X Ambassadors in Concert at Stage AE; Indigenous Brings Jam Rock to Hard Rock (Thurs., 1/28/16)

1) Listen closely to X Ambassadors‘ debut album, VHS, and you will hear audio from the members’ respective family video albums. This audio harks to skits on albums by De La Soul and the Fugees, rap artists whom the quartet cites as major influences despite being an alternative rock act. You may also hear labelmates Imagine Dragons playing on cuts like  “Fear” and “Low Life.” So goes the ambition of the genre-bending, narrative-rendering X Ambassadors. The band started in Ithaca, New York, but Virginia gave them their first break. A program director at Virginia rock station 96X heard their ballad “Litost” and put it in heavy rotation. A management deal soon followed, then tours. They’ve shared the stage with not only Imagine Dragons but also The Lumineers and Panic! at the Disco. Pittsburgh isn’t foreign territory for these ambassadors. Last year, the group opened for Canadian electropop singer Lights at Mr. Smalls. Now they are headlining Stage AE. Avan Lava open. Doors open 6:30 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (CM)


2) The story of blues-rock outfit Indigenous is really the story of front man Mato Nanji (Ma-TOE NON-gee), who was born and raised on the Yankton Sioux Reservation of South Dakota. A second-generation rocker, Nanji formed Indigenous in his teens with his brother, sister, and cousin—a lineup that lead to an award-winning debut in 1998 and an invite to join B.B. King’s Blues Tour in 1999. The family would stick together through three more releases before splitting in 2006, but Nanji found even more success on his own as songs from his solo album Chasing the Sun wound up on the soundtracks of Deadliest Catch and Sons of Anarchy. It was also the No. 2 Billboard Blues Album of 2006. Nanji has been a member of the Experience Hendrix tour since 2002. He plays a mean version of Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child (Slight Return).” As Indigenous, Nanji currently tours with Levi Platero (guitar), Bronson Begay (bass), and Douglas Platero (percussion). The band’s latest release is 2014’s Time is Coming. Catch Indigenous at Hard Rock Cafe (owned by the Seminole Tribe since 2007). 8 p.m. 230 W. Station Square Dr. South Side.



3) Most seasons at Pittsburgh Public Theater include a musical, and this year’s choice is among the most storied—literally—of all time. Guys and Dolls, by Frank Loesser, Jo Swerling, and Abe Burrows, was adapted from short stories by Damon Runyon, who had enthralled millions of readers with his bizarre tall tales about gamblers and grifters in the New York underworld of the 1920s and ‘30s. The musical, which opened on Broadway in 1950, was hailed for artfully translating Runyon’s colorful style and sly humor to the stage. It received five major Tony Awards including Best Musical. The 1955 movie version won no Oscars, but won a place in show-biz lore because of the actor cast in the lead: Guys and Dolls was Marlon Brando’s only musical. (As the video above illustrates, he “acted” his songs more than actually singing them.)

Guys and Dolls has been re-staged many times since the 1950s. The plot revolves around a gambler taking a bet that he can woo a beautiful but chaste woman who is out to save souls as a street-corner evangelist. Of the songs, only “Luck Be a Lady” became popular separate from the show—but the songs weren’t written to be stand-alone hits. One reason Guys and Dolls has been called a “perfect” musical is that the music and story work together so well. 8 p.m. Performances through February 28.  At the O’Reilly Theater, 621 Penn Ave., Cultural District. (MV)

4) Virginia Wall Gruenert has made her mark in Pittsburgh’s theater scene as the founding artistic director of off the WALL Productions, which highlights plays by and about women. She also writes a few herself, and the company swings back into action after the holiday break with a production of Wall Gruenert’s Mother Lode. The play is a one-person drama that delves into mother-daughter relations by depicting how the bonds may be tested, and deepened, at a crucial time—when the elderly mother is at life’s end, and the daughter must reckon with a veritable “mother lode” of feelings and decisions. Linda Haston is the actress. Off the WALL is presenting Mother Lode initially in a short January run of just four performances; the play will be reprised in similar runs during June and August. 8 p.m. Continues through January 31. At Carnegie Stage, 25 W. Main St., Carnegie. (MV)

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Rick Handler

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