Eyedea and Abilities
The Twin Cities may seem like an unlikely hot spot for underground hip-hop, but for the past decade, the indie rap scene has been largely dominated by Minneapolis-St. Paul rappers on the Rhymesayers label. Eyedea and Abilities, a Minnesota-based MC-and-DJ pair, have been at the forefront of the movement, advancing their skills with each new record. On their third album, last year's By the Throat, they explored more guitar-based sounds and live instruments. With fuzzy beats, choppy rhymes, some intricate turntable work, and lyrics about everything from addiction to quantum mechanics, Eyedea and Abilities continue to push themselves and the genre. They're accompanied on tour by fellow Twin Cities rapper Kristoff Krane, who has released three eclectic hip-hop records in the past couple of years and has worked with several mainstays of the scene. Opening their Cleveland show is the Youngstown-based MC Homeless, who recently recorded his second album in France and is working on a third with West Coast subterranean legend Riddlore? — Nick BakerEyedea & Abilities, with Kristoff Krane and MC Homeless. 8 p.m. Monday, July 12, Grog Shop. Tickets: $10; call 216-321-5588 or go to grogshop.gs.
Carole King and James Taylor
When Carole King and James Taylor headlined Los Angeles' Troubadour in 1969, they were far from the icons they would become just a few short years later. Taylor was a backsliding heroin addict with a failed solo album (on the Beatles' Apple label, to boot) to his credit. King's songwriting was beyond reproach ("Will You Love Me Tomorrow," "Natural Woman," "Up on the Roof"), but her tenure as a performer was largely unsuccessful. Her debut solo album, Writer, sank without a trace. Taylor hired King to play piano for his Troubadour shows and encouraged her to sing some of her songs during the sets. She ended up playing piano on his 1970 breakthrough Sweet Baby James, and he played guitar on her breakout album, Tapestry, a year later.
The pair recently reunited for a series of shows commemorating the venue's 50th anniversary, which you can hear on the new Live at the Troubadour CD and DVD. They're now on the road together with the Troubadour Reunion Tour, celebrating some of the most beloved and recognizable music of the past four decades. — Brian Baker
Carole King and James Taylor. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 7, Quicken Loans Arena. Tickets: $45-$125; call 888-894-9424 or go to livenation.com.
Lyndyrd Skynyrd and Bret Michaels
This is one of rock and roll's bigger swindles. Lynyrd Skynyrd's frontman, Ronnie Van Zant, died in a 1977 plane crash. After a ten-year hiatus, a group of guys remotely connected to the original group (guitarist Gary Rossington is the only founding member still in the band) reunited with Van Zant's younger brother Johnny taking over vocals. They've been touring and recording as Lynyrd Skynyrd ever since — something that smacks of a scam, even at a time when classic-rock bands like Foreigner and Journey are on the road with replacement players. Skynyrd, after all, was Ronnie's vision. Even guitarist Steve Gaines — who also died in the accident and played on only one album, 1977's Street Survivors — added newfound swagger to songs like "That Smell" and "What's Your Name."
It's telling that when Lynyrd Skynyrd was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006, no post-crash members were included. The band shares headlining duties with Poison's Bret Michaels, who just released a solo album, Custom Built. — Jeff Niesel
Lynyrd Skynyrd and Bret Michaels, with .38 Special. 7 p.m. Thursday, July 8, Blossom. Tickets: $31-$65.50; call 330-920-8040 or go to livenation.com.
There's never been an American Idol alum as polarizing and obnoxious as Adam Lambert. You either love or hate the shrieking queen, who rounded out his American Music Awards performance last year with faux fellatio, man-on-man kissing, and crotch grabs. He also happens to be the show's most successful star since Chris Daughtry. And he's annoying as hell. His debut album, For Your Entertainment, is often a shrill, bombastic mix of synthesized glam and glossy dance-pop. But Lambert's calculating showmanship pushes all the right (and wrong) buttons, exposing him to audiences that couldn't care less about American Idol. And of all the show's breakout stars, he's the only one to carve out an identity that doesn't seem totally crafted by the program's bosses or the singer's influences. We really don't see Lambert making a career out of this (like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, and, sigh, Daughtry), but we also don't see him going away anytime soon. — Michael Gallucci
Adam Lambert. 8 p.m. Friday, July 9. Allen Theatre. Tickets: $35; call 216-241-6000 or go to playhousesquare.org.
Hailing from Brooklyn, New York, Sleigh Bells thrust your body into a rhythmic shuffle so strong that every measure feels like a kick to the gut. The male-female duo's debut album, Treats, is more tricky than sweet, with distortion cranked up to ear-shattering levels. Songs like "Crown on the Ground" combine Derek Miller's fiery, fuzzed-out guitar blasts with Alexis Krauss' lax half-spoken, half-sung vocals and intense, lashing beats. They sound a lot like M.I.A., so it's no surprise that she's a big fan. Two months ago, Sleigh Bells opened for Yeasayer at the Grog Shop; this time, they're headlining. At this rate, they'll be playing an even bigger venue next time. So you might want to see them now. — Danielle Sills
Sleigh Bells, with Nerve City and Po Po. 9 p.m. Tuesday, July 13, Grog Shop. Tickets: $10 advance, $12 day of show; call 216-321-5588 or go to grogshop.gs.