This Week in Milwaukee: Jan. 9-15
War Horse @ Marcus Center, 7:30 p.m.
Some spectacles were meant to be seen on a stage. Michael Morpurgo’s 1982 children’s novel War Horse was adapted into a 2011 film by Steven Spielberg, and like everything with the director’s name on it, it was a reliable hit, but the big screen didn’t do the same justice to the story as Nick Stafford’s innovative stage adaptation. Using eerily evocative puppets for the horses, Stafford’s play details the bond between a teenage boy and his horse—a relationship that’s tested by the First World War. A touring production of this Broadway hit parks at the Marcus Center this week, with multiple performances through Sunday, Jan. 12.
Railroad Earth w/ Ha Ha Tonka @ The Pabst Theater, 7 p.m.
Taking their name from a Jack Kerouac short story, Railroad Earth fuses bluegrass, rock ’n’ roll and occasional hints of jazz into their Grateful Dead-style vision of Americana. Formed in Stillwater, N.J., Railroad Earth is more studio-minded than some of their jam-scene peers, having recorded seven albums since their 2001 beginnings (including two for the String Cheese Incident’s SCI Fidelity label), but they’re also known for their improvisation-heavy live performances. They’re currently touring in support of their just-released latest album, Last of the Outlaws. Opening the show is a band less inclined to long jams: Bloodshot Records’ country-rockers Ha Ha Tonka.
Pink w/ New Politics @ BMO Harris Bradley Center, 7:30 p.m.
After a decade of touring behind multi-platinum albums, Pink knows how to entertain an arena crowd. In an era where Top 40 tastes change rapidly, her hybrid of pop and glam rock has proven surprisingly resilient, changing little from album to album but sounding fresher for it. Though she doesn’t mention him by name, Pink addresses her separation from husband Carey Hart on her latest album, 2012’s The Truth About Love, a fiery record that has yielded some of the biggest hits of her career, including the bitter “Blow Me (One Last Kiss)” and the ballad “Just Give Me a Reason,” a duet with fun. singer Nate Ruess. These are the type of songs that full arena sing-alongs are made of. Hopefully her voice will be in good form: This concert was originally scheduled for Nov. 3 before she postponed it on doctor’s orders to rest her vocal chords.
Friday, Jan. 10
Sulek w/ Devil Met Contention and Panalure @ Linneman’s Riverwest Inn, 9 p.m.
The term “indie pop” comes with some preconceived notions, but not all bands that fall under that umbrella lean on easy, chirpy sounds. Milwaukee’s Sulek coat some of their arrangements in violins and cellos, but continually find new ways to implement those instruments on their latest album, 2012’s Unbound At Last, an unusually moving record with shades of Tom Waits’ gritty blues and Low’s shadowy hymnals. They recorded it in an East Side chapel, taking full advantage of the venue’s booming acoustics. They share this bill with two area bands with rootsy leanings: Devil Met Contention and Panalure, a sextet with a beguilingly jazzy style of folk-rock.
Saturday, Jan. 11
Robbie Fulks @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
Robbie Fulks, one of many singer-songwriters to emerge from Chicago’s fruitful ’90s alt-country scene, is nothing if not multifaceted. He loves stripped-down, sparse country, but he also likes hard-driving roots rock. He writes silly country toss-offs, but he also writes serious ballads. He has an ambitious concept album to his credit (2001’s Couples in Trouble), but his 2005 album Georgia Hard relied on witty jaunts like the ones Shel Silverstein used to pen for the country greats. Fulks finds a happy balance between all these sides during his live performances, as documented on his 2007 live double album, Revenge! His latest studio effort, Gone Away Backward, returns him to the label where he first made a name for himself, Bloodshot Records.
Wednesday, Jan. 15
Betty Who w/ Future Feats @ The Pabst Theater, 7 p.m.
A big viral hit can open a lot of doors. Australian electro-pop singer Jessica Newham, better known by her stage name Betty Who, learned that first hand this fall after a video of a man proposing to his boyfriend in a Utah Home Depot with the help of his dancing friends charmed the Internet. That video was set to Betty Who’s perky track “Somebody Loves You,” which quickly shot up the iTunes charts as the clip went viral. Days later, the singer inked a contract with RCA Records, with hopes of releasing an album this year. Betty Who shares this show at the Pabst Theater’s intimate Pabst Pub with the Chicago dance-pop act Future Feats.