December Concert Guide: Jeffrey Osborne, Michael Bolton, a Gal Named Jackie, and The Mann

Jackie Evancho performing in a 2013 concert. Photo: Joan Hall and Wikipedia.

Jackie Evancho performing in a 2013 concert. Photo: Joan Hall and Wikipedia.

The Pittsburgh music scene is giving all of us some very pleasing concerts for the holiday season. One of the top acts this month is angel-voiced hometown gal Jackie Evancho who will be in concert at The Palace in Greensburg. Another very talented singer of the female persuasion is the melodic and thoughtful rocker Aimee Mann. She plays a sold-out show at Oakland’s Carnegie Lecture Hall. Melissa Etheridge visits us too.  Soul rocker Jeffrey Osborne makes a rare, and very welcome, appearance in Pittsburgh this month. He had a successful run with L.T.D. in the 1970s, then took off on his own wings for a hot solo career. Noted pop/rock singer Michael Bolton will also be hitting the ‘Burg (Greensburg) this December.

The holidays in Pittsburgh would not be complete without an appearance by Trans-Siberian Orchestra and their creative holiday rock production numbers. Rapper Lecrae and rockers Casting Crowns and for KING & COUNTRY will put the Christ in Christmas with their concerts.

The Hometown Heroes front is loaded with many great shows. Local musicians are teaming up for special concerts including: Pittsburgh Plays Petty, Home for the Holidays, Phat Man Dee and Liz Berlin’s Social Justice Disco, and Clinton Clegg and The Commonheart’s tribute to the late great Daptone Records artists Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley. Don’t say “Bah Humbug,” get out there and engage in some musical revelry. Enjoy our highlighted concerts or some of your own choosing and have a great holiday season!

Friday, December 1

Who knew there was a world-class voice talent living in the Pine-Richland area? Well, evidently, Jackie Evancho knew! She started out by entering talent contests, including St. Barnabas’ Kean Idol. Acting was also in Evancho’s early repertoire. She performed in Pittsburgh Musical Theater’s version of High School Musical in 2007. She cut an independent album, Prelude to a Dream, and what a prelude to a dream it was. Evancho posted videos of her performances to YouTube. She was turned down twice in auditions for NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.” The third time was indeed the charm. The ladder to mega-stardom presented itself in 2010 after the nation heard her incredible classical song performances on “America’s Got Talent.” She came in second. Since then, she has recorded five albums, all of which achieved success on the music charts, and is the youngest artist ever to achieve platinum sales status. She sang the national anthem at President Trump’s inauguration in January and has released her latest album, Two Hearts, in March. (RH)

Her work has included numerous singing appearances, acting roles such as playing Robert Redford’s daughter in the 2013 film The Company You Keep, and some modeling. She is active in many charitable organizations and was named one of the Ten Best-Mannered People in 2011 by a national organization. Needless to say, Kanye West didn’t make that list. Evancho will be performing Hits and christmas songs. What a great opportunity to see a hometown gal done good. 8 p.m. Palace Theatre, 21 W. Otterman St., Greensburg.

LoFi Delphi are celebrating the release of their third EP, Tilt, with a party at Mr. Smalls. The title track employs pinball as a metaphor; appropriately, Starport Arcade and Pub in Morgantown, WV, will lend a play-for-charity pinball machine. The local quartet formed in 2014 and consists of wife and husband Becki Gallagher (vocals/keys) and Andrew Belsick (bass) plus Tyler Jessup (drummer) and Andrew MacDonald (guitar). That same year, they released their first EP, Victor, and followed it in 2016 with another EP, Always the Quiet Ones. They are mainstays at local music festivals, such as RANT in Lawrenceville. Live, Gallagher shows off her vocal range all while playing the keys effortlessly. Belsick threads bass lines through guitarist MacDonald’s strumming and Jessup’s drumming, weaving a tapestry of hook-filled indie rock. And in case that wasn’t enough, peers Wreck Loose, Essential Machine, and Telephone Line open. 8:30 p.m. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. (CM)

Monday, December 4

Anomaly is right. In 2014, Anomaly, the seventh studio album by Christian rapper Lecrae, simultaneously went to number one on the Christian charts, the gospel charts, and the Billboard 200—the first album ever to do so. The title track, meanwhile, name-drops OutKast, all while grappling with themes of acceptance. Lecrae co-founded and is the president of the independent record label Reach Records. His sixth album, 2012’s Gravity, became the first hip-hop album ever to win the Grammy Award for Best Gospel Album. Unashamed, a memoir, saw him achieve literary success when it peaked at 19th on the New York Times Non-Fiction Best Seller list. His eighth album and major label debut, All Things Work Together from Columbia Records, dropped this year. Lecrae, from Atlanta by way of Houston, is sure to draw a diverse crowd for his show at Stage AE. Aha Gazelle and 1K Phew open. Doors open 6 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (CM)

Tuesday, December 5

The “Reverend” is in town. The Reverend Horton Heat, that is. The Reverend is Dallas-based musician Jim Heath. He and his band have been described as “psychobilly,” with influences of big band, punk, surf, and several other genres, making for an eclectic, energetic fusion of sound. Heath formed his band in 1985; the name “Horton” nods to country music and rockabilly singer Johnny Horton, who is known for his version of “The Battle of New Orleans.” The Reverend Horton Heat has released 11 albums since 1990, most recently 2014’s Rev. It peaked at 111 on the U.S. Billboard 200, the highest charting LP yet for  Heath and his band. Their song “Psychobilly Freakout,” from 1990’s Smoke ’Em If You Got ’Em, has been used in a variety of media, including “Beavis and Butt-head” and in a commercial for Buell Motorcycle Company. The Reverend’s service is at Jergel’s Rhythm Grille. Assisting in the service are Junior Brown, The Blasters, and Big Sandy. 7 p.m. 285 Northgate Dr., Warrendale. (RH, CM)

It would be stuffy and pretentious to call him a Renaissance Man, so let’s say Michael Bolton is one of those Renaissance Dudes. Bolton has made his mark as a singer, songwriter, actor, movie producer, and philanthropist … and he ain’t bad looking either. In 2012, at the age of 59, he was featured in People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” issue. But if it’s music you’re after, Bolton is coming to The Palace Theatre in Greensburg to reprise some of his greatest hits, from “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You” to (if you behave yourself) maybe even a live version of his viral video sensation “Jack Sparrow.” 7:30 p.m. 21 W. Otterman St., Greensburg. (EC.MV)

Saturday, December 9

Pigeons Playing Ping Pong helped Pittsburghers to party last New Year’s Eve when they opened for Lotus at Stage AE. This year, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong headline Mr. Smalls. Combining funk, rock, and electronica, the band members create feel-good, laid-back tunes in a Grateful-Dead-meets-Sublime kind of way. The result is as unique as their name. They always bring energy to their fans, called “The Flock,” who just can’t get enough. The group formed in 2009 in Baltimore and released its first LP, preposterously titled Funk EP, in 2010. Since then, the album titles have stuck to the P-motif of the band’s name: Psychology in 2014, Pleasure in 2016, and Pizazz in 2017. Even if jam bands aren’t your thing, the subtle island undertones in songs like “Couldn’t We All” may leave you asking the bartender for a little umbrella in your drink. Magic Beans open. 8:30 p.m. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. (EC, CM)

Wednesday, December 13

The 2005 Grammys: Melissa Etheridge, bald from chemotherapy to combat breast cancer, honored the late Janis Joplin with a searing performance of “Piece of My Heart.” It was an awesome moment in a career filled with peaks. Etheridge was already a two-time Grammy winner for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance: in 1993 for “Ain’t It Heavy” and in 1995 for “Come to My Window.” The latter appears on 1993’s multiplatinum Yes I Am. She won an Oscar for “I Need to Wake Up” from 2006’s An Inconvenient Truth. Her journey began at eight in Leavenworth, Kansas, when she started playing the guitar. She attended Berklee College of Music in Boston for three semesters, but left to pursue a career in Los Angeles. Her eponymous debut was released in 1988. She’s released 12 albums since, including 2008’s  A New Thought for Christmas. She will play both holiday songs and hits at the Palace Theatre. Additionally, a representative from the Marine Corps Toys for Tots will be at her merchandise booth collecting unwrapped toys. 8 p.m. 21 W. Otterman St., Greensburg. (CM)

Thursday, December 14

Social Justice Disco is a collaboration between area musicians Phat Man Dee and Liz Berlin. The former is a jazz singer; the latter is a founding member of Rusted Root. They call their music “songs to fight fascists by.” These songs include originals and covers, such as “Have You Been To Jail for Justice?” (That song was written by local musician and activist Anne Feeney and was popularized by Peter, Paul and Mary.) Their album is expected to be out winter 2018. You can catch the duo’s first live performance at Shine the Light with Social Justice Disco at the Jewish Community Center. Other performers include Johnny Creed Coe, SunBear Coe, Pastor Deryck Tines & the Lemington Gospel Chorale, Miguel Sague Jr., and Ezra Smith and Christina Springer. The American Jewish Museum’s Out of Many: Stories of Migration—photographs which examine immigrants’ and migrants’ roles in shaping the United States—will also be displayed. 7 p.m. 5738 Forbes Ave., Squirrel Hill. (CM)

When you hear the term “singer-songwriter,” you tend to think of somebody doing folk-type tunes with a guitar—but think again, because here comes Jeffrey Osborne. Pittsburgh Cultural Trust has booked Osborne into town for a show called “Soul Sessions.” Doesn’t matter whether you call it soul or funk or R&B; Osborne has done it for a long time at a high level. Born into a musical family, he is one of 12 children of the late jazz trumpeter Clarence “Legs” Osborne. Young Jeffrey broke into the big time during the 1970s, starting as the drummer and co-lead vocalist (with his brother Billy) for the band L.T.D., then becoming the main front man. Osborne went solo in 1980 and has had quite a career since then: 12 albums (including five that made top-10 on the U.S. R&B charts), hit singles like the 1988 “She’s on the Left,” TV and movie work, and writing for and/or recording with female vocalists such as Whitney Houston and Dionne Warwick. Osborne performs here at the August Wilson Center. 8 p.m. 980 Liberty Ave., Cultural District. (MV)

Friday, December 15

Casting Crowns and for KING & COUNTRY will co-headline the PPG Paints Arena for A Glorious Christmas Tour. From student-worship band to arena act, independent albums to Billboard’s top-selling Christian music act since 2007, Casting Crowns have risen meteorically since forming in 1999 in Daytona Beach, Florida. Meanwhile the members, now based in Georgia, haven’t forgotten their roots. Every one still works “in ministry in their respective churches,” according to the band’s website. This includes frontman Mark Hall. “Oh My Soul,” from 2016’s The Very Next Thing, addresses his earlier cancer diagnosis. Casting Crowns broke with their self-titled 2003 album, which went platinum. They released an EP, It’s Finally Christmas, this year.

For KING & COUNTRY were in Pittsburgh last year when they co-headlined Winter Jam, an annual Christian music tour. The duo is Australian brothers Joel and Luke Smallbone. 2014’s Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong, their sophomore album, addresses marriage, parenthood, and a life-threatening illness suffered by Luke. They also released a Christmas album this year, Christmas: Live in Phoenix. 7:30 p.m. 1001 5th Ave., Uptown. (CM)

Sunday, December 17

Singer/songwriter and guitarist Aimee Mann is in concert at the Carnegie Lecture Hall of Oakland. Mann, who co-founded and fronted the 1980s group ‘Til Tuesday, has had a successful solo career with songs that are melodic, smart, and humorous. “Pavlov’s Bell,” “That’s Just What You Are” and “Freeway” provide great examples of her songwriting. Mann is married to musician Michael Penn (brother of actors Sean and the late Chris Penn). Her latest album, Mental Illness, was released in March and features the songs “Goose Snow Cone” and “Patient Zero.” This September, Mann contributed a song “Everybody Bleeds” to Season 1, episode 2 of the Netflix series “Big Mouth.” Special guest is Ted Leo. 8 p.m. Sold out. 4400 Forbes Ave, Oakland. (RH)

Aimee Mann having fun in a 2008 concert at Manchester Academy. Photo: Andy (6tee-zeven) and Wikipedia.

Aimee Mann having fun in a 2008 concert at Manchester Academy. Photo: Andy (6tee-zeven) and Wikipedia.

Wednesday, December 20

Donnie Iris—a.k.a. King Cool, a distinguished member of the region’s rock royalty—will be at Jergel’s Rhythm Grille with longtime bandmate Mark Avsec for a most exceptional event: a book signing. Iris and his popular band of the 1980s are the subjects of a new biography, The Story of Donnie Iris and The Cruisers, by rock journalist D.X. Ferris. The book’s official release is slated for 2018 but advance copies are coming hot off the press to Jergel’s. Iris, born in New Castle and raised in Ellwood City, first broke onto the national scene with a group called the Jaggerz (named, of course, after those things that grow on jaggerbushes). Their 1970 hit “The Rapper” reached no. 2 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart. Later that decade, Iris and Avsec met through the Ohio-based band Wild Cherry, then teamed up to form The Cruisers. National-charting hits by The Cruisers in the ‘80s included singles “Ah Leah” and “Love Is Like a Rock” and albums Back on the Streets and King Cool. The band has re-united and/or re-formed at various times, with further releases including the 2006 album Ellwood City. The book signing—with Iris, Avsec, and author Ferris all present to chat and mingle—is 4:30 – 6:30 p.m., followed by an onstage interview led by comedian/radio personality Jim Krenn at 7 p.m. No cover charge. 285 Northgate Dr., Warrendale. (RH, MV)

Pittsburgh Winery and the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust are teaming up for Home for the Holidays, a rock, blues, and soul entertainment extravaganza featuring local artists performing holiday classics and other top songs. Trio+ and The Steeltown Horns will accompany the Home for the Holidays performers, featuring (in alphabetical order): Margot Bingham (from Boardwalk Empire Band), Scott Blasey (from The Clarks), Clinton Clegg (from The Commonheart), Bill Deasy (from The Gathering Field), Kelsey Friday (from Brownie Mary), Kevin Garrett, Joy Ike, and Jimbo Jackson (from Jimbo and the Soupbones), and Phil MacDowell (from Buzz Poets) with Florraine Darlin, Billy Price, and Lyndsey Smith (from Soul Distribution). Tim Gaber, owner of Pittsburgh Winery and a member of The Buzz Poets, said, “This production is an amazing musical and emotional journey that gives the audience all the feels. Home for the Holidays showcases the incredible level of talent our city has given birth to, featuring vocalists, songwriters, and musicians doing unique renditions of holiday classics along with their own original hit songs.” Several guest radio personalities will emcee throughout the evening. At the event, nonperishable food (no glass jars or bottles) and household items will be collected for donation to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. A VIP ticket is also available which includes a pre-show wine tasting by Pittsburgh Winery and a one-year Partners membership in the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. 7:30 p.m. Benedum Center, 237 7th Ave., Cultural District. (RH)

Friday, December 22

In 1996, musician/rock band manager Paul O’Neill hit upon the idea that Christmas tunes could be totally progressive and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra was born. The TSO plays holiday music, traditional and originals, with a Rush level of elaboration and technical skill, all of which has racked up millions of album sales. You probably know the band’s wailing, synth-infused version of “Christmas Eve / Sarajevo,” a.k.a. “Carol of the Bells.” It’s one of the most hardcore tracks that DJs pull out every December. Music like this deserves the arena treatment, with a great light show and all, so the TSO has been touring major venues at the holiday season annually. This year’s tour is somewhat different, for tragic reasons: Paul O’Neill passed away from chronic health problems in April, and bassist Dave Z (David Zablidowsky) died in a motor vehicle accident in July. But the band plays on—surely, as these men would have wished—and the TSO visits PPG Paints Arena for matinee and evening performances. The show is billed as a newly enhanced production of last year’s theme “The Ghosts of Christmas Eve.” 3 and 8 p.m. 1001 Fifth Ave., Uptown. (RH/MV)

Tuesday, December 26

Bill Deasy’s musical career began in earnest in a Grove City apartment when he and a few locals got together for a jam session. Those guys, The Gathering Field, became the ’90s-era regional favorite. Since that humble beginning, Deasy has stacked up a résumé that would help him “make it” in a place like New York or L.A. He’s had a contract with Atlantic Records, opened for Springsteen and Dylan, and his “Good Things Are Happening” was a theme song for a “Good Morning America” video. Yet he’s remained rooted in Pittsburgh. In particular, Deasy likes to celebrate the day after Christmas here with his annual Boxing Day show—that’s an official holiday in the United Kingdom, Canada, and other British-related countries, as you may know—so join him for a tuneful Boxing Day at Club Cafe. Good things are indeed happening! 8 p.m. 56-58 S. 12th St., South Side. (RH)

Friday, December 29

Tom Petty’s music exists outside of time. Take “You Don’t Know How It Feels,” which sounds like a cut from Heartbreakers’ classics like 1979’s Damn the Torpedoes or 1981’s Hard Promises. However, it appears on 1994’s Wildflowers, his second solo album. It was a hit then, even as grunge and boy bands ruled the airwaves, and it sounds just as fresh now. The local musicians of Pittsburgh Plays Petty, a tribute at Mr. Smalls, will mourn and celebrate the legendary singer-songwriter, who died October 2 at 66. The lineup includes veterans such as Bill Deasy, formerly of The Gathering Field, and Jim Donovan, formerly of Rusted Root and now of Sun King Warriors. Chet Vincent of Chet Vincent & The Big Bend will perform, as will Nathan Zoob, an accomplished solo artist and a member of Wreck Loose. Angela Autumn, who has appeared on CBS’s “Pittsburgh Today Live” and at the Feed More Festival at Stage AE, will also play. Wicked-good guitarist Byron Nash is also on the bill. For the complete lineup, check out the event page. Tickets sold out quickly, so a second night has been added for January 6, 2018. 8 p.m. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. (CM)

Saturday, December 30

The Commonheart is one of the hottest bands on the local music scene. Led by frontman Clinton Clegg and his impressive rock/soul pipes, the band delivers inspiring performances. Strong guitar, rhythm, and horn sections along with harmonious background singers add to the aural delight. Since releasing their first full-length album, Grown, last year, The Commonheart has been touring the country far and wide—but there’s no place like home for the holidays, and the band has a special show lined up at Club Cafe.  It’s a tribute to Daptone Records artists Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley, both of whom passed away recently. If you are familiar with the music of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings—and if you know why Bradley was called “the screaming eagle of soul”—then you can imagine what the sounds will be like when The Commonheart honors their music. 9 p.m., 56-58 S. 12th St., South Side. Tickets are going fast online and are being sold as a “two-show pass”: You also get entry to The Commonheart’s New Year’s Eve show, the next night at Mr. Smalls. The Club Cafe show is sold out but separate tickets for only the Mr. Smalls event are available, with Cisco Kid and Selecta on that bill as well: Dec. 31 at 9 p.m., 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. (RH/MV)

Sunday, December 31

Lotus are no strangers to Pittsburgh on New Year’s Eve. In 2016 they brought in the new year at Stage AE. In 2015, they played two shows at Stage AE: one in January and another on New Year’s Eve. They return to Stage AE once again helping Pittsburghers usher in the New Year. Lotus, originally from Indiana, are known for incorporating electronic elements into their music. On their latest album, 2016’s Eat the Light, they tried something new: vocals, with a different guest musician on every track. In concert, the band uses elaborate lighting and occasionally performs themed shows. One 2009 concert saw David Bowie costumes. During themed shows, the band plays covers as well as originals. (Some Bowie covers, if not an outright theme, would definitely be appropriate to honor the late Ziggy Stardust.) Doors open 8 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (CM)

Rick Handler is the executive producer of Entertainment Central.

Christopher Maggio (CM) and Mike Vargo (MV) made substantial contributions to this guide.

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