November Concert Guide: A Nobel Laureate, Strong Ladies, Struts, and Macklemore

Lady Gaga performing 'Joanne' on the Joanne World Tour in September. Photo: Marcel de Groot.

Lady Gaga performing ‘Joanne’ on the Joanne World Tour in September. Photo: Marcel de Groot and Wikipedia.

The November music scene slows down by Thanksgiving, but some capital-L Legends are visiting both before and after the holiday. Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan returns with a special guest you may have heard of: R&B and gospel singer Mavis Staples. Pop performers emblematic of various decades—Olivia Newton-John, Janet Jackson, and Lady Gaga—visit the region. David Crosby, one-fourth of the supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, performs this month as does the whole of another supergroup, alt-rockers A Perfect Circle.

Some acts on the cusp of legendary include singer-songwriter Regina Spektor and jazz phenom Kamasi Washington. Macklemore, one of today’s hottest rappers, will perform as part of his solo tour. Rising indie-rockers Hippo Campus, fresh off their impressive performance at the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival this past June, return. The Struts, whose music harks back to seminal groups like Queen, headline an already sold-out show. And let’s not forget local instrumentalists The Garment District, who will open for two respected indie-rock frontmen: Andrew Savage and Jack Cooper.

Other popular acts include Hoodie Allen, Citizen Cope, Robyn Hitchcock, Josh Ritter, and Yonder Mountain String Band. Give thanks to these musicians, or any other favorite artists visiting this month, by supporting live music.

Wednesday, November 1

Mr. Smalls will offer a double billing of indie-rock frontmen. New York City rockers Parquet Courts are no strangers to Pittsburgh; they’ve played the Rex Theater and Spirit. This month, their frontman, Andrew Savage, who performs as A. Savage, stops here as part of his tour for his solo album, this year’s Thawing Dawn. He speak-sings with the best of them (Lou Reed, Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kaplan) on tunes like “Winter in the South.” From across the pond is Jack Cooper, who co-fronts Ultimate Painting and fronts Mazes. Sandgrown, also out this year, is his first solo album. His hometown, Blackpool, England, inspired the recording. Opening is The Garment District, a project of multi-instrumentalist Jennifer Baron, a Mt. Lebanon native and founding member of the Brooklyn band The Ladybug Transistor. The Garment District’s debut album, If You Take Your Magic Slow, was released in 2014. 2015’s Luminous Toxin followed; check out “The Feral Surfers.” Lucy Blehar, also from Lebo, sings vocals on the non-instrumental tracks. Live, Baron is joined by friends and family including her husband, Greg Langel. 8 p.m. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. (CM)

In another chamber of Millvale’s sprawling music mansion, singer/songwriter Josh Ritter brings his Royal City Band to Mr. Smalls Theatre for a show that promises to be sweeter (and much livelier) than any leftover Halloween candy. Ritter is touring in support of his new album Gathering. The critically acclaimed LP showcases the variety of sounds he is capable of producing: from straight-ahead folk-style picking and singing to eerie, plaintive ballads and thundering harmonic roof-raisers. Ritter hails from Moscow—Moscow, Idaho, that is—and not surprisingly, he’s been compared to a variety of his musical predecessors, ranging from Dylan to Paul Simon and even Warren Zevon. The 41-year-old Ritter can also sound Grateful Dead-ish, and in fact one track on Gathering, “When Will I Be Changed,” features former Dead man Bob Weir. Ritter’s show at Mr. Smalls is all ages, so leave the candy at home and get high on the music. Good Old War opens. 8 p.m. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. (MV)

Friday, November 3

Progressive bluegrass group Yonder Mountain String Band will be in concert at Stage AE. Colorado, now a major producer of “green” grass, also grew this bluegrass band, which has seven studio albums. “Yonder,” as they are sometimes known, formed in 1998 in Nederland, CO, and they are now based in Boulder. The lineup has undergone  some changes. Founding member, mandolinist, and vocalist Jeff Austin left in 2014. The other members recruited violinist Allie Kral and mandolinist Jacob Jolliff, and the new lineup released 2015’s Black Sheep. They followed it with this year’s Love. Ain’t Love and Mountain Tracks: Volume 6, their latest installment in a series of live albums dating back to 2000. The new studio album contains a spirited cover of King Harvest’s “Dancing in the Moonlight.” “Half Moon Rising,” an original lunar tune, remains one of the band’s most popular songs. The Last Revel opens. Doors open 7:30 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (RH, CM)

Clarence Greenwood, a.k.a. Citizen Cope, is a one-man musical juicing machine. The Washington, D.C.-based singer/songwriter takes an assortment of styles—soul, funk, rock, hip-hop, and occasional folk and blues—and blends them together, and the mixture is always as a fine and silky as a smoothie. Cope has a new single out now, a reggae version of his song “Lifeline.”Cope will be performing an “intimate solo/acoustic listening performance” at Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall. 8 p.m. 510 E. 10th Ave., Munhall. (EC, RH)

Saturday, November 4

The Struts played Pittsburgh a little less than a year ago as part of The X’s Kickass Christmas show; they opened for Third Eye Blind at Stage AE. Buoyed by popular singles like “Could Have Been Me,” they have now sold out their headlining show at Mr. Smalls this month. Their music (and flamboyant dress) harks back to glam and classic rock groups such as Queen and AC/DC. Frontman Luke Spiller met guitarist Adam Slack in 2009. They formed the Struts in Derby, England, and just five years later, the band opened for the Rolling Stones in Paris. 2014 saw the release of their debut LP, Everybody Wants. No new album yet, but the quartet released some singles, such as “One Night Only,” over the past two years. That should tide fans over. Nightly opens. 8:30 p.m. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. (CM)

Monday, November 6

What do Kazuo Ishiguro and Frank Sinatra have in common? Ishiguro, the novelist who won this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature, has said that his idol and creative inspiration is last year’s winner, Bob Dylan. And Dylan has devoted two recent albums plus part of his March 2017 release Triplicate to re-interpreting old ballads once sung by Sinatra. Thus Dylan provides a cultural bridge that connects the world’s most renowned British author of Japanese descent with America’s favorite pre-rock-and-roll crooner and hair-transplant pioneer. This is a feat not accomplished by any other Nobel laureate—even in Physics—and Dylan is only 76! What next? One can find out by attending his concert at Heinz Hall, which will require some luck and/or cash, as tickets are officially sold out. The concert comes soon after the November 3 release of Dylan’s Trouble No More. Subtitled The Bootleg Series Vol. 13 / 1979-81, it features live performances from his Christian-gospel period of songs like “Precious Angel,” “When You Gonna Wake Up,” and “Gotta Serve Somebody.” Will he reprise a few of those spiritual classics at Heinz Hall? Good question—and of course with a Dylan concert, the question is not just which tunes he’ll do, but how he’s going to do them. Dylan’s band and special guest Mavis Staples contribute. 7:30 p.m. 600 Penn Ave., Cultural District. (MV)

Tuesday, November 7

Singer-songwriter David Crosby, the veteran performer, of The Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash fame, promises to draw on music from throughout his long career, from both solo albums and collaborative works. He is a two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee; for The Byrds and also for Crosby, Stills, & Nash. At 76, Crosby hasn’t lost his urge to create new music. His latest, and sixth solo effort, Sky Trails, was released in September. His son James Raymond, with whom he’s collaborated before, adds to his dad’s efforts on this album as well. Raymond played a variety of instruments and supplied some vocals. The David Crosby & Friends Sky Trails tour visits the Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall. 7:30 p.m. 510 E. 10th Ave., Munhall. (RH)

Regina Spektor opened for the Strokes and Kings of Leon in the early aughts. These days, she headlines. The Palace Theatre is treating fans to a “special solo performance” of just her and a piano. Spektor is a refugee who was born in the Soviet Union. In 1989, when she was nine, she and her family emigrated to escape discrimination against Jews, settling in the Bronx. The move meant abandoning her piano, but she improvised on tabletops until she discovered a piano in her synagogue’s basement. You can’t go wrong with a Regina Spektor album, but 2004’s Soviet Kitsch and 2006’s Begin to Hope are great places to start. Her lyrics seesaw from the silly to the political, sometimes in the same song, all over Chopin-meets-the-Beatles instrumentation. Her latest album is 2016’s Remember Us to Life. She also wrote “You’ve Got Time,” the theme song for Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black.” 8 p.m. 21 W. Otterman St., Greensburg. (CM)

Macklemore is one half of the hip-hop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Although they are on hiatus, Macklemore has forged ahead. His second studio album, Gemini, dropped this year, and he is stopping at Stage AE. He began making music in his hometown of Seattle in 2000. 2009’s The Unplanned Mixtape caught some buzz, and that same year, he and DJ Ryan Lewis began collaborating. Their careers took off with the single “Same Love,” an anthem for marriage equality, and then “Thrift Shop.” Both songs were featured on their debut album, 2012’s The Heist. They followed it with 2016’s This Unruly Mess I’ve Made, which spawned “Downtown.” The single combines lyrics about mopeds with a hook reminiscent of Men Without Hats’ “The Safety Dance.” Oh, and the music video includes four motorcycles pulling a chariot. Ridiculous, yes, but somehow still cool. Doors open 7 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (CM)

Macklemore (front) performing at Sasquatch Music Festival in 2011 with his main musical collaborator Ryan Lewis. Photo: Christopher Dube.

Macklemore (front) performing at Sasquatch Music Festival in 2011 with his main musical collaborator Ryan Lewis. Photo: Christopher Dube and Wikipedia.

Monday, November 13

Olivia Newton-John is back. The acclaimed Australian singer/actress had to postpone her June show at Greensburg’s Palace Theatre, along with other tour dates, to be treated for recurrence of the cancer that had first struck her years before. She returned to touring in mid-October and will now perform at The Palace. Newton-John, who was born in England and moved with her family to Melbourne as a child, has an illustrious heritage. Her father was an MI5 officer on the Enigma code-breaking project during World War II; her grandfather Max Born was a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. Newton-John’s show biz record is pretty illustrious, too. She played and sang the female lead in the 1978 movie version of Grease, then starred in the legendary box-office flop turned cult classic Xanadu. Her many hit singles include “If Not for You,” “Have You Never Been Mellow,” the Grease numbers “You’re The One That I Want” and “Summer Nights,” plus “Magic,” and—lest we forget—“Physical.” Her awards and honors include four Grammys, appointment to the OBE (Order of the British Empire), and much more.  7:30 p.m. 21 W. Otterman St., Greensburg. (RH/MV)

Wednesday, November 15

If you missed Hippo Campus’s landmark performance at the last Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival, check them out at Mr. Smalls. The quartet’s music combines Animal Collective-esque harmonies with Vampire Weekend’s world-music rhythms. What’s even more impressive is how fully formed the group sounds despite the members’ youth—all four of them just clear the drinking age. (Of course, they had two EPs, 2014’s Bashful Creatures and 2015’s South, to realize their sound.) The Animal Collective parallels are sure to persist, for like their noise-rock forebears, all the members perform under eccentric stage names: Turntan, Stitches, Espo, and Beans. They met at the Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists, a high school in St. Paul, Minnesota. Their latest EP, warm glow, is out now, fresh off the heels of their debut LP, this year’s Landmark. Remo Drive opens. 8 p.m. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. (CM)

Friday, November 17

Despite many fans’ hopes, neither Tool nor A Perfect Circle will release a new album this year. That hasn’t stopped the bands, both fronted by Maynard James Keenan, from touring. Tool played the Petersen Events Center in May; A Perfect Circle will play there this month. And although there’s no word yet on when the new Tool album will drop, the next A Perfect Circle LP will be out in 2018. The supergroup’s core is Keenan and guitarist Billy Howerdel. Current members include James Iha (formerly of The Smashing Pumpkins), bassist Matt McJunkins, and drummer Jeff Friedl. The group formed in 1999 and went on hiatus after the release of 2004’s Emotive, a covers album of anti-war songs. They’ve played on and off again since 2010. Fans eager for a taste of the new record can check out “The Doomed,” which the band shared in October. 8 p.m. 3719 Terrace St., Oakland. (CM)

If Robyn Hitchcock had not made his mark as a singer-songwriter, he’d be known as the guy who looks like Steve Martin wearing an Andy Warhol wig. But the hair is his own and so is his distinctive musical style. Elements of that style include lyrics that convey surreal imagery, eerie/spacey guitar work, and a jaunty/cynical mood that says this is serious but I’m having fun with it. Hitchcock combines the elements in various ways—“Raymond and the Wires” (above) doesn’t sound a lot like “I Want to Tell You About What I Want”—yet both are from the same album, this year’s self-titled LP, which also includes a track called “Virginia Woolf” … Wait a minute! What kind of artist waits until his twenty-first studio album to release one that’s self-titled? Probably an artist who’s a bit weird, but in a nice way. Hitchcock broke onto the scene in the 1970s in his native England as leader of The Soft Boys. He’s been performing and recording solo and/or with various other configurations of musicians since 1981. In live performances he tells stories along with the music, and the stories are weird, but in a nice way. Catch a few with Robyn Hitchcock at Carnegie Lecture Hall of Oakland. 8 p.m. 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland. (MV)

“I’m just kiddin’, I’m a white kid, hi kids”—Yep, that’s Hoodie Allen, the clown prince of yuppie hop, as he summed himself up in a signature line from his 2011 breakout release, “No Interruption.” The artist formerly known as Steven Markowitz chose his stage name as a pun on Woody Allen: white guy, comedian, nerdy but kinda cool; get it? In cuts like “Fame Is For Assholes” (with Chiddy Bang) and “Are U Having Any Fun?,” he mixes classic hip-hop memes such as gratuitous profanity and the objectification of women with satirical riffs on the suburban upper-middle-class technoculture. Hoodie knows the latter quite well. He grew up on Long Island, acquired an Ivy League degree, and worked at Google before quitting to become a full-time musical prankster. Now on tour in support of his latest album, this year’s The Hype, Hoodie Allen will be at Stage AE. Luke Christopher and Myles Parrish open. Doors open 7 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (MV, CM)

Saturday, November 18

Mike Love, a founding member and singer/songwriter for the quintessential American pop-rock band—The Beach Boysbrings his version of that band to Heinz Hall for a concert this month. Love reunited a couple of years back with Brian Wilson and other surviving original members for a tour and album, and he performs tonight with his band under the Beach Boy’s banner. The Beach Boys created many top hits, including, “Surfin’ USA” (which Wilson wrote lyrics for and was heavily influenced by Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen.” After some wrangling Berry received a co-writing credit), “California Girls,” and “I Get Around.” Love has also written in a different media, his memoir Good Vibrations: My Life as a Beach Boy is a New York Times Bestseller. Additionally, Love has a new double album coming out titled Unleash the Love. 7:30 p.m. 600 Penn Ave., Cultural District.

Monday, November 20

In the hierarchy of stardom there is a level above “Superstar” or even “Megastar.” It includes the rare few who are, like the absolutely most insane hills on the Tour de France, “Beyond Category”—and among those few is Lady Gaga. She displays such phenomenal phenomenon-ship that it’s tempting to call her a force of nature, except she wasn’t literally “Born This Way.” Watch one of her astounding live performances that’s been preserved on video, like “Paparazzi” at the 2009 VMA Awards. What you’re seeing (and hearing) is a Lady Gaga who has studied and practiced music since childhood, who also studied and practiced acting at some of the best places for the craft in her native New York City, and who furthermore has assembled around her a top-notch creative team. In short, Gaga may be either the Hardest Working Woman in Show Business or a co-titleholder. In her spare (?) time she is a tireless philanthropist and social activist. Her “Awards and nominations” page on Wikipedia runs to more than 80 categories. And if you want to catch Lady Gaga in Pittsburgh, you’d better run to PPG Paints Arena. 7:30 p.m. 1001 Fifth Ave., Uptown. (MV)

Monday, November 27

Tenor-saxophonist Kamasi Washington is helping new generations dig jazz through his own work and through his collaborations with other artists. Of the former, there is his acclaimed debut LP, 2015’s The Epic: three volumes and 172 minutes of tempo-shifting, genre-bustin’ celestial jazz performed by Washington and his impeccable band. Of the latter, there are his assists to hip-hip duo Run the Jewels (“Thursday in the Danger Room”), rapper Kendrick Lamar (“u”), John Legend (“Right By You (for Luna)”), and soul duo Ibeyi (“Deathless”). How’s that for a CV? Washington is based in Los Angeles, having grown up in nearby Inglewood.. He studied ethnomusicology, which examines music not only sonically but also culturally and socially, at UCLA. If The Epic isn’t enough, Harmony of Difference dropped this year. The EP shares its title with a multimedia installation that he designed for the 2017 Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. A fixture on the festival circuit, Washington comes to Mr. Smalls. Moonchild opens. 8 p.m. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. (CM)

Wednesday, November 29

Janet Jackson was the youngest sibling in the very talented Jackson family of Gary, Indiana. Her brothers were very successful with their group the Jackson Five. Brother Michael would go on to mega-stardom. Janet was not content to remain in the shadows for long and she had substantial talents of her own, both as a performer and actor. She appeared with the rest of the family on the “The Jacksons” variety show on ABC in 1976. She also had roles on “Good Times” and “Fame.” Musical success came for Jackson with the release of her Control album in 1986 which contained the hits “What Have You Done for Me Lately,” “Nasty,” “When I Think of You,” “Control,” Let’s Wait Awhile,” and “The Pleasure Principle.” The album was nominated for a Grammy in the Album of the Year category. The album also was noted for fusing sounds from various genres together including dance-pop and hip-hop.

Jackson followed Control with another home run, Rhythm Nation 1814 in 1989. With singles “Miss You Much,” “Rhythm Nation,” “Escapade,” “Alright,” “Come Back to Me,” “Black Cat,” and “Love Will Never Do (Without You),” the release was the only album to spawn seven top five singles on the Billboard Hot 100. The accompanying videos and tour showcased Jackson as a very talented dancer as well. Rhythm Nation 1814 was the highest selling album of 1990 and won 15 Billboard Music Awards. Jackson has continued to produce quality music over the years. In 2017 Jackson and husband Wissam Al Mana had a son Eissa, the couple have since separated. She is back on the road with her State of the World Tour. When Jason Timberlake was announced as the one of the halftime entertainers of this season’s Super Bowl, an effort was launched on social media to get Jackson on the bill too so they could reprise a previous performance on that big stage. 8 p.m. PPG Paints Arena, 1001 Fifth Ave., Uptown. (RH)

Christopher Maggio is a Pittsburgh-based writer and editor who enjoys a good rock concert.

Executive producer Rick Handler and Pittsburgh-based writer and editor Mike Vargo also contributed to this guide.