Hear Saul Williams Get Artfully Political at One of the Best NYC Concerts This Week

The multitalented Saul Williams celebrates his new album on Tuesday in Brooklyn
The multitalented Saul Williams celebrates his new album on Tuesday in Brooklyn
Andrew Gura

Unusual pairings of musicians with venues is one of the things New York does best, thanks to the sheer number of spaces in the city available for performance. Some of the best shows this week are textbook demonstrations: Indie rocker Jenny Lewis is scheduled to play a stunning former movie palace; Craig Finn of the Hold Steady, who usually fills rock clubs with rowdy shows, plays a lofty, ritzy room overlooking Central Park; and polymath artist Saul Williams sets up in the back room of a record shop. Of course, the more traditionally
venued shows are no less worth a visit, but the juxtapositions of sound and space deserve a special note.

2/1
Nadia Sirota
Symphony Space
7:30 p.m., $25

A busy violist of panoramic tastes, Nadia Sirota commissions loads of work from both the finest established and up-and-coming composers of our day. She kicks off her four-night Symphony Space residency with a program called "Old and New" featuring special guest Liam Byrne, who plays the viol, a fretted seven-stringed baroque instrument. By "old," Sirota (who's been associated almost exclusively with the contemporary-classical scene) means English Renaissance composer William Byrd and Tudor-period Orlando Gibbons. Sirota completes the equation with new works by Bang on a Can composer David Lang — the world premiere of broken and the US premiere of his gorgeously sensuous just — along with Nico Muhly's aptly titled recent minimalist work Slow. Tomorrow night she appears with her frequent collaborators yMusic, for an evening of "indie-classical" tunes. — Richard Gehr

2/2
Saul Williams
Rough Trade NYC
6:30 p.m., free

Boundary-pushing artist-poet-musician-activist Saul Williams has made music for over fifteen years, and considering our country's ongoing crisis over racism and oppression, his work only grows more essential. This show celebrates the release of Williams's sixth full-length, MartyrLoserKing, a record based around the persona of a working-class Burundian hacker bent on taking down the rich and powerful. (Sample lyric: "God of the Internet/hackers/hackers.") Williams has layered his poem-raps over productions from artists spanning from Rick Rubin to Trent Reznor, and on MartyrLoserKing, he collaborated with Justin Warfield, whose breadth of work rivals Williams's, spanning hip-hop, electronic, and indie rock. On 2007's "Black History Month" Williams laid out his guiding ethos: "I ain't afraid to be me." What better way to kick off February than with this visionary? — Sophie Weiner

Loren Connors & Tom Carter
Trans-Pecos
8 p.m., $10

Brooklyn DIY impresario Todd P probably has his hands full resurrecting Market Hotel, but thanks to some stellar guest curators, lineups at his Ridgewood outpost, Trans-Pecos, are blowing it out of the water with experimental showcases. On Tuesday, the venue hosts two of the finest experimental guitarists in noise rock: Loren Connors and Tom Carter, who together will present Carter's newest drone cassette, Five Guitars for Tony Conrad. Though Connors didn't play on the recorded version, both guitarists are frequent and prolific collaborators, most notably as avant duo No-Neck Blues Band. The show is also a send-off for Brooklyn-based opening acts Heavy Hymns and Yek Koo, who head out on a West Coast tour this month. — Lindsey Rhoades

2/3
American Songbook: Craig Finn
The Appel Room
8:30 p.m., $30-85

The new year is still young, but Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series, which runs through April, earns top marks for its singular lineup of the best in the U.S.A., including Vanessa Williams, Loudon Wainwright III, and Laura Jane Grace. In testament to the fest’s freethinking programming philosophy, Brooklyn mainstay and the Hold Steady leader Craig Finn joins those ranks when he takes over the Appel Room to croak out the grizzled, introspective tales from his latest solo record, Faith in the Future. Whether unleashing fist-pumping anthems galore (in beer-soaked Hold Steady fashion) or baring his soul on the character-driven rumination of his solo record, Finn is always a master storyteller. — Brad Cohan

Jenny Lewis
Beacon Theatre
8 p.m., $35-50

Indie rock’s goddess is back in the city for a two-night stint at the Beacon Theatre, offering a career retrospective on the tenth anniversary of her solo debut album, Rabbit Fur Coat. The child of a singer and a harmonica player, Jenny Lewis broke onto the scene with her band Rilo Kiley, taking over L.A.’s indie scene with a unique brand of melodic ferocity. Lewis has since found success with other projects, including her own work and collaborations with the Postal Service; with 2015 track “Just One of the Guys,” off her latest album, The Voyager, she added music video director to her list of accomplishments. Lewis will forever be an indie mainstay, still selling out venues and promising a new relevance with every record she releases. — P. Claire Dodson

2/4
Wolf Eyes
Union Pool
8 p.m., $14

If you're in the mood for some music as dark as the season, look no further than Union Pool, where noise superstars and trip metal progenitors Wolf Eyes hunker down for a short residency. The band, which formed in Michigan in 1997, has a legendary output. To call them prolific is an understatement; they can't seem to stop working, forming seemingly endless side projects and experimenting on the outer edges of tape and feedback experimentation. Live, Wolf Eyes' bizarre menagerie of sounds coalesces into something forceful and immersive, a skill that's earned them superstar status within the noise scene and widespread respect outside it, a rare feat for such an abrasive band. It's a no-brainer at a venue as small as Union Pool, especially when the tickets are less than you'd pay for brunch. Their residency at Union Pool continues through Saturday 2/6. — Sophie Weiner

Lead Belly Fest
Carnegie Hall
8 p.m., $40-200

Between 1933 and '34, ethnomusicologist and archivist Alan Lomax recorded hundreds of tracks in Louisiana's Angola Prison Farm, where outlaw songwriter and twelve-string virtuoso Huddie William “Lead Belly” Ledbetter was serving time for attempted homicide. Dozens of icons, including Nirvana, Frank Sinatra, Van Morrison, and Tom Waits, have covered his songs, and thousands more musicians of varying fame owe much of their style to his influence. An eclectic bill of performers toast him in this celebration, including blues guitarist Buddy Guy, former Animals singer Eric Burdon, New Lost City Ramblers co-founder Tom Paley, Canned Heat guitarist Walter Trout, folksinger Tom Chapin, "Frankenstein" creator Edgar Winter, and late-period punk rock drummer Marky Ramone, among others. — Richard Gehr

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