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Spring Music Preview – Second Edition

 

LESLIE ODOM, JR. / PACIFIC SYMPHONY
Fri – Sat, 3/15 and 3/16

Best known for his Tony and Grammy Award-winning performance in the original cast of Boardway’s “Hamilton” and his part in the muical TV series, “Smash,” Leslie Odom, Jr. joins the Pacific Symphony with a selection of Broadway and jazz hits conducted by Matt Catingub.

At Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall (Click here for tickets)

YUNG GRAVY
Fri. 3/15

The laid-back, food- and sex-obsessed Yung Gravy is carving a perhaps unlikely career – nearly 27 million YouTube views for his 2017 ditty “Mr. Clean” – by becoming the funny ‘n’ filthy Frank Sinatra of trap. Amidst fluttering hi-hats and imaginative oldies samples by collaborators like Jason Rich, White Shinobi and Dollie, this 22-year-old Minnesotan enunciates his innuendo-laden lyrics (“Gravy, he be clean like Windex / Just hit your mom with my index”) with an ambling clarity vivid against today’s mainstream mumble-rap. Parody or otherwise, Gravy’s adolescent frankness and deliberately wincey wordplay forgive the oft crassness (and sheer ridiculousness) of his dopamine-driven flow.

At Constellation Room at the Observatory, Santa Ana (Click here for tickets)

ULI JON ROTH
Thu. 3/21

It’s been 40 years since Uli Jon Roth left Scorpions, yet he remains forever associated with that Germanic melodo-metal juggernaut. In between his own epic and increasingly neoclassical releases and tours, he’s guested with the Scorps on stage and even released an album of re-recorded songs from his 1973-1978 tenure with the anthemic quintet. Nonetheless, walking out on what was already becoming a global phenomenon only lends artistic credibility to Roth’s work since. While palpably informed by European classical music, his supple, bluesy sense of groove and respect for melody put his playing comfortably at the accessible edge of the self-indulgent shredder spectrum.

At The Coach House, San Juan Capistrano (Click here for tickets)

William Ryan Key – Photo by Acacia Evans

WILLIAM RYAN KEY
Fri. 3/22

A New Millennium pop-punk fixture, William Ryan Key fronted longtime genre mainstays Yellowcard and lately has been a touring member of fellow Floridians New Found Glory. Now Tennessee based, Key’s brace of acoustic solo EPs last year, “Thirteen” and “Virtue,” find him in contemplative mood, yet with all the melodic instincts of his prior work happily intact. It’s a far fall from Yellowcard’s hits and headlining tours to crowd-funding recordings and plying the road with an acoustic guitar, and Key doesn’t shy away from articulating this life change, notably on wistful “Thirteen” opener “Old Friends” – the tale of a timeless talent who’ll always make music, be it back in arenas or over backyard beers.

At Constellation Room at the Observatory, Santa Ana (Click here for tickets)

THE BLASTERS
Sat. 3/23

One of L.A. punk’s perennial “should’ve-been-bigger” stories, The Blasters in fact far transcend that genre, embracing rockabilly, rhythm and blues, and just full-bore rock ‘n’ roll. Founded upon the storytelling songwriting of brothers Dave and Phil Alvin, the band is famed for super-tight, impassioned live performances, which have dimmed little over 40-plus years. While Dave Alvin has been only intermittently involved with the band since the mid-1980s, the remainder of the original lineup, remarkably, remains intact. For all of their live prowess, The Blasters are ultimately all about tunes, covers of which have produced minor hits for everyone from Dwight Yoakam to Shakin’ Stevens.

At The Coach House, San Juan Capistrano (Click here for tickets)

Photo by Sandrine Lee

CATHERINE RUSSELL
Sat. 3/23

While Catherine Russell’s 2002-2004 stint in David Bowie’s band brought her much attention, it marked a stylistic departure from her deep roots as a jazz and blues vocalist. Both sassy and slinky, Russell has consistently displayed a rare talent for simultaneous power, dexterity, clarity and nuanced warmth as she revisits standards with award-winning old-school class, notably on 2012’s “Strictly Romancin’” and 2016’s Grammy-nominated “Harlem on My Mind.” Yet her versatility is evidenced by providing background vocals for everyone from Roseanne Cash and Diana Ross to Madonna and Cyndi Lauper. At Segerstrom, Russell will enjoy A-team backing from guitarist/musical director Matt Munisteri, pianist Mark Shane and bassist Tal Ronen.

At Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Costa Mesa (Click here for tickets)

The Motels

THE MOTELS
Sat. 3/23

Essentially vocalist Martha Davis and a revolving cast of backing musicians, The Motels offer one of those you’ll-be-surprised-how-many-songs-you-recognize ‘80s nostalgia trips that’ve become the sporadic impetus for middle-aged music fans to actually attend live concerts. Formed in the early 1970s, their biggest hits (“Only the Lonely,” “Suddenly Last Summer” and “Shame”) came a decade later, recorded by Davis and session players. Following years of relative obscurity as “The Motels featuring Martha Davis,” the band started making higher-profile appearances alongside new wave peers like The Go-Gos and Berlin early this decade, earning fond reviews for their synth- and sax-inflected pop-rock topped with Davis’ potent, enunciated timbre.

At House of Blues, Anaheim (Click here for tickets)

STATE CHAMPS
Sun. 3/24

Albany’s State Champs craft the sort of ultra-melodic, harmony-heavy rock-lite that’s propelled the likes of Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco into arenas and gossip columns. But, formed in 2010, the quintet was – despite being masters of their genre and scoring a Top 30 album with last year’s “Living Proof” – a throwback even upon formation. Thankfully, these Warped Tour veterans offer a relatively organic, stoppy-starty take on contemporary guitar pop that shuns the ultra-slick, hip-hop-influenced production of many of their peers in favor of a more traditional approach that – at least slightly – sets them apart.

At House of Blues, Anaheim (Click here for tickets)

ZAKIR HUSSAIN
Wed. 3/27

Zakir Hussain’s nearly 60-year career has had a global impact both musically and culturally. He’s elevated the tabla – a pair of small drums intrinsic to Hindustani classical music – from an accompanying instrument to a sonic star, while helping to bring Indian music to a mainstream international audience (and perhaps doing more for East-West relations than most politicians). His percussive brilliance enhanced by exaggerated body language and effusive facial expressions, Hussain made the once-humble tabla trendy far beyond his native India. Boasting a biography bejeweled with awards (musical and otherwise), Hussain has collaborated with Ravi Shankar, George Harrison, Van Morrison and The Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart.

At Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, Costa Mesa (Click here for tickets)

MORGAN JAMES
Thu. 3/28

Broadway veteran Morgan James has released two original solo albums (2014’s “Hunter” and 2017’s “Reckless Abandon”), but enjoys wider exposure through her hugely popular YouTube cover-tune collaborations with musical collective Postmodern Jukebox. Indeed, James is a real cover-version queen; releasing albums of Nina Simone and Joni Mitchell songs and performing “stripped-down” arrangements of hits with the barely-dressed Skivvies. As all this implies, she’s a singer of both commanding prowess and rare versatility – from an Aretha-worthy belt to tremulous, soulful smoldering – yet always respects the essence of the great melodies she revisits rather than over-delving into a doubtless bursting bag of vocal tricks.

At Saint Rocke, Hermosa Beach. Also 3/31 at The Coach House, San Juan Capistrano (Click here for tickets)

JOHN PIZZARELLI
Fri. 3/29

Almost literally born with a guitar in his hand – the son of (and frequent musical collaborator with) swing-scene fixture Bucky Pizzarelli – John Pizzarelli has built his reputation on suave interpretations of American standards characterized by technically-deft chops accompanying his optimistic, almost conversational voice. Proudly old-school yet seldom musty, the younger Pizzarelli brings an enthusiasm and sense of fun to some already interpreted-to-death songs with a charm that trumps any confines of genre. Even non jazz fans may well have inadvertently heard his nibble-fingered work on recordings by the likes of Paul McCartney, James Taylor and Kristin Chenoweth.

At Irvine Barclay Theatre, Irvine (Click here for tickets)

Photo by Sarah Kelleren

A BOOGIE WIT DA HOODIE
Mon. 4/1

Defying his deep sheen of Auto-Tune, Bronx trap rapper A Boogie wit da Hoodie pours remarkable, if petty, sentiment into testosteronal venting about girls, rivals and his own rep.  Sophomore full-length “Hoodie SZN” (which in January set the record for the lowest-selling U.S. No. 1 album) is the stuff of windows-down, late-night wannabe gangsta cruising: tales of a mildly dangerous, more-lovers-than-I-know-what-do-with lifestyle crooned with ‘tudes from genre-requisite chest-beating to the paranoia of a 23-year-old navigating rapid-onset fame. ABwtH documents a dominant subculture with little sense of musical or lyrical challenge, yet his stark, mood-shiftin’ tunes are oddly beguiling in their PC-free frankness.  

At House of Blues, Anaheim (Click here for tickets)

Photo by Andrew Wells

THE MOVIELIFE
Tue. 4/2

Reunited in 2014, The Movielife epitomizes that optimistic, turn-of-the-Millennium mall punk that you can listen to in the workplace without complaints. Initially active from 1997-2003, the Long Island outfit – or at least the songwriting partnership of vocalist Vinnie Caruana and guitarist Brandon Reilly – returned in 2017 with “Cities in Search of a Heart,” an album that shamelessly harks back to the heyday of Drive-Thru Records-y, emo-adjacent punk, albeit with a little more studio luster. While still occasionally flirting with post-hardcore’s spirit of adventure, The Movielife is essentially a perpetually adolescent exercise in soul-searching, with Caruana’s heavily-processed vocals framed by twinkling guitars and earnest beats.

At Constellation Room at the Observatory, Santa Ana (Click here for tickets)