How lucky we are to be in Houston, where the greatest bands in the world routinely make stops to sell their sonic wares to the two million-plus music-loving locals. (That’s a lot of potential T-shirt sales.) Trying to choose the best live music of the week in, say, Provo, Utah makes for a very short list.
With Houston’s lush landscape of choices, the only problem is narrowing it down to “the best.” With apologies to noise noodlers Galactic (tonight at Warehouse Live) and Japanese punk chicks Shonen Knife (Saturday, November 7 at Numbers), here are my picks for the week.
The Flatlanders at Fitzgerald's
This show is the perfect marriage between two beloved Texas traditions. Fitzgerald’s — currently celebrating its 31st year of the rocking the Heights — hosts Texas super group The Flatlanders. The group began playing together 37 years ago, but don’t let their longevity fool you.
When road-hard troubadours like Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock step into a bar room, the only thing missing is Ennio Morricone Spaghetti Western theme and the ensuing gunfight. Instead, the trio will shoot through a set of alt-country stomps and campfire ballads, including cuts from new album “Hills and Valleys.” That’s sure to have the old outdoor patio at Fitz’s vibrating to the point of near-collapse.
Third Eye Blind at Verizon Wireless Theater
When West coast rockers Third Eye Blind played Houston last summer, singer Stephan Jenkins cryptically announced that several songs from that House of Blues show were being recorded to be used as live “B-Sides” to promote a new album. Well, new album, “Ursa Major” has now been released, but we have yet to hear any of these Houston produced live tracks.
The change in promotional direction did not stop “Ursa Major” from debuting at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 album charts, the highest climb in Third Eye Blind’s 12-year recording career. At this show, get acquainted with the new singles “Don’t Believe A Word” and “Bonfire"and reacquainted with past favorites like “Semi-Charmed Life” and “Jumper."
Rumor is that Third Eye Blind is already planning a follow-up album called “Ursa Minor” made up songs that didn’t fit on “Ursa Major.” Perhaps they’ll be recording live tracks at this show to use as “B-Sides” for the upcoming singles (wink wink).
AC/DC at Toyota Center
When the meteor finally hits and the surface of the Earth is ravaged by plague, pestilence and fire, all that will remain to restart society are the roaches and AC/DC guitarist Angus Young. He’ll be spinning around in his typical school boy frenzy just waiting for someone to reconnect the electricity so he can plug in and rock.
If heavy metal hasn’t already killed Australian’s number musical export, then it’s a safe bet nothing can. After 36 years, more than 200 million albums sold internationally and the death of original lead singer Bon Scott, it appears that AC/DC have finally gotten warmed up.
Most recent studio album, “Black Ice,” is arguably the most artistically satisfying of its career. Stripping away the pandering sexually-tinged anthems of past, the band went into the studio and made a masterful head-banging mix of blues-n-brawn that shot straight to top of the album charts in countries across the globe (including the United States).
Proof that sex sells, but a fine guitar lick can leave you smoking at the end as well.
Regina Spektorat Verizon Wireless Theater
I swear I read that Regina Spektor was born to a musical family and was a piano prodigy as a young girl from the Bronx via Moscow. And that she studied the classics at fine schools like the Manhattan School Music, but her mind kept wandering toward rock, punk and hip hop. Then, finally, that Spektor gained a live following playing NYC clubs and coffeehouses that welcomed singer-songwriters with a weakness for Ernest Hemingway and Ezra Pound.
And, then it hit me: I fell in love with Spektor 15 years ago — only back when her name was Tori Amos.
Then I listened to a couple of the soft, melodic piano tracks from Spektor’s latest album,”Far,” and I started seriously crushin’ on her (and Amos) all over again.