The best concerts in Denver this weekend
SUN | MAZZY STAR at OGDEN THEATRE | 11/10/13 David Roback was a leading light in the Paisley Underground movement with his band Rain Parade. When that group split up in 1986, Roback formed another outfit, called Opal, with former Dream Syndicate bassist Kendra Smith. Opal released Happy Nightmare Baby in 1987, but before it could record a follow-up album, Smith was replaced by former Going Home singer Hope Sandoval, and the duo ended up changing its name to Mazzy Star. The band's 1993 album, So Tonight That I Might See contained the lushly beautiful "Fade Into You," which propelled the band to mainstream popularity. The act, which became known for crafting gorgeous melodies delivered via Sandoval's deeply evocative vocals, parted ways in 1997, but eventually re-formed in 2010; the recently released Seasons of Your Day is a worthy reminder of its power to transmute melancholy into transcendence.
FRI | GREGORY ALAN ISAKOV at BOETTCHER CONCERT HALL | 11/8/13 Whatever size room he's playing, there's something about Gregory Alan Isakov's voice and his engaging songs that demand attention. He creates an unmistakable intimacy with both. Recorded on analog gear and mixed to tape, The Weatherman, his latest effort, captures the familiarity and rawness of his live shows. Jamie Mefford's lush, reverb-laden production makes some of the cuts feel more expansive than those on Isakov's previous two full-lengths. Bob Dylan once sang, "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows," and you don't need to be a singer-songwriter to realize that Isakov has created something truly stunning here. Here, Isakov teams up with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra for should be a sublime night of music.
FRI | ELEPHANT REVIVAL at OGDEN THEATRE | 11/8/13 Looking to make a more professionally produced album that might be more radio-friendly, Elephant Revival teamed up with producer Ryan Hadlock, who's worked with the Lumineers and Brandi Carlile, to make These Changing Skies. While the thirteen-track album certainly sounds better than previous efforts, the songs are better as well; the act's ability to pen captivating tunes has grown during its seven-year existence. With a core based on folk, the group excels at vocal harmonies. While the act's following has grown considerably since 2006, the exquisite These Changing Skies clearly has the potential to push Elephant Revival to the next level.
FRI | BEN HARPER at ELLIE CAULKINS OPERA HOUSE | 11/8/13 As part of his fall acoustic tour, Ben Harper will perform songs that span the singer-songwriter's two-decade career, from 1994 debut, Welcome to the Cruel World, to his latest effort, Get Up!, which debuted at the number one spot on Billboard's Blues chart earlier this year.
SAT | RIHANNA at PEPSI CENTER | 11/9/13 So much attention is devoted to Rihanna's non-music-related dealings -- her every movement seems to be fodder for the tabloids and the blogosphere, from her reactions to whatever Chris Brown happens to be doing/saying at the moment to whatever bikini-clad selfie she's posted on Instagram -- that it's easy to forget why people became interested in the sassy young siren to begin with. For a pop singer, the gal has a considerable amount of depth -- or at least more than many of her counterparts have. While she croons enticingly with a sultry voice on one song, she can turn around and sing with fiery conviction on another. In either case, that ferociously untamed spirit of hers comes across clearly, and that's precisely why she continues to make headlines.
FRI | KREATOR at GOTHIC THEATRE | 11/8/13 Formed in Essen, Germany, in 1982, Kreator was one of the non-American pioneers of thrash. Like many of its peers, the band -- which experimented with the names Tyrant and Tormentor before settling on Kreator in 1985 -- began as a speed-metal outfit inspired by the new wave of British heavy metal, but the added influence of acts like Venom and Discharge produced an adrenalized thrash sound. Kreator honed its sound by the time it released its 1986 classic, Pleasure to Kill; rather than the American style of thrash, the band assigned a more clipped yet flowing violence to its dynamics, with a darker vocal style that proved influential in itself. Currently touring in support of the live album/DVD Dying Alive, Kreator is sure to live up to its reputation as a fiery live act.
SAT | INNER OCEANS (EP RELEASE) at HI-DIVE | 11/9/13 Inner Oceans, which has roots in both Denver and San Francisco, strikes a compelling balance between hazy electronic atmospheres. The quartet's gently evocative vocals, perfectly accented percussion and strong but languid rhythms evoke many lonely nights spent waiting for the sun to rise. It's tempting to compare Inner Oceans with certain modern-day shoegaze acts, but band's sensibilities hew closer to what a New Zealand pop group or a band from the C86 era might sound like if Phil Spector and Brian Wilson were to produce them -- only breezier and more informed by the production of electronic music and its attention to a well-sculpted and expertly placed low end. The exquisite single "Ready Your Ghost," from the group's forthcoming release, offers a tantalizing glimpse into this band's synthesis of the organic and the ethereal.
FRI | DAVID WILCOX at L2 CENTER | 11/8/13 In richly intimate songs, David Wilcox creates audio tapestries that blend intricate arrangements and warmly appealing tunes with the musician's ongoing personal growth. Whether recording in a log cabin -- as he did for the 1997 release Turning Point -- or experimenting with unconventional guitar techniques, the introspective Wilcox has produced quality tracks filled with poetic purity. He credits his singular style -- folk standards woven with scraps of jazz and pop, rootsy arrangements often flecked with remnants of his brief classical training -- to the rustic influences of Joni Mitchell and James Taylor, but it's his own intense lyrical clarity that makes both his studio and his stage performances unforgettable.
SAT & SUN | BEN ALLISON at DAZZLE | 11/9-11/10 Equally gifted as a bassist and composer, Ben Allison has released some outstanding recordings. From his 1996 debut, Seven Arrows, to his forthcoming eleventh disc, The Stars Look Very Different Today, the recordings reflect Allison's lifelong fascination with science, technology and film. While his roots are planted in jazz, Allison brings in a number of other influences and cinematic elements into his daring compositions. At Dazzle, Allison will be joined a pair of stellar guitarists in Steve Cardenas and Brandon Seabrook, and backed by a superb drummer in Allison Miller.
FRI | LARRY GOLDINGS & CONVERGENCE | 11/8/13 Made up of some the state's best jazz players, Convergence plays Dazzle on a monthly basis while also occasionally performing with nationally known talents like Jimmy Heath and Roberta Gambarini. During this two-night stand, the sextet is joined by world renowned organ player Larry Goldings. From his many albums as a leader to the dozens of albums in which he's appeared as a sideman on, including the 2006 Trio Beyond album Saudades, which was nominated for a Grammy for Best Jazz Instrumental Album Individual or Group, Golding has proven time and again that he's a hell of an improviser.