Pitbull & Enrique Iglesias at Toyota Center, 10/19/2014

Photos by Marco Torres
Pitbull & Enrique Iglesias
Toyota Center
October 19, 2014

At the beginning of his set last night at Toyota Center, Pitbull retold his life story on the immense video wall that towered over the stage. The words on the screen talked about his mother and her revolutionary tendencies, his crunk and reggaeton start in the music biz, and his current standing as "a walking television network." In short, he bills his life as the embodiment of the American Dream, one that he makes sure to celebrate at every opportunity.

With the combination of dazzling lights, exotic dancers and a wide smile, Pitbull hit the stage already cranked all the way up to the roof. With his black suit and oversized shades, he charmed the bra and panties off the ladies in the crowd, shouting "dalé" and gyrating his hips up and down and all over the somewhat phallic-shaped stage.

"Houston has always showed me love and support throughout my entire career" he thanked the crowd. "Or as y'all say around here...Awwwready!"

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Twenty One Pilots at House of Blues, 10/19/2014

Photos by Jody Perry
Twenty One Pilots
House of Blues
October 19, 2014

"This is music, and I want you to use it," vocalist Tyler Joseph told the crowd at House of Blues Sunday night. "Fall into it. Disappear."

He and percussionist Josh Dun then began to play "Kitchen Sink," a song about individual struggles and finding hope in the creative process.

"Write something, yeah it might be worthless; then paint something, and it might be worthless; pointless curses, nonsense verses; you'll see purpose start to surface."

The verse was one of many that perfectly encapsulated the appeal of Twenty One Pilots: the band's primary concern is the search for meaning. The Ohio-based duo doesn't pretend to know it all; instead, their lyrics emphasize the beauty of the search itself.

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Charli XCX at Fitzgerald's, 10/16/2014

Photos by Jack Gorman
Charli XCX, Elliphant, Femme
October 16, 2014

Fans of British pop starlet Charli XCX who missed her show at Fitzgerald's last night are pretty well out of luck. We're not likely to see her in such a small venue again anytime soon. She's already too famous for the place.

That wasn't the plan, exactly. When her current club tour was booked, it was meant to help break the singer stateside as her new album, Sucker, hit store shelves. But now, after her hook on Iggy Azalea's "Fancy" helped propel her to household-name status over the summer, she is broken, baby. Her advance single from the new record -- the bouncy, synthed-out "Boom Clap" -- hit No. 1 on the Top 40 chart, prompting her label to push the release of Sucker back to December in order to prepare a much larger marketing blitz.

That blitz will almost certainly involve putting her on stages much larger than the one at Fitz. The old club on White Oak was packed past the rafters on Thursday night with a strange mix of radio-obsessed teenyboppers and synth-loving hipsters, illustrating the British import's unusual crossover appeal.

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The Eagles at Toyota Center, 10/14/2014

Photos by Jack Gorman
The Eagles
Toyota Center
October 14, 2014

At this point in their career -- which, as singer/guitarist Glenn Frey noted, has lasted 43 years -- any Eagles concert is essentially bulletproof. The have the catalogue, they have the still-firing lineup, and they have an insane level of audience goodwill.

And, as singer/drummer Don Henley also noted, they're "still here." The band's appeal has outlasted a murderer's row of other genres and shifts in popular taste that for a time found them and their brand of country-rock passe or "over." "When's the last time you saw a disco band?" the native of Linden, Texas quipped.

So it was with this resume that Musical Professors Frey and Henley led a rapt, capacity Toyota Center crowd Tuesday through a repeat course of the "History of the Eagles" tour, based on the band's documentary DVD of the same name.

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Erasure at Bayou Music Center, 10/10/2014

Photos by Francisco Montes
Bayou Music Center
October 10, 2014

The first song that came up on PA system Friday after Dangerous Muse finished their brief opening set was Simple Minds' "Don't You (Forget About Me)." As if the '80s memories already flooding into Bayou Music Center weren't heavy enough.

Erasure, though, slippery old synth-toting warhorses they are, aren't about to be painted with anyone's nostalgia brush. Electronic music's profile within pop's pecking order is considerably higher now than in Erasure's Top 40 days, but even in that context the UK duo's new album The Violet Flame doesn't sound dated. It's a sleek, supple vehicle that injects Erasure into the same conversation dominated by Avicii, Porter Robinson, Deadmau5 and other top EDM names, but not in an out-of-it old-farts kind of way. At the very least, Friday they gave their adoring Houston fans a contemporary epilogue for the personal John Hughes movies in our heads.

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Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band at The Woodlands, 10/10/2014

Photos by Violeta Alvarez
Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
October 10, 2014

Ever wonder what Todd Rundgren would sound like playing guitar for Santana? Or Gregg Rolie offering Hammond B-3 organ flourishes for Toto? Or Ringo Starr pounding drums for...Mr. Mister?

Probably not. But in the musical sampler platter that is the continuing saga of Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band, those unlikely pairings happened. Much to the delight and often surprise of a crowd who knew the songs -- if not necessarily the men who originally sang or played them. Oh, and there's a freakin' Beatle onstage to boot as well.

Since 1989 and through 13 incarnations, Starr -- wisely knowing that an all-Ringo show might be a bit much -- has hit the road with a rotating roster of '60s, '70s, and '80s rockers. They play both as a unit backing Ringo, and then step forward to regale the audience with their own hits.

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Beck at Bayou Music Center, 10/9/2014

Photos by Nicholas Zalud
Bayou Music Center
October 9, 2014

Following a lengthy, convoluted introduction of his band mates, during which every member had a solo of some kind, Beck had a question for his fans.

"Have we alienated everyone yet?"

It was an earnest question, at least in theory. (With Beck, one never knows.) During the preceding ten minutes, the onstage ensemble had performed snippets of Van Halen's "Runnin' with the Devil" and The Rolling Stones' "Miss You" as Beck drawled on about everything and nothing simultaneously.

Many Houston crowds would have become furious and begun screaming at the top of their lungs for the artists onstage to shut up and play the hits. But those in attendance at Bayou Music Center Thursday night couldn't have been less annoyed.

"We're just having fun," Beck continued dryly.

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Interpol at House of Blues, 10/3/2014

Photos by Violeta Alvarez
House of Blues
October 3, 2014

Interpol is, at least in theory, a gem.

Heavily influenced by British post-punk, the New York-based quartet-turned-trio remains an indie-rock band at heart more than a decade into its spotty career, one that was arguably never supposed to be as successful as it has become. Since the release of their debut album, however, Interpol have been a prominent topic in pop culture, praised by diehard fans even during their creative missteps and heavily criticized by bloggers whose ears their music was never intended to reach.

The buzz surrounding the release of last month's El Pintor, the group's first album in four years and most critically acclaimed release since 2002 debut Turn on the Bright Lights, was palpable, owing to a return to the beloved sounds of that first album. Seemingly within minutes of going on sale, their Houston date sold out.

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Kacey Musgraves at Warehouse Live, 10/2/2014

Photos by Jason Wolter
Kacey Musgraves
Warehouse Live
October 2, 2014

Kacey Musgraves feels almost too good to be true. The 26-year-old Texan seems as sweet as can be, both onstage and in her media appearances, and sparks the kind of connection with fans that has them singing her songs back to her without her even asking them to. Running across this kind of guileless talent in 2014, not just in Musgraves' chosen realm of country but in all of pop music, feels a little like driving past a jackalope on your evening drive home from work. You're not sure it's real, but you won't soon forget it all the same.

Although it came out a while ago (March 2013), Musgraves is still touring behind Same Trailer, Different Park, prompting her to slyly dub the leg that brought her to Warehouse Live Thursday evening "Same Tour, Different Trailer." As she apologetically explained to the venue's near-packed ballroom, she's been so busy she simply hasn't had time to make another record. Picking up award after award and spending the balance of the year as Katy Perry's hand-picked opening act will do that.

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Santana at Bayou Music Center, 10/1/2014

photos by Marco Torres
¡Con el corazon, se hace todos los milagros! (With heart, one can make miracles)
-- Carlos Santana

Carlos Santana
"Corazón" tour
Bayou Music Center
October 1, 2014

As I was watching the documentary B.B. King: The Life of Riley last week, I saw a familiar face on screen. It was rock legend and guitar hero Carlos Santana, speaking about the attributes that fueled B.B. King's music.

"You need to be sincere, honest, true, for real, and genuine. If you've got those five things, then you can play the blues" he declared. Those characteristics are definitely true about Mr. King, but they can certainly also be said about Mr. Santana.

The imprint that Santana has left on American music is undeniable. This man was part of the psychedelic-rock era in 1960s San Francisco, famously played at Woodstock, is the winner of ten Grammy awards, and was a 2013 Kennedy Center Honoree. He is without a doubt one of music's most recognizable and respected talents.

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