Dick Dale at Continental Club, 4/17/2014

Photos by Jim Bricker
Dick Dale
Continental Club
April 17, 2014

Walking into the Continental Club, I had the thought: "Can Dick Dale still do it at 76 years old?" I mean, I know folks younger that can't even send an email, let alone rip a guitar like it's going out of style. But I would soon find out that not only can he still play, but his guitar riffs sounded cleaner than ever.

Dale, who has had an off-and-on relationship with music since the late 1950s, likes to keep it simple, and proved that Thursday during a 90 minute set of mostly covers to an overly packed room. He doesn't need all the bells and whistles of modern technology -- just give him his Fender and a classic amp and he'll walk all over the youngsters trying to replicate his style today.

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Jeff Bridges & the Abiders at Warehouse Live, 4/12/2014

Photos by Jim Bricker
Jeff Bridges & the Abiders
Warehouse Live
April 12, 2014

Sometime during Jeff Bridges' headlining set at Warehouse Live on Saturday night, things just seemed to click. It took a little bit for the band to warm up to the room, and more specifically the room to warm up to the band, but after that happened this show became a good one.

I'm not sure if it took the crowd getting over the fact that Jeff Bridges was standing in front of them, but when people finally did get over his celebrity and stopped shouting quotes from The Big Lebowski at the stage, things seemed to fall into place and it became a real show.

Not that Bridges and his aptly named band the Abiders were churning out bad tunes, it just seemed to bore the audience at first -- one that seemed quite excited about the performance heading into the start. Could be that most of the crowd paid the hefty ticket price just to get a glimpse of Bridges or yell inaudible movie quotes at him, but after they realized that it wasn't just him acting out his "Dude" persona, the unrest throughout the room was noticeable.

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Kings of Leon at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 4/10/2014

Photos by Jim Bricker
Kings of Leon, Local Natives
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
April 10, 2014

Welcome back, Kings of Leon. We had missed you since you skipped out on our last show. While you might've been touring pretty relentlessly since your return last year, it was nice to see you back at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, in seemingly good health, and with a re-established vigor.

We weren't sure if you had the ability to give us your all last night, but that was soon disproven in the first minutes of your performance. You showed us that, despite all your brotherly quarrels in the past, you really do like playing with each other the songs you've cleverly crafted in the past decade.

You have good songs, and you certainly know how to rock, but how long is that going to last? When are you going to fall into that same situation that caused a ruckus in Dallas a few years ago and made you cancel your Houston performance the next night? I mean, I guess you are (mostly) brothers, so those arguments are deep-seated in years of alcohol-fueled love and hate, but how long can it last?

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Arcade Fire at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 4/9/2014

Photos by Jim Bricker
Who is that masked man?
Arcade Fire
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
April 9, 2014

I may not be the first person to say it, but then Arcade Fire is not the first group to counter the "most important band in the world" tag by breaking out the costumes and mirrors. U2 is the obvious model, with their Joshua Tree-Achtung Baby-Zooropa cycle, but the tradition is at least as old as their fellow Irishman Oscar Wilde, and no doubt a lot older. "Man is least himself when he talks in his own person," the 19th-century wit famously said. "Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth."

Arcade Fire's latest album, Reflektor, is clouded with suspicion and anxiety. It's the kind of record a band who has conquered the world and is wondering both who they can trust and what to do next might make, but it's so full of shiny surfaces, synthesizer-spawned smoke and mirrors, and a relentless Studio 54 beat that you'd almost never notice. The camera never lies, and there is always redemption on the dance floor. Not their best record, maybe, but maybe the one that translates best to the stage.

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Grouplove at House of Blues, 4/7/2014

Photos by Jim Bricker
Grouplove, MS MR
House of Blues
April 7, 2014

Damn the iPod. Really. It's truly ruined the way we ingest music. Long gone are the days of sitting down to a full album, taking in all of its little intricacies from front to back, allowing a band to tell their story on two full sides.

We may never have another White Album or Dark Side of the Moon, and can only hope to see another Quadrophenia or Thriller, but the chances of that seem slim. And because of that, bands have now changed their approach to how they release music.

Now we are force-fed a band three and a half minutes at a time, which can't possibly give us a full picture of what they can really do. It's almost a step back to the days of the 45, where people would fall in love with a band based solely on an A-side and (if the band is lucky) a B-side. Today, given music listeners' love of the shuffle, it's rare for anyone to know what a band truly sounds like.

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Upcoming: Justin Timberlake, 311, Bro Safari, Calle 13, Wolfmother, The Fray, ZZ Top, etc.

311: Wed., July 30, 8 p.m., $39.50 to $45. Bayou Music Center, 520 Texas, Houston, 713-225-8551.

4th Annual SouthEast 4/20 Fest featuring Disfrutalo!: With Downer, Devil Killing Moth, Zoofeelia, 72Names, InZurgo, Cosmic Bug Loaf, Dadsmom, Gio Chamba, Marc D, Def Perception Music. Sun., April 20, 3 p.m., $5. Bohemeo's, 708 Telephone, Houston, 713-923-4277.

Anthony Hamilton: Fri., May 16, 9 p.m., $59.50. Arena Theatre, 7326 Southwest Fwy., Houston, 713-988-1020.

Bro Safari: With Parker Clark, Vance Lawrence. Fri., April 25, 9 p.m., $10 to $15. Stereo Live, 6400 Richmond, Houston, 832-251-9600.

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Chromeo at House of Blues, 4/6/2014

Photos by Jim Bricker
House of Blues
April 6, 2014

For someone to dance means he or she feels something deep down in his or her bones that moves not only the muscles but the spirit. Not everyone was given the gift of rhythm, but everyone has the ability to dance. It might not be with skill, nor with care, but given the right sound or beat everyone will eventually find themselves moving their bodies to music.

Some factors heighten this ability, such as a performance from the Canadian duo Chromeo. If you've ever been enlightened by a performance from the group, you know what I'm talking about. If you happened to be at House of Blues Sunday night, then you most certainly know what I'm talking about.

Chromeo is the catalyst. They'll make even the most stubborn folk get past that traditional head-bob and do that fancy footwork.

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White Denim & Cass McCombs at Fitzgerald's, 4/5/2014

Photos by Jim Bricker
White Denim
White Denim, Cass McCombs
April 5, 2014

Expectations are a tricky thing that can easily make or break any situation. In many years of showgoing I've learned that high expectations can easily spoil your day, but it's hard to have absolutely zero; especially if it's not your first time seeing a band.

So it's better to lower any expectations, and when White Denim came to Fitz Saturday night I did my best to try and forget about my previous experience with them. But this show was different. Walking up the stairs, you could feel a much different energy coursing through the room.

People were definitely in the building to have a good time. And while that might have hurt some of the show's quieter moments, when it picked up so did the moods of everyone inside.

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Jamey Johnson at House of Blues, 4/3/2014

Photos by Groovehouse
Jamey Johnson
House of Blues
April 3, 2014

Can you sing along to "The Yellow Rose of Texas"?

Don't be silly; of course you can. Right? But try it, and it's tougher than you think.

Jamey Johnson knows the words, as well as those "O Susannah," which is of similar vintage and perhaps even closer to the Alabama-born singer's heart. But Thursday's show at House of Blues, which spanned 25 songs over more than two hours, was no history lesson. It could have been louder at first and was a little slow to get going, but soon enough it became raw, potent and vital, a welcome reminder of just how restorative country music can be at times, even if the song happens to be Bob Seger's "Turn the Page."

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Merle Haggard at Stafford Centre, 4/1/2014

Photos by Jim Bricker
Merle Haggard
Stafford Centre
April 1, 2014

Bet you 20 bucks that Keith Richards really digs Merle Haggard. He is one cool cat.

The Hag doesn't say much onstage at first, and barely moves apart from gesturing to one band member or another when it's time for a solo. His low-key style has been both profoundly influential -- witness the star-stuffed new Workingman's Poet tribute album, not to mention the big Hag salute scheduled for this Sunday's ACM awards -- and almost completely ignored, at least when it comes to what makes a country-music "star" these days.

For the Hag, who also happens to turn 77 years old on Sunday, that means a precision-tuned road band that still plays hundreds of gigs a year and songwriting as simple and intricate as a Swiss watch. Tuesday night at Stafford Centre, he and longtime band the Strangers played 20 songs to a rowdy but respectful crowed that loudly acknowledged almost every instrumental solo, and was otherwise unshy about expressing general approval. It was that show where people around you sang along softly and "woo-hoo"-ed liberally instead of talking to their friends. Imagine that.

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