Music

Sounds of Spring: This Season’s Must-See Concerts

by and

Critic’s Pick: Mr. Melody

Since any Tom Zé fan will already know to catch this precious BAM show (June 3, Howard Gilman Opera House, 30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn, bam.org), anyone who hasn’t yet joined us had best stream the Brazil Classics 4 comp David Byrne got behind in 1990. A shop owner’s son born before electricity came to his remote Bahia town, a schooled twelve-tone avant-gardist who long composed advertising jingles, the eighty-year-old Zé is looked up to by such slightly younger tropicália giants as Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso. But he’s always been spikier, punchier, and more dissonant than the tropicália norm, remaining miraculously fresh and prolific as he released seven remarkable albums in this century, the latest the puckish, philosophical, candidly sexual Canções Eróticas de Ninar. This will be his third recent New York appearance: In 2011, he greeted Alice Tully Hall with eight vertical jumps, deployed his hips in girlish circles rather than masculine thrusts, and offered up new songs with refrains that went “In case of emergency dial 9-1-1” and “Stand clear of the closing doors.” In a 2016 promo video, Zé’s hair is still black, his naked body muscular and trim behind an acoustic guitar deployed for modesty’s sake. He’ll be backed by a sextet of compadres anchored by his sidekick and protector Jarbas Mariz. There’ll probably be a program, and he probably won’t follow it. So if he hasn’t sung “Brigitte Bardot” after 45 minutes, start requesting it. He’ll be so glad you did. — Robert Christgau

New Order

April 13

New Order’s 1983 “Confusion” music video climaxed with a mad dash from the studio to the DJ booth, as producer Arthur Baker brought the band’s recording straight to the dancefloor at Chelsea nightclub the Fun House. This Radio City show won’t be quite so spontaneous, but the beats should be irresistible nonetheless. After going rock in the 2000s, New Order returned to dance music with 2015’s Music Complete. Their first album without bassist Peter Hook, it’s the kind of hard-driving synthpop that a hundred Brooklyn bands are currently in the studio trying to program for themselves. Radio City Music Hall, 1260 Sixth Avenue, manhattan, radiocity.com — Nick Murray

Maya Jane Coles

April 14

London DJ Maya Jane Coles makes tech house that’s at once cool and sensuous, constructing tracks around undulating grooves that entice you to dance rather than demand it. Her sound began wooing ravers in the early 2010s and unexpectedly reached the mainstream in 2015, when the rap producer Nineteen85 pitched down Coles’s hypnotic “What You Say” to create the beat for Nicki Minaj’s “Truffle Butter.” Coles returns to her club roots with a visit to Output, in between big gigs at Ultra Music Festival in Miami and Coachella in California. Output, 74 Wythe Avenue, brooklyn, outputclub.com — N.M.

PJ Harvey

April 20

Brooklyn Steel is this spring’s most notable new venue, an 1,800-capacity warehouse space a short walk from the Graham Avenue L stop. It opens with shows from Floating Points and the Decemberists, but its sound system will be put to the test when PJ Harvey turns up the volume for her arrival in mid-April. Harvey’s latest, The Hope Six Demolition Project, documents so-called urban renewal in a D.C. neighborhood where politicians try to alleviate poverty by opening Walmarts. Perhaps at this gig she’ll make the personal political by connecting the expansion of the concert industry to ongoing gentrification here in New York. Brooklyn Steel, 319 Frost Street, Brooklyn, bowerypresents.com — N.M.

Pinegrove

April 27 and 30

Pinegrove make rock music that’s warm and loose like a comfy old sweater. Their sound, occasionally punctuated by banjo, owes something to the rootsy indie of Bright Eyes, but frontman Evan Stephens Hall’s lyrical vision is a little more optimistic: He’s less concerned with angst than with the everyday relationships that give life texture. Those who prefer the digital to the analog — and like their music eerie and out of joint — should also check out Pinegrove’s keyboardist, Nandi Rose Plunkett, when she brings her synth-driven solo project, Half Waif, to Silent Barn on April 6. April 27 at Bowery Ballroom, 6 Delancey Street, manhattan, boweryballroom.com; April 30 at Music Hall of Williamsburg, 66 North 6th Street, Brooklyn, musichallofwilliamsburg.com — N.M.

Mitski

April 29

You can tell a lot about an artist by the way she describes fireworks. On Mitski’s Puberty 2, the explosions hold the secret to a happiness just over the horizon, their colors recalling a memory so potent that she can’t decide whether to forget it or hold it close. This intensity has helped make the 26-year-old singer-songwriter a breakout star. And because her arrangements are just as sharp as her lyrics, jolting the words with driving guitars and adventurous electronics, her live shows beat those of nearly all her peers. Brooklyn Steel, 319 Frost Street, Brooklyn, bowerypresents.com — N.M.

The Revolution

May 3

Dearly beloved, on May 3 you can gather at Webster Hall to celebrate that thing called Prince, with music provided by the most authentic tribute band you’ll ever find: the Revolution themselves. A mid-Eighties Family Stone that once dressed like dandies and heart surgeons, the group remained at Prince’s side through Purple Rain, Parade, and a game of pickup hoops immortalized in a Chappelle’s Show send-up. Now they’re reuniting for their first tour with neither their leader nor their cravats. According to reports, their musically and emotionally raw debut last September at Minneapolis’s First Avenue nightclub provoked both dancing and tears. Webster Hall, 125 East 11th Street, manhattan, websterhall.com — N.M.

Mexrrissey

May 4–5

Sometimes the portmanteau tells you everything you need to know. Mexrrissey, fronted by the charming producer Camilo Lara (better known as the DJ Mexican Institute of Sound), remake the music of former Smiths frontman Morrissey en español, with a seven-piece band adding mariachi horns and cumbia-inspired beats. This is the kind of translation that creates new meanings rather than erasing established ones. “Suedehead,” named after a word that doesn’t even appear in most English dictionaries, would seem to present a particular linguistic challenge, but Mexrrissey’s cover of the tune, “Estuvo Bien,” offers a richness even Moz can’t match. Brooklyn Bowl, 61 Wythe Avenue, Brooklyn, brooklynbowl.com — N.M.

NYC Ballet With Sufjan Stevens

May 12–20

This winter, choreographer Justin Peck’s The Times Are Racing gave us our first look at resistance ballet under Trump, setting Dance Dance Revolution–inspired moves to electronic music by Dan Deacon. That show returns May 5 and 9, followed by performances of another Peck project, a nine-part saga in which 25 ballerinas — none in Nikes — move to an orchestral score by the singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens. The program, titled Everywhere We Go, premiered in 2014 and places the dancers’ graceful pas de deux against a set of matte geometric shapes. Stevens’s lyrics will be notably absent. David H. Koch Theater, 20 Lincoln Center Plaza, manhattan, nycballet.com — N.M.

Rhiannon Giddens

May 13

It seems that the world is finally ready for a Rhiannon Giddens crossover. It could certainly use one. Freedom Highway, the roots star’s first solo album of original songs, is one of the year’s most bracing LPs, an unsparing look at American history that refuses to erase either the brutality of racist oppression or the love and culture that have flourished in the face of it. It’s a story Giddens tells not just with her lyrics but with her music, picking her own minstrel-style banjo while incorporating elements of jazz, soul, and hip-hop. This show will end Lincoln Center’s “American Songbook” series on a high note. Alice Tully Hall, 1941 Broadway, manhattan, americansongbook.org — N.M.

Future and Migos

May 19

Future’s dense hip-hop, filled with towering beats and subtly melodic flows, envisions a sort of molly-water purgatory: an Atlanta rooftop party that never ends, but never really begins, either. This feeling is emphasized by the rapper’s near-constant stream of releases: In the five months since his previous New York City show, Future has already put out two albums and a mixtape. Don’t be surprised if we get another three before this May gig with “Bad and Boujee” trio Migos, three younger artists having the time of their life on the ground floor. Barclays Center, 620 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, barclayscenter.com — N.M.

The xx

May 19–20

Even if listened to on headphones, the music of the xx seems to expand across space: Carefully picked guitar notes reverberate outward while singers Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft circle around the center. That may be why every xx performance feels as though it’s site-specific. In their most memorable NYC gig, in 2014, the trio played in the round at the center of the Park Avenue Armory. This spring, they take their show outdoors to Forest Hills Stadium. Their latest album, I See You, fortifies some of their fragile after-dark arrangements with skittering house beats; this venue should push their songs even closer to the light. Forest Hills Stadium, 1 Tennis Place, Queens, foresthillsstadium.com — N.M.

Most Popular