This Week in Milwaukee
Thursday, March 18
George Lopez @ The Riverside Theater, 8 p.m.
George Lopez’s self-titled sitcom was often praised for doing for Hispanics what “The Cosby Show” did for African Americans, even if a Hispanic “According to Jim” might have been a more fair point of comparison. Lopez’s stand-up routine pairs the family-based humor of his sitcom with gentle satire and frank discussions of race relations, with plenty of nods to Latino culture. No doubt his routine has been sharpened in recent months by his time hosting “George Lopez Tonight,” the rowdy TBS talk show he modeled closely after the old “Arsenio Hall Show” format.
Shooter Jennings @ Potawatomi Bingo Casino, 8 p.m.
Shooter Jennings shares not only a familial resemblance to his father, Waylon—Shooter even depicted his dad in the movie Walk the Line—but also his father’s love of tightly wound, rock-inflected country, making him one of the young torch carriers of the outlaw country movement. He touted his outlaw ties on his 2005 debut, Put the “O” Back in Country as well as its follow-ups, 2006’s Electric Rodeo and 2007’s The Wolf. In 2009, after releasing just those three albums, he received his own, perhaps premature compilation, Bad Magick: The Best of Shooter Jennings. His latest album is his most outside the box. Recorded with his new band, Hierophant, Black Ribbons is an alternative-rockinfluenced concept album featuring narration written and recorded by Stephen King, who plays a conspiracy-minded talk radio host.
Friday, March 19Norah Jones w/ Sasha Dobson @ The Riverside Theater, 8 p.m.
Norah Jones emerged in the early 2000s as one of jazz’s biggest crossover stars in ages, thanks to a style of jazz-pop that was both inviting (hence the title to her blockbuster debut, Come Away With Me) and familiar (hence the title of its follow-up, Feels Like Home). Jones has stretched out a bit on more recent albums, though, filtering sophisticated, adult-contemporary pop through the spirit of ’70s singer-songwriter records on 2007’s Not Too Late and last year’s The Fall. That newest record pairs her with producers and backing players better known for rock records than jazz ones, and features songwriting from unlikely collaborators Ryan Adams and Okkervil River’s Will Sheff. The result is an album that’s thematically more cynical and world-weary, but is as easy on the ears as any other Norah Jones release.
The Big Pink w/ A Place to Bury Strangers @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.
One of the more worthwhile products of Britain’s sometimes overzealous, NME-driven hype machine, The Big Pink parlayed the buzz around their early singles into a glowingly reviewed debut album last year, A Brief History of Love. It’s a large-scale indierock album that looks to the spirit of shoegaze and the towering, oversized guitars and beat-heavy production of late-’90s alternative rock. The Big Pink shares this bill with another indie-rock band that looks toward alternative eras past: A Place to Bury Strangers, who channeled psychedelic shoegaze and “120 Minutes”-era college rock on their 2009 sophomore album, Exploding Head. The Big Pink
Saturday, March 20Cornmeal w/ Past Blue Rhythm @ Shank Hall, 9 p.m.
The Chicago ensemble Cornmeal labels itself “progressive bluegrass,” though they aren’t nearly as iconoclastic as that tag might suggest. While the group isn’t immune to occasional jammy digressions into jazz and rock territory, they stay more closely within the realm of traditional bluegrass than their tie-dyed peers, mercifully resisting banjo-driven novelty covers of Snoop Dogg raps. What most sets them apart from their authentic, mountain-band predecessors is their playing, which tends to be much flashier and faster. They’re touring behind their latest album, Live in Chicago, IL Vol. I.
David Gray w/ Phosphorescent @ The Riverside Theater, 8 p.m.
Spicing up his folk-rock with some timely electronic production and broadening his American reach with the backing of Dave Matthews, who signed the British singer-songwriter to his ATO Records, David Gray hit it big with his 1999 album White Ladder and its hit “Babylon.” Over the past decade, though, Gray has seemed less interested in scoring another big hit than simply pleasing his loyal fan base with decidedly less-flashy records. His latest is the folky, relatively stripped down Draw the Line.
Sunday, March 21Experience Hendrix @ The Riverside Theater, 8 p.m.
Some of the biggest names in blues have grouped together to form the most overqualified Jimi Hendrix cover band of all time. This year’s Experience Hendrix tour features nextgeneration blues icons Jonny Lang and Kenny Wayne Shepherd, as well as Joe Satriani, Aerosmith’s Brad Whitford, Ernie Isley, Robert Randolph, Susan Tedeschi, Doyle Bramhall II, Living Colour, Hubert Sumlin and Chris Layton, as well as Jimi Hendrix Experience bassist Billy Cox. In various permutations, they’ll blaze through Hendrix’s signature songs, like “Purple Haze,” “Little Wing” and “The Wind Cries Mary.”
Monday, March 22The Temper Trap @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.
Australia’s Temper Trap began, like so many other mid-century groups, as post-punk revivalists, but they know how to pull off a big moment better than most of their peers. Their 2009 debut album, Conditions, has emerged as a modest hit, largely on the back of its shimmering single “Sweet Disposition,” a flashy, U2-styled skyscraper that has memorably appeared in commercials for (500) Days of Summer, Rhapsody.com, several TV shows and, most recently, Diet Coke, on an ad that aired during the Academy Awards and has given the song additional tail wind on the digital charts.
Tuesday, March 23Five for Fighting @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.
There’s a great book to be written about how Sept. 11 changed American culture. The trauma had a particularly profound, albeit short-lived, effect on the pop charts, as the country briefly embraced feel-good singles as they tried to cope with the tragedy. Five for Fighting’s 2000 ballad “Superman (It’s Not Easy)” helped soundtrack those healing sessions, peaking on the charts a couple of months after the Sept. 11 attacks. In the years since, the group—really just singer-pianist John Ondrasik—has become a go-to source for TV producers looking to soundtrack melodramatic moments with baleful tunes sung in plaintive falsetto. Five for Fighting’s latest album, Slice, adds grandiose orchestral arrangements to the mix, suggesting Ondrasik is now aiming to soundtrack not just TV shows, but also movies.
Vampire Weekend w/ Abe Vigoda @ The Riverside Theater, 8 p.m.
Courting a generation that grew up listening to Graceland with their parents by adding an agreeable African jangle to otherwise tried-and-true, guitar-based indie-rock, Vampire Weekend sprouted from virtual unknowns to a hip buzz band to a bona fide phenomenon all before they even released their debut album. Many bands crack under the pressure of releasing a follow-up to such a smash debut, but Vampire Weekend’s new Contra suggests New York’s favorite Ivy Leaguers aren’t going anywhere soon. It’s a similarly poppy, pleasant record that expands the band’s sonic palette to include more keyboards, clatter and