May 2024 Concert Guide: Heart, Greta Van Fleet, Natasha Bedingfield, Social Distortion, and They Might Be Giants

Heart performs for service members during the 2010 VH1 Divas Salute the Troops concert at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. (Photo: The Marines and Wikipedia)

Heart performs for service members during the 2010 VH1 Divas Salute the Troops concert at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. (Photo: The Marines and Wikipedia)

The two biggest concerts this month are both at PPG Paints Arena. One is a double bill with the long-established, successful classic rockers Heart and Cheap Trick. The other features a much younger group, Greta Van Fleet, who are propelling rock and roll into the future. They Might Be Giants are playing not one, but three sold out shows at Mr. Smalls Theatre. In the mood for a classic punk rock show? How about Social Distortion and Bad Religion, also at Mr. Smalls. Ben Gibbard does double duty at the Pete as the lead singer of both The Postal Service and Death Cab for Cutie. The uber-talented Joe Jackson plays The Palace, and Max Champion music could be on the set list, too.

Good acts at Stage AE include Natasha Bedingfield and Keke Palmer who will headline Pride on the Shore. The Decemberists and X Ambassadors also play the venue. British blues rock guitarist Joanne Shaw Taylor is in concert at the Byham Theater. There’s also a cross genre double bill at Pittsburgh Winery with Scott Blasey and Justin Fabus.

This Guide features (in chronological order) Spotlight Picks, Other Shows of Interest, and Big Shows on the Horizon. Get out and see what pleases you, whether it’s one of our concert picks or something entirely different. Mike Vargo (M.V.) also contributed to this guide.

Spotlight Picks

Wednesday, May 1

Much like two young English musicians a generation and a half before her, Joanne Shaw Taylor found inspiration in American blues music. The music of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and others inspired Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. Taylor’s blues music interest was piqued by Stevie Ray Vaughn. Having picked up the guitar at a young age, Taylor perfected her craft and started playing gigs around England. A friend of the Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart heard her play and told him about her. Stewart then began mentoring Taylor. Other musical admirers include Jimmy Cliff, Stevie Wonder, and Annie Lennox.

Taylor’s career has been very successful including a series of no. 1 selling Billboard blues albums. Her 12th album, Heavy Soul, produced by Kevin Shirley (Black Crowes, Journey, Aerosmith) is set for release on June 7 through Joe Bonamassa’s Journeyman Records. Taylor spoke about her new album Heavy Soul. “It’s out in June and I recorded it at the famous RCA studios in Nashville. So yeah, it was a really fun album to do. I worked with Kevin Shirley again who produces a lot with Joe Bonamassa [Bonamassa owns Journeyman Records which Taylor is on] and I did a previous album with him and always wanted to work with him again. It just hadn’t worked out with Covid and all kinds of other stuff. So it was really a fun album to make.” Taylor even has her own PBS special. See our full story and interview with Taylor. She will be performing at the Byham Theater. 8 p.m. 101 6th St., Cultural District. (R.H.)

Joanne Shaw Taylor.

Joanne Shaw Taylor.

Thursday, May 2

It looked like Chicago all over again! Back in the 1960s, the classic rock band Chicago started out with the name “Chicago Transit Authority”—until the actual CTA objected, and the band dropped the allusion to trains and buses. Then in the early 2000s in Seattle, frontman Ben Gibbard and his mates started an indie group called The Postal Service. And the actual USPS objected. This one turned out harmoniously, as the band and the actual entity even formed a mutual-promo relationship for a while. Since then, The Postal Service (the band) has had an idiosyncratic existence marked by hiatuses (hiati?) and reactivations, and no studio albums since 2003’s Give Up. But harmonious relationships persist! If Ben Gibbard’s name rings a loud bell, he also founded and fronts Death Cab for Cutie. And now the two bands are touring together—legendary indie rockers Death Cab for Cutie (latest studio album, 2022’s Asphalt Meadows, now released in a new acoustic version), plus mysterious sometimes supergroup The Postal Service, both on one bill, with Gibbard pulling double duty. Doesn’t get much more odd or historic than this. Catch the two bands sharing a stage, along with guest act Slow Pulp, at Petersen Events Center. 7:30 p.m. 3719 Terrace St., Oakland. (C.M., M.V.) 

Tuesday, May 7

The Decemberists’ fourth album, The Crane Wife, was one of their biggest. It permeated numerous facets of popular culture. “The Crane Wife 3,” a cut from the album, appeared on “Scrubs,” and the band performed it on the season six finale of “Parks and Recreation.” However, the song “16 Military Wives” from their third album Picaresque, first put them on people’s radar. The Portland, Oregon, group has amassed a gathering over the past two decades with its indie, folk-rock sound. The Decemberists are touring in advance of their new album, As It Ever Was, So It Will Be Again, which is set for release on June 14. Their concerts are known for audience participation, so be ready to contribute to their show at the Stage AE. Opening are Ratboys. Doors Open at 7 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (C.M., R.H.)

Thursday, May 9 through Saturday, May 11

They Might Be Giants started in 1982 with two guys named John, who lived in Brooklyn and recorded energetic rock songs with zany lyrics (like this one). The next 30 years or so breaks down like this: over 20 studio albums, the big crossover radio hit (“Birdhouse in Your Soul”), themes for shows like “Malcolm in the Middle,” a new generation of young fans following a slew of children’s albums, Grammys, and platinum sales. Whew! 2018 offered little in the way of a breather. The duo released three new albums, I Like Fun, which features contributions from the group’s live lineup. My Murdered Remains and The Escape Team were the other two. Their latest release is Book, an art and music project that has garnered a Grammy nomination for package design. Mr. Smalls Theatre is immortalized by none other than They Might Be Giants (with a shout-out to defunct Pittsburgh music venue Electric Banana). They will be playing three sold-out shows at Mr. Smalls. Each show will have a dramatically different set list. With 23 different albums that won’t be difficult! 8 p.m. all three nights. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. (C.M., R.H.)

Friday, May 10

Social Distortion, an American punk rock band which formed in 1978 in Fullerton, California, plays Stage AE this month. Frontman Mike Ness started the group with Dennis Danell in high school. After their debut album, 1983’s Mommy’s Little Monster, things almost fell apart—the band went on hiatus while Ness entered rehab. He and the other members persevered and released Prison Bound in 1988. “Ball and Chain” and “Story of My Life,” two hits from their self-titled third album, remain immensely popular 31 years after their initial release. Danell died in 2000, and Ness remains the group’s sole original member. (Drummer David Hidalgo Jr. is the son of David Hidalgo, guitarist and singer for Los Lobos.)  Their last record was Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes. It was released in 2011, but Social D often perform new songs on tour, so enjoy some early listens. Coheadlining is Bad Religion, who also formed in California, Los Angeles to be exact. They are a punk rock band known not only for their hard rock, but also their vocal harmonies. Doors open 6 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (C.M., R. H.)

Saturday, May 11

Scott Blasey lead singer of The Clarks and Justin Fabus, who fronts his own band are both on the same bill at Pittsburgh Winery. Blasey is a rock and roller from Connellsville while Fabus is a country artist from Dormont. Three the Hard Way is a new EP from Blasey. He has released three previous solo albums. Fabus has been busy performing at Rivers Casino and Crafthouse most recently and on his latest EP, Shelter From the Storm, he cowrote a song (“Somebody Like You“) with the legendary Richard Marx. This promises to be a fun evening of great local music. 8 p.m. Pittsburgh Winery  2809 Penn Ave., Strip District. (R.H.)

Saturday, May 18

Greta Van Fleet  is a melodic, hard rocking band that is very reminiscent of Led Zeppelin. Lead singer Josh Kiszka’s wailing vocals sound evocative of Led Zeppelin’s lead singer, Robert Plant, who reportedly likes the group. Some people have called out the Frankenmuth, Michigan band for those similarities. Whether they have or haven’t flown too closely to previous stars’ works, Greta Van Fleet has created music that people wanted to hear and did it well. The band is composed of the brothers Kiszka—Josh (lead vocals), Sam (bass guitar/keyboards), and Jake (lead guitar)—and Danny Wagner (drums). The group’s name is from the name of a hometown resident, Gretna Van Fleet, who gave them her OK. They are a relatively young band, just formed in 2012, but have enjoyed great success. From the Fires, their EP which was released in November 2017, hit no. 1 on the Billboard U.S. hard rock chart and No. 4 on the U.S. rock chart. 2021 saw the release of Battle at Garden’s Gate. It reached no. 1 on both Billboard’s Top Rock Albums  and Top Hard Rock Albums charts. Starcatcher, the group’s latest album, was released in 2023, debuted at no. 8 on the Billboard Top 200. Catch the men from Frankenmuth at PPG Paints Arena. 7 p.m. Special guest is Geese. 1001 Fifth Ave., Uptown. (R.H.)

Thursday, May 23

The classic rock group Heart has a popular song about a “Magic Man,” but how about the magic created by the core of Heart—sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson. Ann’s vocals are spellbinding and Nancy is a wizard on the guitar. The sisters were “military brats” as their father was a major in the Marine Corps and was stationed in various locations before retiring to Bellevue, Washington. Their original musical inspiration was seeing The Beatles perform on the “Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964. Heart has been nominated for four Grammy Awards and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013. Top 40 singles for Heart include “Crazy on You,” “Barracuda,” “What About Love,” and “All I want to Do is Make Love to You.” An especially pretty ballad (and 1978 album title) from the band is “Dog & Butterfly.”

Cheap Trick is a quintessential ’70s rock band and a staple on the classic rock touring circuit. They sang “Mommy’s alright, Daddy’s alright, they just seem a little weird, surrender” for their big hit “Surrender.” Other highly successful songs are  “I Want You to Want Me,” and “The Flame.” Cheap Trick formed in Rockford, Illinois, in 1973. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016. Robin Zander, Rick Nielsen, and crew’s most recent album is In Another World, released in 2021. 8 p.m. PPG Paints Arena, 1001 Fifth Ave., Uptown. (R.H.)

Tuesday, May 28

To baseball historians, Joe Jackson was the great outfielder accused of conspiring to fix the 1919 World Series in the Black Sox scandal. But there’s another Joe Jackson, active on the music scene today, and he’s a five-tool player. This modern Jackson writes, sings, plays keyboards and harmonica, and blows a sax. His genres include rock, pop, jazz, classical(!), and updated big-band swing. Jackson started performing in 1970 as a teenager, and is still creating new material at age 69. Over the years he has moved from his native England to New York to Berlin, released 22 albums, and collaborated with many other artists. Jackson’s newest album is last year’s What a Racket!, and he’s coming here on his Two Rounds of Racket Tour. Concerts feature a double set: Jackson singing solo from his repertoire, and Jackson with a band delivering “the first performance in 100 years of the songs of forgotten music hall genius Max Champion”—or so the story goes! The historical setup is rumored to be a hoax but the songs are quite interesting anyhow. Catch Joe Jackson at The Palace Theatre. 8 p.m. 21 W. Otterman St., Greensburg. (M.V.)

X Ambassadors started in Ithaca, New York, but Virginia gave them their first break. Imagine Dragons’ frontman Dan Reynolds heard X Ambassadors’ “Unconsolable” on a local radio station while at a hospital in Norfolk, Virginia. He helped the band get signed to Imagine Dragons’ label, Interscope. Members of Imagine Dragons played on cuts like “Fear” and “Low Life” from X Ambassadors’ sophomore album (and major label debut), 2015’s VHS. 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 genre-bending, narrative-rendering ambassadors. The group is touring in support of their latest LP, Townie. Special guests are New West and Rowan Drake. Doors open 6:30 p.m. Stage AE, 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (C.M., R.H.)

X Ambassadors. Photo: Abby Gillardi and Wikipedia.

X Ambassadors in concert. (Photo: Abby Gillardi and Wikipedia)

Friday, May 31 and Sunday, June 2

Pride on the Shore, Pittsburgh’s annual LGBTQ+ music festival, opens Friday night, and some out-of-the-loop straight people may wonder why the headliner is English pop/rock singer Natasha Bedingfield, who happens to be overtly hetero. But Bedingfield loves performing at gay clubs and Pride events. She has said she’s learned a lot from her LGBTQ+ friends; feels they really understand her music, and her songs “Unwritten” and “Wild Horses” have become de facto coming-out anthems. Other acts on the opening-night bill: Actor/singer Keke Palmer visits on the heels of her long-awaited latest studio album, last year’s Big Boss; she’s also cast in an upcoming heist film called The Pickup, with Eddie Murphy. Singer/dancer JoJo Siwa, who recently shined as a guest judge on “Ru Paul’s Drag Race All Stars 8,” brings her glow to Pittsburgh fans. Hannah Rad—host of “The Hannah Rad Show” on Twitch—makes it a road show with an appearance here. And global DJ Kitty Glitter adds emphatic Australian drag beats to the festival. 7 p.m. at Stage AE, 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. 

Day two of Pride on the Shore happens Sunday, June 2 starting at 3 pm. Featured acts are the amazing Chappell Roan, the equally smashing Jess Glynne, the artist known as Slayyyter (with three y’s, thank you), and plenty more including local talent. Whether you’re buying a two-day ticket or just for opening night, reserve quickly. Pride on the Shore is a hot item. Enough said. (M.V.) 

Other Shows of Interest

Wednesday, May 1
Uriah Heap and Saxon (Roxian Theatre)

Saturday, May 4
Sarah Shook & the Disarmers (Club Cafe)

Tuesday, May 7
Frank Cunimondo Trio (Greer Cabaret Lounge)

Thursday, May 9
Frank Vieira and The Hobbs Sisters (Jergel’s Rhythm Grille)

Friday, May 10
John Hiatt (Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall)
Los Straitjackets (Club Cafe)

Tuesday, May 14
Amy Grant (Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall)
Dirty Honey (Roxian Theatre)
Theron Brown (Greer Cabaret Lounge)

Friday, May 17
Better Than Ezra (Rivers Casino Event Center)
Millvale Music Festival
Billy Price (Rivers Casino)
The Gathering Field (Pittsburgh Winery)

Saturday, May 18
Good Brother Earl (Pittsburgh Winery)

Monday, May 20
Matthew Morrison (Greer Cabaret Theater)

Tuesday, May 21
String Cheese Incident (Stage AE)

Wednesday, May 22
Cahal Dunne (Palace Theatre)

Thursday, May 23
Everclear (Jergel’s Rhythm Grille)

Friday, May 24
Big Blitz (Thunderbird Cafe)

Saturday, May 25
Joe Grushecky and The Houserockers (Bottlerocket Social Club)
New Invisible Joy (Pittsburgh Winery)

Big Shows on the Horizon

June 1
Kenny Chesney (Acrisure Stadium)

June 5
Bleachers (Stage AE)

June 12
T-Pain (Stage AE)

June 15
Robert Plant and Alison Krauss (Star Lake)

June 16
Lionel Richie and Earth, Wind & Fire (PPG Paints Arena)

June 19
New Kids on the Block, Paula Abdul, & Jazzy Jeff (Star Lake)

June 20
Brothers Osborne (Stage AE)

June 29
Hootie and the Blowfish (Star Lake)

June 30
The Beach Boys (Stage AE)

Rick Handler is the executive producer of Entertainment Central.

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