If you thought last month was packed with big shows, wait until you get a load of what April’s concert calendar has in store for y’all. It’s loaded up with many notable names from the music world, not to mention loads of blockbuster bands, influential artists, tastemaking talents, and a variety of radio-friendly unit shifters who have sold millions upon millions of albums.
Arguably the most esteemed musician that’s scheduled to swing through the Valley in the coming weeks is Elvis Costello, the bespectacled rock ‘n’ roll icon who’s influenced countless creatives over the last several decades.
Other highlights of this month’s concert calendar include visits from numerous artists and acts that are scheduled to be at this year’s Coachella. And thanks to the fact it happens to take place over the course two weekends over in California, many on the lineup have also scheduled performances here in Valley before, after, and in between their appearances in Indio.
There are a multitude of other show happening in and around Metro Phoenix between now and April 30, all of which you can find in our extensive online concert listings. In the meantime, here are our picks for the best gigs in town this month.
Two living legends, Herb Alpert and Lani Hall, will treat audiences at MIM’s Music Theater to their unmatched talents and unforgettable music on back-to-back evenings in April. Alpert, of course, is the renowned trumpet player who spent the better part of the 1960s with the highly influential Tijuana Brass, creating such notable songs as “The Lonely Bull” and “Spanish Flea” while racking up six Grammy awards and more than a dozen gold records. He earned even more fame and acclaim in such genres as jazz, Latin, R&B, and funk after going solo in the ‘70s, including penning the 1979 hit “Rise” and collaborating with Janet Jackson and Lisa Keith on 1986’s “Diamonds.”
Hall, his wife of more than four decades, rose to stardom as the lead vocalist for Sergio Menes’ project Brasil ’66, sung the title track to the James Bond flick Never Say Never Again, and recorded a string of successful Latin pop records in the mid-1980s. The couple will perform songs off their 2013 album Steppin’ Out, including covers of “Moondance” and “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” as well as a medley of Tijuana Brass hits and a number of jazz and pop standards. BRITTANY ACKERMAN
Joan Jett and her accomplices are became members of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame last year, and rightfully so. No disrespect to Linda Ronstadt, Darlene Love or Wanda Jackson, who are all wonderful pop and/or country singers, but you have to go back nine years before the last lady rocker to make it into the Hall, the incomparable Patti Smith. But Smith is a poetess while Jett is a rocker to the core — normally sporting low-top Converse and the motorcycle jacket she wears like a uniform — down to her soft spot for oldies like "Crimson and Clover" and "Hanky Panky."
In their own way, her songs are as poetic as Patti Smith's, but often a lot more blunt: "I don't give a damn 'bout my reputation/ Never been afraid of any deviation," she sings on "Bad Reputation," the 1981 song that put her on the map once the Runaways, her original band, had run their course. And Jett’s signature solo hit from the same year, “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll,” and its famous line "put another dime in the jukebox, baby" has all but outlasted jukeboxes themselves, not to mention anything at all that costs a damn dime. CHRIS GRAY
What do Tori Kelly and Kendrick Lamar have in common? They've both carried on the tradition of being snubbed at the Grammy's by milquetoast pop artists (OK, Taylor's fine, but Meghan Trainor winning is unacceptable). Kelly might even be more well-known for the look she gave while the winners were announced. And it's a shame, because Kelly is a damn talented multi-instrumentalist, singer and performer who effortlessly creates exciting and catchy pop songs that you won't be forgetting anytime soon. MATT WOOD
I believe that it was the ancient philosopher-king Jeff Foxworthy who once said, “If you enjoy both Appalachian bluegrass and AC/DC, you’re for goddamned sure a redneck.” And you’re not alone. Hayseed Dixie has played to thousands all over the world for the past 15 years by cranking out hard-rockin’ tunes like “Highway to Hell” and “Big Balls” on mandolin, banjo and fiddle. They’ve gotten pretty damn good at it, too, branching out into covers of Queen, Pink Floyd, Prince and even George Michael. You can’t tell us you wouldn’t pay good money to hear a shirtless man in overalls sing “Careless Whisper” while the guy next to him is fiddling. No, seriously. NATHAN SMITH
Black Asteroid is one of many incarnations of musician Bryan Black's creativity. Black, meanwhile, is half the brains behind MOTOR, a techno powerhouse that opened for the Depeche Mode world tour in 2009 and formed after Black finished working as a sound designer for none other than Prince. Black Asteroid gives him the opportunity to take his trademark mechanical, gorgeously dissonant sound and mold it into a precision missile of power aimed at your sense of rhythm. Its a relatively new persona for Black, who was signed to Chris Liebing's illustrious CLR label a week after he released his debut EP in 2011. Clearly he's doing something very, very right. AMBER TAUFEN
If you’re a hipster or indie rock fan, especially one with a big bankroll, there’s a good chance you might be traveling westward later this month to Coachella. Conversely, country music fans, especially those with a yen for partying in the great outdoors, are going to be heading in a different direction altogether. More precisely, they make the hour-long trek outside of the Valley for Country Thunder, the four-day concert festival that’s as much about the hootin’ and the hollerin’ as it is the music.
An enormous bacchanal of boots, beer, and buckaroos that encompasses the sprawling Canyon Moon Ranch outside of Florence, the annual Country Thunder features a big lineup of more than three dozen bands and musicians performing various takes on the genre. This year’s lineup includes such names as Kip Moore, Old Dominion, Brooke Edge, Ryan Hurd, Chase Bryant, The Cole Trains, Florida Georgia Line, Cole Swindell, The Cadillac Three, Bryan White, Jake Owen, Eric Church, Randy Houser, A Thousand Horses, Casey Donahew Band, and many more.
Nearly four decades ago, Elvis Costello released his extraordinary debut album, My Aim Is True, which comprised songs that would become rock-and-roll staples, including "Alison," "(The Angels Want to Wear My) Red Shoes" and "Less Than Zero." Since then, Costello has released two dozen studio albums under his own name or with his groups the Attractions and the Imposters, in addition to collaborations like 2013's Wise Up Ghost, a team effort with the Roots. While it's great to see Costello perform fueled-up rock with a full band, seeing the legend solo — as he'll be tonight inside the Ikeda Theater at Mesa Arts Center — should be sublime. Larkin Poe will open the evening. JON SOLOMON
"Fueling flames of violent rage" isn't just one of Amon Amarth's lyrics, it's the Swedish five-piece's mission statement. In two decades the Stockholm band has hacked their way to the top of the melodic-metal pyre, setting it alight with a host of bloodthirsty anthems as rich in Nordic folklore as death-metal devastation. In 2013, for instance, they rewarded superfans with several editions of their album Deceiver of the Gods, one of them a $100 job boasting a 10-bust of their trickster deity of choice, Loki. Plenty of hair-whipping poser bands play at Viking metal, All Music Guide once noted, while Amon Amarth's works "aren't just written about Vikings, they are written by Vikings." CHRIS GRAY
Face it: Killswitch Engage is an act that really throws out the rulebook on how to do a "mettttttttt-alllllllll" show. Be prepared to hear guitarist/court jester Adam Dutkiewicz offer up plenty of great one-liners that mock metal machismo. He might even wear something like a cape and short shorts. But aside from that, the band has a great catalog filled with meaty riffs, complex drumming and anthemic, harmonious choruses. Yes, thankfully, there are still bands out there that can pull this off without sounding like emo mush. With Memphis May Fire and 36 Crazyfists. ERIC GRUBBS
Given the liquid gyrations of their anime styling and the general sexual repression of their Japanese homeland, it just makes sense that a group of Japanese dudes would start a "Japanese action comic punk band" called Peelander-Z. But we hear you say, "Didn't Peelander-Z form in New York City?" Before you get a rope, understand that despite their city of origin, they couldn't be any more Nihon.
Setting aside the fact that dress like super sentai (just as color-coordinated and wacked-out as the most over-the-top Power Rangers outfits) and their tendency to engage in human bowling or chair-throwing wrestling during their sets, take a listen to tracks like "So Many Mike" or "Happee Pee" and all will be clear. Like The Polysics, Maximum the Hormone, and Shonen Knife, Peelander-Z is all about high-intensity punk antics. So don your own single-color superhero duds and fight oversize squid monsters with these pretty punks from Planet Peelander as they beam down to Pub Rock. JONATHAN MCNAMARA
So you’re one of those rowdy cats who hits the club every weekend and considers themselves to be a major party monster, huh? Sorry to be the ones to break it to you, son, but you ain’t got nothing on Lil Jon. The notorious rap superstar and crunk king can go harder than anyone, all while drinking you under the table, pulling off dance moves that put yours to shame, hanging with celebs like Patriots partying fiend Rob Gronkowski, and sporting the dopest grill ever. Lil Jon also gets plenty wild behind the mixers during his DJ sets, including spraying down audiences with countless bottles of champagne, acting as his own hype man on the mic, and dropping such signature hits as “Get Low” and (of course) “Turn Down for What.” He’ll likely bust out with similarly over-the-top on Sunday, April 10, at Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale during the launch of its summer-long Release Pool Party series. BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
Dan Boeckner’s musical résumé, which includes Wolf Parade and Handsome Furs, reads like the indie rock equivalent of a Major League Baseball journeyman player. The Canadian singer-songwriter performs well with any team he plays for, but the guitarist doesn’t always get the recognition that his teammates do. His recent collaboration, Divine Fits, was billed as the side project of Spoon’s Britt Daniel. Boeckner is a man who lets his work, not his ego, do the talking.
The musician’s latest venture, the new wave synth-pop trio Operators (whose lineup includes Divine Fits drummer Sam Brown and synth player Devojka), would punch his ticket to the metaphorical All-Star Game if the project wasn’t in danger of being overshadowed by the news of Wolf Parade’s return to touring. The debut single off Operators’ first full-length album Blue Wave, titled “Cold Light,” starts out with jangly percussion and then goes dark fast. A hooky bass riff and synths engulf you in gloom as Boeckner cries “you can’t go home.” The album makes you appreciate what he really brought to the table during his time with Divine Fits. Here’s hoping Operators finally gives Boeckner an opportunity to shine. JASON KEIL
The demeaning stigmas of a college rock band don’t lend themselves to Acid Dad, because this isn’t some shabby weekend project formed to score fans and free beer. They consider themselves to be an NYC psych-punk act, and, more specifically, a Brooklyn NYC psych-punk band. Pounding single “Grim” confirms their psych-rock aspirations, as the opening note reverberates between your ears well into the track. They’re fully committed and have spent the past year actively writing, performing, and recording all on their own. (Still, that doesn’t mean they’re not enjoying the beer.) They play Valley Bar on April 12 with locals The Rebel Set scheduled to open. SILAS VALENTINO
For the last 15 years, Bert McCracken and The Used have been the poster boys for the 2000s post-hardcore/emo/screamo scene alongside bands like Taking Back Sunday and Brand New. Unlike many of those other bands — some of which are now reuniting after taking the better part of a decade off — The Used never had a big falling out or stopped making music. "The end goal for The Used is for us to all feel free and to think about our lives in a way that feels like we're not a slave to necessity in the world of music," McCracken says.
This year, The Used will be enjoying that freedom as they take their 15th anniversary tour across the country. Each will consist of two consecutive dates — the first to play their self-titled debut album in its entirety, and the second for their sophomore effort, In Love and Death. McCracken still remembers what it felt like to write those albums ("Being a teenager is impossibly hard"), but the now-34-year-old also sees how much the world has changed since he penned the lyrics to tracks like "Buried Myself Alive" and "The Taste of Ink” way back when. "It's definitely going to feel different in the world we live in now," McCracken says. "It's a world where apathy is no longer cool. It's no longer cool to not give a shit about things. It's amazing to watch the transition of meaning in these songs. When you're younger, they're about you and about finding your place in the world. As we grow older, we develop a less selfish idea of how the world works." JOSH CHESLER
If you’re attending the upcoming M83 show at Comerica Theatre, pay close attention to the lovely singer with the multi-colored hair. As reported by our sister paper Dallas Observer, North Texas musician Kaela Sinclair won an open call to join the French electronic band on tour. Instead of preparing for the release of her second solo album, the former music teacher is putting her own ambitions on hold to see the world. She will perform with the group whose saxophones and synthesizers permeated the public conscious on the 2011 track “Midnight City” from their breakthrough double album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. Sinclair is joining the tour in support of the release of highly anticipated record Junk. Judging from the sound of the first two singles “Solitude” and “Do It, Try It,” the new album is a response to the glossy, ambitious sound that was seemingly a part of every video game, commercial, and indie film of the last half-decade. Sinclair’s expectation for a life-changing tour comes at a time when the M83 audience doesn’t know quite what to expect. JASON KEIL
The grandiose sweep of M83’s orchestrations should still be ringing inside the ears of local indie pop fans when Beach House show up the following night with their mellower brand of dream pop. Over the years, the Baltimore duo have blown their intimate sound out to an ever grander scale, without sacrificing the evocative stream-of-consciousness flair that defined their earliest bedroom recordings. Their most recent records, Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars, sound every bit as throwback as their first, with Victoria Legand and Alex Scully’s haunting vocal interplay managing to evoke the illusion of a third voice floating in their rich instrumentals. Beachgoers may consider having a pillow on deck, as the pair have been known to host “slumber parties” in an attempt to keep things intimate and mimic their earlier cozy, at-home vibes — no mean feat in Tempe’s 2,500-capacity Marquee Theatre. MATT PAYNE
If you’re tired of hearing about dark, moody and noisy bands being thrown into the “post-punk” pool, please raise your hand. It’s easy to simply genre-fy any band that sounds something akin to Joy Division, Sonic Youth, Public Image, Ltd. or even Sugar as post-punk, and while Savages often find themselves falling victim to such simplicity, beyond the driving basslines, staccato guitar attacks, triple-time drums and broody wail of lead singer Jehnny Beth (real name: Camille Berthomier), is a much more refined sense of purpose.
Formed in London in late 2011, Savages picked up the noisiest pieces of the 1980s, the 1990s’ dark edge, 2000s’ anthemic hard rock, and channeled it into something dark, primal and oddly compelling. The music isn’t for the disaffected in the way Nine Inch Nails’ sonic gloom and doom “spoke” to so many, as it is for those seeking unbridled, energetic release with no holds attached. It’s also for those not seeking love songs, but rather curious about the connections between music and art and the fine line binding the two mediums. Savages has found a way to piece it all together without sacrificing intent, integrity and, best of all, intensity. GLENN BURNSILVER
A number of industry insiders consider Kentucky-born singer-songwriter Chris Stapleton to be one of the most talented people in Nashville. The 37-year-old musician has written a handful of No. 1 mainstream country hits including Kenny Chesney's "Never Wanted Nothing More," has placed 170 songs on the charts, and has had his work covered by everyone from Luke Bryan to Adele. He recently released his first solo album, Traveller, and plays Mesa Amphitheatre on April 14.
By most of today’s standards in country music, the 14 songs on Traveller play a bit long at 49 minutes. It contains a dozen strong tunes, mostly co-writes with other Nashville writers, but also includes two covers including a searing interpretation of George Jones' hit “Tennessee Whiskey.” Tunes like "I Might As Well Get Stoned" and "Outlaw State of Mind" are exactly the dose of outlaw that country music is missing these days, but will more likely find a bigger reception on Arizona radio than on iHeart Radio. Stapleton says the label didn’t blink or counter his suggestion that those 14 tracks made up the album he wanted to release, and everyone's judgment seemed to be validated when Traveller debuted at No. 2 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart. It also reached the top 15 on the magazine's Top 200 chart. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH
Ultra-cute megababe Melanie Martinez will breeze through Valley Bar late next month, which is sure to be an anticipated live music event for her legions of fan-dolls. Many were introduced to Martinez on Season 3 of The Voice, where she did pretty well, making it into the top six, thanks to her raw-silk voice and edgy-sweet style. Her video for debut single "Doll House" racked up serious cult-fashion points with cameos from both designer Stella Rose Saint Clair and plenty of Lime Crime. Her 2014 single, "Carousel," was also featured on the greatest show ever in the history of television, American Horror Story: Freak Show. Basically, she's amazing and you should feel free to use her concert in April as an excuse to get really, really dressed up. ERIN DEWITT
In the music video for the Darkness's greatest hit, 2003's "I Believe in a Thing Called Love," the band's alternately naked and jumpsuited lead singer, Justin Hawkins, is repeatedly groped by a motley crew of space aliens. He appears, for all intents and purposes, to be into it. His band's mock-rock aesthetic is heavy on falsetto, generous with mayhem and short on seriousness, and the British-born group has followed that same wacky formula, albeit with extensive breaks, in the 13 years since then. But aside from a handful of strangely named side projects (see: Hot Leg) and one consistently ridiculous mega-jam, the Darkness has little to show for its time off. Cue the age of reunions: In 2012, the guys returned to fun and funky territory for a third album and a tour that restored their original lineup, at least until last year when Emily Dolan Davies replaced original drummer Ed Graham only to be replaced by Rufus Tiger Taylor of Queen + Adam Lambert fame. KELSEY WHIPPLE
After the release of her third studio album Delirium late last year proved to be a success, including debuting near the top of the Billboard 200, Ellie Goulding is poised to become a pop superstar in America. Her rarefied, bewitching, and wholly unique vocals, plus her indefatigable stage presence, have already made the Londoner a luminary in her native Britain, especially thanks to her breakout debut Lights. But stateside, high-profile collaborations have overshadowed her prowess as a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist in her own right. While tracks like the Max Martin-produced, reggae-inflected “On My Mind” eschew her previous EDM leanings in favor of smash-hit sing-alongs, there’s no shortage of energy pulsing through Delirium – these unabashedly joyful love songs might finally get American audiences fully on board. LINDSEY RHOADES
Compared with many of the punk bands to emerge from Los Angeles in the 1980s, NOFX is an anomaly. Few of their peers have been able to survive, nevertheless NOFX maintain many of the key elements (and band members) that have kept this quartet relevant well into its third decade. Led by Fat Mike, the group has grown more political in its latter years, unapologetically railing against government, homophobia, sexism and religion and supporting various left-wing causes. By maintaining an anti-commercial stance (they never signed to a major label), as well as with their oftentimes surly relationship with the media, NOFX are among the few bands to live and die by the punk ethos that marked the early days of the genre. With 12 albums to their name, NOFX have become punk-rock legends, a title they'd likely vehemently deny. DANIEL KOHN
Billy Joe Shaver has always been a seething mass of contradictions. Half exquisitely sensitive poet, half dumb-as-dirt hillbilly, Shaver is a deeply spiritual man who has also, in the course of his 75 years, sinned and transgressed so ceaselessly and so vociferously that it is a wonder he is still able to walk the earth, let alone get on a bandstand and preach his marvelously idiosyncratic honky-tonk gospel. The Texas-born troublemaker has long been a significant force in country music — his songs have been recorded by Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Tom T. Hall, George Jones — and his current album, Long in the Tooth, was perpetrated at as high an artistic altitude as Shaver’s ever achieved. JONNY WHITESIDE
The past year has been a pretty good one for Chvrches, the Scottish indie-electronica act that may soon have to ditch the "indie" descriptor. The mainstream is starting to take notice of this up-and-coming trio, who first made their mark in the actual indie world in 2011 with the release of Beginnings. In the ensuing years, Chvrches has gone on to make their way around the American and European festival scenes, playing SXSW, Lollapalooza, Coachella, Reading & Leeds and Bonnaroo in just the past few years. As electronica has found a wider audience thanks to the popularity of artists like Ellie Goulding, Avicii and others, Chvrches is the logical progression. Think of Chvrches as the band that you discovered before your boring, pseudo-raver college friends ever even realized that they exist. AMY MCCARTHY
Pianist Chick Corea's career dates back to the 1960s, when he first came to prominence in the bands of Miles Davis as a member of the seminal Bitches Brew - era lineups, which helped launch jazz fusion. Corea has kept himself involved in a wide range of musical projects, which have led him to a record 22 Grammy and Latin Grammy Awards. Banjo master Béla Fleck is no stranger to musical variety, expanding from traditional bluegrass to world, fusion, classical and jazz, receiving Grammy nominations in more categories than any other musician, winning 12. Later this month, the pair pay a visit to the MIM to bring their many collaborations to life in a concert featuring a pair of America's genuine masters of music. TOM MEEK
Chelsea Wolfe has a super power - she can destroy and rebuild your entire emotional constitution in the space of a single song. Her ice-like voice slices through scary seas of reverb, with cryptic lyrics as splintered life rafts of hope. A half decade into her career, Wolfe has already handled horror-noise (2011's Apokalypsis), dark folk (2012's Unknown Rooms) and ghost-industrial dance music (2013’s Pain is Beauty), to devastating effect. CRISTINA BLACK
Usually, when songwriters are as wickedly intelligent as Thao Nguyen, they tend to write morbidly gloomy and/or overly serious anthems of great meaning and purpose. That's not to say the Virginia native doesn't have her grand and heavy mood swings — sometimes every few seconds in the same track — but she and her San Francisco band usually construct sunny, ebullient indie-pop songs that are cleverly constructed and merrily arranged instead of merely insipid and escapist. On their 2013 album, We the Common, Thao and the Get Down Stay Down start off with simple, rustic folk structures that suddenly burst into funky, horn-laden electropop interludes with strange chord changes and intimately arranged harmonies. Nguyen might claim that she has "Clouds for Brains," but those are some pretty smart cumulus she's accumulating. FALLING JAMES
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While many young bands fear the sophomore slump, Los Angeles indie rockers the Mowgli’s are embracing it. The band is excited to finally release new songs into the world. “We’ve been playing the old songs for six years. It’s fun to play new songs,” explains Mowgli guitarist Josh Hogan. “I noticed we were getting lazy playing those old songs, so we’ve really had to focus on making sure to bring passion to them.”
Those old songs off their 2013 album, Waiting for the Dawn, earned the band a wide audience. The Mowgli's performed their hit single “San Francisco” on Jimmy Kimmel and Conan, and it even became the theme song for the 2012 World Series champs, the San Francisco Giants. All the touring they did after Waiting for the Dawn became inspiration for the band's latest LP, Kids in Love. “Hearing people’s stories was a huge influence for the songs. We have all been in that place where a band saved our world, so we try to keep being a positive, loving influence.” DAVID ROLLAND