Aretha Franklin Arena Theatre, September 9
Through no fault of her own, Aretha Franklin stumbled into 2014's more improbable headlines in July, when the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer (class of '87) stopped off to grab a post-concert burger at a Niagara Falls-area Johnny Rockets and was told her chosen table was reserved for dine-in customers only. This, the woman who has been a towering presence in the pop, gospel and soul spheres since the '60s, establishing a standard on signature songs like "Think," "Chain of Fools" and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" that other singers have been trying to live up to ever since.
Most recently feted last year by Rhino's plush 97-song collection The Queen of Soul, Franklin is a national treasure -- as confirmed by her 1994 Kennedy Center award -- who should be allowed to eat her takeout wherever she damn well pleases. CHRIS GRAY
Cory Branan Rudyard's, September 9
Thank the Good Lord people like Nikki Lane, Sturgill Simpson and Cory Branan are around to keep country music honest, because there's only so many Motley Crue tribute albums Nashville can put out before the whole thing falls apart. Featured on NPR's All Things Considered last week, 38-year-old Mississippi native Branan is no secret to kindred spirits like Memphis rockers Lucero, who gave him a shoutout in their 2003 song "Tears Don't Matter Much."
But for everyone else, he's in the middle of a breakout year thanks to his second album for Bloodshot Records, No Hit Wonder, a dynamic display of first-rate roots songwriting that has already spurred Billboard to anoint Branan a latter-day John Prine. Seriously. With the Witherees and Jason Bancroft. CHRIS GRAY
Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, September 11
As often as they're mentioned in the same sentence, and as much as they've meant to Texas music these past three decades, Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen don't play together in the area all that often. They'll do Galveston's 1894 Opera House once in a while, and Lovett walked onstage to join in on "That Buckin' Song" during Keen's set at Sam Houston Race Park's CCA Conservation Concert last year, but a full double bill by the fellow Aggies is something to be savored any time it comes along.
Both men's latest releases are a couple of years old, so this hopefully not-too-hot September evening at the Pavilion should be long on fan favorites, self-deprecating wisecracks and, if we're lucky, a few impromptu duets. CHRIS GRAY
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Black Lips, King Khan & BBQ Show Fitzgerald's, September 11
If you ever find yourself wishing that the rock and roll show you're attending would erupt into a bit more orgiastic mayhem, then make a point to check out the Black Lips Thursday night. The Atlanta garage-punks have a true talent for whipping crowds into a frenzy without resorting to hyper-speed tempos or unintelligible screaming. Their unpredictable antics will be helpfully fortified by their tour mates in the King Khan & BBQ Show. Khan, with his scanty Pacific Islander getup, turned quite a few uninitiated heads this past FPSF, and his garage-rock intensity should only to ramp up inside Fitz's air-conditioning. Get there early for a DJ set by Fat Tony. NATHAN SMITH
Aaron Behrens & the Midnight Stroll Warehouse Live, September 11
Former Ghostland Observatory vocalist Aaron Behrens first brought his new project the Stroll to Warehouse Live last December, with an unexpected 45-minute onslaught of incredibly fun and danceable indie-rock tunes. There was never any question about what he brings to a live stage, and on this night he was undoubtedly front and center from start to finish.
Most surprisingly, he seemed to be born to front this band. While Ghostland takes a bit of time off, it's really cool to see Behrens putting his efforts into something so fitting to what he does best. JIM BRICKER
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