Femi Kuti & the Positive Force
Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti's 48-year-old son Femi comes with tons of built-in cred, but there he is onstage, sporting a big grin like he's just happy to be keeping his dad's spirit alive. With zero interest in breaking away from the family business, Femi cut his teeth in his father's famed Egypt 80 band as a saxophone player and didn't miss a beat after Fela's death in 1997, releasing his debut album a year later. Femi's Afrobeat is less serrated than his dad's, with shorter songs, more funk, and smoother vocals. His tempos vary, from hip-hop to reggae to high-paced dance music, and he's worked with artists as diverse as Mos Def and Damon Albarn over the years. Plus, his music is way less urgent. Femi's horn section goes for party time rather than battle royale, with a strictly relaxed groove. He even slows his sound down to a steady neo-soul crawl on his new collaboration with Erykah Badu, "Dem Bobo." — Dan Weiss
With DJs Jake Fader and Charleston Okafor. 8:30 p.m. Thursday, April 28. Beachland Ballroom. Tickets: $22 ($20 in advance); call 216-383-1124 or go to beachlandballroom.com.
We can't think of anyone better to help kick off the 32nd annual Tri-C JazzFest than Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue. Nobody has done more to keep the spirit of jazz alive of late than Shorty. His latest album, Backatown, touches on everything from R&B to funk to hip-hop, but it's firmly rooted in jazz tradition — especially the brass-band sounds of his New Orleans hometown. The 25-year-old trombone player (real name: Troy Andrews) has had a busy year. He had a recurring role in HBO's Big Easy-set drama Treme. He opened tours for Jeff Beck and the Dave Matthews Band. He helped kick off the NFL season with a pre-game performance. He was part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's New Orleans celebration here in Cleveland. And he's played just about every venue you can think of, from festival stages to late-night talk shows. If you haven't seen him in concert, do yourself a favor and check him out. — Michael Gallucci
7 p.m. Thursday, April 28. House of Blues. Tickets: $25; call 216-987-4444 or visit tricpresents.com.
There's a playful and not entirely stable sense of whimsy to Foals' music that makes the band's equine moniker seem so appropriate. The British band's indie rock occasionally feels unsteady on its feet, thanks to single-note and spiraling guitar lines and frontman Yannis Philippakis' slightly unfocused yelp. But it's all by design, lending a haphazard charm and an edgy sense of discomfort to the band's songs and serving as useful counterpoint to the group's punchy, danceable rhythms. Even as Foals gain focus — as they do on their second album, last year's Total Life Forever — their skittering romanticism is framed by more mature backdrops, with texture and mood manipulated more by slowly sweeping movement than by constant flux. As patterns shift and change, you're left with arresting, disconcerting, and totally beguiling music. — Nicholas Hall
With Freelance Whales and the Naked & Famous. 8:30 p.m. Friday, April 29. Beachland Ballroom. Tickets: $15;
call 216-383-1124 or go to beachlandballroom.com.
Amon Amarth know their fans want fist-pumping, anthemic songs about Viking mythology and warrior awesomeness. And that's exactly what the Swedish death metal band gives them. They also know that most of their devoted followers aren't buying CDs these days, so the group releases limited-edition discs that include collectibles like bobbleheads featuring band members (look into 2008's Twilight of the Thunder God if you want one). Even the regular edition of the group's latest album, Surtur Rising, comes with a DVD featuring live performances of their entire first four albums. Similarly, their current U.S. tour is being billed as "An Evening With Amon Amarth," which means no opening acts and a complete performance of Surtur Rising, followed by a second set of highlights from their previous seven albums. — Phil Freeman
8 p.m. Tuesday, May 3. Peabody's. Tickets: $24 ($20 in advance); call 216-776-9999 or go to peabodys.com.
A lot has happened to Lady Gaga since she last played Cleveland in July. The meat dress, a budding career in journalism, and most important, "Born This Way," the first single from her new album. Never mind that the song, which has already hit No. 1, sounds like Madonna's "Express Yourself" and the country remix doesn't sound at all like a country song. Gaga's new album, which comes out next month, is going to be massive. The latest leg of her Monster Ball Tour (does she ever sleep?) isn't all that different from the show she put on last year. You may see a few new costumes and hear a couple new songs. But does it matter? This is all about the spectacle of Lady Gaga. Hard to believe she hasn't been around even three years, since she's dominated the past two with "Poker Face," "Bad Romance," and now "Born This Way." Pop music doesn't get more extravagant these days. — Gallucci
With Semi Precious Weapons. 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 27. Quicken Loans Arena. Tickets: $25-$178; call 888-894-9424 or visit theqarena.com.