My Favorite 15 (Songs of All Time): AZ Record Label Edition - Monday, August 10 - Crescent Ballroom
This cool concept night at Crescent Ballroom brings together five representatives from local record labels and asks them to curate a playlist of their 15 favorite songs. On the bill will be JSA from Ascetic House; Jacob Howard from Abstenter Records; James Fella from Gilgongo Records; Westley Allen from Erratic! Records; and Nicole Laurenne and Michael Johnny Walker from Atomic A Go Go Records. Everyone will get an hour, and since every record label represented has a distinct style, it should make for a lively night of diverse listening. DAVID ACCOMAZZO
Sam Smith - Wednesday, August 12 - Gila River Arena in Glendale
Loneliness was a blessing for Sam Smith, a London-born singer who first gained popularity in 2012, when he was featured on electronic music duo Disclosure’s single “Latch.” His 2014 hit “Stay with Me” resonated with one-night-standers worldwide who, though they may not have felt love for their nighttime companions, wished their lovers would linger in the morning. It soared to top 10 status in more than 12 countries, including the United States, solidifying the young singer as a mainstay. Conveying heartbreak in his oh-so-smooth falsetto helped the openly gay 23-year-old vocalist notch four 2015 Grammy Awards for music from his debut album, In the Lovely Hour. Shortly after the Grammy Awards, Smith underwent surgery for a vocal cord hemorrhage, forcing him to cancel tour dates and be on vocal rest for weeks. Feeling better, Smith is working on new music while on a headlining tour across the country. For those who reminisce about his early joint effort, listeners can hear him reunite with his Disclosure collaborators on the new “Omen.” Besides the accolades he has received for his music, Smith has something else to be proud of: He recently lost more than 14 pounds. Is vocal cord surgery the new Atkins? NICKI ESCUDERO
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Raekwon/Ghostface Killa - Wednesday, August 12, - Marquee Theatre in Tempe
On the 1993 Wu Tang Clan debut album, Enter the Wu Tang (36 Chambers), Raekwon rapped about “running up in gates, doing hits for high stakes” in order to survive. By contrast, in the intro skit to his 2015 album, Fly International Luxury Art, the same rapper talks over a customs official at an airport, unsolicitedly listing off opulent pleasures such as Dom Perignon and “Versace shower sprinklers” all while she tries to tell him she has nowhere to stamp on his well-worn passport. Whether he is portraying himself as a young artist trying to make it or an older artist who has made it, Raekwon shows a strong indifference to any boundaries put before him. His current tour with Ghostface Killah celebrates the 20th anniversary of his 1995 solo debut, Only Built 4 Cuban Lynx . . ., a classic record about organized crime and the American Dream, immersed in the cryptic jargon of the Five Percent Nation and the collaborative spirit of the Wu Tang Clan. Rae and Ghostface converse on the record that they “don’t believe in Heaven because we’re living in Hell.” Evocative as that is, I hope their outlook is better 20 years later. MIKE BOGUMIL
Lindsey Stirling - Thursday, August 13 - Comerica Theatre
Lindsey Stirling, a California native and onetime Valley resident, is the greatest musician in the narrow genre of classical/dubstep/hip-hop/Celtic folk. Her original training consisted of weekly 15-minute “half lessons,” but by age 16 at Mesquite High School in Gilbert, she was in her first rock band. A few years later, her blending of genres impressed the judges of , on which Stirling competed in 2010 as a self-proclaimed “hip-hop violinist.” Since being voted off the show, she’s released three albums, selling hundreds of thousands of copies worldwide. Stirling brings excitement to each track and has filled her latest album, , with lyrics about overcoming her personal struggles. On stage, Stirling moves with grace and earnest, her bow flying across the strings to provide melodies over electronic backbeats. Her intensity is infectious. And it is impossible not to get caught up in the spectacle. TAYLOR GILLIAM
George Clinton - Thursday, August 13 - Pressroom
The first time I became truly aware of George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic was while listening to local skate-punk godfathers JFA (Jodie Foster’s Army). They had a song called “Standing on the Verge,” which I thought was super-funky and cool. After digging around a little, I realized JFA’s tune was a cover of “Standing on the Verge of Getting It On,” from Funkadelic’s 1974 record of the same name. As I began the hunt to learn more about the band that spawned such a groovy song to skateboard to, I found out about George Clinton: wild man, possibly from another planet, and all-around funky spastic fantastic. I scored a copy of Parliament’s 1975 opus, Mothership Connection, which was like nothing I’d ever heard and, outside of other Clinton-produced projects, nothing I have heard since. Alternately funky, psychedelic, heavy, jazzy, and freaky, the music is huge, and the personality of Clinton is like the head of a sweetly poisonous snake you can’t help offering a bobbing booty to bite. If you can’t find a beat to dance to when listening to one of Clinton’s records, whether solo, Parliament, or Funkadelic, then you are either deaf or dead. TOM REARDON