Hanson's Coming to Town

And they lead this week's concert picks


The three Hanson brothers have really grown up in the 13 years since "MMMBop" made them teen stars. Their latest album, Shout It Out, balances the hooky pop of their breakthrough with the blue-eyed soul they've been playing ever since. Singer Taylor's voice has taken on a grown-up rasp over the years, so while he still sounds like a 27-year-old white kid singing R&B, now he sounds like a 27-year-old white kid singing R&B convincingly. Shout It Out isn't bogged down with world affairs like Hanson's last album, 2007's The Walk, so their set should be a lot lighter than recent outings. Openers Rooney — another group of young kids wrestling with traditional pop music's limitations — haven't had near the success of Hanson, but they share a love of hooky tunes. Rooney's new album, Eureka, is about as stripped-down as these L.A. power-poppers have ever sounded. Maybe because it's their first self-released album. Or maybe it's because they're finally realizing good songs don't need to be smothered in excessive studio gloss. Either way, it'll be quite a pop explosion onstage. Michael Gallucci

Hanson, with Rooney. 7 p.m. Thursday, August 19. House of Blues. Tickets: $27.50-$39.50; call 216-523-2583 or go to houseofblues.com.

Trans Am

For a long time, instrumental rock was pretty much the dorkiest field you could choose as a musical career. It was mostly overrun by Eddie Van Halen disciples, showing off their knowledge of diminished minor-key-descending seventh note intervals or some other non-expressive nonsense. But over the past couple of decades, a growing number of like-minded groups have brought a refreshing indie-rock sensibility to the mix. Trans Am were one of the first, and they remain among the best and most popular. Their ninth album, Thing, merges hard-rock instrumentation with computerized dance-rock beats. The rare and mostly processed vocal contributions add a slight human touch to the songs. To non-fans, Trans Am's music sounds like something that would accompany Neo as he walks down The Matrix's computer-filled hallway. The band's real strength comes out in concert, where you're free to dance to the beats or simply stand still and marvel at the instrumental prowess on display. — Matthew Wilkening

Trans Am, with Megachurch. 7 p.m. Wednesday, August 18. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Free; call 216-781-7625 or go to rockhall.com.

Dax Riggs

There are plenty of ways to skin a cynic — wisdom that Dax Riggs has taken to heart over the years. Riggs' willingness to broaden his approach and explore different musical avenues suggests he'd make a better politician than most of those we're saddled with. His dramatic, swaggering delivery sounds like he's spent a lot of time listening to glam pioneers like Marc Bolan and early David Bowie. Musically, Riggs has journeyed far from the malignant filth and feral growl of his first gig singing with swampy death-metal grinders Acid Bath in the '90s. After they broke up, he made a lateral move to Agents of Oblivion, though they did explore a groovier and stonier version of doom. The millennium brought Deadboy & the Elephantman, where Riggs expanded a little by delving into a stripped-down but still primal garage-blues strut. After two albums and some lineup turnover, Riggs dropped the band's name in favor of his own, retaining much of the same approach. On Say Goodbye to the World, his second album as a "solo artist" (where he's still accompanied by a full band), Riggs turns down the tempos and rawk crunch in favor of some finesse. The music is moodier and groovier without completely abandoning the grime. It's sorta like a late-night back-alley rendezvous with a leather-jacketed lothario. — Chris Parker

Dax Riggs, with Simeon Soul Charger and the Black Elevators. 9 p.m. Wednesday, August 18. Grog Shop. Tickets: $12, $10 in advance; call 216-321-5588 or go to grogshop.gs.

Zac Brown Band

It isn't easy to label the Zac Brown Band. The laidback Atlanta group plays a mix of country, Caribbean, reggae, and bluegrass music. The band's shows are playful, loose, and unpredictable (check out its recent DVD and CD, Pass the Jar: Live From the Fabulous Fox Theatre in Atlanta, for proof). Songs like the clever "Toes," bouncy "We're Going to Make This Day," and party-starter "Chicken Fried" are solid originals. But Brown and his band are also big-time music fans, and the covers they play in concert span genres. They've nailed the Beatles' delicate "Blackbird," zigzagged through the Charlie Daniels Band workout "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," and interpreted "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" in the spirit that the Band intended. You never know what the Zac Brown Band will pull out of their bag when they play Blossom this weekend. — Ed CondranZac Brown Band, with Casey Driessen and the Wood Brothers. 7 p.m. Friday, August 20. Blossom Music Center. Tickets: $20.50-$34.50; call 330-920-8040 or go to livenation.com.

The Black Crowes

Roughly halfway between the 1970s arrival of southern rock (in the form of the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd) and the genre's remake this past decade (most notably via the dark Dixie mythos of Drive-By Truckers) emerged a raucous rebel sound that was unexpected at the time and, in retrospect, one of the genre's most enduring and successful. The Black Crowes' 1990 debut, Shake Your Money Maker, brandished a balls-out roadhouse alternative in the face of hair nation. From the start, their sound — steeped in southern R&B and laced with the bad-boy swagger of the Rolling Stones — came with an acoustic complement (the unplugged "She Talks to Angels" is one of the band's most-loved songs). Shake Your Money Maker served as a multi-platinum launch for the band's much-celebrated run, which is now entering its third decade. A dozen albums and several personnel makeovers later, the Crowes' dual nature is more apparent than ever. Also evident is the masterful roots-conscious songcraft of singer Chris Robinson and his guitar-playing brother Rich. For proof, listen to last year's Before the Frost/Until the Freeze and the just-released Croweology, which includes all-acoustic remakes of some of the band's best songs. Though some of the shows on their new tour includes acoustic sets, this week's House of Blues gig is all electric. Duane Verh

The Black Crowes. 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, August 24. House of Blues. Tickets: $42.50-$69.50; call 216-523-2583 or go to houseofblues.com.

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