You can tell summer is here when you have four guaranteed-to-be-killer performances to choose from on the same weekend. And to think, these are all on top of the Festival of the Bluegrass. Unreal.
Here’s the rundown.
The thing to keep in mind about attending a Paul Simon concert is, as the billing clearly states, you’re not witnessing Simon & Garfunkel.
Simon the solo artist has been every bit as innovative musically as lyrically. That doesn’t just include the global inspirations that reinvented his career on his 1986 album, “Graceland.” The veteran songsmith teamed with electronic music artist Clap! Clap! and avant garde sound stylist Harry Partch on last year’s album, “Stranger to Stranger.” A more retrospectively expansive approach dominates the new live album, “The Concert in Hyde Park” (due for release Friday), which features a mix of multi-generational South African artists (trumpeter Hugh Masekela, vocal troupe Ladysmith Black Mambazo, vocalist Thandiswa Mazwai), reggae great Jimmy Cliff and dobro giant (and onetime Lexingtonian) Jerry Douglas as guests.
Oh yeah. The album, and Saturday’s Cincinnati concert, sport about five decades’ worth of great Simon songs.
Our best recommendation here comes down to two words: Act fast. As of this writing, only a small handful of tickets remain for a Saturday performance at the intimate KCD Theatre in Louisville by the sublime Rhiannon Giddens.
Giddens, quite simply, cuts a regal performance profile onstage. Her voice is assured, unforced and astonishingly clear — an optimum power source for the wide variety of interpreted songs from her 2015 solo debut album, “Tomorrow is My Turn,” and the wealth of topical originals off the 2017 followup “Freedom Highway.” Let’s not forget the rustic instrumentation that comes with such a repertoire highlighting the music that Giddens explored over the past decade with the Carolina Chocolate Drops. There is plenty of room for that, too, in her current shows.
Now, if we can just work on getting her back to Lexington.
The sometimes electrically raw and the often lyrically introspective songs of Erika Wennerstrom have fueled the industrious indie outfit Heartless Bastards for nearly 15 years. That tenure has included numerous Lexington performances.
Now meet Wennerstrom the solo artist, who visits The Burl on Sunday with new music and a new band. “Heartless Bastards are still very much a band, and I thank you for all the support you have given over the years,” she said in a recent Facebook post. “We all felt change is important to grow, and we needed to try some new things.”
Two new songs, the Pixies-ish “Extraordinary Love” and the lighter, neo-psychedelic “Be Good to Yourself,” are currently offered for streaming on Wennerstrom’s website, Erikawennerstrom.com.
Then, at the end of the weekend parade, there’s Wilco.
More than two decades on, Jeff Tweedy’s quietly revolutionary rock brigade is more prolific than ever. Last year’s “Schmilco,” a sumptuous slice of beautifully reserved pop, was the band’s third album in as many years. The more ragged and rambunctious “Stars Wars” preceded it in 2015, and “Alpha Mike Foxtrot,” a four-disc set of outtakes and rarities, got the ball rolling in 2014.
But Tweedy and company, which includes guitar innovator Nels Cline and University of Kentucky graduate/percussion pioneer Glenn Kotche, don’t mind looking back, either. The band polled fans on its website as to which album should be played in its entirety at the band’s Solid Sound festival this summer. The winner? The 1996 sophomore recording “Being There.”
That kind of makes one wonder what Wilco has in store for Louisville on Sunday. Kacy & Clayton will open.