October 2018 Concert Guide: Elton John, Steely Dan, Metallica, Little Steven, and Hippo Campus

Elton John performing in Skien, Norway in 2009. (Photo: Ernst Vikne and Wikipedia)

Elton John performing in Skien, Norway in 2009. (Photo: Ernst Vikne and Wikipedia)

The three big acts visiting Pittsburgh this month are Sir Elton John, Steely Dan, and Metallica. John, like Paul Simon and Lynyrd Skynyrd recently, is visiting Pittsburgh on his farewell tour. Steely Dan will bring their big catalog of classic hits, playing Pittsburgh for the first time since the death of band member Walter Becker last year. Metallica will provide a hard rock’n good time at PPG Paints Arena.

Another big name is Lindsey Buckingham, who has a Pittsburgh stop a month before his former bandmates in Fleetwood Mac. This month’s rising stars include the band Hippo Campus and Courtney Barnett. Bruce Springsteen’s right hand man, and a major talent on his own, Little Steven, brings his Disciples of Soul to Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall for a fun concert.

If you like a big percussion sound, or a little international flair, then Tago: Korean Drums II, here as part of the Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts, could be the just the ticket for you. Southern rockers Government Mule and Chris Robinson Brotherhood both have Pittsburgh dates. Violent Femmes also make an appearance. On the hometown heroes front, Bill Toms is celebrating 20 years with his band Hard Rain with a concert at Club Cafe. Sadly we have to note the passing of talented rapper Malcolm Miller whose music and love for his hometown will be greatly missed. Another person gone too soon is noted Pittsburgh bassist Tommy Bellin. His life will be celebrated with a concert at Jergel’s with some top-notch talent performing in his honor. There’s never a better chance than now to get out and attend some concerts.

Monday, October 8

“You go back, Jack, Do it Again” is a refrain lyric from Steely Dan’s 1972 song “Do It Again,” and Steely Dan members Donald Fagen and Walter Becker kept doing it, creating hit songs that is. The band’s sound lives in the space between rock, jazz, and R&B with Fagen’s yin of beautiful, nasally lead vocals and outstanding keyboards playing off the yang of Becker’s killer guitar riffs and strong backing vocals. Unfortunately Becker died last year and Fagen is soldiering on without him. The band was named after a series of strap-on dildos mentioned in the William S. Burroughs novel Naked Lunch. Steely Dan always used top quality musicians and producers for their songs. Michael McDonald can even be heard singing backing vocals on several of their songs including “Peg.” Their set list at Heinz Hall could include hits like “Kid Charlemagne,” “Reelin’ in the Years.” “FM (No Static At All),” “Aja,” and “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number.” 7 p.m. 600 Penn Ave.,Cultural District (RH) 

Donald Fagen of Steely Dan at the keyboards during a 2017 concert. (Photo: Raph_PH and Wikipedia).

Donald Fagen of Steely Dan at the keyboards during a 2017 concert. (Photo: Raph_PH and Wikipedia).

Wednesday, October 10

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” is an outstanding song by the English piano rocker Elton John. It’s also the last song of his encore set on his Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour which visits PPG Paints Arena for a sold out concert. John is one of the world’s best-selling musical acts. He’s sold over 300 million records (wonder if that number of records would reach the moon from Earth). John’s charted more than fifty Top 40 hits, including seven consecutive No. 1 US albums, 58 Billboard Top 40 singles, 27 Top 10, four No. 2 and nine at No. 1. And from 1970–2000 he’s had at least one song in the Billboard Hot 100. One reason for that success is his long running songwriting partnership with lyricist Bernie Taupin. Taupin would write the lyrics and give them to John who would then compose the music.

In 1970, “Your Song,” from his second, eponymous album, was the first tune that really got John noticed. He was a sight to see in his early years with his stylish eyeglasses and flamboyant outfits. John, a very talented piano player and singer, created songs that ruled the rock radio airwaves, especially in the 1970s. Those songs included: “Daniel,” “Honky Cat,” “Rocket Man,” “Crocodile Rock,” “Bennie and the Jets,” and Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting.” John’s touch has woven its way through the cultural fabric in other ways too. He rewrote the lyrics to his “Candle in the Wind,” originally about Marilyn Monroe, to reflect the life of Princess Diana after her tragic death in 1997. John’s also excelled on Broadway and received Tony Award nominations for Best Original Musical Score for The Lion King, Aida, and Billy Elliott. He won for Aida. Being a gay man he fought for more funds to combat AIDS and raised large sums himself with his Elton John AIDS Foundation. He is retiring to spend more time with his husband David Furnish and their two children. John has been a part-time resident of Atlanta, Georgia, since 1991. 8 p.m. 1001 Fifth Ave., Uptown. (RH)

Thursday, October 18

Metallica has experienced ups and downs for over 35 years, a fact which makes how the band members are still  together and touring all the sweeter. Shortly before the band recorded its debut album, 1983’s Kill ’Em All, the other members fired Dave Mustaine, Metallica’s original lead guitarist, for his excessive substance abuse. (Mustaine later formed Megadeth.) The group’s third album, 1986’s Master of Puppets, was its first to go gold, but before it was certified as such, bassist Cliff Burton died in Sweden after a tour bus accident and rollover during which he was pinned under the bus. Metallica soldiered on with bassist Jason Newsted and somehow achieved even greater success with 1991’s multi-platinum The Black Album. By 2000, though, Metallica alienated some fans when it sued Napster for file-sharing. Then, four years later, the members were in therapy, as documented in the film Some Kind of Monster. All their trials and tribulations are (mostly) behind them, and Metallica comes to PPG Paints Arena. Their latest album is 2016’s Hardwired… to Self-Destruct. 7:30 p.m. 1001 Fifth Ave., Uptown. (CM)

Lindsey Buckingham was a guitarist, singer, and songwriter for Fleetwood Mac from 1975 until this year when they wanted to go on tour and he did not. Too bad, but Buckingham is a top musician in his own right. With a distinctive lead guitar playing style (he picks the strings with his fingers and fingernails, eschewing a guitar pick) and good singing voice he will continue along for now with his solo career. As a solo artist Buckingham has released six studio albums and three live albums. Buckingham’s latest album, Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie, is a collaboration with his bandmate at the time, Christine McVie. The material was going to be included in a new Fleetwood Mac album, but with many delays they decided to release it as their own project in 2017. Buckingham will be releasing Solo Anthology: The Best of Lindsey Buckingham on October 5. Special guest is J.S. Ondara. 8 p.m. Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall, 510 E. 10th St., Munhall. (RH)

Tago: Korean Drum II is a U.S. premier piece for South Korea’s Tago production company. Tago means “Lighting Up the World by beating drums” and this show does just that with a mixture of traditional Korean drums and a hint of martial arts. Their show info says, “Korean drums play an important part in traditional Korean music – from folk music to royal court music, it’s an art that has been passed from generation to generation for hundreds of years. The music that Tago brings to the Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts is the survivor from what has been handed down from the performers ancestors during their 5,000-year history.”  Co-presented: 2018-2019 Cohen & Grigsby Trust Presents. This show is part of the Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts. 8 p.m. Byham Theater, 101 6th St. (RH)

Friday, October 19

One of the best artists in contemporary rock ‘n’ roll is coming to Pittsburgh: Courtney Barnett. She pairs deadpan lyrics with a deadpan vocal delivery, and like her rock forebears Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain, she plays a mean southpaw. Hailing from Sydney, Australia, she rose to international prominence with 2013’s The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas. Her brilliant debut LP, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, followed in 2015. She released Tell Me How You Really Feel, her sophomore album, this year. In between LPs, she recorded Lotta Sea Lice with one of rock’s other great contemporaries, Kurt Vile. The pair wrote originals, covered other artists’ songs, and covered each other’s songs. Her take on Vile’s “Peepin’ Tom” is achingly beautiful. She closed the 41st season of “Saturday Night Live,” and let’s hope she brings a similar energy to Stage AE. Doors open 7 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (CM)

Monday, October 22

Pittsburgh has gotten to watch the rise of a great indie-rock band, Hippo Campus. The group gave a landmark performance at the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival in 2017 and later that year played Mr. Smalls. Now comes a headlining show at Stage AE. Their music combines Animal Collective-esque harmonies with Vampire Weekend’s world-music rhythms. What’s even more impressive is how fully formed the group sounds despite the members’ youth. (Of course, they had two EPs, 2014’s Bashful Creatures and 2015’s South, to realize their sound.) The Animal Collective parallels are sure to persist, for like their noise-rock forebears, all the members perform under eccentric stage names: Turntan, Stitches, Espo, and Beans. DeCarlo Jackson is a new band member and plays trumpet. (No word on if he gets a cool name too.) Their latest EP, warm glow, is out now, fresh off the heels of their debut LP, 2017’s Landmark. Look for a new LP, Bambi, this November. The Districts open. Doors open 7 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (CM)

Wednesday, October 24

“Little Steven” or “Miami Steve” are nick names for the accomplished rock musician/writer/producer/actor Steven Van Zant. Best known as a guitarist for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, Van Zant and Springsteen ran in the same Jersey Shore music circles. They were even pre E Street Band bandmates. Van Zant was also co-founder of Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, writing many of the bands songs and producing their first three albums. Van Zant and Springsteen continued to collaborate as he toured with Springsteen and helped with the horn arrangement on “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” and the signature guitar line in “Born to Run.” Van Zant is also known for his portrayal of Silvio Dante on the TV show “The Sopranos” and as radio host of “Little Steven’s Underground Garage.” Van Zant married actress Maureen Santoro in 1982 with Springsteen as his best man and Reverend Richard Penniman (Little Richard) officiating. Little Steven will be performing with his Disciples of Soul at Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall. This is Van Zant’s Soulfire TeachRock Teacher Appreciation Tour which benefits The Rock and Roll Forever Foundation’s TeachRock program. 8 p.m. 510 E. 10th Ave., Munhall (RH)

Friday, October 26

The Violent Femmes are in the middle of a renaissance. They released We Can Do Anything in 2016, the trio’s first album in 16 years. New songs, like “Memory,” stand alongside college radio classics like “Blister in the Sun” and “Country Death Song.” The year before that, they shared the stage with Barenaked Ladies and Colin Hay during an outdoor concert at Stage AE. The Violent Femmes returned to Stage AE in 2017 for a double-bill with Echo & the Bunnymen. Now they’ve sold out Mr. Smalls. This despite how the band is approaching the big 4-0. Bassist Brian Ritchie and drummer Victor DeLorenzo formed the Violent Femmes in Milwaukee, Wisc., in 1980. Vocalist/guitarist Gordon Gano soon joined. The trio has split and regrouped two times, and DeLorenzo quit in 2013. John Sparrow, who played in the group’s backing band, the Horns of Dilemma, has since picked up the sticks. 8 p.m. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. (CM)

Saturday, October 27

Bill Toms and Hard Rain with the Soulville Horns will be rockin’ out Club Cafe tonight. Toms’ slightly raspy, deeply soulful voice and his guitar playing prowess combine with the drums, horns, and rest of the band to create a hot rock sound. Their latest release is Good For My Soul. The band also recorded a recent concert at Club Cafe, so look for a live album or some live tracks to come out sometime in the future. Tonight is a celebration of Bill Tom’s and Hard Rain 20 years as a band. Also helping with the festivities is Soulful Femme (featuring Stevee Wellons and Cheryl Rinovato). Music begins at 8 p.m. 56-58 S. 12th St., South Side. (RH)

Tuesday, October 30

Southern rock jam band Gov’t Mule follows the trail to Pittsburgh. The Mule started in ’94 as a side project for the Allman Brothers Band guitarist Warren Haynes and bassist Allen Woody, who passed on in ’00. Haynes has led the band forward through an additional 15 albums, including Shout, which reached a peak position of 32 on the U.S. album charts. The Mule’s melodic, guitar-drenched sound can be heard in songs like “Soulshine” and “Beautifully Broken.” With the Allman Brothers now gone, Gov’t Mule is a great band to get your Southern-fried rock fix from. In addition to their own songs, The Mule includes covers from such artists as The Beatles, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Led Zeppelin, Robert Johnson, and Neil Young. The Mule’s latest album is 2017’s Revolution Come…Revolution Go. Doors open at 7 p.m. Stage AE  400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (RH)

Wednesday, October 31

Chris Robinson is best known for the long-time, highly successful, collaborative effort with his brother Rich: The Black Crowes. The Robinson brothers sometimes had differing opinions on how to do things, and this led to production and touring breaks from the band. The Crowes have been in a dormant state now for a couple of years. Chris, formerly married to actress Kate Hudson, has been rolling along with what once was his side projectThe Chris Robinson Brotherhood. The band’s style is of a blues/rock nature with Robinson’s rich vocals combining with great guitar, organ, keyboard, drum work, and a touch of southern jam rock. Don’t expect to hear many Black Crowes’ tunes in the sets; Robinson and band are playing songs from their latest albums, Any Way You Love, We Know How You Feel; If You Lived Here, You Would Be Home By Now; and 2017’s Barefoot in the Head, plus songs from past side projects and noted covers like Carl Perkins’s “Boppin’ the Blues.”

Chris Robinson in a prior website bio summed up the spirit of the Brotherhood: “We don’t make music that can sell iPads. Our music will not sell you a Prius. I like that. Writing songs has always led me to good things in my life. The songwriting saved me through the dark times, and the songwriting makes it that much sweeter when it’s good. Real success can only come in pursuit of an authentic sound. We’re all very committed to this music, beyond money and egos. That’s a unique place to be.” The group’s local visit promises to be a top concert and one that may be flying under the radar. 8 p.m. Mr. Smalls, 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale.  (RH)

Several Other Suggested Shows

Saturday, October 6

Prog-rock group Kansas, is actually from Kansas, Topeka specifically. The group had a heartland rock sound that was a sweet mix of vocal harmonies, keyboards, guitars, drums, and violin. Kansas didn’t get a really big taste of success until the albums Leftoverture (1976) and Point of Know Return (1977), with hit singles: “Carry On Wayward Son,” “Point of Know Return,” and “Dust in the Wind.” Kansas has generated three multi-platinum albums. The band is celebrating the 40th anniversary of Point of Know Return” and will play the album in its entirety along with other Kansas favorites and deep cuts. 8 p.m. Heinz Hall, 600 Penn Ave., Cultural District. (RH)

Friday, October 12

With every note, Andy Grammer, the singer-songwriter with the soaring voice, makes it clear that he loves music and wants to spread the joy. Though his name may not immediately be recognizable, you’ve probably had one of his hit singles, such as “Keep Your Head Up” and “Fine By Me,” stuck in your head at some point in the past few years. His latest LP is 2017’s The Good Parts. He headlines Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall. John Splithoff and Josie Dunne open. 8 p.m. 510 E. 10th Ave., Munhall. (RH, CM)

Wednesday, October 17

Lovelytheband opened for Jack White at KeyBank Pavilion this year as part of XFEST. Like Jack White’s former band The White Stripes, lovelytheband doesn’t have a bassist; unlike The White Stripes, lovelytheband has a more synth-pop sound, such as on “Broken.” The band will headline The Club at Stage AE. Morgan Saint and Blacktop Queen open. Doors open 7 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (CM)

Thursday, October 18

Many great guitarists have participated in the G3, but Eric Johnson was one of the first. (Joe Satriani started the G3 Tour, a gathering of three top lead guitar virtuosos, in 1996. Steve Vai was the other inaugural member.) Johnson is also known for 1990’s Ah Via Musicom and its Grammy-award-winning single, “Cliffs of Dover.” He’ll play that album in its entirety at The Palace Theatre. 8 p.m. 21 W. Otterman St., Greensburg. (RH, CM)

Friday, October 19

Southern Culture on the Skids performs at Jergel’s Rhythm Grille. The band formed in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in 1983. Its songs, such as “Camel Walk,” have been used in a variety of media, including movies, television, and video games. Get ready for a live show that promises rockabilly, psychedelia, and audience participation. 8 p.m. 285 Northgate Dr., Warrendale. (CM)

From 1972 through 1984, Styx had four consecutive multi-platinum albums and 16 top-40 singles on the U.S. charts. The hit parade included songs like “Lady” and “Come Sail Away,” which lead vocalist and keyboardist Dennis DeYoung wrote. (He didn’t write “Renegade,” which is often played at Steelers home games, but he wrote plenty of other big songs during that time.) He’s also released six solo albums. He and his band will perform Styx’s 1977 album The Grand Illusion, which contains “Come Sail Away,” in its entirety at The Palace Theatre. 8 p.m. 21 W. Otterman St., Greensburg. (EC, CM)

Tuesday, October 23

Seattle indie-rock band Minus the Bear is coming to the ’Burgh … apparently for the last time. The group, which features a power-pop-driven sound and some elements of electronica, is on its Farewell Tour. Minus the Bear formed in 2001 and released its debut, Highly Refined Pirates, in 2002. Standout song titles included “Monkey!!! Knife!!! Fight!!!” The band will release an EP, Fair Enough, this October. Caspian opens. Mr. Smalls Theatre, 8 p.m. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. (EC, CM)

Wednesday, October 24

Carl Palmer was a member pioneering progressive rock band, Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Spawned in the 1970s, ELP is best remembered today for an eerily mellow number, “Lucky Man.” But the boys could also do thunder and lightning—especially Palmer—and he has kept doing it with various acts including the band Asia. Palmer, noted as one of the best rock drummers of the 1960s, is touring with his group ELP Legacy. 8 p.m. Jergel’s Rhythm Grille,  285 Northgate Dr., Warrendale. (RH)

Thursday, October 25

The Detroit vocal group The Temptations signed with Motown founder Berry Gordy, Jr. in 1960 and struggled at first to record a hit song. But the Temps kept at it—working with different songwriters, working through tweaks and changes in personnel—and produced a series of widely loved no. 1 and top-ten songs, starting with “My Girl” (above) in 1964. The Temptations also showed versatility, evolving their sound and style. Along with sweet ballads they did rollicking, turn-it-up numbers like “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.” Then in the late ‘60s and ‘70s they moved into “psychedelic soul” and social-message songs, capped by the remarkable “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.” The Temptations are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and they’re still rolling. With a lineup that includes original member Otis Williams and long-timers Ron Tyson and Terry Weeks, they’ll be doing it at The Palace Theatre. 7:30 p.m. 21 W. Otterman St., Greensburg. (MV)

Friday, October 26

Cream was a British power trio super group that performed from 1965-68. Composed simply, but powerfully, of Eric Clapton on guitar, Ginger Baker on drums, and Jack Bruce on bass, the band created some seminal early hard rock songs and laid the groundwork for later bands such as Led Zeppelin. During their brief, but amazing run Cream’s songs included: “The White Room,” “Sunshine of Your Love,” “I Feel Free,” “Badge,” and “Crossroads.” Unfortunately with the death of Jack Bruce in 2014, there is zero of chance of a reunion. However family members are carrying the banner forward with their The Music of Cream: 50th Anniversary concert. Performing are Kofi Baker (Ginger’s son), Malcolm Bruce (Jack’s son), and  Will Johns (Eric’s nephew). 8 p.m. Palace Theatre, 21 W. Otterman St., Greensburg.(RH)

Sunday, October 28

Engelbert Humperdinck, born Arnold George Dorsey in India, moved to England at the age of 10. He started performing professionally in his teens, with time off for a stint in the British Army. After a bout of tuberculosis and a struggling career, his manager suggested a name change to his current stage name which was co-opted from the German composer of the 19th-century opera Hansel and Gretel. The thought behind the change was that someone with such a different name would be a secure, well-adjusted person. Both The Carpenters and Jimi Hendrix opened for Humperdinck on tour. In ’67 his hit song “Release Me” kept The Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever”/”Penny Lane” from occupying the no. 1 chart position in the U.K. His fans call themselves Humperdinckers. He’ll be at the Palace Theatre to sing his hits including “After the Lovin‘,” “Release Me,” and “The Last Waltz.” 6 p.m. 21 W. Otterman St., Greensburg. (RH)

Monday, October 29

Machine Head continues to rise despite being over 25 years into its career. The heavy metal band formed in 1991. Its highest-charting album was Bloodstone & Diamonds, which reached number 21 on the Billboard 200 in 2014. It and 2007’s critically-acclaimed The Blackening were heralded by metal fans all around. This year’s Catharsis is the group’s latest. CD/DVD Digipak editions of the album included a concert video, which contains live cuts of songs like “Now We Die.” See Machine Head live at Stage AE. Doors open 7 p.m. 400 North Shore Dr., North Shore. (CM)

Pittsburgh has tragically lost two native-born musical greats recently. One, writ large on the world stage, was Mac Miller. Another, Tommy Bellin, was notably one of Pittsburgh’s top bass guitar players. Bellin and I both grew up in Pittsburgh’s Shadyside neighborhood. We didn’t live close to one another, but whenever I did see him he was always friendly and smiling. Bellin had an impact on many people and that is evident by who is playing his Tommy Bellin: Celebration of Life Concert at Jergel’s Rhythm Grille. Scheduled to appear are: Reb Beach, Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers, No Bad JuJu, B.E. Taylor Band, Unwound, and a surprise special guest. Proceeds benefit The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. 7 p.m. 285 Northgate Dr., Warrendale. (RH)

Tuesday, October 30

The Byrds were another landmark group of the 1960s, performing initially from 1964-73 and built around the group’s mainstay Roger McGuinn. Other founding members included Chris Hillman, Gene Clark, David Crosby and Michael Clarke. McGuinn’s 12-string guitar playing and the groups vocal harmonies were trade marks of their sound which bridged the gap between folk and rock. They were heavily influenced by the Beatles and purposely misspelled their name to reflect their admiration. McGuinn and Hillman are performing their 50th Anniversary of the album Sweetheart of the Rodeo concert. They will be playing songs from the 1968 album along with several other of their hits including: “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star,” and “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season).” Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives are also on the bill. 8 p.m. Carnegie Library Music Hall, 510 E. 10th St., Munhall. (RH)

On the Radar

Thursday, November 1
Fleetwood Mac (PPG Paints Arena)

Tuesday, November 6
Boz Scaggs (Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall)
Stephen Marley (Mr. Smalls)

Wednesday, November 7
The Doobie Brothers (Palace Theatre)

Friday, November 9
Tenacious D (Stage AE)
Brett Michaels (Palace Theatre)

Sunday, November 11
Gladys Knight (Palace Theatre)

Tuesday, November 13
Alan Parsons Project (Carnegie of Homestead Music Hall)

Friday, November 16
Josh Groban (PPG Paints Arena)

Saturday, November 24
Jazon Miraz (Heinz Hall)

Rick Handler is the executive producer of Entertainment Central. Christopher Maggio also made a sizable contribution to this guide.