The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductions are still a week away. But the festivities leading up to the sold-out event kick off on Thursday, March 26, at the Beachland Ballroom (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216.383.1124, beachlandballroom.com), as the club’s resident DJs pay tribute to inductee Bobby Womack by spinning some of his rarest grooves. That same night, Boston-based soul man Eli “Paperboy” Reed — a white kid with a booming, soulful voice — takes the stage with his high-energy band. And that’s just the beginning. The rest of the weekend and into next week, you can check out a full slate of concerts, lectures and exhibits. Some of the highlights include a free show by R&B icons the O’Jays and performances by two of this year’s inductees (Wanda Jackson and Little Anthony and the Imperials). Oh yeah, and on April 1, an extensive Bruce Springsteen exhibit opens at the Rock Hall. And for you early risers, Run DMC’s Daryl McDaniels is at the Hard Rock Café at 9 a.m. Saturday, April 4, to host a brunch that benefits the Felix Foundation. Here’s a guide to just a few of the concerts. Check out rockhall.org for a complete list of happenings.
Friday, March 27
One of the most enduring blues legends, 83-year-old B.B. King still has a few things to say when he sits down and straps on his beloved Lucille (a custom-made Gibson ES-335). His gait is slower, but his voice is as firm as ever, as is his guitar playing. His latest album One Kind Favor, which includes help from friends like Dr. John and producer T-Bone Burnett, shows he still has it, in spite of his long years. Don't expect King to bring out many new songs, though. Longtime fans who come back year after year expect standards like "The Thrill Is Gone," "How Blue Can You Get," "Caldonia," the Bono-penned hit "When Love Comes to Town" and assorted other tunes. King doesn't disappoint, cheerfully delivering his songs alongside a handful of stories and jokes from his five decades on the road. King has shared the stage with Chicago blues guitarist (and a legend in his own right) Buddy Guy on several stops of the current tour, but for his Cleveland gig, he'll go at it alone. Not that it matters; the show is sold out. The show starts at 9 p.m. at House of Blues (308 Euclid Ave., 216.523.7523, hob.com). — Ernest Barteldes
Moondog Coronation Ball
Saturday, March 28
An annual ritual that pays homage to what is historically known as the first rock 'n' roll concert, the Moondog Coronation Ball has become a far tamer concert than that notorious 1952 show. At the first Moondog Ball, organized and promoted by famed DJ Alan Freed, a crowd of 20,000 tried to fit their way into a venue designed to hold an audience half that size. This year's concert isn't likely to encounter the same problem. It features one inductee (Little Richard) plus a slew of oldies acts who probably won't ever get inducted, including Three Dog Night, Tommy James & the Shondells and Herman's Hermits. One of the Rock Hall's first inductees, 77-year-old Little Richard is the real draw here. The eccentric showman is also an ordained minister, so don't be surprised if he mixes in a little preaching with his rock 'n' roll. The show starts at 7 p.m. at Quicken Loans Arena (One Center Court, 216.241.5555, theqarena.com). Tickets: $47. — Jeff Niesel
Sunday, March 29
It's a little odd that Pastor Shirley Caesar is part of the Rock Hall's Induction Week, because the 70-year-old gospel star has avoided secular music and devoted herself to spreading the world of the Lord throughout her 50-year career. With enough Grammys and Gospel Music Association Dove Awards to fill a dozen mantles, Caesar has recorded more than 40 albums and maintains a packed tour schedule — while still finding time to lead a congregation in Raleigh, North Carolina. The artists she's worked with — from early collaborations with the Rev. Dr. James Cleveland and Albertina Walker to 2004's Sisters in the Spirit tour with Yolanda Adams and Mary Mary — are firmly in the gospel fold. Yet rockers should relate to the fervor and drama with which she delivers her sacred message. Petite and raucous, she stalks the stage, interrupting her tunes to preach, as she shapes her testimony to lead into explosive musical climaxes. She heads up Rock My Soul: A Gospel Music Celebration, with younger gospel artists J. Moss, Richard Smallwood, Vision and Tyniece Wingfield, odd-man-out neo-soul artist Musiq Soulchild, the Word Church Praise Team and Cleveland gospel legend Helen Turner-Thompson with the Antioch Baptist Church Flame Team Choir. News anchor Leon Bibb hosts a roof-raising evening at 7:30 at the Allen Theatre (1501 Euclid Ave., 216.241.6000, playhousesquare.com).The free tickets are gone, but more may be released; go to rockhall.com/newsletter to get updates. — Anastasia Pantsios
Thursday, April 2
It's appropriate the O'Jays are headlining Thursday's free Concert for Cleveland. Of all the artists inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the veteran soul men (who celebrated their 50th anniversary last year) are the only Clevelanders of the bunch. (Another R&B local, Bobby Womack, will join them on April 4.) Ironically, the O'Jays were leaders of the Philly Sound — a '70s soul movement spearheaded by Philadelphia-based songwriters and record-company owners Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. But the O'Jays' roots stretch back to Cleveland in the late '50s, when Eddie Levert founded the group with a bunch of high-school pals. It wasn't until 1972 that they got their big break on Philadelphia International Records. "Back Stabbers" reached No. 3; a year later, "Love Train" landed at No. 1. Both songs remain cornerstones of '70s soul music. The O'Jays still record from time to time. Levert also helped his late sons Gerald and Sean get a record deal for their own R&B vocal group, Levert, in the '80s. The O'Jays play Cleveland State University's Wolstein Center (2000 Prospect Ave., csuohio.edu) at 7:30 p.m. Coolio, Whodini, Rob Base and white guy Dave Mason are also on the bill. The concert is free, but you need a ticket, available at the Rock Hall or call 800.745.3000. — Michael Gallucci
Thursday, April 2
There aren't too many performers still around who were close to Elvis. And we're not talking about Costello. Wanda Jackson not only toured with Elvis Presley during the mid-'50s, she even dated him. However, her dating history isn't the reason she's a member of this year's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction class. Jackson was one of the first significant female rockabilly singers, scorching up the airwaves with good-timin' tunes like "Fujiyama Mama" and "Let's Have a Party." The original "rockabilly filly" also found success on the country charts with hits like "Right or Wrong" and "In the Middle of a Heartache." The '80s rockabilly revival shined the spotlight back on Jackson, whose work has influenced a number of country-rock ladies over the years, and she's stayed active ever since. Her recent albums, Heart Trouble (which features a Costello cameo) and I Remember Elvis (an all-Presley tribute), find her in fine voice — still frisky and feisty. Tonight's show offers the increasingly rare opportunity to experience a singer who was there at the dawn of rock 'n' roll, as well as to share in Jackson's celebration on the eve of her Rock Hall induction. Showtime is 8 p.m. at the Agora Theatre (5001 Prospect Ave., Cleveland 216.881.6700. clevelandagora.com). Tickets are $17.50. — Michael Berick
and the Imperials
Friday, April 3
Often lumped in with the doo-wop acts of the era, Little Anthony and the Imperials are a straight-up R&B band (something Anthony is adamant about these days) that started in 1958, in the housing projects of Brooklyn. With a high-pitched voice that recalled Clevelander Jimmy Scott, Little Anthony Gourdine turned the group into a sensation, as tunes like "Tears on My Pillow" and "Shimmy Shimmy Ko Ko Bop" became chart-topping hits. Little Anthony would split from the group in 1961 to pursue a solo career, but he returned shortly after, and he and his remaining bandmates — Clarence Collins, Ernest Wright and Harold Jenkins — have been touring and recording ever since. They'll undoubtedly play their classics at this appearance. But they have a new album out, so expect to hear some tracks from it too. And given that Anthony has no trouble talking about his past exploits, expect to hear a few stories about the old days, with references to guys like Ed Sullivan and Alan Freed, both of whom were instrumental in putting the band on the musical map. Sherena Wynn opens at 8:30 p.m. at the Agora Theatre (5000 Euclid Ave., 216.881.2221, clevelandagora.com). Tickets: $21.50-$29.50. — Niesel
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