Lianne La Havas -- See Tuesday
Lianne La Havas -- See Tuesday

The Best Concerts to See in L.A. This Week

Monday, March 18

The Specials


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Even though The Specials instigated the massively popular ska revival of the early '80s, they're far from a typical ska band. Whereas many modern groups are happy to employ ska's peppy, jerky rhythms merely for escapist dance fare, the English band preferred to mix heavy messages into such infectious tunes as "Concrete Jungle," "Nelson Mandela" and the utterly sublime and appropriately haunting "Ghost Town." Sadly, chief songwriter Jerry Dammers isn't part of The Specials' latest reunion, nor is singer Neville Staples, although founding vocalist Terry Hall and early guitarist Roddy Byers carry on under the old name. Even now, with several new members (and several decades removed from their heyday), these Specials should still raise goose bumps with the echoes of their old hits. --Falling James

Tuesday, March 19

Black Francis


It's hard to imagine what indie and alt-rock would sound like these days if Charles Michael Kittridge Thompson IV had never been born. Going by the name Black Francis when he formed Boston band The Pixies in the mid-'80s (he'd later dub himself Frank Black for some of his solo recordings), the guitarist wrote strange but catchy songs that were distinguished by contrasting dynamics that were unusual at the time, with muted, quiet verses giving way to loud, gushing choruses. Nowadays you can't turn on the radio or TV without hearing some new band imitate Francis' quirky melodies and squiggly guitar lines, and everyone from Radiohead and Pavement to Nirvana and Francis' own idol, David Bowie, has sung his praises. His solo albums, surprisingly, receive far less attention than his work with The Pixies, but tonight the master reveals his songwriting secrets at this solo acoustic show. --Falling James

Lianne La Havas


Lianne La Havas keeps up the current English assembly line of youthful soul singers with her debut album, Is Your Love Big Enough? The LP was produced by Aqualung's master song crafter, Matt Hales, and features La Havas' own accomplished guitar playing. The instrument is an effortless complement to her breezy, neo-soul-pop vocal stylings, which fluctuate from soft and thin to husky and seductive. La Havas moves effortlessly (or at least she makes it sound that way) from the stripped-down "Lost and Found" to the lightly moody "Au Cinema" and the playful "Forget." Populated with love song after love song, Is Your Love Big Enough? inspires listeners to sing along on the first listen. That can only be a good thing. Also Wednesday. --Lily Moayeri

Wednesday, March 20

Imagine Dragons, Nico Vega


Imagine Dragons and Nico Vega touring together makes sense musically and personally. Both bands have the gall to convey their accessible songcraft in sonically unorthodox fashion, and this big-bang-for-your-bucks bill (which also includes winsome Aussies Atlas Genius) means that their hubby-and-wife singers -- Dragons' Dan Reynolds and Vega's Aja Volkman-Reynolds -- can travel together, and with their baby daughter. Imagine Dragons' dizzying rise to radio ubiquity (the Las Vegas group's debut album, Night Visions, only appeared this past September) can obscure the sheer craft of its cultured and timely takes on indie rock, including the mandolin-speckled "It's Time" and dubstep-dabbling "Radioactive." At heart an organically primal rock & roll band, L.A.'s Nico Vega lately have layered elements of insistent electronica behind the capricious and ludicrously compelling vocals of Volkman-Reynolds. --Paul Rogers

See also: Bowling, Karaoke, Drunk Strippers and Weed: Out All Night With the Band Nico Vega

Thursday, March 21

Yasiin Bey


Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def) is one of the music world's more prolific figures. An accomplished actor, passionate social activist, practicing Muslim and beyond-adept emcee, he first captured our hearts and ears in 1998 as one half of the legendary Rawkus Records outfit Blackstar. His 1999 solo debut, Black on Both Sides, yielded the unforgettable tracks "UMI Says," "Got" and "Ms. Fat Booty," among others, proving to be a widely apotheosized hip-hop classic. Notorious for his audacious and witty social commentary, the multiple Grammy Award winner is in the process of finishing OMFGOD, an album produced entirely by much-celebrated Cash Money producer Mannie Fresh. A master of spirited live performance, Bey can hype a crowd like no other. Wear comfortable shoes. --Jacqueline Michael Whatley

Black Lips


It wasn't so long ago that Black Lips were considered a joke band, known more for onstage distractions like vomiting and lighting things on fire than for their actual music. It's not like the Atlanta garage-rock rowdies have actually matured, but they've revealed unexpected depth in recent years. Their strangely ebullient yet passionately angry 2007 single "O Katrina" was much more memorable and lasting than the hundreds of mawkishly sentimental tributes to victims of the hurricane in New Orleans by better-known and more critically respected musicians. And while Black Lips' sound still combines elements of punk and garage, there's also a vaguely haunting infusion of psychedelia that takes their songs to a higher (figuratively and literally) and -- dare we say it -- almost spiritual level. The Lips caused more controversy on their recent tour of Egypt (!) and the Middle East, a bizarre experience recounted in the new documentary You Know, For Kids. The film will have a sneak preview at Cinefamily on March 25 with the director and band members on hand. --Falling James

See also: Coachella: The Black Lips' Cole Alexander Goes Full Monty, Plays Guitar With His Ding-Dong



Throughout two decades and 10 albums, D.C. rocker outfit Clutch have evolved into one of the mightiest blues-rock bands around. On their newest album, Earth Rocker, vocalist Neil Fallon continues to deliver mighty bellows with a fire reminiscent of a passionate reverend, whether he is shouting about a powerful cyborg named Bette ("Cyborg Bette") or telling tales about thousands of Les Pauls burning in a field ("The Face"). But the best rock bands are not just about the charismatic vocalist. Tim Salt's guitars continue to produce some of the most haunting riffs in hard rock, and Jean-Paul Gaster's rock-hard and hard-rocking drumming would have earned him accolades in another era alongside greats like Ginger Baker. The rock is so thick here that you can almost hear Fallon's beard getting burlier with every song. --Jason Roche

Don't forget to check our constantly-updated Los Angeles Concert Calendar

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