Michelle Zauner is Japanese Breakfast.
Michelle Zauner is Japanese Breakfast.
Ebru Yildiz

The 10 Best Concerts in Phoenix This Week

This week’s concert lineup features one of Phoenix’s biggest shows of the year, hands down. And it’s one that’s been three decades in the making.

Thirty years after kicking off the now-legendary Joshua Tree tour in the Valley, rock band U2 will return to town in celebration of the 30th anniversary of both the album and the tour. And just like they did back in 1987, Bono and company will sling songs like “Where the Streets Have No Name” and “Running to Stand Still” for a packed stadium filled with adoring fans.

U2 isn’t the only iconic act headed for the Valley over the next few nights. Janet Jackson’s current world tour hits Talking Stick Resort Arena on Thursday.

Other big names performing in Phoenix this week include Jason Isbell, SZA, Stephen Kellogg, Billy Changer, and Japanese Breakfast.

Read on for more details about each of these shows or hit up our online concert calendar for even more music events happening in Phoenix.

Michelle Zauner is Japanese Breakfast.
Michelle Zauner is Japanese Breakfast.
Ebru Yildiz

Japanese Breakfast
Monday, September 18
Valley Bar

For most people, their first exposure to Japanese Breakfast was the 2016 single "In Heaven." A swirl of sighing vocals, widescreen choruses, and twinkling instrumentation, at first blush it sounds like a sweet slice of dream-pop. And then you listen to the lyrics chronicling Japanese Breakfast's Michelle Zauner coming to terms with her mother's death, and the song turns into a gut-wrencher. For anyone coming to terms with the loss of a loved one, it hits that unexpected Murakami sweet spot.

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Zauner's debut album, Psychopomp, continued that delicate balancing act between pop sweetness and harsh emotion. Already an emo vet as the former singer for Philadelphia's Little Big League, Zauner crafted an album that was achingly personal but packed with lo-fi pop hooks. It was an album that sounded like it was recorded in a basement with choruses that were born to ring out in auditoriums.

Earlier this year, Japanese Breakfast created another moment of unexpected magic with "Machinist," the first single off Zauner's sophomore album, Soft Sounds From Another Planet. A synth-heavy, electro-pop song about falling in love with a robot, it's a striking departure from her past work. And yet, much like "In Heaven," it's the kind of song that sounds like you've been waiting your whole life to hear it. Ashley Naftule

Jim Heath, better known as the Reverend Horton Heat.EXPAND
Jim Heath, better known as the Reverend Horton Heat.
Gene Ambo

Billy Changer
Monday, September 18
The Rebel Lounge

Billy Changer is part of Corners, an L.A. band just bristling with talent, documented most recently on frontman Tracy Bryant’s own standout solo release, Subterranean.

But sometimes Changer needs a change, and the most recent result was last year’s self-titled LP, something between a self-portrait and a reflection in a cracked mirror. Unlike Corners’ precision-machined goth-y post-punk, Changer’s songs – put on vinyl by Lolipop after a run of cassettes – start somewhere between The Velvet Underground and Spacemen 3 and decay in various chaotic ways, revealing an unexpected kind of intimacy amid the fragments.

There are a lot of people making good rock 'n' roll these days, but there’s something especially interesting about this one. Chris Ziegler

Jason Isbell (center) with The 400 Unit.EXPAND
Jason Isbell (center) with The 400 Unit.
Danny Clinch

Tuesday, September 19
University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale

In their first tour since summer 2015, Irish-born rock icons U2 will put on a show that they famously played on four separate occasions 30 years ago in the Valley (with the latter two at Sun Devil Stadium being filmed for the rockumentary Rattle and Hum). U2’s 1987 album, The Joshua Tree, was frontman Bono’s love letter to America and its traditional forms of music and will be played in its entirety, along with a selection of older hits and possibly snippets of the group's still-in-production album, Songs of Experience.

The show is presented with a clear political message, but one that fits well with the equally political album. Nonetheless, reviews of the various shows on the tour have said the music is the driving force. Beck will open for U2 in Glendale but will likely be overpowered by nostalgic tracks like “With or Without You” and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," presented against an accompanying video specially made for each of Joshua Tree’s 11 tracks. Nicholas Bostick

Singer-songwriter Kevin Morby.
Singer-songwriter Kevin Morby.
Adarsha Benjamin

Jason Isbell
Tuesday, September 19
The Van Buren

A title like The Nashville Sound may help center Jason Isbell’s latest effort musically, but the lyrics are meant to address a whole country in upheaval. “Last year was a son of a bitch / For nearly everyone we know / But I ain’t fighting with you down in the ditch / I’ll meet you up here on the road,” Isbell sings on “Hope the High Road.”

It makes sense that a theme of unity played a major role for Isbell, who enlisted The 400 Unit band for their first title billing alongside him since 2011. He knew he needed their collaboration to make the songs work, especially given producer David Cobb’s (Shooter Jennings, Sturgill Simpson) strict no-demos, no-rehearsals, live-recording process. Needless to say, the right kind of band is key, and with Isbell’s achingly honest lyrics, they’re unstoppable. Ashley Harris

Stephen Kellogg's latest project offers selections from every direction.EXPAND
Stephen Kellogg's latest project offers selections from every direction.
Will Byington

Kevin Morby
Tuesday, September 19
Valley Bar

Kevin Morby got his real start in New York as bassist for jammy, lo-fi folk outfit Woods and later as co-leader of The Babies with Vivian Girls’ Cassie Ramone. Starting in 2013, with Harlem River, Morby parleyed his skill at writing pop songs into ambitious solo albums, an output bolstered by his voice, which draws comparisons to Bob Dylan for its throaty assuredness. And his last two albums have been nothing if not ambitious.

After moving to L.A. from New York City in 2015, Morby found himself shut off from the world for the first time in his life. He led a reclusive existence and, in solitude, wrote enough songs for two separate albums: last year’s Singing Saw and City Music, his newest record. The former is expansive and poetic, almost biblical at times – a chronicle of willows and mountaintops, of lonely mothers and great destroyers. It is musically maximal, making room for well-placed sax solos, angelic choirs and, as befits its title, a chorus of musical saws.

The songs on City Music are more obviously the product of that period of solitude. If Singing Saw seemed to capture, in its own elliptical way, the edenic lushness of a certain place, City Music is about the paradoxical loneliness one can feel in a city of endless crowds and concrete – a city more like the one Morby came from. Chris Kissel

Tony "Demolition Man" Dolan (left) and Jeff "Mantas" Dunn (right) of Venom Inc.
Tony "Demolition Man" Dolan (left) and Jeff "Mantas" Dunn (right) of Venom Inc.
Hannah Verbeuren

Stephen Kellogg
Tuesday, September 19
Crescent Ballroom
Here's a reason the somewhat vague term "Americana" fits for a wide expanse of sounds and region-specific musical traditions: As expansive and eclectic as the country itself, Americana isn't a genre but a collection of shared sounds and ideas from coast to coast, from then till now.

Singer-songwriter Stephen Kellogg set out to explore just how much place influences sound on his most recent album, the ambitious four-part South, West, North, East. Kellogg, who released six studio albums and live records in his decade fronting the Sixers, branched out on his own in 2012. After 2013's Blunderstone Rookery, he conceived the all-over-the-map project, hitting the open highway in search of the right sounds.

Kellogg recorded each five-song section of South, West, North, and East in a different place, with different musicians and co-producers. South (recorded in Nashville and Atlanta) brings energetic Southern rock; West (recorded on a farm in Boulder, Colorado) features cowboy ballads and spacious production; North (recorded in a cabin in Woodstock, New York) steps toward the indie rock sound; East (recorded in Washington, D.C.) embraces the singer-songwriter tradition.

In all, it's a collection that displays patience, versatility, wanderlust, and a keen understanding of the immense musical possibilities that exist under the Americana banner. Eric Swedlund

U2 are scheduled to perform on Tuesday, September 19, at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.EXPAND
U2 are scheduled to perform on Tuesday, September 19, at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.
Anton Corbijn

Reverend Horton Heat
Wednesday, September 20
Marquee Theatre in Tempe

For more than the past quarter-century, the Dallas-based rockabilly musician Jim Heath, better known as the Reverend Horton Heat, and his two bandmates have created music that defies classification, but runs the gamut of country-fried rockabilly to zany psychobilly to slick surf-metal mayhem on an ever-evolving revival tour that has traversed nearly every major city, college town, and jukebox joint in the U.S. multiple times.

With notable songs "Psychobilly Freakout," "Wiggle Stick," "One Time For Me," and "Big Sky," the Reverend Horton Heat has pockets of fans across the country and globe who flock to the band's shows every year to see the nitro-burning rock 'n' roll road show. Heath has lived through one bad marriage and one good, four drummers, six record labels, 11 studio albums, and more than 3,000 shows over 30 years, making the Reverend Horton Heat band one of the hardest-working and well-traveled groups in the land. Mark C. Horn

Janet Jackson
Thursday, September 21
Talking Stick Resort Arena

In spite of having stayed fairly close to the spotlight over the past 40 years by modern exposure standards, Janet Jackson is a reclusive pop star. From her Rhythm Nation days to the current chart-topping Unbreakable phase she’s entering, Jackson remains a bit of a mystery to the world.

While being a member of the Jackson-family dynasty may be part of her appeal, her success is all her own: Her soft yet powerful voice has been making hit records and selling out tours for decades. She’s a force to be reckoned with, a living historic model for each era’s musical peers, dancing, singing, and playing every part with precision.

Still, it’s the duality of her emotional, bombastic anthems and shy, behind-the-scenes persona that makes Janet Jackson one of the most fascinating pop-machine juggernauts of the last half-century. Bree Davies

Neo-soul singer SZA.EXPAND
Neo-soul singer SZA.
Courtesy of RCA Records

Thursday, September 21
Marquee Theatre in Tempe

Big, beautiful hair, pajamas, and lyrics ripped straight from her soul gracing her lips? It must be SZA, the neo-soul singer who’s taking the R&B scene by storm. Rather than donning tight clothing and belting like her life depends on it, SZA prefers to keep her look real and ethereal while softly singing her carefully penned lyrics. This attitude has made her a hit with pop aficionados and indie-music snobs alike.

Catch her at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe, touring in support of her recently released debut, Ctrl. Well, if you can find tickets on the secondary market, that is, since the show’s sold out. Ravyn Lenae opens. Addison Herron-Wheeler

Billy Changer
Billy Changer
Courtesy of Lolipop Records

Venom Inc.
Thursday, September 21
Club Red in Mesa

For die-hard fans of a veteran band, there are few things more demoralizing than when the classic lineup gets fractured, due to in-fighting or whatnot, leading to two (or more) versions of the original act. That’s currently the case of English black metal pioneers Venom, whereby two versions of the band currently coexist. Venom Inc. features original guitarist Jeff "Mantas" Dunn and drummer and Anthony "Abaddon" Bray, with early 1990s-era singer Tony "Demolition Man" Dolan on the mic.

Venom originally formed in Newcastle, England, in 1979, its members embodying a shared love of Black Sabbath’s dark imagery, Kiss’s theatricality and the driving rock of bands like Queen, The Who, and Deep Purple. Known for their satanic lyrics and image, the band has admitted on numerous occasions that they were playing the devil-worship card for laughs – although numerous black metal bands who have professed a love for Venom have taken it far more seriously.

While Venom Inc. is performing much of its classic material on tour (“We have so much material that we want to do,” Mantas says), they also released an album of new material last month via Nuclear Blast. Brett Callwood

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