George Strait - US Airways Center - Friday, February 7
George Strait has been the capital-K King of Country more than 30 years into his run, though he remains something of an enigma for the press. He's not the most open personality, he doesn't see the need to air out every twist and turn of his life on social media, and his legend (the definition fits him) only seems to grow through the years as every subsequent male country singer attempts to at least grasp at what Strait's done since the early '80s.
Strait's luck with a great songwriter like Dean Dillon brings to mind the string of commercial successes that Elton John and Bernie Taupin saw during their heyday. You won't see him as a judge on a reality show, and he won't be writing a tell-all memoir anytime soon.
For members of the music press, that is perhaps why he is still so interesting. His songs seem to mirror his audience more than himself, and he sings everyone else's life while we know relatively little about his own, other than through the stray interview or concert anecdote.
Last September, Strait said that after 2014 he's done -- as such, his performance at US Airways Center on Friday, February 7, is being touted as his "final Phoenix show" ever, which means it's the last chance for Valley folk to see the king in concert. -- Craig Hlavaty
Mayer Hawthorne - Marquee Theatre - Friday, February 7
Pop-soul artisan Mayer Hawthorne is a tougher dude than he gets credit for. Well, okay, his song "Crime" on recent album Where Does This Door Go seems to be about the kind of low-key excuse-me-sir police situation that happens when your house party gets just a little too loud, which admittedly isn't much as far as criminal credentials go. But he was out there singing and playing (with fingerless gloves) in the cold and blowing snow at the NHL Winter Classic on New Year's Day, and he's been a relentlessly ambitious -- even fearless -- producer and musician since his house-party days in his native Detroit. Now Hawthorne is confident, rested and ready (like his fellow Pharrell collaborators Daft Punk) to make the most perfect makeout music the future permits. You know what they say: That which breaks your heart only makes you stronger. -- Chris Ziegler