album between tours. No surprise at all that their current “Black Roses” jaunt is sponsored by Monster Energy Drink. With Ray Wylie Hubbard.

White Oak Music Hall, February 25
The disco-hybrid style of bands like Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party — sometimes also called “dance-punk” — never quite got enough traction to qualify as a Big Rock Moment, but it was at least more exciting than other passing turn-of-the-millennium trends. Among the groups that formed in the early 2000s and remain active, Moving Units may have had the most interesting trajectory. Known for songs like “Between Us & Them” and “X and Y,” the L.A. trio reemerged from a nine-year recording break — during which time front man Blake Miller became a successful DJ who scored with remixes of Le Castle Vania and Steve Aoki tracks — with last year’s Damage With Care (Metropolis). Their latest release, Collision With Joy Division (RSRCH), is an exceedingly faithful, album-length tribute to one of Moving Units’ primary influences, the proto-goths and New Order precursors whom many would also call the original dance-punks. With Viktor Fiction and Soviet.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray