Music News & Reviews

This week’s best live music: Sarah McLachlan, Jackson Browne, Michael Franti and Spearhead

Sarah McLachlan
Sarah McLachlan Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Sarah McLachlan

Thursday at Starlight Theatre

An entire generation of television viewers don’t realize that the spokeswoman on the frequently aired animal cruelty commercials on behalf of ASPCA is responsible for instigating a quiet revolution. Leveraging the status she acquired through wispy hits like “Building a Mystery,” McLachlan spearheaded a movement that advocated equality for female folk, pop and rock artists in the 1990s. The resulting Lilith Fair concept blazed a path for themed concert tours. The Canadian star is touring behind “Shine On,” a new album that maintains her organic folk and ethereal pop sound.

Tickets range from $35 to $115 in advance through

Jackson Browne

Thursday at the Uptown Theater

Singer/songwriter Jackson Browne, 65, has seen his sound fall in and out of style several times. A new tribute album featuring contributions from colleagues like Bonnie Raitt and younger artists including Blind Pilot indicates that Browne is currently in vogue. The composer of beloved songs including “For a Dancer,” “The Pretender” and “Late for the Sky” might offer his opinions on his status as a stylish elder statesman during his solo-acoustic performance at the Uptown Theater on Thursday.

Tickets range from $60.50 to $100.50 in advance through


Thursday at RecordBar

Wussy has been performing songs for and about American misfits since the band’s 2001 inception in Cincinnati. The band’s blog documenting its tour described an audience in Minneapolis as “an enclave of recently cloned inter-dimensional star travelers who were still assimilating human culture.” Earthlings who appreciate Wussy’s ramshackle version of Americana can congregate Thursday at RecordBar. They’ll hear opening sets by two Kansas City bands. Schwervon is a fun-loving husband-and-wife duo. Admiral of the Red plays unbalanced blues-rock.

Tickets are $7 in advance through

Mike Stinson

Friday at the Living Room at Knuckleheads

Knuckleheads is acclaimed for booking many of the world’s most celebrated musicians. Johnny Rivers, Steve Earle and Aaron Neville are among the artists who have appeared at Knuckleheads in 2014. Many of the lesser-known acts that regularly perform at the East Bottoms venue are no less skillful. Mike Stinson is a journeyman roots-rock artist from Texas. The wry songwriter’s Independence Day show in the venue’s intimate back room could be every bit as rewarding as the performances by much bigger stars.

Tickets are $15 in advance through

English Beat

Saturday at Knuckleheads

Most albums released under the banner of new wave in the 1980s seem hopelessly dated. “Special Beat Service” is an exception. Highlighted by the glorious “Save It For Later,” the album’s blend of ska, reggae and pop has retained its freshness. The band broke up soon after the release of the classic recording. The version of the English Beat appearing at Knuckleheads on Saturday includes original member Dave Wakeling. His voice is on the classic hits “Mirror In the Bathroom” and “I Confess.” Wakeling also racked up hits like “Tenderness” as a member of General Public.

Tickets are $20 in advance through


Saturday at the Replay Lounge

The nine members of the Everymen represent their home state of New Jersey with pride. The amusingly titled new album “Givin’ Up On Free Jazz” includes an exuberant cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Ain’t Good Enough For You” while “NJHC” name-checks famous people from New Jersey, including politician Cory Booker, rock star Jon Bon Jovi and actor Danny DeVito. Everymen’s appearance is recommended to fans of Hold Steady and New Pornographers. Gnarly Davidson, a trio that refers to itself as Lawrence’s “premier beer rock band,” gets the party started.

The cover charge is $3. Details are available at

Zvuloon Dub System

Sunday at Kanza Hall

The meaning of the catchphrase “peace in the Middle East” doesn’t seem quite as implausible while listening to Zvuloon Dub System. The ensemble bills itself as “Israel’s leading reggae band.” Zvuloon Dub System’s inclusive sound, a combination of classic reggae ensembles like Burning Spear and the Ethiopian jazz associated with Mulatu Astatke, is imbued with hopeful grooves that convey a spirit of optimistic resilience. The band describes its excellent new album “Anbessa Dub” as a “merger” of the cultures of Jamaica, Ethiopia and Israel. Eccentric Fish, a Kansas City jam band, opens the show.

Tickets are $10 in advance through

Michael Franti & Spearhead

Tuesday at Crossroads KC

Sex, drugs, rock ’n’ roll and … yoga? Each date of the Soulshine Tour begins with a yoga session. The unconventional concept is in keeping with Michael Franti’s idiosyncratic path to stardom. Before becoming famous as an ebullient folk-pop artist and as an outspoken social commentator, Franti performed abrasive hip-hop in his native California. Three sets of musicians are helping Franti spread good vibrations on the Soulshine Tour. SOJA is a reggae band from Virginia. Brett Dennen and Trevor Hall are engaging singer-songwriters from California.

Tickets range from $35 to $77.50 in advance through

Black Lillies

Wednesday at the Bottleneck

Even listeners who are predisposed to the genre can become overwhelmed by the glut of ensembles rooted in folk and bluegrass. One way to separate the wheat from the chaff is to develop a bias that favors musicians who were performing the music before the recent successes of the Lumineers and Mumford & Sons made the earthy sound fashionable. The Black Lillies, a quintet from Knoxville, Tenn., have been releasing albums for five years. Their first, “Whiskey Angel,” came out six months before Mumford released its breakout album “Sigh No More.” Stellar musicians with expansive tastes, the five members of the Black Lillies play delicate folk ballads, frisky bluegrass and rowdy barroom blues.

Tickets are $12 in advance through

Mary Lambert

Wednesday Crossroads KC

Wednesday’s concert at Crossroads KC is headlined by the genial singer-songwriter Gavin DeGraw, but the most intriguing act on the bill is a woman intent on changing the world. Mary Lambert became famous by singing the wistful hook on “Same Love,” the transformative hit by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. In addition to titling a book of poetry “500 Tips for Fat Girls,” the Seattle resident suggested in a recent blog post that “the standard of unattainable beauty and goodness is destroying us from within.” Pleasant pop-rock artists Matt Nathanson and Andrew McMahon, a man best known for his stint with Jack’s Mannequin, will also perform.

Tickets range from $36 to $75 in advance through

Bear Hands with Junior Prom and Total Slacker

Wednesday at the Riot Room

Bear Hands has saved fans the trouble of compiling a playlist of the most popular modern rock songs of the past few years. Almost all of the songs on Bear Hands’ two albums are barely disguised homages to the hits that have come to define the latest wave of popular alternative music. Awolnation, Foster the People, MGMT, Passion Pit and Vampire Weekend are among Bear Hands’ obvious inspirations. The New York-based ensemble is currently riding high on the hit “Giants.” Two bands from Brooklyn, the electro-pop duo Junior Prom and the promising rock trio Total Slacker, open the sold-out show.

Tickets are $9.65 in advance through