Beck: No matter who scores the statuettes at the Grammy Awards on Wednesday, February 26--and the Grammys have historically, and notoriously, gone home in the limos of questionable recipients--Beck (real name: Beck Hansen) remains the big winner in the year in rock. It's fashionable to link that thought to the 26-year-old's breakthrough hit, 1993's "Loser," but such puffery grows wearisome. This unwitting poster boy for Gen X has some serious soul, and he proved it with the compost-heap brilliance of his disc Odelay--a worthy showcase for the sample-mad musician's synthesis of folk/"anti-folk" and hippie/hip-hop, and the album of the annum, Grammy or no. Beck's scheduled on Thursday, February 20, at Celebrity Theatre, 440 North 32nd Street. The all-ages show starts at 7:30 p.m. Sharing the bill is techno act Sukia, which also performs a free set at 4 that afternoon at Tempe's Zia Record Exchange, 105 West University (call 829-1967). Concert tickets are $16.10, available at the scene and Dillard's; call 267-1600 or 503-5555.
Manon: Arizona Opera continues its season with Massenet's work about l'amour tragique, sung in French with English surtitles. Soprano Eilana Lappalainen enacts the title role. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, February 20; 7:30 p.m. Friday, February 21; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, February 22; and 2 p.m. Sunday, February 23, at Symphony Hall, 225 East Adams. Tickets range from $14 to $56, available at Dillard's. Call 266-7464 or 503-5555.
Chris Wall and Cowboy Nation: The California-born, Texas-based Wall previously worked as a bit actor, a bartender and a ranch hand, but his true calling seems to be dance-hall honky-tonk. Wall's a good performer and a fine writer; his best-known tunes are "I Feel Like Hank Williams Tonight" and "Trashy Women," the latter which hit for Confederate Railroad. Chris and the Nation are scheduled on Thursday, February 20, at the Rockin' Horse, 7316 East Stetson in Scottsdale. Showtime is 8 p.m. Tickets are available at the club and Ticketmaster; call 949-0992 or 784-4444.
Kronos Quartet: The daring new-music ensemble--cellist Joan Jeanrenaud, violinists David Harrington and John Sherba and violist Hank Dutt--returns to the Valley to premiere "Native American National Anthem" by Wisconsin-based Mohican composer Brent Michael Davids. Also on the program: "Tragedy at the Opera" from Vietnamese composer P.G. Phan's Memoirs of a Lost Soul; John Cage's "Totem Ancestor"; and works by Ken Benshoof, Arvo Part, Peteris Vasks, and Alfred Schnittke. Showtime is 8 p.m. Friday, February 21, at Scottsdale Center for the Arts, 7380 East Second Street. Tickets are $18, available at the center and Ticketmaster; call 994-2787 or 784-4444.
Martin Luther King III: The son of late civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. hosts an "open dialogue" at 2 p.m. Friday, February 21, in the Great Hall at Arizona State University's College of Law, McAllister and Orange in Tempe. Admission is free. Call 965-6380.
Waxing Local: Trunk Federation, Joe Myers: The Valley acts host back-to-back release parties at Mesa's Hollywood Alley, 2610 West Baseline. The Federation, a hooky and kinda kooky rock group named after a grisly local murder, unveils its major-label debut, The Infamous Hamburger Transfer, on Friday, February 21; Knapsack, and the Les Payne Project are also scheduled to perform at the all-ages show, which starts at 9 p.m. Indie and edgy acoustician Myers presents his third disc, distributed in a custom metal box and titled Under the Crazy Hat, at 8 p.m. Saturday, February 22. Call 820-7117.
Vital Signs: The most ambitious, and perhaps the best, work by enigmatic playwright Jane Martin (Keely & Du, Talking With . . . ). Arizona State University's theater department and the school's Institute for Studies in the Arts collaborated on a multimedia production of the by turns farcical and devastating 60-character study of American womanhood. Opening performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday, February 21; 3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, February 22; 3 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday, February 23; 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, February 25; and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, February 26, at Paul V. Galvin Playhouse at ASU's Nelson Fine Arts Center, 10th Street and Mill in Tempe. A discussion led by director J. Robert Wills precedes Sunday's matinee. The run continues through Saturday, March 1. Tickets range from $6 to $12, available at ASU Fine Arts and Dillard's box offices; call 965-6447 or 503-5555.
Arizona Scottish Highland Games and Gathering: The Caledonian Society of Arizona presents this 31st annual event, which opens with an evening concert of Celtic songs and dances at 7 Friday, February 21. The gathering proper is slated for 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, February 22; and the same hours Sunday, February 23. Festivities include ye-olde games (hammer throw, caber log toss, etc.), a cultural fair, a dog show, and a tea-etiquette demonstration by former United States Tea Council ambassador Aubrey Franklin. The scene is Mesa Community College, Dobson and Southern. Concert tickets are $5, $2 for children ages 5 to 11. Gathering admission is $10, $5 for kids ages 5 to 11. For details call 431-0095.