Phoenix Concerts May 8-10: Taylor Swift, Weird Al Yankovich, Sunny Sweeney, and Hot Snakes | Phoenix New Times

The 10 Best Concerts in Phoenix This Week

From Taylor Swift to Weird Al, it's going to be a big week for concerts in the PHX.
Taylor Swift is scheduled to perform on Tuesday, May 8, at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.
Taylor Swift is scheduled to perform on Tuesday, May 8, at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. Courtesy of Big Machine Label Group

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Up for seeing a great concert this week? You're in luck, as there are plenty to choose from this week, including one of the biggest shows of the year.

Pop megastar Taylor Swift will kick off her Reputation world tour at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale on Tuesday night. And it’s a highly anticipated show that’s expected to pack the venue with 50,000-plus people.

If you want to be one of 'em, we’ve included all the details about T-Swizzle’s show in the following list of the biggest and best concerts happening in Phoenix this week.

If TayTay’s not your thing, however, there are plenty of other options, including gigs by “Weird Al” Yankovic, The Afghan Whigs, Sunny Sweeney, Hot Snakes, and Meshell Ndegeocello.

Details about each of these shows can be found below. And for even more music events happening around town this week, check out Phoenix New Times' online concert calendar.

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Steve Tannen and Deb Talan of The Weepies.
Courtesy of The Weepies
The Weepies
Tuesday, May 8
Crescent Ballroom

It's a good bet you've heard the catchy tunes of The Weepies before, even if you weren't aware of it. In the past 17 years, the indie outfit's folksy song structures, stark instrumentation, and poppy hooks have earned soundtrack spots in television shows, feature films, and even a commercial for Barack Obama's first run for the White House in 2008.

The mass exposure that The Weepies have enjoyed makes total sense: both Steve Tannen and Deb Talan, the married couple behind the act, offer easily digestible vocals that are understated yet emotive. Straightforward chord structures characterize tunes like "World Spins Madly On" and "Be My Thrill," and the pair has shown a consistent knack for producing condensed and accessible modern folk ballads.

Currently, Tannen and Talan are touring in celebration of the 10th anniversary of Hideaway, their 2008 album that charted fairly high on the Billboard charts and is considered to be their most successful release to date. The tour swings through Crescent Ballroom this week and will feature The Weepies performing all 14 songs from Hideaway, as well as hits both past and present. A.H. Goldstein

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Escape the Fate perform in 2013.
Escape the Fate
Tuesday, May 8
Club Red in Mesa

The funny thing about the music of Escape the Fate is that it's basically pure pop that's been gussied up with hard rock and emo trappings. Songs like "Issues" and "Gorgeous Nightmare" could easily be hits for Lady Gaga — or even Britney Spears, for that matter. Although loud and punctuated with screams and various other metal accoutrements, the songs of Escape the Fate are catchy, almost danceable little ditties that most soccer moms would not have trouble humming while transporting their kiddos to the next match.

That being said, Escape the Fate should be lauded for not succumbing to the standard emo agenda. These are just four fairly normal young men who write catchy songs and then decide to play them as loudly as possible. For the most part, it works wonderfully, as Craig Mabbitt leads the band with a manner that belies the typical "fuck everything" mantra that is so common in emo circles. Darryl Smyers

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“Weird Al” Yankovic invades Mesa in May.
Courtesy of Mesa Arts Center
"Weird Al” Yankovic
Tuesday, May 8
Mesa Arts Center

Anyone who has seen “Weird Al” Yankovic (and yes, the quotation marks are part of the official billing) in concert knows what to expect: A string of his insanely catchy parody songs (i.e. “Eat It” “Like a Surgeon” “Smells Like Nirvana,” “Amish Paradise,” “Gump,” “Tacky”), a huge video screen, crazy light show, and costume changes. Lots of costume changes.

But for his current tour, the accordion-wielding pride of Lynwood, California, is trying something completely different: a stripped-down, no-frills production in smaller venues with a show that is made up almost entirely of his original comedy or “in the style of” non-parody songs and deep cuts.

Not surprisingly, those tunes tended to get overlooked, and he’s amassed a quantity of them over his career. Songs like “Velvet Elvis,” “Stuck in a Closet With Vanna White,” “Dare to Be Stupid,” “The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota,” “My Baby’s in Love with Eddie Vedder,” and “Don’t Download This Song.”

“If they’re coming just to see the hits … they should stay home!” Yankovic says. “I’ve made no secret of what this tour is. It’s still a comedy show and it’s still enjoyable. It’s not the regular show. But there will still be that one person who yells out ‘Eat It!’” Bob Ruggiero

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Alt-rock veterans The Afghan Whigs.
Chris Cuffaro
The Afghan Whigs
Tuesday, May 8
The Van Buren

Thom Yorke sang about feeling like a creep, but Greg Dulli has made a career out of singing about being a creep. The frontman for alt-rock veterans The Afghan Whigs, Dulli has carved out a place for himself as American rock’s resident scoundrel. He’s the closest thing the U.S. has to a Jarvis Cocker: Both singers pride themselves on being self-aware, louche playboys.

On albums like Gentlemen and Black Love, the Motown-loving Dulli steeped his “rock and corrupted soul” songs in toxic masculinity like bags of tea. He was hoisting toasts to the douchebags long before Kanye got around to it. Dulli’s voice has only gotten stronger and more resonant with age — the cockiness of youth replaced by the salty leer of an old timer who’s seen it all.

While 2014’s Do to the Beast and this year’s In Spades pale in comparison to classic Whigs joints like Gentlemen, they still stand on their own as worthy additions to the Whigs catalog. And besides, it’s a bit of unfair comparison: a lot of bands’ best work can’t measure up to Gentlemen, so who would expect the band that made the record to top it? Ashley Naftule

Eliza Rickman brings fairy-tale style and nontraditional instruments to Trunk Space.
New Times file photo

Eliza Rickman
Tuesday, May 8
Trunk Space

Eliza Rickman has the sort of quirky verve that’s perfect for a spot like the Trunk Space. She plays such nontraditional instruments — ranging from a toy piano and noisemakers to handbells and a glockenspiel — and wears flowing vintage gowns while performing. She also has the sort of voice that can make even a love song sound melancholy. Rickman puts on an effortless show, the kind of performance that comes from years of playing night after night to new crowds in unfamiliar cities.

She isn't an easy artist to describe. The imagery that the term "singer-songwriter" conjures isn't her. "I'm not the dude with the acoustic guitar," she says. Live, there's a brooding quality to her music that recalls the great alternative artists of the ’80s and ’90s, but that's not her either. She's not a new Kate Bush or a new Tori Amos.

Rickman says that a friend once referred to her music as "post-Prince Charming," and she's cool with that assessment. "It's like the Disney princess who has maybe been screwed over more than once or twice," she says. She looks like Snow White or at least a 1940s actress playing her in a silver-screen fairy tale. She sounds a bit like the fairy-tale character, too, as her songs are filled with tales of quirk and whimsy. Liz Ohanesian
Taylor Swift
Tuesday, May 8
University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale

Assemble your squads, Arizona. Taylor Swift is coming to town. The singer-songwriter will kick off her 2018 Reputation tour on Tuesday at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. Lucky us.

T-Swizz is as popular as ever these days. Her new album, Reputation, sold around 700,000 copies in the U.S. on its day of release last November, putting it on track to be Swift's fifth No. 1 album on Billboard's charts. It's an impressive feat, considering the controversy that's dogged the singer over the last year — from her feud with Kanye West blowing up in her face to the public's mixed reactions to Swift's single “Look What You Made Me Do."

But even with strong album sales, it looks like Taylor Swift still has both feet firmly planted in the pop firmament. And local fans will get a chance to bask in her full Swiftian glory this week. The show starts at 7 p.m. Camila Cabello and Charli XCX will open. Tickets are $42-$275. Ashley Naftule

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Guitar legend Adrian Legg.
Courtesy of Adrian Legg
Adrian Legg
Wednesday, May 9
Musical Instrument Museum

There's an old saw that guitar players are a dime a dozen. Tom T. Hall once wrote, "There ain't no money in it and it'll lead you to an early grave." Somebody forgot to warn British guitar alchemist Adrian Legg about the pitfalls of the guitarist's path, and in a 40-year career, Legg has picked and plucked and flailed and hammered his way to the top of the overcrowded heap.

Regularly acknowledged as a highly influential musician in such esoteric publications as Guitar Player, Legg has issued a catalog of instrumental albums that are the envy of every guy who's ever taken the plunge, walked into that pawnshop and laid his money down for some beat-up old Gibson.

Legg is so accomplished, he can have fun with his music while maintaining the standards of a true virtuoso. Playful titles like "Nefertiti – What a Sweetie," "More Fun in the Swamp," and "The One-Eyed Turk" clue us in to a man who knows that it's as much about fun and entertainment as about technical perfection and mathematical precision. Unlike many guitar gods, Legg is a stickler for beautiful melodies; the man can induce trances. Touring in support of his latest release, Inheritance, Legg undoubtedly will cause jaws to drop in the confines of the MIM's musical theater. William Michael Smith

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Country singer Sunny Sweeney.
Courtesy of Sunfire Entertainment
Sunny Sweeney
Wednesday, May 9
Last Exit Live

Over her decade-plus career as a recording artist, which includes a Billboard Top 10 single in 2010’s “From a Table Away” and a 2013 CMA nomination for Best New Artist, Sunny Sweeney has proven to be a true maverick entirely too frank to toe any major-label company line.

The 41-year-old country singer has never shied away from mining the same topics that great country artists have for decades, but have somehow fallen out of favor in our risk-averse age — drinking, pills, ill-advised affairs — and sometimes she’s paid the price for it.

However, after signing with Nashville-based distributor Thirty Tigers a few years back, Sweeney has released two strong albums in a row (2014’s Provoked and 2017's Trophy) and become one of the few solo female artists to truly hold her own on the heavily male-dominated country music circuit, which in itself is saying something. Chris Gray

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This is what a Hot Snakes promo photo looks like.
Courtesy of Sub Pop Records
Hot Snakes
Thursday, May 10
Crescent Ballroom

Making things obvious has just never been Hot Snakes' style. "Hi-Lites," from 2004's Audit in Progress, provides a great example of this MO in action. The song begins with a shivering, impetuous guitar line that sounds like it's desperate to break out of a confined space and go skyward. When those nimble, uneasy notes finally escape, they tear off wildly, and the rest of Hot Snakes' instruments jump in and follow this path.

Don't, however, expect Rick Froberg to try to translate the special quality of this frenetic yet weirdly subtle song into words. "I wouldn't bother," he says, “I wouldn't know how to describe it. I mean, that's the thing about playing music: You're not much with words — [otherwise] you'd be an author or something."

He sells himself short with that perspective. "Hi-Lites" reads like an abbreviated William Carlos Williams poem dedicated to city-based shut-ins who are sick of the overwhelming, garish vibes of metropolitan life. "High treble! Hi-lites!" Froberg shrieks, sounding, in a very good way, like he's a few thousand tools short of a hardware store. Reyan Ali

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Meshell Ndegeocello in concert in 2016.
Meshell Ndegeocello
Thursday, May 10
Musical Instrument Museum

Meshell Ndegeocello has so many ways of getting through to you. She's an utterly sublime bassist who can seamlessly cover the waterfront of jazz, funk and soul before floating off into pure psychedelia. She's an enchanting vocalist who can soothe with her tone while startling you with her frank yet poetic lyrics. She's bold enough to stand her ground against her former champion, Madonna, and flexible enough to have collaborated with John Mellencamp, Basement Jaxx, The Rolling Stones and The Blind Boys of Alabama.

From the soul-deep entreaties of her 1993 debut album, Plantation Lullabies, to the R&B and pop covers on her latest release, Ventriloquism, Ndegeocello always manages to be unique, even as her music shape-shifts through various layers of dreamy hypnosis. Falling James
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