The nine best shows in Denver this week

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A few spectacularly heavy hitters come to Colorado this week -- both Nick Cave and Merle Haggard are in town. Sharon Van Etten, playing Tuesday at the Bluebird, has plenty to show for her own relatively short career. You can read our extensive interview with her elsewhere on Backbeat this morning.

There's plenty more to hear; the rest of our picks follow.

DEVO Summit Music Hall : 8:00 p.m. June 23

To the uninitiated, Devo is just some '80s band with funny hats who did that "Whip It" song that occasionally gets a nod on Family Guy or something. To the slightly wiser, they were the basis of Weird Al's mind-bending original "Dare to Be Stupid." Such a person might start getting to know the soundtrack work of singer Mark Mothersbaugh and from there notice something else: Nearly every single person whose musical opinions he values is an unabashed Devo freak. In March, the band announced an eleven-date tour dedicated to its recently deceased guitarist/keyboardist, Robert Casale, also known as Bob 2. Devo devotees will be thrilled about the band's return to early "experimental" work from 1974 to 1977; those tracks can be found on the recently reissued Hardcore compilations.

My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult Gothic Theatre : 8:00 p.m. June 24

My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult began as a film idea that Frankie Nardiello and Marsten Daley had that never fully came to fruition. The two met while touring with Ministry, and in 1987, inspired in part by disco, exploitation films, the industrial scene happening around them in Chicago and a mutual love for campy horror movies, the pair formed a creative partnership that produced something better than any movie they could have made. With Nardiello taking on the stage name of Groovie Mann and Daley performing as Buzz McCoy, the two larger-than-life characters have been making larger-than-life music and putting on incredibly entertaining and gloriously colorful (in every sense) shows ever since.

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds Temple Hoyne Buell Theater : 8:00 p.m. June 24

Love, death and religion: These have been common themes in Nick Cave's quarter-century-long career. He's been a junkie, a punk Baudelaire, the Black Crow King, a penitent man and countless others, but through it all, he's steeped himself in the most extreme iconography of these subjects. As part of the lineage of the soul-bared singer, like Robert Johnson and Johnny Cash, Cave can sound like he's clinging to Heaven even as all of Hell chases after him.

Peter Murphy Summit Music Hall : 8:00 p.m. June 24

Peter Murphy is probably best known for his role as the charismatic, mysterious, ectomorphic frontman for influential post-punk band Bauhaus. But before that act reunited in the late '90s and since, Murphy has released a string of accomplished albums under his own name. It wasn't until his second solo record, 1988's

Love Hysteria

, that he came to be known as an artist in his own right, outside of his past projects. He had a hit with "Cuts You Up," from 1989's


, and became something of a figure in the early days of alt-rock with his song "I've Got a Miniature Secret Camera," which appeared on the

Pump Up the Volume


Mavis Staples & Marc Cohn Denver Botanic Gardens : 7:00 p.m. June 24

With a career that spans over six decades, Mavis Staples doesn't need much of an introduction. The Rock And Roll Hall of Famer began her gospel-influenced singing career as part of the Staple Singers family institution in the 1950s and hasn't stopped making powerful music since. Working closely with Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, who produced and helped write 2010's

You Are Not Alone

and last year's

One True Vine

, Staples continues to gather new legions of fans with her unbreakable voice and the undeniable soul she displays.

Sharon Van Etten Bluebird Theater : 8:00 p.m. June 24

When your muses and your demons spring from the same passion, you've got two choices: give in or grit your teeth. You cut your losses with one in favor of the other, or you hold your ground and pray that you're the one still standing at the end of the war between the two. Sharon Van Etten chose the latter approach with Are We There. She's not only standing, but towering above the conflicts and obstacles that had previously shackled the strength of her own voice. Ballad by ballad, beneath a spotlight on a nightly basis, she's emotionally excavating the toughest songs she's ever written. Or at least that's what she's prepared to do, anyway.

KISS and Def Leppard Pepsi Center : 7:00 p.m. June 25

Recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees KISS celebrate four decades of hard rocking this year and Def Leppard has been churning out hard rock nearly as long. While these two groups have crossed paths over the years at festivals, this forty-plus North American trek will be the first time they've actually shared a bill.

Merle Haggard The Paramount Theatre : 8:00 p.m. June 25

Given that Merle Haggard marked his 77th birthday in April, no one would brand him a slacker if he decided to call it a career. Fortunately, though, Bakersfield's favorite son isn't the retiring sort, and despite his vintage, he's in the midst of a late-period renaissance that's reconfirmed his status as a country-music icon with an independent streak an acre wide.

Ingrid Michaelson Bluebird Theater : 8:00 p.m. June 26

Ingrid Michaelson has been an indie darling since she her breakout album from,

Girls and Boys

. Michaelson has always been able to walk the fine line between emotional pop songs and catchy, radio-ready hits. One of her biggest hits, "The Way I Am," embodies this dichotomy--it's an extremely heartfelt song about being loved as you are, but the handclaps and lyrical flips that Michaelson incorporates turned this schmaltzy ballad into a massive pop track that helped usher some brand new sounds into the mainstream. Now, on her sixth album,

Lights Out

, Michaelson is a pro at balancing the deep feelings that made her a star right along the accessible, indie pop sound. Expect to laugh and cry with plenty of other earnest fans--sometimes even during the same song.

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