Concerts From Kelly Clarkson and Gaslight Anthem; Tribute to Billy Strayhorn w/Spanish Harlem Orchestra (Sun., 7/19/15)

1) Kelly Clarkson has spent more than a decade squarely in the public eye since becoming the first (and, by a good margin, most successful) winner of “American Idol” in 2002. She’s since released seven studio albums, won three Grammys, and sold more than 25 million albums. She’s also gotten married, had a baby, faced the inevitable online backlash for gaining baby weight, and has through it all maintained the honest, no-nonsense attitude that fans love her for. This summer she’s promoting her new album, Piece by Piece, which opened at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. The first single, “Heartbeat Song,” features a sample of her baby’s in-utero heartbeat. Follow-up single, synthpop anthem “Invincible,” returns to a familiar Clarkson theme: emerging on the other side of heartbreak stronger than ever. Clarkson plays First Niagara Pavilion with Pentatonix and Eric Hutchinson. 7 p.m. 665 Pennsylvania Rt. 18, Burgettstown. (HM)


2) New Jersey’s The Gaslight Anthem knows to respect one’s rock ‘n’ roll elders. From Bruce Springsteen, to Pearl Jam, to the Replacements, the band’s done their homework. (For proof, see frontman Brian Fallon’s interviews during Color Me Obsessed, a documentary about the Replacements.) In 2008, all that homework paid off with the band’s critically acclaimed sophomore album, The ‘59 Sound. Kerrang! put them on their cover without the magazine ever having previously written about them—a first. The Boss declared himself a fan. And the four-piece soon was sharing the stage with both The Boss and other heroes, like Eddie Vedder. They’ve released three albums since and are appearing at Stage AE in support of their fifth, Get Hurt. It’s been billed as one of those departure albums, with computer technology and electronic instruments used for the first time during the band’s recording process. But don’t worry. From the leadoff single, “Rollin’ and Tumblin’,” it doesn’t appear The Gaslight Anthem’s strayed too far from their New Jersey-punk sound. Desaparecidos and Murder By Death open. Doors open 6 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (CM)

3) The kid was a genius. Young Billy Strayhorn was the talk of the Pittsburgh jazz scene in the late 1930s, partly for his piano playing but mainly because he’d come out of Westinghouse High School writing and arranging music like a masterful pro. Duke Ellington hired him, sending him travel money to New York and directions for getting uptown to the bandleader’s apartment in Harlem. The directions began with “Take the A train …” And when Strayhorn showed up he had a surprise for the Duke: a tune he’d just written. “Take the ‘A’ Train” (interpreted, above, in a movie short by the Delta Rhythm Boys) became an enduring jazz standard—as did many more songs that Strayhorn wrote for, or with, Ellington and his musicians during a nearly 30-year partnership. When Strayhorn died of cancer in 1967, Ellington recorded a memorial album in his honor.

This year is the 100th anniversary of Billy Strayhorn’s birth. To help celebrate him here in Pittsburgh, the Spanish Harlem Orchestra—a Grammy-winning band from New York that specializes in salsa and Latin jazz—is featuring a special tribute to “the Latin side” of Strayhorn’s music in a free concert at Hartwood Acres Amphitheater. 7:30 p.m. 200 Hartwood Acres, Hampton and Indiana townships. (MV)

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Rick Handler

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