This week’s concert offerings are best described as “eclectic.” After all, they include an all-cello ensemble playing Metallica’s greatest hits, a Japanese psych-rock act keen on experimental sounds, and an instrumental progressive metal band.
So, yeah, like we said, eclectic.
Elsewhere on this week’s slate of high-profile shows in the Valley, country queen Carrie Underwood brings her latest tour to town, as do alt-rock heroes Violent Femmes, synthpop band Chromatics, and indie rockers HEALTH and The Dodos.
Details about each of these gigs can be found below in our list of the best shows happening in the Valley this week. And for even more live music happening around town, check out Phoenix New Times' online concert calendar.
Monday, May 6
Mesa Arts Center
The deep, cavernous sounds of the cello are perfect for heavy metal. They can be dark and brooding. They provide a nice, long bass sound that's a perfect backup to songs about sadness and destruction. They can also give a band that extra foundation underneath the sounds of guitars and drums to create more energy in a song. The cello can be found in the discography of almost all the great rock and metal acts. Metallica, System of a Down, Arcade Fire, Nirvana — they all have at least one song that uses the massive string instrument. The trend is so popular that cello metal has become a subgenre.
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The undisputed pioneers of the genre are Apocalyptica, the Finnish orchestral rock group of classical musicians with a special love for metal who turned something they did for fun 25 years ago into a trend. Their success has earned them chart-topping songs and albums, and they've been able to perform and collaborate with some of the biggest rockers and metalheads.
Apocalyptica decided to re-release their first album, Plays Metallica By Four Cellos, that put them on the musical map and do a U.S. tour of the classic Metallica covers, which includes a stop Monday night at Mesa Arts Center. Their album of covers of songs like "Master of Puppets," "Enter Sandman," and "Sad but True" earned them scores of fans among metalheads. They followed with more albums and original metal compositions that incorporated the cello's sound into the bracing melodies of their music. Their albums and tours across the world earned them chances to collaborate with some of the biggest musicians in the genre, including Bush's Gavin Rossdale and Slayer's Dave Lombardo. Showtime is 8 p.m. Tickets are $25-$55. Danny Gallagher
Animals As Leaders
Monday, May 6
Marquee Theatre in Tempe
When guitarist Tosin Abasi first burst onto the metal scene in 2009 with the self-titled debut from his group Animals as Leaders, he was the primary creative force behind the instrumental project. While he had outside assistance from Periphery guitarist Misha Mansoor on drum programming and production, the record turned ears thanks to Abasi’s vision of blending Meshuggah-style, polyrhythmic metal riffs with a technicality that aped shred greats like Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. A decade later, Abasi has shared magazine covers and stages alongside his aforementioned guitar heroes and is considered a contemporary leader in today’s instrumental rock guitar scene.
The most recent full-length studio album from Animals as Leaders, The Madness of Many, was released in 2016. Abasi says that it's the most cohesive statement that the current lineup — rounded out by second guitarist Javier Reyes and drummer Matt Garstka — have ever composed as a full band from start to finish. Animals As Leaders are scheduled to perform on Monday night at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe. Doors are at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25-$50. Jason Roche
Deva Premal and Miten
Monday, May 6
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts
Followers of world music in general and healing Sanskrit sounds, in particular, should be familiar with Deva Premal and Miten, but just in case: The duo have been performing together since they met in India in 1990 — at an ashram, fittingly — traveling the world and using their chanting mantras to heal all kinds of ills. And it should be noted that they don’t necessarily consider their gigs to be concerts in the ordinary sense.
“We don't look on it as a performance. That's one of the key things to our music, is that it's not seen by us as a situation of performer/audience,” Miten says. “Because we all sing together, we like to see it more as a spiritual gathering, that we facilitate as musicians. So that kind of takes the performance thing away.”
If this intrigues you, they'll be stopping in the Valley on Monday night at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Start time is 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $40-$108. Amber Taufen
Tuesday, May 7
The best way to enjoy a HEALTH show is to push in as close to the stage as possible. For nearly 15 years now, the members of HEALTH coalesced on thousands of stages to conjure the most intensely kinetic performances of any touring band, and today the Los Angeles-based act stand as one of the most unforgettable live bands to ever take a stage. Sure, the band has adapted their sound from lo-fi sets at The Smell to arena tours opening for Nine Inch Nails, but whether catching them on a small beer-soaked stage in a creaky basement venue or in a mid-level overly air-cooled venue, HEALTH are an unstoppable, mesmerizing force. HEALTH’s Wheels of Fear Tour features fellow Los Angeles-based EBM duo Youth Code. The show starts 8 p.m. Tickets are $20. Daniel Rodrigue
Violent Femmes and X
Tuesday, May 7
The Van Buren
The Femmes have had a rocky transition from their heyday in the mid-'90s. Lawyers, in-fighting, differences in musical philosophy and taste — any one of these conflicts could’ve spelled doom for a lesser band. Violent Femmes, even today, are no lesser band. The internal strife seemingly vanished after the band’s surprise 2013 reunion and even more surprisingly, the band released their first album in 16 years soon after. While We Can Do Anything flew under the radar, it demonstrated that the Femmes could still pen a good tune.
Tracks such as “Traveling Solves Everything” and “Issues” showcase lead singer Gordon Gano’s distinct rising deadpan as well as the band’s oft-overlooked sense of morbid humor. There’s no instant classic nestled within the 2016 release, but for a band that nearly came apart over a Wendy’s commercial, there were seemingly far worse outcomes to consider that an adequate album debut. Punk pioneers X are co-headlining the Femmes’ current tour and are just as fierce as ever. Their show at The Van Buren on Tuesday night is sold out, but tickets can be found on the secondary market. Nicholas Bostick
Tuesday, May 7
The new single from Chromatics is called “Time Rider,” which nods both musically and thematically to the group’s breakout single “Tick of the Clock.” Eight years have passed since that track and the Desire track “Under Your Spell” were featured in Nicolas Winding Refn’s hit film Drive. Now, the two bands are hitting the road for what is Chromatics’ first tour in five years and the two bands’ first joint tour since Drive was released. In some ways, many things have changed since then. In others, the clock ticks on, same as it ever was.
The past is a grotesque animal (as Of Montreal said so poignantly), and its constant recycling makes it equal parts beautiful and scattered. This metamorphosis is a fundamental ingredient in the Italians Do It Better recipe. The Double Exposure tour takes a nod in its name from the Chromatics track “Camera.” First released on 2013 label compilation After Dark 2, “Camera” was revisited last year with fresh production and a new vocal from lead singer Ruth Radalet (the original vocals were done by Adam Miller). Desire got a similar retreatment for After Dark 2 track “Tears From Heaven,” whose 2018 rendition cut the house tempo to half time and let Megan Louise’s vocals take front and center. Both tracks, wonderful in both forms, showcase a quintessential truth for the label’s ethos: Timeless music doesn’t need to be timely. Their show at Crescent Ballroom on Tuesday starts at 8 p.m. Admission is $30.50. Gerrit Feenstra
Wednesday, May 8
The Van Buren
The triumphant return of Eels (no "The," just "Eels") kicked off last month when their tour launched in Denver, a year after the release of their 12th studio album. The last time Eels were in town was in 2014 at Crescent Ballroom. The Deconstruction, their latest effort, came after a four-year hiatus by Mark Oliver Everett, the man behind the band. In that time, Everett got married, had a son, and got divorced, providing fuel for the creation of the album. Despite the delay, the album encapsulates classic Eels. It’s a compilation of upbeat grunge tracks and slow, haunting tunes. Their Van Buren show on Wednesday night starts at 8 p.m. Texas Piano Man will open. Tickets are $38-$55. Jacob Vaughn
Wednesday, May 8
San Francisco's Dodos aren't alone in crafting folkish songs that employ some unusual percussion, but unlike some of their indie rock peers, haven't forsaken sound songwriting for the visceral thrill of making a lot of noise onstage. Now up to their seventh album, last year's Certainty Waves (Polyvinyl), Meric Long and Logan Kroeber's songs often come shrouded in the wistfulness of those famous fogs rolling in from the Bay. Emby Alexander will open. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15-$30. Chris Gray
Acid Mothers Temple
Wednesday, May 8
Yucca Tap Room in Tempe
Acid Mothers Temple continue waving their freak flag pretty high on their most recent crop of albums, the curiously named Hallelujah Mystic Garden Part Two from earlier this year or 2018’s Either the Fragmented Body or the Reconstituted Soul, Trails to the Cosmic Vibrations, and Reverse of Rebirth in Universe. The Japanese psychedelic rockers have always been led by guitarist Kawabata Makoto through a seemingly endless series of side projects and permutations, from their mid-1990s beginning, when they were influenced by the spacey, minimalist collages of Krautrock, to their more recent opuses, which sound like a dozen Jimi Hendrix albums crushed by a trash compactor. Makoto's unfurling melodies and streaking contrails of guitar are amped up further by his bandmates' surges of synthesizer and trippy noises of unknown origin, culminating in a crescendo of head-spinning, psychedelic madness. Their Yucca Tap Room show starts at 8 p.m. Yamantaka // Sonic Titan will open. Admission is $12-$15. Falling James
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Carrie Underwood Thursday, May 9
Talking Stick Resort Arena
Ugly criers, get it together! Country megastar Carrie Underwood is bringing her Cry Pretty Tour 360, which is hitting 55 cities across North America in support of her latest album, to the Valley on May 9. As the name of the tour portends, the show will be performed in the round. “It’s so much fun for me and the band to play in every direction and creates a much more intimate and immersive experience for the audience, even in a larger arena setting," Underwood says. Maddie & Tae and Runaway June will open. If you need any more motivation to attend the show, other than Underwood’s upbeat country-pop, a dollar from each ticket sold will go to Danita's Children, which takes care of abandoned children in Haiti and offers education and nutrition programs to families. The concert gets going at 7 p.m. Tickets are $61.25-$271. Kyle Harris