Sounds of Spring: 11 Must-See NYC Concerts

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Critic’s Pick: Doing Work

Young Fathers have scared the shit out of people three times: once back in 2014, when the Scottish three-piece (live, a sometimes four-piece) received the Mercury Prize for their asymmetrical hip-pop album Dead, beating out surefire frontrunners FKA twigs and Damon Albarn with their diasporic brand of experimental, architectural sad-guy bangers; then when they named their Mercury-supported follow-up album White Men Are Black Men Too; and again in 2015 when they performed in Central Park as part of a concert curated by Okayafrica.

Young Fathers play on our cultural expectation that artists can never, ever have a bad day at work like the average person. Rarely do the band members make eye contact, even when digital rhythms dissipate into polyrhythms, casting prisms, unfolding. The whisper-light, gossamer twine of their voices is indicative of exactly who they are: three guys who dragged each other, kicking and screaming, out of puberty (the band formed in 2008 after meeting at under-sixteen rap nights). Not relying on antics or attitude, allowing their sub-contextual, dreamy lyrics and music to speak for them, they clearly take themselves seriously, thereby demanding we take them seriously, too.

See them April 2 at the Music Hall of Williamsburg — I’m serious. — Meredith Graves

The Necks
March 24–25
Whitney Museum of American Art, 99 Gansevoort Street,

The Necks have said they can almost read one another’s minds — adding that, if they could, it would probably be boring. The Australian trio of pianist Chris Abrahams, drummer Tony Buck, and bassist Lloyd Swanton have been refining their mind-melding skills during nearly three decades of group improvisation. Most Necks performances take the form of uninterrupted one-hour chunks of patient, uncannily empathetic instrumental conversations. It’s neither jazz, rock, nor avant-garde trance music, although it borrows from all of the above. Mostly, it’s music of exquisite collective personality you hardly need to be a mind reader yourself to relish. — Richard Gehr

Joe Russo’s Almost Dead
March 24–26
Brooklyn Bowl, 61 Wythe Avenue, Brooklyn,

The most musically nourishing and downright fun rock combo in town happens to be a Grateful Dead cover band. Following a stint as the remaining Dead members’ go-to drummer, Joe Russo retrofitted his instrumental Led Zeppelin rep band, Bustle in Your Hedgerow, added a solid singer-guitarist (Brothers Past’s Tom Hamilton), and set sail. As the Dead’s remnants devolve into ever-sludgier versions of their former selves, JRAD navigates the band’s jam standards with a spirit reminiscent of the Dead’s amphetamine-aided 1967 debut. No two shows are the same, natch, and the music boogies, shimmers, and explodes, with Deadhead nostalgia a hazy afterthought. — Richard Gehr

David Bowie tributes
March 31–April 1
March 31 at Carnegie Hall, 57th Street and Seventh Avenue,; April 1 at Radio City Music Hall, 1260 Avenue of the Americas,

From Lady Gaga’s Grammy Awards appearance to Jherek Bischoff and Amanda Palmer’s sumptuous string-quartet tribute, testimonies to the Thin White Duke’s seemingly universal appeal have emerged unabated since his death. Impresario Michael Dorf’s two-night, two-venue event, however, has been in the works for more than a year and will benefit a handful of worthy music-related charities. Longtime Bowie collaborator Tony Visconti wrangles the house band at what should be long, often surprising evenings of familiar songs performed with greater or lesser fidelity. Bette Midler, Laurie Anderson, Michael Stipe, the Roots, Perry Farrell, Cyndi Lauper, the Mountain Goats, Robyn Hitchcock, saxophonist Donny McCaslin’s Blackstar backing group, and other names you would recognize will be on hand — an artist for every Bowie persona, as it were. — Richard Gehr

Bonnie Raitt
April 1–2
Beacon Theatre, 2124 Broadway,

“Let’s dig in deep and get out of this rut,” wails Bonnie Raitt on the opening track of her latest album, Dig in Deep. The musical highlight of the otherwise lackluster recent Grammy Awards, Raitt has been digging in since her 1971 debut at the tender age of 21, when she was singing and praising the songs of female dynamos like Sippie Wallace and Calypso Rose. Twenty albums and one sobering-up later, she’s developed a refreshingly adult musical persona that combines vinegar-marinated roots rock with relatively relatable balladry. (Consider the slow tunes the skunk-streak through her red tresses.) She’s still a terrific slide guitarist, her band sounds better than ever, and lessons in aging gracefully come at no extra charge. — Richard Gehr

White Denim
April 25–26
Bowery Ballroom, 6 Delancey Street,

This Texas-based retro-futurist prog-boogie quartet has nailed the post–jam band thing with casually fiery playing and exactingly erratic left turns. Denim basically adhere to the Wilco template of classic rock with an avant-garde tinge, and there’s nothing wrong with that. When his guitarist and drummer left to join soul singer Leon Bridges’s start-up, frontman James Petralli released the kitchen-sink solo album Constant Bop (as Bop English) before making a few new hires and recording the tersely titled (and more soulful than proggy) Stiff. — Richard Gehr

Chhandayan All-Night Concert
May 7
New York Society for Ethical Culture, 2 West 64th Street,

When they hit the stage, well into the morning, the Saami Brothers qawwali party’s voices, harmoniums, hand drums, and handclaps will tap into a 900-year-old mystical tradition. Though this, one of the city’s more remarkable and important annual cultural events, is usually devoted to classical Indian music, the 2016 edition will focus on the legacy of Hazrat Amir Khusrau, the Sufi saint who created qawwali as a hybrid of South Asian and Middle Eastern styles. The evening begins at eight with qawwali performances by Delhi’s Rooh Sufi Ensemble and Ustad Naseeruddin Saami. The concert then returns to its roots with the northern-Indian sounds of the exciting sitarist Ustad Shujat Khan and masterful Bangalore classical vocalist Pandit Vinaya Torvi before the Saami Brothers arrive to sing their audience into a new dawn. — Richard Gehr

Anoushka Shankar
April 2–4
City Winery, 155 Varick Street,

Following two albums dedicated to the memory of Pandit Ravi Shankar, her father and musical guru, who died in 2012, Anoushka Shankar’s new Land of Gold addresses the rather more global tragedy experienced by people displaced and dispossessed by war, economic inequality, and climate change. Sitar, tabla, and the oboe-like shehnai blend with double bass, cello, and the Hang — a sort of steel drum played by Shankar’s co-writer, Manu Delago — commingle in gorgeous ruminations on people searching for a home. — Richard Gehr

Waco Brothers
April 13
Union Hall, 702 Union Street, Brooklyn,

Is this the end of the Waco Brothers? “You can’t kill us, we’re already dead!” proclaim the Chicago punks in “DIYBYOB,” the opener of their new Going Down in History. Take the title either way. Jon Langford’s Mekons spin-off is a joyous, twangy party band that doesn’t play honky-tonk country so much as a smart, politically engaged British expat’s fantasy of what boozy American country music ought to sound like. Their famously raucous and bracingly intelligent shows are the stuff of legend, too. — Richard Gehr

Caetano Veloso & Gilberto Gil
April 20–21
BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, 30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn,

Both born in Bahia in 1942, these songwriting giants have toured together fairly often over the decades. More recently, they’ve been circling the globe and appearing onstage side by side, with only their acoustic guitars, singing as elegantly and conspiratorially as ever. Their unplugged material encompasses psychedelic Tropicália, classic sambas, Antônio Carlos Jobim’s bossa nova, a little reggae, and their own brilliant, poetic, and subtly subversive originals. Expect thick nostalgic vibes and spontaneous sing-alongs. — Richard Gehr

The Residents
April 26
Gramercy Theatre, 127 East 23rd Street,

Art-rock’s very own Banksy of a band has been creating anonymous and conceptually cryptic music since the late Sixties, when they invited listeners to Meet the Residents. Their latest show, Shadowland, is a career retrospective performed by the group’s latest incarnation: singer Randy Rose, guitarist Lionel Bob, and laptopist-composer Charles (Chuck) Bobuck. A screening of the documentary Theory of Obscurity will precede the band’s surreal, semi-serious blend of fake rock-pomp and dystopic electronica. — Richard Gehr