Music Picks: Alejandro Escovedo, Kanye West and More

Kanye West brings his circus to Dallas on Saturday, bringing with him arguably the biggest persona in all of pop music right now. Plus, possibly the best rapper working, Kendrick Lamar, is opening. Elsewhere, Austin's great Alejandro Escovedo plays the Granada and the Christmas tours continue with Yo Gabba Gabba! Live.

Stone Temple Pilots with Chester Bennington

Thursday, December 5, at the Verizon Theatre

Scott Weiland said the Stone Temple Pilots were going to save rock 'n' roll right before they released No. 4 in 1999; ironically, Linkin Park's Chester Bennington is now saving the Stone Temple Pilots. Bennington's performance on High Rise, the debut EP from Stone Temple Pilots with Chester Bennington, is solid, and it is clear the band loves playing in a Weiland-free zone. His impact on the band is most clearly felt on the epic closer, "Tomorrow." Here he is at his most melodic vocally, and his decision to avoid screaming for the heavens makes this swelling rock track soar all the more because of his restraint. First single "Out of Time" reminds us that STP still rocks like nobody's business, and Bennington shows he is up to the challenge of filling Weiland's boots, but "Tomorrow" is the track that really proves there is a future for the group. Brian Palmer

Alejandro Escovedo

Friday, December 6, at the Granada Theater

Whether solo or with a band (this time it's with a conglomeration called The Sensitive Boys), Alejandro Escovedo is all about history. With an impressive discography, Escovedo could mine music from several different decades and still come up with a set list that would blow most others away. He could do a rootsy set of songs from the True Believers, his grossly overlooked band from the '80s, or he could stick to his solo material from the past three decades. Whatever path Escovedo chooses, the audience is in store for a bevy of songs that explore the magical point where Iggy Pop meets Johnny Cash, where three chords deliver the incredible rush of Elvis saying, "Let's get real gone" and Johnny Rotten singing, "I am the anti-Christ." Darryl Smyers

Kanye West

Friday, December 6 at American Airlines Center

I still remember the chills I felt on first hearing opener "We Don't Care" from Kanye's debut The College Dropout. It was monumental. Hip-hop had found new life, turned the corner, climbed out from darkness and back into the light. The MC's confessional lyricism delivered fresh perspectives on the hellish socioeconomic issues plaguing lower-class America. It was inspiring and funny but most importantly enlightening. The College Dropout was a hopeful triumph of social commentary, and it ushered in an entirely new style in rap music.

Nine years and five records later, Kanye remains every bit as relevant as he was then. Transformation after transformation has shown him to be a restless artist, a musician in service of an uncompromising vision. His new album, Yeezus, is his boldest, most adventurous turn yet. Sparse and brooding, the album is Kanye's inhuman narcissism re-calibrated and aimed like a protest sign at every injustice he's had hurled against him. It's equal parts unsettling and astonishing: hip-hop as a Blank Panther rock anthem. Whether you find Kanye to be revolutionary or repugnant, there's no denying his influence — he's well on his way to a place as one of the most iconic figures in both music and pop-culture history. Dallas, get out your palm leaves, because Yeezus is riding into town. Though only in its infancy, early reports are that this tour is an unreal spectacle. Jonathan Patrick

Yo Gabba Gabba! Live

Saturday, December 7, at Verizon Theatre

Being a parent requires making a ton of sacrifices to spend time with your children. If you're a music buff, that means going to fewer and fewer live shows, unless you can somehow convince the bouncer at the club where Slayer is playing that letting your kid listen to high quality heavy metal is the only way to lull the little guy to sleep. The idea that children's music could be entertaining for adults as well inspired Yo Gabba Gabba! creators Christian Jacobs and Scott Schultz to develop the wildly popular kids show that encourages kids to get up and dance along with DJ Lance Rock, Muno, Foofa, Plex and the rest of the gang. You'll be able to do the same with your little ones when the group takes its Very Awesome Holiday Show to the Verizon Theatre. Danny Gallagher

 
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