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This Week in Milwaukee

Rick Ross, Minus the Bear and John Legend

Dec. 16, 2010
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Thursday, Dec. 16

Rick Ross @ U.S. Cellular Arena, 7 p.m.

Teflon Don is a fittingly titled victory lap for Rick Ross.

After being outed in 2008 as a former correctional officer—a revelation that would have almost instantly killed the credibility and careers of most mid-level gangsta rappers—the stout Florida rapper silenced critics with his great 2009 record, Deeper Than Rap; if anything, the scandal only helped publicize the album. His new Teflon Don is even better than Deeper Than Rap, a rich, immensely soulful album recorded with assists from R&B singers including John Legend, Cee Lo, Erykah Badu, Ne- Yo, Chrisette Michele and Raphael Saadiq.

Le Noise Screening @ Sugar Maple, 8 p.m.

Neil Young’s new record Le Noise certainly doesn’t sound like an album produced by studio pioneer Daniel Lanois. Unlike most Lanois productions, it’s raw and stripped down, a distorted, feedback-laden set that emphasizes Young’s electric guitar. Tonight the Sugar Maple hosts a free screening of the DVD that accompanies the album, which features black-and-white footage of Young playing each song on the record, along with commentary from Lanois.

Grit Patterns @ BYO Studio

The “Grit Patterns” exhibition at Bay View’s BYO Studio showcases the designs of 14 UW-Milwaukee architecture and urban planning students who developed permanent, functional architectural installations for local businesses, including Roast Coffee and Hi Hat Lounge. Working with wood and steel donated by local manufacturers, the students created installations with clever, parametric designs and an experimental edge. The pieces will be on display at the studio through Dec. 26 before they are moved to their permanent homes.

Friday, Dec. 17

1956 w/ The Amateur Astronaut and The Ragadors @ The Cactus Club, 10 p.m.

Milwaukee’s 1956 gets better with age. After a couple of early releases steeped in crushingly heavy alt-rock riffs and Helmetinspired screeds, the trio matured in satisfying directions on their 2007 record, Saboteur, which they spent years crafting, swapping some of their hard-rock swagger for bleary-eyed nods to The National while still playing to the band’s penchant for searing, propulsive guitar riffs. Recorded with Call Me Lightning’s Shane Hochstetler at his Howl Street Recordings studio, the band’s new Lowtide further builds on the melancholic tones of Saboteur, adding extra orchestrations and instrumental flourishes. The band marks the album’s release with this show.

Minus the Bear w/ Tim Kasher @ The Rave, 8 p.m.

With their twisty, tangled guitars and numbercrunching chord changes, Minus the Bear sounds increasingly disconnected from a greater indierock scene that now prefers cute-overload pop or tranquilized, NPR-friendly troubadours, but that’s part of their growing appeal. Of course, it also helps that this Seattle group has honed its craft over recent albums and EPs, moving from the calculated stiffness of early releases toward warmer, sweeter songs. Their latest album, Omni, also introduces new synthesizer and drum-machine textures to their mix. The band shares this current tour with Cursive frontman Tim Kasher, who this fall released his first solo record (see page 35).

Saturday, Dec. 18

REO Speedwagon w/ Megan McCormick @ The Riverside Theater, 8 p.m.

Like most ’80s power-balladeers, REO Speedwagon faded from popularity by the early ’90s, existing largely as a touring act on the state-fair circuit. But the band has made a bit of a comeback in recent years, earning unlikely acclaim for their 2007 Wal-Mart-only album, Find Your Own Way Home. That album returned the band to the harder, rock sound of their ’70s material, distancing them a bit from the adult-contemporary soft-rock for which they would become better known in the ’80s. Tonight’s show is a benefit for Children’s Hospital.

John Legend @ Potawatomi Bingo Casino, 8 p.m.

John Legend is the first to poke fun at his image as a silver-tongued, ivorytickling crooner. He’s parodied his image on Stephen Colbert’s Christmas special, where he sang a typically sensual song about nutmeg, and in his own video for his 2008 hit “Green Light,” which opened with him boring a party with a quiet rendition of his signature ballad “Ordinary People.” His 2008 album Evolver, though, upended his image, adding an electronic dance pulse to his smooth soul songs. His latest album, Wake Up!, is another change of pace, a politically minded set of vintage soul and funk covers he recorded with The Roots. Legend does two shows at the Potawatomi Bingo Casino this weekend, on Saturday and Sunday.

Monday, Dec. 20

The Sleighriders @ Shank Hall, 7 p.m.

Each December, veterans and friends of the Milwaukee music scene gather together as The Sleighriders for a big, exuberant jam session benefi ting the SafeZone Community Art Center. This year’s lineup is one of the event’s most loaded yet, featuring dozens of players, including members of the Eddie Butts Band, The Booze Brothers, Genesis Rewired, Hot Sauce, Bad Boy, The Greg Koch Band and Streetlife, as well as Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos.

Wednesday, Dec. 22

The Christmas Music of Mannheim Steamroller by Chip Davis @ Milwaukee Theatre, 7:30 p.m.

The Trans-Siberian Orchestra would later update and amp up the same formula with some progged-out electric guitars, but Mannheim Steamroller was the first outfit to make a fortune modernizing Christmas classics for New Age listeners. Their synthesized and comically dramatic arrangements of traditionals like “Carol of the Bells” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” have become such seasonal hits that the group has recorded only three nonholiday albums since their 1984 Yuletide breakthrough Mannheim Steamroller Christmas. Their latest album, 2008’s Christmasville, is their 10th Christmasthemed record. (Also Thursday, Dec. 23.)


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