This fall's must-see concerts

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Posted: Friday, September 6, 2013 12:00 am

We don't know about you, but our calendar is packed.

One night, it's '80s rock — Bret Michaels in Council Bluffs. The very next, it's one of the best indie rock bands — Yo La Tengo in Benson. And shortly after, we'll see one of the biggest classic rock bands around — The Eagles in Lincoln.

Amid the many concerts on our calendar, we're trying to find time to fit in the rest of our lives.

This fall's concert season kicks off with a special one. On Tuesday, the frontman of rock band My Morning Jacket, Jim James, will play an intimate show at Slowdown. The show starts at 9, and tickets are $27.

Roll through the calendar with us to read about concerts you can't miss, indie rock highlights, radio-friendly concerts and a look ahead at the winter months (and beyond).


You call yourself a music fan? All well and good, but we're not sure you can carry on with that title if you don't go to these shows.

And if you're like us, you love it all. The best shows coming this fall are small and large. Some are indie rock, others are country and blues, and one is a crooner.

Whatever differences they have, they share one commonality: They're gonna be the shows we're talking about come Christmas when friends ask, “See any good shows lately?”

Jim James — Tuesday at Slowdown

Does Jim James love Omaha? You're dang right he does. James, frontman of Kentucky rock band My Morning Jacket, has a lot of pals in the area, including his Monsters of Folk bandmates Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis (both of Bright Eyes). Of his seven-date solo tour this month, James decided to make one of his stops here. Some proceeds from the show will go to Arts for All.

“Reasons of Light and Sound and God” is James' debut solo album, which delves more into soul and R&B influences than My Morning Jacket's more Southern-style rock.

“As a movement, I find soul more encouraging than somebody being all bummed and bitching,” James told music magazine Pitchfork. “You relate to it because it's so painful, but I'm tired of being in pain. Curtis (Mayfield) and Marvin (Gaye) were in pain, too, but they embraced the totality of the human experience, whereas a lot of our heroes only embrace the pain.”

James created the album's nine tracks by fooling around in his home studio. He experimented with different gear to give it a timeless sound somewhere between lo-fi and super hi-fi.

Rolling Stone called the album's songs “flamboyantly spiritual songs wrapped in creamy electronics and set to funk and hip-hop beats. ... (The album) is all heated feelings and extravagant gestures. It is also what solo albums are for: the leader of a great band out on a limb, in rapt self-examination, getting weird and interesting.”

Many observers have called the album spiritual, and James acknowledged that's the case, but he's not trying to hit anybody over the head with God or spirituality.

“I'm not saying, 'You have to believe in Christ,' ” he said to music magazine The Fader. “I talk about God in a very open way. I think that people should figure out what it means for them. And I don't care what it means for anybody.”

Michael Buble — Sept. 13 at Pinnacle Bank Arena

This show is gonna be big for two reasons: It's the first big event at Lincoln's brand new Pinnacle Bank Arena, AND Buble is great. Yeah, we said it. The most charming guy on any stage right now, Buble is fun to watch as he runs through his pop songs such as “Haven't Met You Yet,” classic songs including “To Be Loved” and his singles, including his latest, “It's a Beautiful Day.”

Rancid — Sept. 19 at Sokol Auditorium

When Rancid played the Omaha Music Hall in 1996, the punk band's fans went absolutely nuts. They tore cushions from the seats and fought with security, and 31 people were arrested. Rumor had it that the band was banned from the arena. When they're back this time, with Rancid singer Tim Armstrong's Tim Timebomb and Friends as openers, we don't expect any arrests, but it should still be a wild time.

Yo La Tengo — Sept. 21 at The Waiting Room Lounge

Hoboken indie rock legends will play an intimate show in Benson of crowd favorites and new music from the band's latest album, “Fade.”

The Eagles — Oct. 4 at Pinnacle Bank Arena

Have a little “Hotel California” with your “Boys of Summer” or some “Desperado” with your “Life's Been Good.” The Eagles — Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit — like to mix in the band's classic rock hits (“Take It Easy”) with band members' solo tunes (say, Henley's “The End of the Innocence”).

Keith Urban — Oct. 18 at CenturyLink Center Omaha

The country star and guitar hero's first album in three years, “Fuse,” will drop before he gets here, and Urban said he wants to go in a new direction. “I just wanted to let each song be its own thing,” Urban told Country Now.

Taj Mahal and Vusi Mahlasela — Oct. 25 at the Holland Performing Arts Center

You can't go wrong seeing blues legend Henry Saint Clair Fredericks Jr., better known as Taj Mahal to lovers of guitar legends. He'll be joined by South African singer-songwriter Vusi Mahlasela.

Last year, Taj Mahal released an album called “Hidden Treasures” full of unreleased versions of old songs.

“My feeling was that they weren't as good as the live versions, the versions that usually ended up on the album. But they were good enough not to throw away,” he told “I just felt they had more energy, more feel to it — that's what I was looking for.”

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis — Oct. 29 at CenturyLink Center Omaha

Last year, Macklemore (the rapper) and Ryan Lewis (his producer) played a sold-out Sokol Auditorium. Now, the duo is playing our biggest arena. Catch them now — and hit songs such as “Can't Hold Us” and “Thrift Shop” — before they're so big they can only fit their crowds in football stadiums.

Hunter Hayes — Nov. 16 at Orpheum Theater

The country star will perform an intimate “coffee house experience” concert.


Jason Aldean — Sept. 19 at Pinnacle Bank Arena

Aldean just came to Omaha, but he'll bring his show and lots of screaming fans to Lincoln. As we said in our review, “Aldean is a country superstar, and sold-out shows full of screaming country fans are the norm for him and his five-piece band. His songs are engaging and are about the sort of everyday stuff — tractors, Johnny Cash, harvest moons, Chevy trucks, small towns and trains — that endears people to country music.”

Bret Michaels — Sept. 20 at Stir Cove

Poison's frontman comes to town on a solo tour to play Poison favorites and some of his own tunes.

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy — Oct. 10 at the Holland Performing Arts Center

Next month, the band will play such songs as “You & Me & the Bottle Makes 3 Tonight (Baby)” and “Go Daddy-O” while fans swing dance in the performing arts center's aisles. They'd do well to put a dance floor by the stage.

Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley — Oct. 10 at Pinnacle Bank Arena

More country music? Yeah, more country music! Around here, people love Miranda Lambert, which is why she's come to the area several times in the past three years.

Hollywood Undead — Oct. 17 at Sokol Auditorium

Trippy masks, hip-hop lyrics and heavy guitar riffs is what you'll get from this group come October.

Blue October — Oct. 25 at Sokol Auditorium

This Texas rock band is an Omaha favorite, and the band released its new album, “Sway,” last month. Band leader Justin Furstenfeld told about how the album was written while he was sober and healthy.

“There are songs like 'Not Broken Anymore' that I wrote for my wife. (It) chokes me up,” he said. “It just comes from a real place: 'This is who I am and I'm so sorry for things I've done for you. Will you take me for who I am now?' ”

Avenged Sevenfold — Oct. 22 at CenturyLink Center

A No. 1 album and a tour selling like wild means Avenged Sevenfold is the biggest metal band to play the arena (since Metallica, anyway). With the alt-metal group Deftones and Swedish heavy metal band Ghost B.C. (whose members wear hooded robes and skull makeup), it should be quite the spectacle.


Best Coast — Sept. 19 at The Waiting Room Lounge

Bethany Cosentino will bring the beach to Nebraska with lo-fi, surfy tunes like “The Only Place.” By mid-September, you may need lyrics such as “We were born with sun in our teeth and in our hair.”

Chuck Ragan — Sept. 20 at Slowdown

Over the years, Ragan has curated several versions of “The Revival Tour,” a collaborative tour that features punk and alt-country performers with acoustic guitars. This time, he's on his own for a show mixing folk and punk.

Eros and the Eschaton — Sept. 22 at Slowdown

When Adam Hawkins lived in Omaha, he was in the much-hailed band It's True. Then he and Kate Perdoni had a baby boy and moved away. And after the baby came, music came. Naming themselves Eros and the Eschaton, the pair wrote a total of 10 songs for the group's debut, “Home Address For the Civil War,” which is out on important indie label Bar/None Records. Hawkins and Perdoni come back to Omaha for a sort of homecoming show, which should be a big event.

Black Joe Lewis — Oct. 2 at the Bourbon Theatre

Lewis loves blues and soul, which is why his most widely cited influences are Howlin' Wolf and James Brown. His solo album, “Electric Slave,” features the heavy, buzzy “Skulldiggin',” which we can't wait to hear blasted through the PA at the Bourbon.

Har Mar Superstar — Oct. 4 at The Waiting Room Lounge

How to describe Har Mar Superstar? He's a one-man R&B singer and performer. And you'll be talking about the outrageous performance when it's over.

“Har Mar Superstar used to be a different person,” explained singer/songwriter/performer Sean Tillman. “It used to be my excuse to get away with the more fantastic things in life. ... It was easier to get onstage as this other guy and be outrageous and have it be glorified. I guess the confidence I got from being Har Mar Superstar translated into my real life, so now we're one and the same.”

Man Man — Oct. 11 at Slowdown

We like to describe Man Man like this: Disney music as performed by characters in “A Clockwork Orange.” Often bright and fun, the group's stuff is just a little tilted, so to speak. Take the opening lyrics from “Engwish Bwudd:” “All I want to be is a shovely bubbly gobbly gook.”

Man Man's upcoming album, “On Oni Pond,” was recorded in Omaha at ARC Studios and produced by Mike Mogis. It will be released on Tuesday.

Built to Spill — Oct. 18 at The Waiting Room Lounge

Doug Martsch and his band come to Omaha all the time, but we still can't get enough of his dreamy voice and catchy, heavy guitar riffs.

Desaparecidos — Oct. 22 at The Waiting Room Lounge

Conor Oberst's punk band reunited last year, and they have since released six songs including the two most recent: “Te Amo Camila Vallejo” and “The Underground Man.” They also like to include the occasional cover of The Clash's “Spanish Bombs.”

Deer Tick — Nov. 1 at Slowdown

One of our favorite local concerts from the past couple of years involved Deer Tick frontman John McCauley drinking a lot of tequila and putting on a wild show full of screaming garage rock, alt-country and '50s pop. The whole thing was capped off with covers of “Bastards of Young” and “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party),” which was followed with the band's “Let's All Go to the Bar.” They then did exactly that.

We're pretty excited that the Rhode Island band is coming back, and it will have a new album, too. “The Dream's in the Ditch” is a cheery folk single with sort of hopeless lyrics. It's just what we expect from Deer Tick.

Pretty Lights — Nov. 15 at Pershing Center

Derek Vincent Smith is much better known as electronic artist Pretty Lights, so bust out some glow sticks and a comfortable pair of shoes because you'll be dancing all night.


We're well aware that shows don't just stop happening in October. As we look out over the following months, we see tons of worthy shows coming up through the end of the year. And then there's the big one: Justin Timberlake, the “Suit & Tie” pop singer coming to see us in February.

» Christmas music and progressive metal (and lots and lots of pyro) are in store when Trans-Siberian Orchestra returns in November. The band plays Nov. 13 at Mid-America Center and Nov. 14 at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

» Florida pop punk band Less Than Jake has a new album, “See the Light,” out in November. The band will perform with Anti-Flag, Masked Intruder and Get Dead at The Waiting Room Lounge at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 21.

» Rapper Jake Miller, who rose to fame by posting YouTube videos of himself rapping, will perform with opener Action Item at 8 p.m. Dec. 2 at The Waiting Room Lounge.

» Lady Antebellum, known for such country hits as “American Honey” and “Need You Now,” will bring its “Take Me Downtown” tour to CenturyLink Center Omaha on Dec. 17 with openers Kip Moore and Kacey Musgraves.

» Omaha's biggest band, Mannheim Steamroller, brings its Christmas show back to town on Dec. 22 at the Orpheum Theater.

» One of the shows we're most excited for won't happen until next year. Pop singer Justin Timberlake will take his “20/20 Experience” to CenturyLink Center Omaha on Feb. 10.

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