Common Warehouse Live, December 2
The most natural heir to Curtis Mayfield's legacy of socially conscious and intrinsically soulful Chicago music (sorry, Kanye), Common doubles down on this year's Nobody's Smiling, tackling his hometown's record-setting epidemic of gun violence head-on. That's not all that's on his mind -- he even drops in a reference to Hell on Wheels, the AMC historical drama he's starred on since 2011 -- but the way he seethes with righteous anger on "Kingdom" and "No Fear" is a reminder that when he on his game, Common is one of the best MCs in hip-hop. Has been for a while, too. CHRIS GRAY
Melissa Etheridge Bayou Music Center, December 2
Even before Melissa Etheridge was one of the first mainstream musicians to come out as a lesbian, she was one of the few female rockers to register at all in the '80s. Her 1988 hit single "Bring Me Some Water" eventually paved the way for the likes of Sheryl Crow, Shawn Colvin and Jewel, who all enjoyed great success with a similar (if less brusque) folk-derived style about the same time Etheridge became a superstar herself on 1993's multi-platinum Yes I Am.
Now a breast cancer survivor and second-time newlywed at 53, Etheridge released 12th studio album This Is M.E. in September, collaborating with several top R&B and pop producers like Jerry Wonder and Jerrod Bettis. With Alexander Cardinale. CHRIS GRAY
Ryan Adams Bayou Music Center, December 3
Ryan Adams is a rock and roll sponge, possibly a Britpop savant, Gram Parsons acolyte or Grateful Dead noodler depending on what mood he's in. However, he will have turned 40 by this visit to Houston, and no longer deserves to be defined by such aesthetic hair-splitting. His latest album and 13th since leaving Whiskeytown in the late '90s, the spartan and relatively pristine Ryan Adams, is some of the most rewarding and challenging music of Adams's career. CHRIS GRAY
More shows on the next page.
Brownout Fitzgerald's, December 4
Austin funk/Afrobeat group Brownout are fun in their own right, but their Brown Sabbath show is even better. Featuring members of Grupo Fantasma, the horn- and percussion-laden group does all Black Sabbath covers, all night long. How could that go wrong? After supporting artists as diverse as P-Funk's Bernie Worrell and the Wu-Tang Clan's GZA, a headlining spot should come as easy work to these experts. With From Beyond. JIM BRICKER
Blackalicious Fitzgerald's, December 4
Blackalicious is a group you should probably go see even if it's midnight on a Monday. Gift of Gab is the most properly named MC out there, and after seeing him spit even just one verse, you'll see why. When matched by Chief Xcel's storied beats, Blackalicious' 20-year career makes sense. They've never really been given the respect they deserve, but give them a chance and you'll know why they still sell well in markets around the nation. JIM BRICKER
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