The Five Best Shows in Houston This Week: Rakim, Lady Gaga, the Neighbourhood, etc.
Give John Egan credit for taking chances. The longtime solo Houston bluesman's new album, Amulet, is in some respects the polar opposite of its 2012 predecessor, Phantoms. Besides bringing in a few side musicians and respected Americana producer R.S. Field (Billy Joe Shaver, Webb Wilder),
Egan has expanded his songwriting reach to include Latin-tinged jazz and melancholy pop, showing he's less reliant on his Resonator guitar's unforgiving tone but comfortable keeping the instrument as his anchor. The end result is a softer mood than Phantoms, whose songs sometimes showed visibly bared teeth, but Amulet's overall disquieting feel suggests Egan has done little to ward off the same tormentors who were after him last time. CHRIS GRAY
Never mind the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, hip-hop needs its own hall of fame if only to induct people like Rakim. Beginning with albums with DJ partner Eric B such as 1987 landmark Paid In Full, the former William Griffin Jr. (a devout Muslim since age 15) has used language the way John Coltrane and Charlie Parker used their swooping and diving saxophone riffs: to brag and boast, and blow your mind with his astounding agility and dexterity.
This is the man who swore "I Ain't No Joke" on the first song of Paid In Full, later promised "I hold the microphone like a grudge," and has meant it ever since. Since splitting with Eric B following three more albums, Rakim has gone on to a successful if sporadic solo career, most recently with 2009's The Seventh Seal. CHRIS GRAY
Time will tell whether or not Lady Gaga's ARTPOP is a simple stumble or a gaffe that will go down in showbiz infamy. Reviewers were indifferent at best, and a little more than half a year after its release, the album has all but disappeared not just from the charts but the pop-culture conversation in general. That might make it an awkward time for any other pop star to mount her most ambitious tour to date -- a modest little multimillion-dollar production she's dubbed "artRAVE" -- but not this one.
Instead, she's doubled down with two stages, catwalks, seven different costumes (including a dress with tentacles), inflatable flowers, stuffed animals, cannons, and God knows what else. So if all that amounts to a "goodbye celebration of the past," as Gaga has been telling her audiences, it ought to be a memorable one at least. With Lady Starlight and Crayon Pop. CHRIS GRAY
More shows on the next page.
5731 Kirby, Houston, TX