The Cardinals might be out of the playoffs, but who cares? The Super Bowl is coming, and in the weeks preceding the big game more and more big-name concerts will come to town. For now, check out our picks, and be sure to browse our comprehensive concert calendar for more options.
With hip-hop perpetually drowning in outsized swag-and-brag imagery, keeping it real doesn't get realer than Homeboy Sandman's "Not Really." The song, from the NYC rapper's 2012 album First of a Living Breed, is Homeboy's casual, self-effacing take on joining notable indie label Stones Throw Records and the ensuing life changes that followed. Since signing, Homeboy (a.k.a. Angel Del Villar II) makes more money, plays bigger shows, flies in better seats, and meets more women, but all that movement hasn't altered his core ("I was chilling in Economy / That didn't bother me") nor is as exciting as it sounds. "Not Really" even confronts head-on the possibilities of failing and/or selling out: "Folks make a lot of fuss / I got a lot of buzz / I still could be a bust / Same as it ever was / Clear Channel FM can kiss my ass cheek / I said that last year / I said that last week." In the time since First, Homeboy has steadily stuck to an off-beat, indie-centric career path. Last September's Hallways is full of soaring, jazzy instrumentals and his slam-poet-style storytelling. He's also just as willing to vouch for an unexpected point of view as he was before: Last April, he wrote "Black People Are Cowards," a much-discussed Gawker essay about the black response to the Donald Sterling/L.A. Clippers brouhaha, and what he saw as weakness. REYAN ALI
For the Aesop Rock fan, hearing a new Rock project for the first time must be like keeping faith in complex holy texts: You might not always understand the scripture or why it's been written as such, but you can still appreciate the spirit of the words and parse meaning where possible. As hip-hop's high priest of the arcane, the San Francisco-based MC otherwise known as Ian Bavitz tends to pen abstract, confusing rhymes packed with unpredictable cultural references and narratives vacuum-sealed in riddles. The man has found truly kindred spirits in Hail Mary Mallon -- an on-again, off-again outfit consisting of Aesop, rapper Rob Sonic and, unofficially, DJ Big Wiz. Bestiary, Hail Mary's 2014 record, finds Rock and Sonic trading knotted verses as beats bounce with scratch-heavy snappiness. "Whales" targets the hollow materialism common to hip-hop bangers by sketching grotesque portraits of overindulgence ("40 bald eagles sewn onto a coat," a "foie gras bust of Albert Einstein"). "Kiln," meanwhile, concerns various drudgeries, disappointments and darkness ("Tears like his are tenured and rendered for when his father died/Anchored to his angled and tangled for when his pocket's lined"). Hop on Hail Mary Mallon's roller coaster and save the real comprehending for the cool-down. REYAN ALI
Take Over and Destroy has done all its records with Bob Hoag, starting with 2011's Rotten Tide EP and continuing with 2013's full-length Endless Night, and on to 2014's Vacant Face, which finds the band dropping the acronymic version of its name, TOAD. The records have been received tremendously: Blogs including Stereogum, Lambgoat, and Metal Sucks have lauded the band, and Pitchfork's Kim Kelly praised the band, singling out the "strong groove coursing within their veins." The band's toured with Swedish doom outfit Agrimonia and opened local dates for Ghost B.C. and Dillinger Escape Plan. Last year, the band was part of the three-day Southwest Terror Fest in Tucson, where it's billed alongside the Atlas Moth, Pelican, the Body, Neurosis, Sunn O))), and dozens more. JASON P. WOODBURY G. Love and Special Sauce - Thursday, January 15 - Marquee Theatre in Tempe
Some of the songs on Sugar, the latest release from the Philadelphia hip-hop blues creation G. Love and Special Sauce, revolves around a breakup. This material can be a downer for a band that has had a reputation for more than 20 years as an energetic live act known for a relaxed performance style that make even the most uptight concert attendee loosen up to the groove of their soul-influenced sound. There's a reason why the band plays constantly to enthusiastic sold-out crowds: It doesn't bring any negative energy to its shows. If you're concerned this recent turn of events made bandleader Garrett Dutton a sad bastard, you're sorely mistaken. The new album showcases how dynamic the musician has become, whether he's duetting with famous backup singer Merry Clayton (best known for her haunting vocals on the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter") or bringing the rest of the band back together, as the original lineup of the group, including upright bassist James "Jimi Jazz" Prescott and drummer Jeffrey "The Houseman" Clemens, are joining him for this tour. Proving their mettle has made them a skilled group of performers as opposed to a '90s nostalgia act. JASON KEIL
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Few R&B vocal groups command as much respect as the O'Jays, inducted in both the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2004 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005. Eddie Levert attributes the group's longevity and why everyone from Don Cornelius to Donald Trump has licensed their music to "the marriage of my voice and [Walter Williams'] voice." Throw in a tenor that acts like butter between those two voices and you have what Levert calls the O'Jays' "sweet, mellow, rough sound."
A generation of soul fans were introduced to the O'Jays from those Philadelphia International smashes like "Backstabbers," "Love Train," "For the Love of Money," "Use Ta Be My Girl" and "I Love Music," but a decade before that the group subsisted on regional hits, like "Lipstick Traces (From a Cigarette)" and "Lonely Drifter." SERENE DOMINIC