Eli "Paperboy" Reed
You have to go all the way back to the '80s and Simply Red to find a white soul singer as convincing as Eli "Paperboy" Reed. With a voice driven by nonstop energy and punctuated with one of the most potent screams this side of James Brown, the Boston native is a bona fide phenom. But Reed's strengths aren't merely in his vocal punch. The razor-sharp instincts he displays on that front spill over to his songs, which sport a consistent knack for classic soul posturing and a steady stream of lyrical takes worthy of the best R&B artists. On 2008's Roll With You, he combined rave-ups and torch tunes that recall both James Brown and the best of Memphis' horns-and-rhythm R&B. Last year's Come and Get It is decidedly more uptown in nature, with lush string and horn charts adorning most every track. Reed and his band take cues from mid-'60s Motown. Plus, they're knockout live performers. — Duane Verh
With We the People and DJ Charles McGaw. 8:30 p.m. Thursday, March 24. Beachland Ballroom. Tickets: $14, $12 in advance; call 216-383-1124 or go to beachlandballroom.com.
British Sea Power
Ever since their 2003 debut, indie rockers British Sea Power have been compared to legendary U.K. post-punk bands — most frequently Joy Division, who, actually, they sound nothing like. That first album, The Decline of British Sea Power, is filled with lyrical references to Russian literature, dive-bombing guitar riffs, and a zest for grandiosity and salty sea air that likely escaped Ian Curtis. The band has released four albums since then, each upping scale and ambition, without losing their irreverence. On their latest album, the recently released Valhalla Dancehall, British Sea Power add a couple new members, again boosting their sound and ambition. The last time the group played the Grog Shop, a little-known Canadian songstress named Feist opened. You may not catch a future superstar opening this time, but the main act will pack enough power. — Bill Delaney
With A Classic Education and Herzog. 8 p.m. Friday, March 25. Grog Shop. Tickets: $14, $12 in advance; call 216-321-5588 or go to grogshop.gs.
There comes a point in a music legend's life when it simply doesn't matter what they do or how they do it. See Paul McCartney. Or Bob Dylan. Those guys still make records (which may or may not be as good as some claim), still show up at all the right places (whether it's the Grammys or a stadium show with a pal), and still tour regularly, playing a mix of old songs (yay!) and new ones (zzz ...). Willie Nelson entered this elite group several years back, when the country-music superstar officially became a legend. He's released some good records over the past decade (You Don't Know Me: The Songs of Cindy Walker is the best) and popped up on Amos Lee's recent No. 1 album, Mission Bell. But you're not going to a Willie Nelson concert for any of that. You're going because he wrote "Crazy" and he recorded Red Headed Stranger and because he smoked weed at the White House. And because he's Willie Freakin' Nelson. — Michael Gallucci
9 p.m. Friday, March 25. House of Blues. Tickets: $50-$125; call 216-523-2583 or go to houseofblues.com.
Few bands of the 1990s rocked as hard as Helmet, and it's easy to hear their influence over the years in groups like System of a Down and Chevelle. Frontman Page Hamilton's aggressive stop-and-go guitar riffs are almost a genre themselves. The New York group's three albums since their 2004 reunion feature a few solid tracks here and there, but for the most part they've struggled to recapture the early thunder. But things are looking up: Last year's Seeing Eye Dog will remind you of the band's best music from years ago. You can't blame them for digging through the vaults on their current tour: They'll play the 1992 classic Meantime in its entirety. Filled with hard-hitting riffs and plenty of frantic hooks, the record includes Helmet's most popular song, "Unsung" — which should be the highlight of the huge Metalliance show they're bringing to Peabody's this weekend. — Ben Gifford
With Saint Vitus, Crowbar, Kylesa, Red Fang, Howl, the Atlas Moth, Keelhaul, and Hellmouth. 7 p.m. Saturday, March 26. Peabody's. Tickets: $25-$50; call 216-776-9999 or go to peabodys.com.
He may have lost some of his sizzle over the past few years, and his rhymes don't make sense half the time, but Lil Wayne is still one of music's most dynamic performers. Even if his latest albums — the rock-rap Rebirth and quickie I Am Not a Human Being, both released last year — are disposable snoozers, Weezy's many guest spots on other people's records are usually the best thing about otherwise forgettable cuts. Fresh out of prison and eager to reclaim his title as rap's most gifted stylist, Wayne is rolling through his I Am Music II tour with a renewed energy that feels sorta like a victory lap. If he's feeling generous, he may even share some songs from the upcoming Tha Carter IV, one of 2011's most anticipated albums. Be sure to get there early — you'll want to see Nicki Minaj and Rick Ross, two of hip-hop's MVPs. But not too early. Don't wanna have to sit through Travis Barker's set. — Michael Gallucci
With Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, Travis Barker, and Mixmaster Mike. 7 p.m. Thursday, March 24. Quicken Loans Arena. Tickets: $39.75-$79.75; call 888-894-9424 or go to theqarena.com.