Spring has sprung and the Pittsburgh concert scene is moving right along. There’s not a lot of mega-acts performing in town this month, perhaps it’s hard to plan the logistics of a big tour with the uncertainty of a pandemic. That said, the two biggest concerts in our guide are Justin Bieber, who just keeps getting more popular; and Jack White, one of the best rock ‘n’ rollers in the game today.
We also have two top guitar slingers in Buddy Guy and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Plus the “Empress of Soul” Gladys Knight plays a sold out show at Rivers Casino. Classic rock sounds will be generated by Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Evening, Jefferson Starship, and Butler County native Bret Michaels. On the testosterone-driven glam rock side there’s Steel Panther. Women who will be providing some first rate music this month are Cat Power and Suzanne Vega. Go Green at Market Square, the annual Earth Day celebration, will be providing some top local performers including Clinton Clegg, Kelsey Friday, and Bindley Hardware. And we end the month with a Girl Talk dance party at Stage AE.
This guide features (in chronological order) spotlighted picks, other shows of note, and big shows on the radar. Get out and see what pleases you, whether it’s one of our concerts or something entirely different. Mike Vargo (M.V) contributed to this guide.
Concerts in the Entertainment Central Spotlight
Saturday, April 2
Non-“beliebers,” bear witness. According to Billboard, Justin Bieber counts over 10 billion total video views on Vevo—the first artist to do so. He was also the youngest solo male act to reach number one on the Billboard 200 since Stevie Wonder. Bieber not only sings and dances but also plays guitar and piano. The man’s undeniably a phenomenon. Bieber, who is from Stratford, Ontario, began as just one of countless child singers on YouTube. Then R&B singer Usher became his mentor. An almost-overnight teen heartthrob, Bieber has since pivoted his career toward a more mature sound. Bieber’s won two Grammy Awards and is nominated for another one this year for best R&B Performance for “Peaches.” After his concert here we may see him the next night in Los Angeles for the Grammy Awards Ceremony. Also on his Justice World Tour are Jaden, Eddie Benjamin, and ¿Téo?. 7:30 p.m. PPG Paints Arena, 1001 Fifth Ave., Uptown. (C.M., R.H.)
Sunday, April 3
Buddy Guy is ranked 23rd in Rolling Stone‘s 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. Guy has influenced other great guitarists on that list, including Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. He is one of the most successful artists in the Chicago Blues style. He played with the legendary Muddy Waters and frequently teamed up with the noted late harmonica player Junior Wells. Two of Guy’s top songs are “Stone Crazy” and “Cut You Loose.” Guy has won eight Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005 by B.B. King and Eric Clapton. His most recent release is 2018’s The Blues Is Alive and Well. Guy visits locally for a concert at the Palace Theatre. Colin James opens. 8 p.m. 21 W. Otterman St., Greensburg. (R.H.)
Tuesday, April 12
Your Led Zeppelin fix this month is at the Palace Theatre with Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Evening. Jason Bonham, son of the late Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, has masterfully recreated his father’s band’s music with his own group. He (and Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart) gave an amazing performance of “Stairway to Heaven” when the Kennedy Center honored Led Zeppelin in 2012. 7:30 p.m. 21 W. Otterman St., Greensburg.
Thursday, April 14
Jack White, the rock star clinched immortality at 26 when the White Stripes released “Seven Nation Army,” a song which sports fans chant, marching bands cover, and DJs still spin. After Jack White parted ways with drummer (and ex-wife) Meg White, and the White Stripes dissolved, Jack White began his remarkable run of solo albums, starting with 2012’s Blunderbuss. 2014’s Lazaretto followed. He released the eccentric Boarding House Reach in 2018. “Ice Station Zebra” saw White mashing bluesy piano chords with rapped lyrics and a guitar riff reminiscent of Metallica’s “One.” White also plays drums in the Dead Weather and is a member of The Raconteurs. The Raconteurs played a packed Stage AE in 2019 in support of their release Help Us Stranger. White even produced Van Lear Rose by Loretta Lynn in 2004. White has two albums coming out this year—Fear of the Dawn and Entering Heaven Alive—the former LP is in his rock mode while the later is a folk album. Last October White dropped the single “Taking Me Back” to much acclaim and heavy airplay and streaming. The song is used in the video game, Call of Duty: Vanguard. Post-covid, the world has been having supply chain issues, White has taken note and his tour is the Supply Chain Issues Tour. Hopefully there will be no issues of any kind for his concert at the Petersen Events Center. Special guest is Geese. 3719 Terrace St., Oakland.
Friday, April 15
Singer-songwriter Kenny Wayne Shepherd and his band visit the Palace Theatre on their 2022 tour. Much can be said of Shepherd’s prolific library—it’s raw, southern-styled, slightly grungy, and highly bluesy. Shepherd, 44, hails from Shreveport, La.; his southern roots are apparent in his music. Impressively, he’s relatively young compared to many of his blues compatriots, though he’s been recording music since he was 16 years old. Shepherd released his first studio album, Ledbetter Heights, in 1995. It’s no wonder: He’s got a hell of a talent for blues guitar and boasts a strong stage presence. Since that first release, he’s carved out an enviable reputation as one of America’s most accomplished blues guitarists. Besides selling millions of albums, Shepherd has received five Grammy nominations, two Billboard Music Awards, and a slew of other awards specific to the blues genre. Shepherd’s latest release is the live album, Straight to You Live, released in 2020. 8 p.m. 21 W. Otterman St., Greensburg.
Friday, April 22
The Go Green at Market Square for Earth Day has talented local musicians playing in support of conservation matters. Performers slated to appear at this year’s event include Clinton Clegg Trio, Kelsey Friday and the Weekenders, Bindley Hardware Co., Evan Dean Band, Wave Trails, Elias Khouri Band, and Starling My Darling. There will be eco-friendly vendors and plenty of fun activities. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Free. Downtown.
Saturday, April 23
Gladys Knight, known as the “Empress of Soul,” used to be followed everywhere she performed, and no, it wasn’t by a stalker or the government. She had a group of highly talented male back-up singers called The Pips. Knight—a seven-time Grammy Award-winner—is best known for the songs “Midnight Train to Georgia” and “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye).” She’s even released a gospel album, Where My Heart Belongs. Knight’s numerous television credits include her namesake variety show, “The Jeffersons,” “The Muppet Show,” “The Jamie Foxx Show,” and “30 Rock.” Gladys Knight and the Pips were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. In 2019 she performed on the Fox TV show, “The Masked Singer,” in a bee costume. Rivers Casino Event Center. 7 p.m. Sold out. 777 Casino Dr., North Shore.
Monday, April 25
Suzane Vega, highly acclaimed folk pop, singer/songwriter/acoustic guitar player and who Biography Magazine called “one of the most brilliant songwriters of her generation,” is playing the Oaks Theater this month. The event is billed as an intimate evening of songs and stories with Suzane Vega. Her songs include the top 10 hits “Luka,” and “Tom’s Diner.” 8 p.m. 310 Allegheny River Blvd., Oakmont.
Thursday, April 28
1965 was the year rock turned seriously psychedelic. Among other things, three new groups emerged from the San Francisco area’s folk-rock scene sounding more like musicians from another planet: the Grateful Dead, Country Joe and the Fish (remember them?)—and Jefferson Airplane. Airplane’s co-founder, Paul Kantner, started his successor band, Jefferson Starship, to play the music of Jefferson Airplane and more. Kantner died in 2016 at the age of 74, but the music goes on. David Freiberg (acoustic guitar and vocals) has played with the band intermittently since 1972 and is a rich source of wisdom and history for the other members. Starship’s female vocalist, Cathy Richardson, has a big voice that wakes the echoes. It’s impossible to replace Grace Slick, who is a painter now, but Richardson does a mighty fine job in her own right. Expect to hear Woodstock-era numbers like “Volunteers” and “White Rabbit” in a show that should be a trip. So trip on out to the Palace Theatre. 7:30 p.m. 21 W. Otterman St., Greensburg. (M.V., R.H.)
Steel Panther struts in for a concert at Stage AE this month. With that name, you may think the band hails from Pitt, or is a ride at Kennywood, but it’s actually a heavy metal group from L.A. Steel Panther’s songs combine humor with R to X-rated content—the “Community Property” video, above, is actually one of the less raunchy ones—while the band’s whole act, including big hair and over-the-top costumes, parodies the glam-metal bands of the 1980s. The Panther dropped its fifth major studio album, Heavy Metal Rules, in 2019. Steel Panther is on their Res-Erections Tour. Harmless Habit opens Doors open at 7 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore.
Friday, April 29
Cat Power was born Charlyn (“Chan”) Marshall in Atlanta. She released a series of acclaimed records from the mid-’90s through the early aughts, including a covers album in 2000. Her cover of “Sea of Love” also appeared on the soundtrack to the 2007 film Juno. Cat Power released The Greatest in 2006. Not a greatest hits album, but rather a collection of bare-bones originals, it is arguably “the greatest” record in her discography, released over a decade into her career. “Living Proof” is a beautiful song about love and doubt. Her 2012 album, Sun, seamlessly melded elements of electronica with blues. Her latest album is this year’s Covers. On it she covers songs from a diverse group of artists including Bob Seger, Iggy Pop, Billie Holiday, and Lana Del Ray. Catch her at Mr. Smalls. 8 p.m. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. (C.M., R.H.)
Saturday, April 30
He’s the good-looking man in the red bandanna! You can bet the house will be packed when Butler native and die hard Steelers fan Bret Michaels revisits his home turf for a gig at Hollywood Casino Meadows Event Center. Michaels, born Bret Michael Sychak, has won fame in practically every way available. In addition to the solo career he launched in 1998 he’s been a founding member and longtime lead vocalist of the glam-metal rockers Poison. He wrote, directed, and starred in the movie A Letter from Death Row, with his friend and colleague Charlie Sheen. Michaels has even had his own reality TV shows. Expect to hear him doing metal/country hits like “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” maybe “The App Song,” and more. Michaels is currently on an extensive U.S. tour, but he always makes time for many charity events as well. 8 p.m. 210 Racetrack Rd, Washington. (M.V.)
Girl Talk has released five albums without playing a single instrument (unless you count “laptop” as an instrument). This anomaly is easily explained—Girl Talk’s albums consist entirely of samples, sometimes over 300 of them. Gregg Gillis, the man behind Girl Talk, shuffles these samples to create genre-spanning mash-ups, all of which are highly dance-able. A Pittsburgher, Gillis worked as a bio-medical engineer before quitting his day job to pursue music full-time. The 2014 Broken Ankles EP saw Girl Talk collaborating with Philadelphia’s Freeway, with the former providing the beats and the latter the rhymes. The release has left listeners salivating for another full-length Girl Talk LP, the last of which was 2010’s All Day. In 2020 he released a single called “Fallin'” with Sudanese American rapper Bas. Girl Talk was the first act to ever perform at Stage AE. Now he returns to the venue for his latest appearance. Special guest is Hugh Augustine. Doors open 8 p.m. Stage AE, 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore.
Other Shows of Note
Friday, April 1
Ace Frehley (Jergel’s)
Jim Donovan & Sun King Warriors (Moondog’s)
Saturday, April 2
Donnie Iris and The Cruisers (Roxian Theatre)
Joe Grushecky and The Houserockers (Rivers Casino)
Toby Mac & Crowder (Petersen Events Center)
Sunday, April 3
For King & Country (Petersen Events Center)
Monday, April 4
Richie Ramone (Hard Rock Cafe)
Friday, April 8
The Clarks (Crafthouse)
Saturday, April 9
Justin Fabus (Rivers Casino)
Wednesday, April 13
Kat Edmonson (Club Cafe)
Friday, April 15 & Saturday, April 16
Brit Floyd (Benedum Center)
Friday, April 15
Billy Price (Rivers Casino)
The Nighthawks (Moondog’s)
Saturday, April 16
Wynona Judd (Roxian Theatre)
Bill Toms & Hard Rain (Moondog’s)
Tuesday, April 19
James McMurtry (Club Cafe)
Friday, April 22
Saturday, April 23
Oakland Pop Festival (Schenley Plaza)
Sunday, April 24
Mastodon (Stage AE)
Saturday, April 30
Lou Christie (Benedum Center)
Steve Hackett (Palace Theatre)
Vanilla Fudge (Lamp Theatre)
Big Shows on the Horizon
Thursday, May 5
John Mayer (PPG Paints Arena)
Friday, May 6
Sister Sledge (Meadows Casino)
Valerie June (Carnegie of Homestead)
Saturday, May 14
Little River Band (Hollywood Casino at Meadows)
Tuesday, May 17
Halestorm & Stone Temple Pilots (Stage AE)
Friday, May 20 – Saturday, May 21
Millvale Music Festival
Saturday, May 21
Maple House Music + Arts Festival (Hartwood Acres)
Tuesday, May 24
The Afghan Whigs (Mr. Smalls)
Friday, May 27
The Head and the Heart (Stage AE)
Rick Handler is the executive producer of Entertainment Central.