Jill Scott and Maxwell play the Q on Friday

Soul Power 

Jill Scott and Maxwell play the Q on Friday

At first, Jill Scott wanted to be a teacher. But when she found it too difficult to get good grades and work two jobs, she started performing at the small clubs and cafes and clubs near her Philadelphia home. "There are places to get your craft together," she says of her hometown. "I found these places and got really comfortable being onstage. I wasn't trying to win anything. I was performing in front of people with just words, and it felt good to me." Scott's debut album, Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1, came out in 2000 and received several Grammy nominations, putting her alongside other neo-soul singers like Erykah Badu. A soulful but understated vocalist, Scott says she has to be emotionally connected to her music for it to work. That's one of the reasons she writes her own songs. "I'm a method singer," she says. "I admire singers who get on the microphone and just sing. I think that's great. But I have to know what I'm saying, and I have to feel it." Scott, who stars in Tyler Perry's recent Why Did I Get Married Too, is hard at work on a new album, The Light of the Sun, which is due by the end of the year. She and Maxwell co-headline a concert at Quicken Loans Arena (One Center Ct., 888-894-9424, theqarena.com) on Friday. Showtime is 7 p.m. Tickets: $51.50-$151.50. — Jeff Niesel

Wednesday, May 19

Cleveland Orchestra

Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 — the "Heroic Symphony" — is one of those pieces of music that scholars refer to as a turning point. In this case, the work is widely recognized as the place where classical and Romantic symphonies crossed. For one thing, it's twice as long as symphonies by Mozart and other predecessors. Plus, it's charged with politics. Beethoven dedicated the piece to Napoleon Bonaparte at first, but the composer changed his mind when the little man declared himself emperor. So he erased Napoleon's name from the music's title page, scratching a hole in the manuscript. Franz Welser-Möst conducts the Cleveland Orchestra in a performance of the piece at 8 tonight and 7 p.m. Sunday at Severance Hall (11001 Euclid Ave., 216-231-1111, clevelandorchestra.com). Tickets: $31-$93. Michael Gill

Henry Stone

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's "From Songwriters to Soundmen" series takes fans behind the scenes with famous guests who talk about some of their biggest hits. Tonight, the Rock Hall's Lauren Onkey interviews Henry Stone, who helped distribute some of rock's earliest records. He eventually became owner and president of the disco-oriented TK Records (home to KC and the Sunshine Band) and was a creative force behind the era's Miami Sound. You can get down, get down, get down tonight at 7 at the Rock Hall's Foster Theater (1100 Rock and Roll Blvd.). It's free, but you need to RVSP at edu@rockhall.org or call 216-515-8426. —Niesel

Thursday, May 20

Country Throwdown

The folks behind the Vans Warped Tour are taking a similar approach to their new Country Throwdown Tour, which mixes established and emerging artists on three stages (one main, two side). The tour's headliners are Montgomery Gentry and Little Big Town, but you'll also want to check out Jamey Johnson (who wrote George Strait's "Give It Away" and scored his own hit with the wistful "In Color") and Jack Ingram, who was named ACM's 2008 Best Male Vocalist. There are several promising new acts too, like Eric Church and the Lost Trailers. Plus, honky-tonker Tyler Reeve, versatile Texan Ryan Bingham (who won an Academy Award recently for his Crazy Heart song), and the road-tested Jonathan Singleton & the Grove. Two female solo acts complete the bill: scrappy ex-Trick Pony singer Heidi Newfield, who grew up listening to Ernest Tubb and AC/DC, and Emily West. Let's see...an unprecedented number of artists? Breaking new acts at an affordable price? Sounds like a twangy Warped Tour we can get behind. The show starts at 1 p.m. at Blossom Music Center (1145 Steels Corners Rd., Cuyahoga Falls, 216-241-5555, livenation.com). Tickets: $21-$41. — Tierney Smith

Greg Laswell

Let's face it: When you're truly bummed out and deeply blue, few people want to know you. Sometimes that's OK, since you might be feeling a bit allergic to people anyway, even the friendly ones. That's where singer-songwriter Greg Laswell comes in. On his latest album, Take a Bow, he knows how you feel — the textured, thundering "Come Clean" gives catharsis, "In Front of Me" drips with resignation, and "Marquee" lends weary irony. Laswell's gauzy voice and simmering melodies gently reflect hints of liberating relief. Still, Take a Bow never succumbs to poor-me pouting. Misery loves company, but it's best if it's stimulating company. Laswell plays the House of Blues' Cambridge Room (308 Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583, houseofblues.com) at 9 p.m. Jimmy Gnecco and Brian Wright open. Tickets: $12 advance, $14 day of show. — Mark Keresman

Lucia di Lammermoor

Like the Capulets and Montagues, the feuding Ravenswoods and Lammermoors in Gaetano Donizetti's opera Lucia di Lammermoor have a history. But Lucia's love is not so much forbidden as forced: Family politics coerce her into an arranged marriage, which drives her to the opera's celebrated "mad scene," which, if you've got a good soprano, results in some glorious singing. Thankfully, Opera Cleveland has Nili Riemer, who makes her Cleveland debut in the title role. Lucia di Lammermoor is performed at 7:30 tonight, 8 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday at the State Theatre (1519 Euclid Ave., 216-241-6000, operacleveland.org). Tickets: $25-$110. Gill

Friday, May 21

Another Way of Looking: Influences From Islam

Contemporary artists influenced by Islam have something in common with their Christian counterparts: They bring new perspective to something steeped in centuries of tradition. They also paint a more complex picture of the culture than you usually see everywhere else. Another Way of Looking: Influences From Islam curator Nama Khalil says contemporary artists influenced by Islam "offer us a way out of the violence and mayhem that seems to always be taking place in the Middle East." Another Way of Looking — the largest of three shows running simultaneously at Cleveland State University Gallery that explore the subject — includes work by seven artists who respond to hallmarks of Middle Eastern culture, from a video loop that portrays the ways Islamic women dress to mixed-media work that juxtaposes symbols of faith with explosive violence. The other two exhibits deal with art that's more conventionally influenced by faith. Islamic Manuscripts From the Cleveland Public Library Collection features ornate calligraphy that represents Allah in the Koran, and photographer A. Cemal Ekin gives a breathtaking look at one of the world's most extravagantly decorated buildings in Touching the History: Photographs From the Dome of Hagia Sophia. All three exhibits open with a reception from 5 to 7 tonight at the CSU Galleries (2307 Chester Ave., 216-687-2103, csuohio.edu). They run through June 26. Admission is free. Gill

Flats Oxbow 20th Annual Auction

The Flats Oxbow Association represents a very unusual neighborhood — one where industry, upscale condos and apartments, maritime-related businesses, and bars, restaurants, and other entertainment facilities coexist. It's "mixed-use" to the nth degree. To support its work, the organization holds an annual auction, which celebrates its 20th year at 7 tonight at Sammy's in the Flats (1400 W. 10th St.). The $50 ticket includes an open bar and dinner, plus live and silent auctions for prizes like brunch with County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones, a city hall tour with councilman Matt Zone, and a cruise on the Goodtime III. Tickets are available only in advance; call 216-566-1046 for more info.  Anastasia Pantsios

Saturday, May 22

Cleveland Asian Festival

Cleveland has long-running Italian, Irish, and Puerto Rican festivals. And now for the first time, there's the Cleveland Asian Festival, reflecting the burgeoning Asian population on the city's near East Side. From 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. today, Asia Plaza at East 30th Street and Payne Avenue will fill with the sounds and colors of musical ensembles and dance troupes representing Japan, China, Vietnam, Hawaii, and India. An egg-roll contest at 5:30 p.m. and a fashion show at 6:30 p.m. mix things up. There are also strolling kung-fu demonstrations and a sumo competition. The food court features items from many of the neighborhood's restaurants, and around 50 organizations and businesses — Asian and non — will have booths. Honorary Asian Mayor Frank Jackson will be part of the opening ceremony at noon. It's free. Go to clevelandasianfestival.org for information. — Pantsios

Journeys Backyard Barbecue

Can't wait for the Vans Warped tour to hit town in July? The Journeys Backyard Barbecue tour, which stops at the southwest parking lot of Southpark Mall (500 Southpark Center, Strongsville) from noon to 7 p.m. today, offers a bit of that same mix of music, extreme-sports demonstrations, and activities booths. The only big-name band is the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, a pop-punk group from Florida. Locals will share the stage for an afternoon battle of the bands. Meanwhile, motocross, BMX, and skateboard daredevils will risk life and limb on a 60,000 square-foot "alternative sports playground." Various tents and booths offer fans the chance to decorate a pair of Converse Chuck Taylor high-tops, learn basic skateboard moves from pros, get a free henna tattoo, and of course, buy stuff. Plus, Mom can do her shopping in peace — she'll wish this happened every weekend. It's free. Call 440-846-5110 or go to journeysbbq.com for information. Pantsios 

The Scoop on Poop

As long as there are kids, dinosaurs will never really be extinct. The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo (3900 Wildlife Way, 216-661-6500, clemetzoo.com) has already brought back the animatronic ones for the summer. Today they're adding something else kids should totally enjoy: The Scoop on Poop. They'll chortle as they learn fun facts about feces from the new exhibit, which combines humor and serious science to teach kids about the kinds of waste left behind by different animals and the information that can be gleaned from turds. So once regular school is out, take your progeny to stool school, which is open during regular zoo hours, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. It's free with zoo admission: $10 adults, $7 ages 2-11. Pantsios 

Sunday, May 23

Hessler Street Fair

University Circle is still redolent of 1969, the year the first Hessler Street Fair was held. The fairs lasted until 1984 and were revived in 1995, and sometimes — walking through the array of crafts booths, locally made food, and residents and dogs hanging out on porches — you'd swear it was the '60s. Multiple generations of original and neo-hippies still sport sandals and India-print skirts. You can join them from 11 a.m. to dusk and stock up on tie-dye and batik clothing and beaded jewelry, get a henna tattoo, learn about the latest government and corporate threats from the folks at Revolution Books, and check out a poetry reading. Or you can perform some freeform dancing to the music of Carlos Jones and the P.L.U.S. Band, Mifune, and the JiMiller Band. It's all free. Go to hessler.org for a full schedule. — Pantsios 

Monday, May 24

Jon Anderson With the Contemporary Youth Orchestra

Prog-rock pioneer Jon Anderson, who gave Yes both his mystical voice and even more mystical lyrics, must have had a good time when he performed with the Contemporary Youth Orchestra back in 2004. He returns tonight, fronting orchestral performances of some of Yes' greatest hits and premiering Children Yet to Come. CYO director Liza Grossman says the new piece is a symphonic and choral work that uses all of the ensemble's 115 instrumentalists and its chorus of 60 singers. "He says it's dedicated to children waiting to come to this portion of life," she says. "It's about our responsibilities to each other and to the earth." The orchestra will also serve as Anderson's backup band when he performs "Roundabout," "I've Seen All Good People," "Owner of a Lonely Heart," and other Yes classics that were radio hits long before CYO members were even conceived. Says Grossman: "Part of their homework is to go home and listen to 'Roundabout.'" The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. at Severance Hall (11001 Euclid Ave., 216-231-1111, cyorchestra.org). Tickets: $12-$42. Gill

Guy Forsyth

A founding member of the Asylum Street Spankers, singer-songwriter Guy Forsyth has won music awards in his Austin hometown for his ukulele, harmonica, and singing-saw skills. He's toured as a solo artist for years, but on his current tour he's paired with Austin bluesy singer-guitarist Carolyn Wonderland. He's a little bit country, and she's a lot more rock 'n' roll, and the two have played on each other's records and occasionally at live shows. For tonight's co-headlining gig (an extension of a holiday tour they took around Texas late last year), they'll swap bandmates and sing each other's songs during two 90-minute sets. The show starts at 8 p.m. at Wilbert's (812 Huron Rd. E., 216-902-4663, wilbertsmusic.com). Tickets: $10. — Niesel

Tuesday, May 25

Soul Soldiers: African Americans and the Vietnam Era

Everything we learned about war, we learned from movies. We know from Glory that plenty of black guys fought in the Civil War. And we know from Saving Private Ryan that none were in World War II. But Apocalypse Now and Platoon showed us that lots of young black men were in Vietnam. So we know a little about the subject going into the Western Reserve Historical Society's new exhibit Soul Soldiers: African Americans and the Vietnam Era. But there's so much more to learn, and this display — filled with photos, artifacts, documentaries, and artwork — provides a detailed chronicle of the war from one group's perspective. And Soul Soldiers doesn't shy away from the political and cultural awakenings of the era: Happening at the same time as civil-rights skirmishes at home, the jungle war just one in a series of battles. The exhibit runs through November 27 at the Western Reserve Historical Society (10825 East Blvd., wrhs.org, 216-721-5722). It's open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Admission is $8.50, $5 for kids. Michael Gallucci

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