Blitzen Trapper, with Ages and Ages
Many Blitzen Trapper songs follow a loose formula: Hijack a melody from Dylan or the Beatles, then toss in a blazing guitar à la Bowie or Queen to imbue it with dramatic flair. I care less for those than I do for their more streamlined meditative folk songs, which tend to do away with the messy jangle while retaining an elegant momentum. But I suspect I'm in the minority there, and live, everyone's probably better off with a wild electric guitar making a racket.
Friday, July 22, at the Riot Room (4048 Broadway, 816-442-8179)
Sade, with John Legend
Sade Adu still looks and sounds, rather remarkably, about the same as she did in the '80s, when she was a chart mainstay with genre-crossing smooth jazz jams, such as "Smooth Operator" and "The Sweetest Taboo." That might be due to energy conservation. Last year's Soldier of Love, which added acoustic instrumentation and more dynamic drumming to the established Sade sound, was only the third Sade record of the past 20 years. Also, she rarely tours. That she's coming to Kansas City at all still seems a little hard to believe.
Tuesday, July 26, at Sprint Center (1407 Grand, 816-949-7000)
Waka Flocka Flame
A couple of weeks back, Atlanta rapper Waka Flocka Flame announced that he was retiring from rap at the end of 2011. I wouldn't take that one to Vegas, but coming from Waka (who has said he's not even a rapper in the first place and has cited the fakeness of the rap game as the reason for his imminent departure), it's more believable than if it came out of the mouth of, say, Diddy. His violent, often unintelligible take on trap rap frazzles critics, who tend to either deride it for its ineptness or praise it for its 'hood authenticity — a conversation Waka almost certainly does not give a fuck about.
Sunday, July 24, at the Midland (1228 Main, 816-283-9921)
Maps & Atlases, with RX Bandits and Zechs Marquise
A short three years ago, a Maps & Atlases show was like a music-theory lecture: Dudes with thick frames stood around with bottles of High Life tucked into their armpits, watching with amazement as the Chicago band worked its way through a set filled with exotic scales and obscure time signatures. Today, that same crowd is still there. But so are some new fans who've been drawn in by the way Maps & Atlases has learned to present its hyperactive, arithmetic sound with a veneer of melodic pop, like the old baby-feeding airplane trick.
Saturday, July 23, at the Bottleneck (737 New Hampshire, Lawrence, 785-841-5483)
Old 97's, with Cowboy Mouth, Those Darlins and Robert Ellis
It still seems bizarre that Old 97's never achieved huge commercial success. The Texas band charmingly connects the dots between roots rock and alternative rock, speeding up old country two-steps while adding a healthy dose of hooks and melodies. The frontman, Rhett Miller, is a dreamboat. And live, the band members are a bunch of rambunctious shitkickers, bouncing around onstage, bursting with energy — it's a good-time rock-and-roll show. But due to the fickle nature of the music business, Old 97's ended up taking the long way to success, grinding it out for 20 years and gradually building up a fanbase large and loyal enough to fill venues like Grinders. Think about how much these guys must hate Kings of Leon.
Thursday, July 21, at Crossroads KC at Grinders (417 East 18th Street, 785-749-3434)