The 13 Best Concerts in Phoenix This Week

John Legend is scheduled to perform on Wednesday, May 24, at Comerica Theatre.
John Legend is scheduled to perform on Wednesday, May 24, at Comerica Theatre. Eliot Lee Hazel
The month of May is wrapping up with some big concerts by some big names.

Brian Wilson, John Legend, Melissa Etheridge, Lukas Graham, Bishop Briggs, and Ann Wilson will all hit Valley music venues in the coming days.

Catfish and the Bottlemen, Meatbodies, and Esham are also scheduled to perform this week, and renowned pop-punk band Shonen Knife will make a long-awaited return to the Valley.

Read on for details on each of these shows and be sure to check out our online concert calendar for even more live music options this week.

Brian Wilson
Monday, May 22
Celebrity Theatre

No one can deny the influence that the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds has held over pop music during the last half-century. It was a giant leap forward sonically and lyrically for a band primarily known for songs about girls and surfing. The concept album has appeared on numerous lists that name it one of the greatest albums of all time. In short, it broke both the rules of pop music and the mind of Brian Wilson, the man who conceived it. His bout with mental illness after the recording of Pet Sounds is captured in the 2015 film Love and Mercy. Wilson is playing Pet Sounds in its entirety (along with some Beach Boys hits) with a group of 10 musicians, including founding Beach Boys member Al Jardine, hoping to capture the psychedelic pop sounds originally created by an army of studio players. It's being billed as one of his "final performances" of the album live, which is all the more reason to attend. Jason Keil

click to enlarge Catfish and the Bottlemen - COURTESY OF PRIMARY TALENT INTERNATIONAL
Catfish and the Bottlemen
Courtesy of Primary Talent International
Catfish and the Bottlemen
Monday, May 22
The Pressroom

Okay, let's get that name out of the way first. Even within the realm of rock and roll, it's so unusual that Catfish and the Bottlemen have posted an adorable animated YouTube video about it. Long story short, frontman Van McCann spent the early part of his life in Australia, and one day he spied a street musician playing a drum kit and an assortment of bottles; this unusual fellow called his act Catfish and the Bottlemen. The name stuck, as these things often do. The Bottlemen's songs also tend to stick – as buoyant, kinetic bites of guitar rock that to date all have one-word titles. (That policy does not apply to their covers, which have included Kanye West's “Black Skinhead” in the past.) Their music scratches a familiar itch in a slightly different way, so it's possible to detect hints of the past generation or two of significant indie bands in their DNA; though The Strokes certainly loom large, it's also not terribly far removed from Arctic Monkeys or The 1975, U.K. countrymen who have also recently found welcoming audiences on this side of the Atlantic. But then, that's only fitting for a group that professes to never stop thinking about music. Chris Gray

click to enlarge British-born pop songstress Bishop Briggs. - CHAD KAMENSHINE
British-born pop songstress Bishop Briggs.
Chad Kamenshine
Bishop Briggs
Tuesday, May 23
Crescent Ballroom

Radio pop has swung into darker territories lately, with vocalists like Tove Lo, Elle King, Lykke Li, and even Hozier inflecting electro-pop with soul-influenced brooding. Bishop Briggs, aka Sarah Grace McLaughlin, joins the moody parade with singles “Wild Horses” and “River,” which feature her impressive, throaty vocals over swaggering, relatively minimalistic beats. The 24-year-old British musician is now based in Los Angeles, but she was raised in Japan and Hong Kong, on her Scottish parents’ affection for Motown and karaoke culture. While pop today draws from a range of genres, including electronica, hip-hop, and acoustic, it will be interesting to see whether Briggs can turn her unique background into a clear point of view rather than another mash-up of influences. Katie Moulton

click to enlarge The always colorful Ann Wilson. - JESS GRIFFIN
The always colorful Ann Wilson.
Jess Griffin
Ann Wilson
Tuesday, May 23
Celebrity Theatre

As the lead singer for hard-rock band Heart, Ann Wilson was one of the very few prominent female voices in an era overwhelmingly dominated by men. Her electrifying voice and knack for turning an imaginative phrase were instrumental in establishing Heart as one of the great bands of the classic-rock era. However, Wilson and her sister Nancy were basically anomalies in the hard-rock world of the early ’70s. “Early on, the challenge we had was to be taken seriously,” says Wilson. “Especially Nancy, because she played guitar and she's a really beautiful blonde woman. So she'd get backhanded compliments like, 'Is she really plugged in?'” Nancy has spent a career burying such notions starting with Heart's 1976 debut album Dreamboat Annie, where her intricate and riveting guitar work, along with Ann's combination of delicate and fiery vocals, yielded hits like “Magic Man” and “Crazy on You.” Though decades into a career as a lead singer of a band, to this day, Wilson is still shy. “But I'm more shy off stage than on,” says Wilson. “I feel really comfortable up there most of the time as long as everything's going right. I feel it's a great connection with people, and you think on stage that people have gotten out of the house and they've paid money to come see me, so they must somehow like me. It was just an evolution that happened gradually.” Tom Murphy

click to enlarge Meatbodies are on the menu at Valley Bar this week. - ALICE BAXLEY
Meatbodies are on the menu at Valley Bar this week.
Alice Baxley
Tuesday, May 23
Valley Bar

Chad Ubovich used to back Mikal Cronin and plays bass in Ty Segall’s Fuzz, but he gets much wilder in his own group, Meatbodies. The band’s self-titled, 2014 full-length on In the Red Records is filled with intense bursts of pure punk rock, but the album also is leavened with unexpected psychedelic digressions. Much of Meatbodies’ sound is encompassed in the song “Mountain,” which is wrapped up in elaborate hard-rock riffs and rumbling tempos until it downshifts into a grungy ending that’s crowned by celestial harmonies and spiked with proggy shards of intricate guitar. Throughout all the changes, Ubovich intones with a spaced-out, reverb-heavy delivery like a garage-punk Syd Barrett. Falling James

click to enlarge The accordion-powered punk rockers of Piñata Protest. - COURTESY PHOTO
The accordion-powered punk rockers of Piñata Protest.
Courtesy Photo
Piñata Protest
Tuesday, May 23
Yucca Tap Room in Tempe

Our border brothers in the northern Mexican states have a predisposition for accordion-filled norteños, while rural areas are known to indulge in the more traditional folk music of rancheras. If you're Mexican-American or Chicano, chances are you got a steady dose of both growing up. Isn't that right, you pinché pochos? (It's okay for me to say that; I'm one of them.) With that being said, you might think it a little odd when you hear a band like Piñata Protest, a self-described accordion-powered punk rock band that plays ... mojado rock? When you think about the dichotomy of growing up Chicano, the fusion actually makes perfect sense. The San Antonio natives say that their music is not your abuelo's norteño, but it also ain't your pappy's punk rock, either. The quartet, made up of accordionist Alvaro del Norte, guitarist Matt Cazares, bassist Marcus Cazares, and drummer J.J. Martinez, combine driving guitar rhythms, bellowing accordion blasts, and a blistering punk pace, for a unique sound that's surprisingly palatable and pleasantly danceable. Anthony Sandoval

Even more concerts this week can be on the next page, including John Legend, Shonen Knife, and Lisa Fischer.
click to enlarge Celtic Woman's current lineup. - NAOMI GAFFEY
Celtic Woman's current lineup.
Naomi Gaffey
Celtic Woman: Voice of Angels
Tuesday, May 23
Mesa Arts Center

It’s Ireland’s version of a boy band, but instead of aging out when their voices change, the Irish female vocalists in this revolving-door lineup must sing like an angel and play an instrument. “It’s really for anybody who enjoys Irish music. That’s something that we care about. We have a lot of followers who are Irish or that’s their heritage,” says Máiréad Carlin, part of the current quartet. She says Celtic Woman: Voices of Angels is also for anybody who loves bagpipe music, dancing, percussion, drumming, piano, and bouzouki: “We all play instruments onstage.” They’ll perform “Danny Boy” and “Amazing Grace,” plus traditional Irish music and even some new songs from their chart-topping Voices of Angels and Destiny albums. Susie Tommaney
click to enlarge R&B/pop hitmaker John Legend. - ELIOT LEE HAZEL
R&B/pop hitmaker John Legend.
Eliot Lee Hazel
John Legend
Wednesday, May 24
Comerica Theatre

Six months removed from the release of his fifth studio album, Darkness and Light, John Legend will pay a visit to the Valley this week. Met with tepid sales figures despite critical acclaim, his latest sees the Ohio native adding dark undertones to his signature love ballads. Legend croons to his wife and infant daughter but also frets over political unrest and the future, which may have rattled longtime fans at first listen. Though love songs are still present, Darkness and Light marks an evolution of sorts for a singer-songwriter who seems to be expanding his reach beyond romance. Surely, however, Legend will perform plenty of older cuts as well; the versatile artist is capable of commanding a crowd both with a full band and by his lonesome, accompanied only by his piano. So no matter how Legend decides to arrange Wednesday’s performance at Comerica Theatre, it’s unlikely any fans will be disappointed. Matthew Keever

click to enlarge Shonen Knife make a long-awaited return to the Valley this week. - COURTESY OF REYBEE
Shonen Knife make a long-awaited return to the Valley this week.
Courtesy of Reybee
Shonen Knife
Wednesday, May 24
Yucca Tap Room in Tempe
Unlike other dinosaur musicians rising from the grave to play a routine reunion tour or the now-ubiquitous live-album-in-full payday, Shonen Knife has never had to step into such territory. The Japanese power-punk trio has rolled on uninterrupted for close to four decades, a workhorse of an outfit spitting out more than a dozen records while touring the world with a smile. That smile is a crucial component of the Shonen Knife formula: The band’s 19th release, 2016’s Adventure, is full of bubblegum raucousness, with singer, guitarist, and founding member Naoko Yamano leading the band’s happy charge. Ever keeping up with its youthful contemporaries, the group sings about emojis and has made its full digital discography available on Bandcamp. For an outfit that began in 1981, toured with Nirvana and perfected the Carpenters’ “Top of the World” at the height of the ’90s celebration of the ’70s, Shonen Knife is a model for staying punk and staying relevant. Bree Davies

click to enlarge Lukas Graham will help kick off the summer with its pop and soul. - DANNY CLINCH
Lukas Graham will help kick off the summer with its pop and soul.
Danny Clinch
Mix 96.9's Summer Kick Off feat. Lukas Graham
Wednesday, May 24
Marquee Theatre in Tempe

When Lukas Graham released the single “7 Years” in the summer of 2015, the band expected that the song would hit big only among northern European audiences, where its main supporters are. But by fall, the song had gone viral and made the Danish group international pop stars. “Basically, we're a band that was broken through streaming,” says lead singer Lukas Forchhammer. The band that would eventually be known as Lukas Graham began when Forchhammer and his good friend Stefan Forrest wrote several songs together. Then Forchhammer spent some time traveling in South America and New York in 2009 and returned home determined to expand his and Forrest’s music. They recruited some high school friends, including Mark Falgren, with whom Forchhammer had been in a folk band. By 2011, the group had solidified its core sound, which is steeped in pop, funk and R&B. This week, Lukas Graham will co-headline Mix 96.’s Summer Kick Off at Marquee Theatre with country-pop act The Band Perry. Tom Murphy

Esham, better known as the creator of the "wicked shit." - REEL LIFE PRODUCTIONS
Esham, better known as the creator of the "wicked shit."
Reel Life Productions
Wednesday, May 24
Last Exit Live

Since releasing his first album in 1986 at the age of 13, Esham’s personalized style of acid rap has influenced rappers like Tech N9ne and Insane Clown Posse, leaving a major mark in the subgenre of horrorcore. Thirty years later, Esham Smith is still making music and expanding his community of those looking to share in the “wicked shit,” including those who in the audience at Last Exit Live on Wednesday. “The ‘wicked shit’ is a particular type of music that we do, the acid rap,” Smith says. “It’s a genre that dives into dark imagery and really mental subjects. A lot of kids choose to express themselves through this musical artform instead of violently at times, and this music originated in Detroit, Michigan.” Decades later, the "wicked shit" is carried on by horrorcore artists around the world. “Everybody keeps it going, and we are all inspired by each other,” Smith says. “Whether it’s ICP hosting the Gathering of the Juggalos or taking the culture even further in other ways, I think we all learn from each other.” Lauren Archuletta
The incomparable Melissa Etheridge. - JOHN TSIAVIS
The incomparable Melissa Etheridge.
John Tsiavis
Melissa Etheridge
Thursday, May 25
Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale

The Melissa Etheridge live experience in 2017 is both fun and thought-provoking. The rock ‘n’ roll legend is still a musician first, going out night after night with the intention of kicking ass. And kick ass she does. “You can expect to have your mind blown and your rock ’n’ roll dreams come true,” she says. “Just to have a really good time. To leave feeling better than when you came. That’s my goal.” Etheridge’s latest record Memphis Rock and Soul, that saw her travel to the titular city and dive into the pool of awesomeness that is the Stax Records catalog. That turned out to be a wildly educational experience. “This is the music that influenced the music that influenced me,” Etheridge says. “I was directly influenced by some of the songs, but I know that the Rolling Stones, Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin – all of those artists were directly influenced by Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave, all of these great soul artists that were coming out. I think it really fueled rock ’n’ roll, so I wanted to go back and finish that circle and record those songs with the musicians that have played them for so long and have kept that fire burning.” Brett Callwood

click to enlarge Ms. Lisa Fischer - DJENEBA ADUAYOM
Ms. Lisa Fischer
Djeneba Aduayom
Lisa Fischer
Thursday, May 25
Musical Instrument Museum

According to her bio, Lisa Fischer clapped so hard upon hearing that Patti LaBelle had won the 1992 Female R&B Performance Grammy for “Burnin’,” a song Fischer had sung backup on, that she almost didn’t notice her name had also been called for “How Can I Ease the Pain.” (It was a rare Grammy tie.) One of the stars of the Oscar-winning 2013 documentary Twenty Feet From Stardom, Fischer has also sung with Luther Vandross, Tina Turner, and Sting, but her main gig since 1989 has been one of the Rolling Stones’ touring backup vocalists; she brings the arena or stadium to a standstill during “Gimme Shelter” every time. Chris Gray
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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.