There are plenty of music legends and current stars to see this week in Houston as several big name acts make a return visit after playing much bigger gigs in the Bayou City in recent memory. Choose your own adventure and pick the one that best suits your tastes.
Most intimate show by a stadium-sized band
The last time Guns N’ Roses played the Toyota Center almost six years ago to the day, the band was a shell of former world conquering self. Only lead singer Axl Rose and keyboardist Dizzy Reed remained, the magic of the legendary line-up with guitarist Slash and bassist Duff McKagan dissipated by Rose's ego. The 14-years-in-the-making albatross of an album the new lineup toured, Chinese Democracy, was a dud. Not to mention, this writer’s then-girlfriend and GnR die-hard almost dumped him that night for continuously referring to the group as Axl Rose and His Hired Guns.
But the last few years have been kind to fans, with Slash and McKagan back in the fold. The Not In This Lifetime world-wide tour, worth millions to the band, healed many wounds. The L.A.-based Rock N Roll Hall of Famers proved they were back with a raucous performance at the much larger NRG Stadium last year. The Axl-Slash super-duo returns for a victory lap to the more intimate — for this band's standards — and superior acoustic confines of the Toyota Center Friday night, allowing a second chance for those who missed the NRG show and for those looking for another dose of stone-cold rock classics, “Welcome to the Jungle,” “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” “Paradise City” and “November Rain,” and more. This time, hopefully, they'll neglect anything from Chinese Democracy, which still sucks.
Guns N’ Roses perform at the Toyota Center, Friday, November 10. Tickets start at $59. Doors open at 6:30 pm but fair warning, they will probably start late.
Most intimate show by a festival headlining band
The band that “will change your life,” The Shins return to Houston after the water-logged, 2017 edition of Free Press Summer Fest with a headlining performance at House of Blues. At one point, the James Mercer-led act were a word-of-mouth indie band with a couple of masterpiece albums (Oh, Inverted World and Chutes Too Narrow) under their belt in a pre-music blog era. A star-making soundtrack inclusion in the equally cult-classic, aforementioned flick, Garden State, shot Mercer’s profile into the stratosphere. While The Shins haven’t reached the creative heights of their early work, they still release some of the best alt-rock around, the latest being the critically acclaimed Heartworms.
The Shins play House of Blues Saturday, November 11, with opening act Baio. Tickets start at $40. Doors at 7 pm.
The most impressive show to take your grandmother
Okay, stick with me here. If you want to have a great time with your parents or grandparents in a live music setting, take them to see The Temptations and The Four Tops this weekend. They might be in their golden years, but these '60s supergroups still have the moves and at one point, were two of the biggest music acts in the United States, producing some of the finest R&B and pop songs of all time. There would be no Motown, no boy bands, no Michael Jackson or Justin Timberlake without the Temptations and The Four Tops, whose combined songbooks ("My Girl," "The Way The Things You Do," "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)," "Reach Out, I'll Be There," and many more) have made for many a late-night K-Tel compilation album commercial. So impress your granny and take her to see two acts that changed the sound of music.
The Temptations and The Four Tops perform at the Arena Theatre on Saturday, November 11. Tickets start at $39.50. Show starts at 8:30 pm.
The best show if you are a big fan of alternative rock radio
For better or worse, Imagine Dragons is one of the biggest bands in the world right now and they’ve steadily made Houston a pit-stop on tours ever since they blew up with the inescapable 2012 album Night Visions that rock radio still blasts like it will never go out of fashion, if it ever was in fashion in the first place. Touring behind its new offering, Evolve, at least the show will offer up some good support acts in the impressive vocals of K. Flay, whose track “Blood In The Cut,” is worth the price of admission, and Grouplove, who made waves with the radio hit, “Tongue Tied,” a few years back.
Imagine Dragons performs at the at Toyota Center on Sunday, November 12. Tickets start at $59.50. Doors open at 6:30 pm.
Best show to see if you like a little grit with your country songs
At 84, Willie Nelson shows no signs of slowing down. Whether it’s the weed or some special secret fountain of youth we don’t know about, Nelson continues to tour like no other and why not? He’s got a tremendous career of hits to pull from, so every show is sure to please fans who appreciate country from back when it was pure grit and spit laced with a sugary dose of melody. Also, Houston has a soft spot in the heart of the country troubadour, having spent his early years in music as a radio DJ in Pasadena.
Willie Nelson and Family Tour hits the Smart Financial Centre at Sugar Land with Drew Holcomb and The Neighbor on Tuesday, November 14. Tickets start at $59.50. Show starts at 8 pm.
Best show to get your Fleetwood Mac fix
Are two members of Fleetwood Mac better than none? Fans of the monster folk rock act will surely pay to find out as two of the more charismatic members (behind Stevie Nicks, let’s be honest) Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie take to the stage in Sugar Land to promote their first album as a duo, built from the remnants of a supposed Fleetwood Mac album. Buckingham wrote a large portion of the British band’s hits and McVie has always been the secret weapon of the group, so despite their fellow band members sitting this one out, it should still please those who still regularly take out their vinyl copy of Rumours.
Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie play at Smart Financial Centre at Sugar Land on Thursday, November 16. Tickets start at $69.50. Show starts at 8 pm.
Other shows of note
Friday, November 10
Ministry with Death Grips at White Oak Music Hall. Tickets are $35 in advance. Doors open at 7 pm.
Saturday, November 11
Old Crow Medicine Show performing Bob Dylan's Blonde On Blonde at Cullen Performance Hall. Tickets start at $30, $20 for students. Doors open at 8 pm.
Wednesday, November 15
Reverend Horton Heat with Jesse Dayton at Avienda Houston. Admission is free. Show starts at 6 pm.
Japandroids with Cloud Nothings at White Oak Music Hall. Tickets are $25 in advance. Doors at 8 pm.