Where do Kings of Leon go now that they've conquered the world? Longtime fans who've watched the band grow creatively and commercially over four albums and six years of touring consider the songs that put the band over the top — "Sex on Fire" and "Use Somebody" — a tad sucky. But those are exactly the kind of songs that bring in the frat boys and soccer moms — which, as frontman Caleb Followill recently lamented, is not what the Kings had in mind when they started the band. Then again, filling amphitheaters is pretty nice. So which path will the Kings take on their next album? Supposedly, they went into the studio recently to record a "dark and brooding" record but came out instead with a sunny, beach-ready platter. Is this a sign of artists following their true muse? Or are these commercial concerns subconsciously creeping in? And is their massive summer tour before the album's release this fall part of their driving work ethic? Or just a shameless cash grab? Based on most of their music and always-impressive live shows, we'll give them the benefit of the doubt. — Wilkening
Kings of Leon, with Built to Spill and the Stills. 7 p.m. Monday, July 26. Blossom Music Center. Tickets: $36.50-$56.50; call 330-920-8040 or go to livenation.com.Black Mountain
Remember when the alternative-rock label was a good thing? Too bad it was run into the ground by dozens of toothless, pre-packaged corporate bands, because a group like Black Mountain sure could use the tag. They mix the best parts of Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and Jefferson Airplane. Despite those retro influences, their music makes it clear that they're well aware of what year it is and what's going on around them — even if they willfully and wonderfully stay out of step with the current herd. In other words, a true alternative. Black Mountain make smart, dynamic hard rock that draws depth from a blend of psychedelic keyboards, electric and acoustic guitars, and the contrasting vocals of earthy frontman Stephen McBean and the ethereal Amber Webber. The band is touring in advance of the September release of Wilderness Heart, its follow-up to 2008's terrific In the Future. — Matthew Wilkening
Black Mountain, with Quest for Fire. 9 p.m. Saturday, July 24. Beachland Ballroom.Tickets: $12; call 216-383-1124 or go to beachlandballroom.com.
Citizen Cope pulls an Everlast on his latest album, The RainWater LP. Just like the former House of Pain roughneck picked up an acoustic guitar and got all folksy on Whitey Ford Sings the Blues, reformed hip-hopper Citizen Cope almost totally abandons rhymes and beats on this album of gentle strums and plaintive crooning. And like Whitey, RainWater gets a tad too self-indulgent and heavy-serious about a third of the way in. Most of the time, Cope sings about the shitty economy and fractured relationships. It's all kinda snoozy, but it should serve as a perfect warm-up for O.A.R.'s equally sleepy jams. — Michael Gallucci
Citizen Cope, with O.A.R. 7 p.m. Thursday, July 22. Nautica Pavilion. Tickets: $33.50; call 800-745-3000 or go to livenation.com.
Lords of Acid
During the heyday of the late-'80s/early-'90s club scene, few bands blurred acid-house, rock & roll swagger, a dark sense of humor, and carnal obsession like Lords of Acid. Go to any fetish night or scan a dominatrix's iPod and you'll find at least one Lords of Acid track on the playlist (probably "Rough Sex," "I Sit on Acid," or "The Crablouse"). Over the course of 19 years and five albums, the Belgian group led by Praga Khan has explored many musical avenues, but its work is defined by one theme: Let your body take control. Khan is the Lords' main force in the studio, but onstage they're a full band. The lineup playing the Sextreme Ball tour includes guitarist Sin Quirin (who's done time in Ministry and Revolting Cocks), singer Lacey Conner (Rock of Love), and bassist M3 (Powerman 5000). Genre mainstays My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult — whose industrial rock leans toward creepy, B-movie-inspired dance — are also on the bill. And like Lords of Acid, they do a bang-up job adapting their studio shenanigans for concert stages. — Norm Narvaja
The Sextreme Ball 2010, with Lords of Acid, My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult, and Blownload. 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 27. Peabody's. Tickets: $20, $17 advance; call 216-776-9999 or go to peabodys.com.
Brad Paisley is the David Brooks of country. Like The New York Times op-ed columnist, Paisley celebrates an idyllic, suburban vision of American life that never really existed, but which is comforting to imagine as the country's economy staggers. In "All I Wanted Was a Car," from 2007's 5th Gear, Paisley recalls working at a mall food court as a teen, and "Welcome to the Future," from last year's American Saturday Night, celebrates modern technology instead of an idealized rural past. Paisley's brand of country is musically broadminded, blending chirpy keyboards with Telecasters and fiddles, and he's lyrically perceptive without relying on corny puns and epigrams. What's more, he's a skilled guitarist who combines Chet Atkins-style picking with Joe Satriani-esque shred (check out his almost-entirely-instrumental 2008 album Play: The Guitar Album), and his songs frequently showcase his talents. Gone are the days when Hank Williams said of a country guitarist "He soloed himself right out of a job." But Paisley's defining characteristic is a minivan-driving, soccer-dad geniality. Old-school country had the sharp edge of a broken beer bottle, but Paisley makes music for Saturday afternoons mowing the lawn, not Friday nights fighting in bars. — Phil Freeman
Brad Paisley, with Darius Rucker and Justin Moore. 4 p.m. Friday, July 23. Blossom Music Center. Tickets: $28.50-$59.75; call 330-920-8040 or go to livenation.com.
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