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Concert Time

Our picks for the best shows of the week

JUSTIN BIEBER

He's everywhere, and his audience isn't sick of him ... at least not yet. Teen heartthrob Justin Bieber may send pre-teen girls into a flutter, but his formula is nothing new. And yet something makes him both lovable and entirely forgivable. Maybe it's the pop singer's squeaky-clean voice and innocence — that YouTube video of him smashing his beak in a revolving door only sent his career further skyward. And there doesn't seem to be any limit in the foreseeable future: There's an acoustic album, a unisex fragrance line, and a 3-D feature film (the docu-style Never Say Never, which archives Bieber's entire career) all coming out soon. Rumors that he's dating his tour's opening act, Jasmine Villegas, should help keep his name in the headlines too. It's Bieber's world this year, and we all just live in it. Still, he'd do well to phone up Hanson for a lesson or two on what to do after all this goes south. Actually, keeping Britney Spears, the former Hannah Montana, and the Jonas Brothers on speed dial wouldn't hurt either. He'll be one step ahead of Lady Gaga if he does. Peter Chakerian

Justin Bieber. 7 p.m. Thursday, November 11. Wolstein Center. Tickets: $47.90-$69.50; call 216-687-5555 or go to ticketmaster.com.

THE FLATLANDERS

As far as 1971 Nashville was concerned, the Flatlanders might as well have been from Mars. The acoustic West Texas trio — complete with saw player but no drummer — that blew into town to cut their debut album that year could not have been more out of sync with the country-music market. Stillborn on release, the Flatlanders' first record became the stuff of folklore as the solo careers of members Joe Ely and Jimmie Dale Gilmore took hold over time. Reissued in 1992 as More a Legend Than a Band, the set is one of alt-country's starting points, with its retro-folkie sound complemented by Gilmore and Butch Hancock's timeless lyrics. The group reconvened thanks to Robert Redford, who was looking for some songs for his 1998 movie The Horse Whisperer. "South Wind of Summer" made it on the soundtrack and marked the Flatlanders' rebirth. On 2002's Now Again, the three celebrated singer-songwriters teamed up on 12 of the album's 14 songs, with lead vocals frequently changing mid-verse. That collective aura shines just as brightly on 2009's Hills and Valleys, while also offering a handful of standout solo cuts, like Gilmore's "The Way We Are" and Ely's "Love's Own Chains." Duane Verh

The Flatlanders. 8 p.m. Friday, November 12. Kent Stage. Tickets: $30-$40; call 330-677-5005 or go to kentstage.org.

JAY FARRAR

It's too bad Jay Farrar was in Uncle Tupelo. The pioneering alt-country band is obviously a significant starting point in the singer-songwriter's career, but its legacy has cast a long shadow over almost everything else Farrar has done since then (including his follow-up band Son Volt). Time has been way kinder to Farrar's old Uncle Tupelo bandmate Jeff Tweedy, which makes sense: Farrar doesn't make flashy music like Wilco. Instead of bothering with new sonic landscapes and stuff like that, Farrar tends to keep his music simple. This approach hasn't made him a star like Tweedy, but it's kept him deeply attuned to his music. He has a timeless voice, which he pairs with timeless songs and crafts into music that speaks to modern-day realities while often dipping into the idealistic past for inspiration. Farrar's music probes America's heart, chronicling the lives of working people much like himself. They're earthy, straightforward, and occasionally perfect. It just happens to be the kind of perfect that whispers rather than shouts. Nicholas Hall

Jay Farrar. 8 p.m. Sunday, November 14. Kent Stage. Tickets: $18, $15 in advance; call 330-677-5005 or go to kentstage.org.

JOSH RITTER

There's a song on Josh Ritter's latest album called "The Curse." It's about a tragic affair between a young archeologist and the very old mummy she uncovers. They fall in love, he tells her she may be cursed, she doesn't care. They meet nightly in the museum. Eventually, people learn he's alive and he becomes a media star. Meanwhile, she begins to shrivel away until "she's just one more rag he's dragging behind him." By the end of the song, she's dead and he's forgotten all about her. It's incredibly heartbreaking, and way more moving than a song about a mummy has any right to be. The track anchors Ritter's sixth album, So Runs the World Away, and is a testament to his vivid songwriting skills. The singer-songwriter — an Oberlin College alum — is one of those guys adored by other singer-songwriters (like the Swell Season's Glen Hansard, who helped the young troubadour get his start a decade ago). His narratives gain even more poignancy onstage. Too bad this show wasn't two weeks ago on Halloween. We definitely would have dressed up as the love-struck mummy.— Michael Gallucci

Josh Ritter & the Royal City Band, with Thieving Irons. 8 p.m. Monday, November 15. Beachland Ballroom. Tickets: $20, $18 in advance; call 216-383-1124 or go to beachlanballroom.com.

MICHAEL FRANTI & SPEARHEAD

Michael Franti has come a long way from his industrial-punk and revolutionary hip-hop days. Twenty years ago he was fronting the San Francisco art-noise collective the Beatnigs; by the early '90s he was leading the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy. These days, Franti makes sunny, feel-good pop music with Spearhead — sorta like a more worldly Jack Johnson. It's still rebel music, in a way, but the message on his latest album, The Sound of Sunshine, is one of peace and love and how you can smother hate with liberal doses of them. The old-style Gil Scott-Heron-style sloganeering has given way to hippie aesthetics fused with U2's shimmering guitar lines. Franti is a hit with the pot-and-patchouli set, and it's easy to hear why. Songs are given plenty of room to breathe, the band is given plenty of room to spread out, and you're given plenty of room to dance. If you need more proof of Franti's commitment to the laidback lifestyle, consider this: The dude hasn't worn shoes in a decade. That's revolutionary. Gallucci

Michael Franti & Spearhead. 8 p.m. Saturday, November 13. House of Blues. Tickets: $25-$35; call 216-523-2583 or go to houseofblues.com.

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