MON | JAY Z at PEPSI CENTER | 12/2/13 Ever since Reasonable Doubt was released, Jay Z's esteemed career has continued on a path of lyrical and stylistic mastery that leaves no doubt whatsoever. Well beyond the need for braggadocio, the rapper's confidence and long-sustained commercial success are self-evident, which doesn't prevent him from declaring as much anyway. This style of lavish self-aggrandizement, exhibited by the legendary Kool G Rap and passed on through Jay and his contemporaries, remains a huge part of the current mainstream hip-hop identity.
Jay-Z's brand is the model for success beyond rap, beyond even music. He's not a businessman; he's a business, man, and his sphere of influence extends into fashion, liquor and dining. Although Jay's debut is likely his most treasured album among the hip-hop faithful, followups like The Blueprint and The Black Album are arguably just as influential and probably more fun to listen to. He may be past his musical prime, but his name still commands the utmost respect. Even the relative disappointment that was Magna Carta...Holy Grail, which would constitute a success for most other rappers, is a testament to his legacy.
Keep reading for more on the best concerts to see in Denver this week
THURS | PRETTY LIGHTS at OGDEN THEATRE | 12/5/13 In advance of his highly anticipated New Year's Eve appearance at this year's Decadence, Derek Vincent Smith, the mastermind of Pretty Lights, is playing a rare performance at the Ogden Theatre, an appearance that is already sold out. The last time Smith performed at the venue, he was still an emerging act and the show was part of an unprecedented five day run that included shows at the Boulder Theater, Gothic Theatre and Aggie Theater. Smith, who's grown into an A-list EDM superstar, has come a long way since then, obviously.
THURS | JEFF TWEEDY at PARAMOUNT THEATRE | 12/5/13 Thin White Rope and Green on Red may have been some of the early artists in what became known as "alt-country," but Uncle Tupelo took that style to much greater prominence. Along with his friend Jay Farrar, Tweedy led that band for seven years before the former left to form Son Volt and the latter left -- along with the rest of Uncle Tupelo -- to form Wilco. Tweedy's literate, thoughtful and deeply observational lyrics and gently soulful voice have influenced an entire generation of songwriters. He's also been instrumental in furthering the alloy of country and contemporary rock, especially with the inclusion of experimental guitar wizard Nels Cline in Wilco. This Paramount Theatre show offers a rare chance to catch an intimate solo performance in an appropriate setting.
FRI & SAT | MOE. at OGDEN THEATRE | 12/6-12/7 The latest studio album from moe., 2012's What Happened to the LA LA's, features the kind of lengthy improvisations and folk-rock structures that made the Buffalo natives such hits in the jam-band scene starting in 1989. The group's live shows have also stuck to well-established patterns, spanning several nights and featuring a mix of old, new and borrowed material: The group is just as apt to play extended versions of tunes from 1996's No Doy or a cover of a Pink Floyd cut as it is to stick to songs from its latest record. Still, as established as the quintet is, for those paying attention, the outfit's recent effort shows signs of creative growth: LA LA's marked moe.'s first release of entirely new tunes since 2008, just as it represented the band's first collaboration with an independent producer. That kind of creative evolution is bound to have an impact on the group's live dynamic.
THURS | MARK FARINA at CASSELMAN'S BAR & VENUE | 12/5/13 Mark Farina got his start as a house DJ in Chicago alongside house-music godfather Derrick Carter, and took the Windy City's best-known electronic-music export in a different direction when he started mixing down-tempo house tracks into jazzy, funky combinations. His first Mushroom Jazz mix tape led to a club night in San Francisco and six volumes by the same name, proving that although Farina cut his teeth on the playful, energetic house tunes Chicago is known for, he can also rock the mellow, hypnotic, sensual beats of downtempo -- with a trippy, disco-infused flavor that (so far) no other acid-jazz DJ has managed to replicate.
MON | ALL THAT REMAINS at SUMMIT MUSIC HALL | 12/2/13 All That Remains began as a side project of former Shadows Fall vocalist Philip Labonte, allowing him to go further into the melodic end of death metal and employ heavier post-hardcore than he had with the band. When Labonte was asked to leave Shadows Fall in 1998, he was able to give his full attention to All That Remains. The group's debut, Behind Silence and Solitude, featured gruff vocals from Labonte, but on subsequent releases, he has greatly expanded his tonal range, and the music itself has opened up into broader emotional and dynamic territory. The Fall of Ideals, from 2006, introduced the act to more mainstream audiences, with the song "Six" appearing on Guitar Hero II. Now touring in support of last year's A War You Cannot Win, All That Remains returns to Denver with Motionless in White and Soil.
FRI | THE WOOD BROTHERS at FOX THEATRE | 12/6/13 In addition to his Medeski Martin & Wood duties, Chris Wood is half of the Wood Brothers, an act that pairs him with his older brother, vocalist/guitarist Oliver. Appropriately, this side project allows Chris to show, well, another side of himself. Rather than clone the jazzy vibe of his longtime group, the Brothers' debut, Ways Not to Lose, offers a bluesy blend that's naturally boosted by genetics.
FRI | THIRD EYE BLIND at GOTHIC THEATRE | 12/6/13 In 1997, Third Eye Blind was arguably the biggest band in the world. Led by Stephan Jenkins, the band's popularity exploded in the wake of its first single, "Semi-Charmed Life," and the steady stream of hits that followed. Despite being marketed under the umbrella of "alternative," the band's paradigm could not have been any more conventional in terms of accessibility. Which is to say, Third Eye Blind is a master of pop. The dust had settled from the epic Brit-pop-versus-grunge war of the '90s, and Jenkins rose from the rubble dabbling in a little of this and a little of that. Though it has never approached the wild acclaim of that first album, 3EB has chugged along steadily, slowly releasing records and constantly touring.
FRI | DEVIN THE DUDE at ROXY THEATRE | 12/6/13 Devin the Dude was born in Florida, but he moved to Texas when he was young and eventually became a part of the famed Houston label Rap-A-Lot Records, which helped put Southern hip-hop on the map with the Geto Boys. Devin ended up being Rap-A-Lot's longest signed act. Although he started his career mostly as a member of groups like Facemob and the Odd Squad, he would eventually lead a long-lasting solo career consisting of seven albums to date. In contrast to many of the gangsta rappers on Rap-A-Lot, Devin was known for his laid-back flow and the relaxed way he saw the world, which he observed through grass-tinted glasses.
MON | LISSIE at GOTHIC THEATRE | 12/2/13 It's difficult to label what kind of artist Lissie truly is. The Rock Island, Illinois, artist has the soul of a blues musician and the mentality and swagger of a '70s rocker, yet will cover Kid Cudi as if "Pursuit of Happiness" was written for her. (Lissie is also slated to make an in-store appearance at Twist & Shout on Monday, December 2.)