Here our our picks for music in Phoenix this week. Check out our comprehensive concert calendar for more options.
Xavier Rudd and the United Nations - Monday, October 12 - Marquee Theatre
Australian-born performer Xavier Rudd takes the multi-instrumentalist label far beyond its usual connotation. In addition to creating music with his voice and an acoustic guitar, he employs didgeridoos, djembes, cymbals, stomp boxes and slide guitars. This is perhaps why Rudd's music is best experienced live and what has made him a Bonnaroo staple. On his current tour, Rudd is touring with the United Nations, an eight-piece international all-star band. SUSAN FROYD
Florence and the Machine - Tuesday, October 13 - Ak-Chin Pavilion
Florence and the Machine is maybe the only band that can accept "soundtrackcore" as a compliment without a hint of backhand to go with it. Think of "Dog Days Are Over" or "You've Got the Love" and a handful of pivotal, empowering sequences from popular movies, commercials, or television montages pop up — even if the songs didn't actually serve as the backing track for them. If it's a euphoric moment, one that requires a dance break in public or a driving-with-the-windows-down kind of scene, it's easy to assume the striking, strong voice of its namesake singer Florence Welch, tight vibrato and indestructible belt and all, will go with it. The flame-haired siren has been all over the airwaves as of late, thanks to the success of How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful (and its first single, “Ship to Wreck), her first album since 2011's Ceremonials. Armed with feel-good anthems for the peddling and her usual dynamic stage presence, Welch has been touring constantly since the album's release and her current batch of material is proof that a little time off spent in the studio didn't lead to a dramatic shift, but a deeper dive into the stockpile of positive vibes that's shaped her way to success. "Ship to Wreck" in the manner to which we're accustomed: soaring high notes that steer clear of strident territory; driving, danceable rhythm; a chorus that warms you from the inside out when you sing along with it; etc. HILARY HUGHES
Jose Gonzalez - Wednesday, October 14 - Mesa Arts Center
If you're the kind of person who believes in reincarnation, it would be reasonable to assume that when Nick Drake left this mortal plane in 1974, his soul — or at least his soulful voice — landed in Sweden in 1978 to a newborn of Argentine heritage named José González. Like a teacher who lowers his voice so a class pays attention, González's low-volume singing and acoustic guitar stylings command your eardrums in a manner rarely displayed since the days of Pink Moon. While González's whispered singing is always a treat in his original compositions, it is his covering of seemingly already perfect songs, like Massive Attack's "Teardrop" or Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart," that makes him stand out from any of his quiet peers. DAVID ROLLAND
Alt-J - Wednesday, October 14 - Comerica Theatre
Alt-J's uncertainty and disparities has always been intriguing, and the longer we've, the tipsier we've felt. By the end of An Awesome Wave, the band's debut album, we knew we'd discovered something good, something special to be shared with a select few others who'd appreciate the elixir. This fantasy would soon shatter. With An Awesome Wave as its engine and its melodic meanderings as fuel, Alt-J's path to stardom was almost perfectly vertical. One week, our music-blogging buddy played us "Breezeblocks"; the next week, some sorority girl was skipping down the street, singing along as Alt-J poured from her earbuds. Within months, Alt-J felt used, stolen by people who usually preferred Drake or David Guetta. It was the same old story of lost novelty that made many fans think the band had sold out. But through the hype, Alt-J didn't change much. It released This Is All Yours one year ago to positive reviews from old fans (begrudgingly) and new. Though not a rehash of An Awesome Wave, the sophomore album kept the narrative flairs and slow-build instrumentals that caused us to first fall for the band. It even maintained the coded sexual angle of some of its songs. What did change was the band's intimacy with fans, which Alt-J (or its label) seems to yearn for. Earlier this month, 500 cinemas around the United States played Artists Den Presents Alt-J — an 80-minute film of the band's live concert for the relatively small crowd of 600. Today, the band tends to find itself on festival stages and in big arenas. But keyboardist Gus Unger-Hamilton has a soft spot for intimate gigs: "Often in a small place, you can see the crowd better, and you're closer to them, and you can focus on one person. In an arena, it's useless to identify any particular individual. So you almost end up playing as if there's nobody there." DYLLAN FURNESS
Run the Jewels - Thursday, October 15 - Marquee Theatre
From the moment El-P collaborated with Killer Mike on the latter’s 2012 album, R.A.P. Music, the duo immediately felt it had found in their musical soul mates. After the critical success of that record, they joined forces to form one of hip-hop’s most exciting outfits in Run the Jewels. The iconoclastic rappers gave fans a surprise when they dropped their second album, RTJ2, as a free download last month. But an even bigger surprise may be in store: What started as a joke, a remixed version of RTJ2 featuring sampled cat sounds called Meow the Jewels, became a reality recently, thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign. Jokes aside, the explosive nature and raw intensity of their live shows is what makes Run the Jewels a must-see group. DANIEL KOHN
Voodoo Glow Skulls - Thursday, October 15 - Yucca Tap Room
They say that family is the strongest bond and, when it comes to 27-year-old ska-punk veterans Voodoo Glow Skulls, a band which contains three brothers, the proof is in the pudding. "The plus side is that family can communicate like no one else can usually; the downside is that there is less of a filter with family communication," says guitarist Eddie Casillas. His claim to their survival "is that the three brothers are just that, brothers, and [they] still like playing live. [They] can easily get away from each other for several weeks then regroup." What started as a mostly family band with the Casillas brothers — Frank, Eddie and Jorge — exploded onto the ska and punk scenes in the '90s with the addition of a horn section. If their influences are any giveaway (Fishbone and The Red Hot Chili Peppers), you'll be tearing it up on the dance floor. With these factors came a popularity that few independent bands see, plus with songs like "El Coo Cooi," they display their bilingual roots. Their roots are also as independent artists. "[An indie label] makes you feel like you're free to create and do as you please artistically," Casillas says. "Because of this spirit, "the first time we heard 'Fat Randy' on KROQ, we were blown away. We never pictured our sound on the major airwaves. It was exciting to be heard by so many in an instant." As far as how they feel about ska-punk now, Eddie believes that "the sound of ska punk is nostalgia mostly. You can only do so much out of the box; then it turns into something else." GARYN KLASEK
Garth Brooks - Friday, October 16; Saturday, October 17; Friday, October 23; and Saturday, October 24 - Talking Stick Resort Arena
For a variety of reasons, Garth Brooks is a pretty polarizing figure in country music. Plenty of devoted fans blame Brooks for the dominance of pop-country in the 1990s, and some would continue to blame him for the current state of the genre. Others aren't too happy that he ditched his longtime wife for Trisha Yearwood, and many are still pretty pissed about that whole Chris Gaines alter-ego thing. Despite these nitpicks, however, Brooks is nothing if not successful. To wit: the country megastar sold more than 60,000 tickets to a pair of upcoming shows at Talking Stick Resort Arena (formerly US Airways Center) in the span of 75 minutes, eclipsing a single-day sales record he set back in 1996. As a result, four more concerts at the venue were added, meaning that Brooks will perform a jaw-dropping six times for Valley country fans over the span of two weekends. After years off the road and no new recordings since 2007, Brooks launched his comeback in 2014 with the release of Man Against Machine. While the album earned mixed reviews from critics, Brooks smashed yet another record and surpassed Elvis Presley to become the best-selling solo artist of all time, selling more than 123 million albums in his now 30-plus year career. And there’s a reason for that. Say what you will about the quality of Brooks’ new record — or any of the work he’s done after the Gaines fiasco that effectively ended his reign on the country charts — the man has an uncanny ability to attract an audience. That has everything to do with Brooks’ almost obsessively fan-driven perspective on the music business. AMY MCCARTHY
ZZ Ward - Saturday, October 17 - Marquee Theatre
ZZ Ward's intonations are instantly recognizable from her foot-stomping saloon song "Put the Gun Down," which has accompanied plenty of movie soundtracks already. Zsuzsanna Ward (whose name is worth about 99 points in Scrabble), with her bluesy, note-bending voice, appeals to modern pop sensibilities while adding just enough flair to make her stand out from the crowd. Even if you can't put a face to a name, you can recognize Ward just by hearing "whoo-hoo-hoo" from a mile away. MATT WOOD
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Meat Loaf - Sunday, October 18 - Veterans Memorial Coliseum
If you believe rocker Meat Loaf's songs and his stage antics, the guy is a stud muffin. For more than 30 years, he's surrounded himself with beautiful women, sings songs about "the ladies" not being able to get enough of him (and there's a lot of him), and, rumor has it, that during sex Marvin Michael Lee Aday, grunts the name of his stage alter ego, Meat Loaf, repeatedly.
For all the overweight, and now AARP carrying, former biker bad boys and other big and tallsters out there, Meat Loaf continues to give them hope. JOSE D. DURAN