Looking for a great show to see this week? Here are our picks for the best concerts to see this week in Metro Phoenix. For more options, visit our comprehensive online concert calendar.
Steep Canyon Rangers - Monday, March 7 - Musical Instrument Museum
Approximately 73 million bands have formed at colleges over the years, and the vast majority of them fall into the rock or pop categories, with a few hip-hop or jazz outfits thrown in for good measure. That makes the Steep Canyon Rangers an anomaly — a bluegrass combo formed in the shadow of academia. Banjoist Graham Sharp, bassist Charles Humphrey III, guitarist Woody Platt, fiddler Nicky Sanders, and mandolinist Mike Guggino were students at the University of North Carolina when they first debuted in 2000 and became one of the genre's most high-profile acts. And they became even more prominent the past several years after hooking up with jokester-turned-banjoist Steve Martin in 2009 and won a Grammy or best bluegrass album in 2013 for their solo album Nobody Knows You. And while the Rangers won't have Martin in tow when they pay a visit to the Musical Instrument Museum on March 7, they will be performing the sort of upbeat down-home sounds that attracted the legendary actor/comedian in the first place. MICHAEL ROBERTS
Breaking Benjamin - Monday, March 7 - Marquee Theatre
For better or worse, Breaking Benjamin got a disproportionate size of its fanbase from writing a song for the Halo 2 soundtrack. The band's lead singer (named, you guessed it, Benjamin) has the kind of singing style that either delights or infuriates you. His strained vocals can come off as whiny and certain intonations feel like he's channeling Creed, but he's got a powerful delivery that meshes well with the alternative-metal band. MATT WOOD
Born of Osiris - Tuesday, March 8 - Nile Theater
Since 2007, Chicago heavy metal quintet Born Of Osiris has represented an interesting dynamic that goes hand-in-hand with their introspective, mythological concept. They’ve played some of the dirtiest, hole-in-the-wall venues, as well as alongside legends like Judas Priest and Rob Zombie. Since their debut, each album has landed in the Top 100, and their fifth, Soul Sphere, is not exception. It’s one of their most cohesive yet, and the 12 tracks examine three tiers originally uncovered in a dream that Joe Buras [clean vocals, synthesizers, keyboards] shared with the group. If you haven’t seen these guys live, this is a show you don’t want to miss. LAUREN WISE
Loreena McKennitt - Wednesday, March 9 - Mesa Arts Center
Loreena McKennitt is pretty talented — for a Canadian. She's a harpist, accordianist, pianist and brilliant singer who evokes a wide variety of world music in her songwriting. Her expansive discography dabbles in Celtic music, Middle Eastern music and many more categories of world music, all tied down to her folk roots. The interpretation of these different cultures through her folk lens is fascinating, and she never loses touch with her personal sound while integrating tones that are unexpected to Western ears. MATT WOOD
Shannon and the Clams - Wednesday, March 9 - Valley Bar
In a scene oversaturated with bands mining the 1960s, Shannon and the Clams manage to stand out in stark contrast to their peers. That's partly because their songwriting is simple and strong, but mostly because of Shannon Shaw's powerful, soulfully melodic and emotionally gripping voice. Shaw sounds like she took a time machine back to 1965, burned through producers at the Brill Building and Motown, then set out to do make music on her own, on the heels of getting ditched by the love of her life.
If the Clams' 2011 album, the monumental Sleep Talk, was a bracing indication of potential, the act's latest releases, 2013’s Dreams in the Rat House and last year’s Gone By The Dawn, are perhaps a few notches better. Shaw's talent is no studio trickery, and live, she's even more charismatic and thrilling. Hailing from the Bay Area, Shannon and the Clams have been honing their craft to a gritty and visceral perfection. TOM MURPHY
Bruce Springsteen - Thursday, March 10 - Talking Stick Resort Arena
A Bruce Springsteen concert is an experience like no other, a New Jersey native explained one day while waving a handful of concert tickets in my face. The proclamation led to the first and only time I saw Bruce Springsteen in concert — at that time supported by the late, great saxophonist Clarence Clemons as part of the E Street Band — on the 1981 tour supporting The River. Thirty-five years later, Springsteen is revisiting that classic record.
A daring double album, released just a few years before the major commercial success of Born in the U.S.A., The River marked a turning point in Springsteen’s writing style, building off a history of gritty blue-collar tales of love, cruising, and urban realities and transposed those themes into songs capable of securing a more hospitable foothold in the mainstream world. It makes sense that Springsteen should rightly celebrate this album once again. In 1981, the Boss played the bulk of The River during an almost three-hour concert, and even though he has a lot more music under the bridge now, this second coming of The River is destined to be nothing short of the original undertaking. GLENN BURNSILVER
South by Obscura feat. Tennis System - Thursday, March 10 - Rips Ales & Cocktails
Formed in D.C. in 2009, now based in L.A., the post-punk band Tennis System has developed a reputation for being one of the city's best live acts. The brainchild of lead singer Matty Taylor, Tennis System sounds like a thick-reverb mélange of jangling guitars and '90s shoegaze — with enough early Dinosaur Jr. volatility to melt your speakers. And their 2014 album, Technicolour Blind, just their second LP overall, is meant to be experienced somewhere intimate enough to capture their heart-wrenching lyricism, without losing their blaringly loud appeal. ART TAVANA
Futuristic and Devvon Terrell - Thursday, March 10 - Livewire
Go to the comments section of any hip-hop message board and the main knock against Los Angeles-via-Tempe rapper Futuristic is that he’s “corny.” The gimmicks that launched his independent rap career into the stratosphere certainly aren’t high-concept. In March 2015, the rapper teamed up with YouTuber BigDawsTV for “Nerd Raps in Compton,” in which the rapper approached teenagers in the impoverished L.A. suburb equipped with geeky clothes and a boombox and rapped lyrics to “The Greatest.” The clip caught fire faster than a drought-stricken California forest. In the video for “King’s Speech,” emojis fly from Futuristic’s hands as he raps. Both concepts hit hard online, raking in dozens of millions of views, and he’s repeated both of them again, to less success. When he shares his music videos online, he uses clickbait headlines like “CRAZY!!! Rappers bring EMOJIS to life! AGAIN!” So the criticisms are understandable.
We’re not going to get a conscious album from Futuristic anytime soon, but those expecting something political from Futuristic are missing the point. The performer’s appeal lies in his unapologetic individuality, a guy who embraces the sides of his personality not found in major-label rappers. His album with singer/rapper Devvon Terrell, Coast 2 Coast, which came out at the tail end of 2015, shows this, with songs that just reflect the fast lifestyle they’re living — “Uber to My Place” will never be “Alright,” but it at least comes from a genuine place. And if we shouldn’t expect activism from our rappers, maybe we should at least expect honesty. (And check out “Vision” from Coast 2 Coast if you want something a little more real.) DAVID ACCOMAZZO
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Peter Frampton - Thursday, March 10 - Orpheum Theater
Peter Frampton was once a proper heartthrob who made women absolutely melt when encountering his golden locks, tender love songs, and winning smile. However, Frampton has always been a champion of the guitar beyond anything else, as is evident by the fretboard histrionics that have punctuated just about everything the venerable Brit has ever released. And as anyone who's attended a concert by the guitar legend will tell you, if you're not sold on the hits, Frampton the guitarist makes the shows entirely worth the cost of admission.
He's aged with an astounding amount of grace, particularly relative to the lion's share of his peers. Save for a tussle involving the tossing of a rude fan's cell phone a few years ago, Frampton has managed to avoid any real scandal or embarrassing late-career crisis. While many artists accustomed to the gargantuan success Frampton has enjoyed have been tempted to make the recorded equivalent of hair plugs, Frampton has always kept it on point with a brilliant sense of humor and incredible chops. With another Frampton show around the corner, we can't help but ruminate on how wonderful Peter Frampton really is. The dude is really a treasure, and an underrated one at that. DAVID VON BADER