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Friday 25

BRUCE COCKBURN Singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn could easily parlay his gift for language into poetry and novels just like fellow Canadian Leonard Cohen. But instead he tends to submerge it in arrangements that sound deceptively adult contemporary: on his new album, Life Short Call Now (Rounder), he wraps his bitter pills in strings and light folk touches. The political fury and hereticism are there, but where Cohen sounds like an Old Testament accuser, Cockburn presents himself like a diplomat in a nice suit. See also Saturday. 8 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000 or 866-468-3401, sold out. All ages. --Monica Kendrick

CHRIS KNIGHT On his new album, Enough Rope (Drifter's Church), country rocker Chris Knight chronicles the vicious cycles of the small-town south, where growing unemployment has left residents with no way out; as on previous records, the characters on Enough Rope spend a lot of time drinking away their sense of futility. (A fleeting glimmer of romance, as on "Saved by Love," is the only respite.) Knight sings with a scrappy determination, matching the hard-hitting roots rock his band lays out behind him. Billy Joe Shaver headlines. 9:30 PM, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn, 708-788-2118 or 312-559-1212, $15. --Peter Margasak

LEGENDARY SHACK SHAKERS These Nashville roots-rock reprobates kick off Pandelirium (Yep Roc), their third album, with a speed-metal riff that veers quickly into something more like speed klezmer, and throughout the disc's 12 songs drummer Paulie Simmonz (who's since left the band) keeps locking into that restless jackhammer beat. But the Shack Shakers' real pile driver is singer and blues harpist J.D. Wilkes, a pencil-thin gonzo geek who's furious about his own mortality. Onstage he directs his rage against the smug spiritual certitudes of Bible Belters (he was born in Texas and raised in Kentucky), contorting his voice like Beetlejuice making fun of Tom Waits and his body like Iggy Pop making fun of Jimmy Swaggart. Watch out for broken glass, because Wilkes won't. The Saps and the Plastik Explosives open. 9 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $12 in advance, $15 at the door. --Franklin Soults

MISSING PERSONS Missing Persons' Walking in L.A.: The Dance Mixes (Cleopatra) is a new record only in the sense that it must set one for most cynical marketing ploy. Actually, ploy is too kind: 10 of its 12 tracks are recycled from 1999's Remixed Hits, as is the bulk of the cover art--apparently they're as low on stock photos as they are on unreleased material. The B-52's headline. a 8 PM, Pavilion, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay & Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park, 847-266-5100, $50, $15 lawn. All ages. --J. Niimi

SHAKIRA Last year bilingual pop star Shakira told the New York Times that "sometimes a melody suggests in what language that song should be written." Judging by her latest disc, Oral Fixation Vol. 2 (Epic), English is the perfect tongue for bland power balladry and mediocre pop. Its predecessor, the Spanish-language Fijacion Oral Vol. 1, was far more sophisticated than you'd expect from a mainstream phenom, folding cumbia, reggaeton, bossa nova, and dancehall into high-gloss tunes with soaring melodies, crunchy guitars, big beats, and synthetic tweets. It had a few duds, and Shakira's vocals, which too often remind me of what's-her-name from the Cranberries, can be downright annoying, but it still got over. The English-language disc, however, has been a disappointment, both artistically and otherwise--earlier this year it was reissued with the dance hit "Hips Don't Lie" to boost its sagging sales. Regardless, Shakira pours everything into her live shows, where her ubiquitous hip thrust trumps anybody else's booty shake. Wyclef Jean opens. 7:30 PM, United Center, 1901 W. Madison, 312-455-4500 or 312-559-1212, $19.50-$85. All ages. --Peter Margasak

Saturday 26

BRUCE COCKBURN See Friday. 8 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000 or 866-468-3401, sold out. All ages.

ENVY This Japanese band has covered a lot of territory in 15 years: it started out as a scrappy little punk outfit and has gradually expanded into the kind of art-rock beast that clears away whole swaths of forest as it walks. Envy had a fling with metal for a few albums, and you can recognize the original strain behind the mutation that is the latest disc, Insomniac Doze (Temporary Residence Limited). The sextet still sounds like it has a chip on its shoulder, and there's some challenging screaming embedded in the dense layers of dark psychedelic swoop and drone. Russian Circles headline and Sleeping People open. 9 PM, Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, 773-281-4444 or 866-468-3401, $10, 18+. --Monica Kendrick

LESSER BIRDS OF PARADISE Two years have passed since this local trio's previous full-length, String of Bees, and that seems just about right. Their folk-pop is so dreamy and languorous that you really need to steep in it to get the full effect--you wouldn't want them rushing at you with a new EP every five months. The new Space Between (Contraphonic) is a gorgeous album, perfect for middle-distance floating, with a sort of artfully unfocused focus in its guitar and keyboard arrangements that's vaguely reminiscent of some of Jim O'Rourke's late-90s solo albums. Captain Yonder opens. 9 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433, $8. --Monica Kendrick

YOUNG JEEZY On the opening track of his fantastic 2005 disc, Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101 (Def Jam), Atlanta MC Young Jeezy declares, "I'm the author of the book, yeah, a genius wrote it / There's a message in my words, you gotta decode it." It's easy enough to crack: his former life as a drug dealer is copiously chronicled on the album, in songs with lines like "A lifetime supply of baking-soda clientele / A rolling bar, two pounds, and three scales." Jeezy glamorizes his old gig, but he also makes it plain that it was an endless struggle--as he told the Village Voice, "everybody from working people to corporate people to college people to street people, we all speak the same language." That's a familiar posture, but Jeezy tells his stories with more wit and imagination than the average jamoke. Shawnna, Young Dro, Blackie Jones, Young Static, and Sade Jones open. 8 PM, Jo River Center, 300 W. Sibley, Dolton, 708-201-1440 or 312-559-1212, $55. --Peter Margasak

Sunday 27

THE EASTERN SEABOARD The members of New York jazz trio the Eastern Seaboard all come from rock backgrounds--they even dedicated their 2004 release, Nonfiction (Black Saint), to Joe Strummer. But they've managed to avoid the clunky, heavy-handed rhythmic approach converted rockers often fall back on. Their improvisations are raw and instinctual, and while that doesn't leave much room for sophisticated harmonic explorations, they still yield their fair share of textures and melodies. Drummer Seth Nanaa has a graceful touch, and along with bassist Jordan Schranz he shifts the attack from gentle swing to abstract soundscapes and back. Reedist Brent Bagwell has clearly studied the upper register cries of Albert Ayler, and while he has his moments of intensity he tends to keep his playing meditative and concise. The duo of trombonist Jeb Bishop and Norwegian pianist Haavard Wiik opens. 10 PM, Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont, 773-935-2118, donation requested. --Peter Margasak

UTAH PHILLIPS Utah Phillips briefly saw his name in lights, recording two albums with Ani DiFranco in the late 90s, but the singer-songwriter (and professional anachronism) has always seemed happiest telling stories on a simple stage. Still, his life's masterwork may be Loafer's Glory, the syndicated radio program he hosted until 2002. There are nearly 100 episodes--available on CD through Phillips's Web site--in which the wry, passionate, rambling hobo-lefty holds forth on topics ranging from labor songs to holidays to cartoons to cowboys. Phillips will also participate in a free preconcert lecture with Ronald D. Cohen, author of Folk Music: The Basics, at 5:30 PM. 7 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000 or 866-468-3401, $25, $21 seniors and children. All ages. --Monica Kendrick

Monday 28

UFFIE I want to call bullshit on Uffie's debut single, "Pop the Glock," but somehow I can't. Everything contributing to its absolute wrongness--the 808 kick, the MIDI gunshots, the white-girl rap about pistol play in a fake English accent--just keeps me listening to it on infinite repeat. Get over the guilt now, because you're going to hear this every time you go out for the next year and a half. Uffie's producer, Feadz, will open with his own set; Autobot, Biobooster, Ian Hixxx, and Lance Milk spin throughout the night. 10 PM, Funky Buddha Lounge, 728 W. Grand, 312-666-1695, $10. --Miles Raymer

WHALE|HORSE This local outfit includes former members of the Honor System and Sweep the Leg Johnny, but where those bands' songs are dense, Whale|Horse's are tense. Sharply crafted tunes like "Pain Don't Hurt" and "While You Were Sleeping" (from their self-recorded, self-released debut EP, Count the Electric Sheep, available at this show) stretch lean postpunk hooks so tight you can bounce a quarter off them. Haymarket Riot and Riddle of Steel open. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600. Free. --J. Niimi

Tuesday 29

FREE FALL This group--Ken Vandermark on clarinets, Haavard Wiik on piano, and Ingebrigt Haaker Flaten on bass--takes its name and ultimate inspiration from the short-lived trio of reedist Jimmy Giuffre, pianist Paul Bley, and bassist Steve Swallow, whose classic 1962 album Free Fall is an intimate, gorgeously austere collection of heavily improvised material. On Free Fall's second release, Amsterdam Funk (Smalltown Superjazz), the players open up the arrangements further than ever (the numbered pieces called "Framework" are completely improvised) and periodically ratchet up the intensity. Though Wiik (who just won the Vitalprisen, Norway's highest jazz honor) wrote only a couple of the album's 13 pieces, he's largely the focal point; his restrained, moody playing consistently sets the tone while retaining enough harmonic ambiguity to leave the others plenty of maneuvering room. Some of Vandermark's tunes employ loose postbop themes, but at its best Free Fall explores pure give-and-take with surprising delicacy and prettiness. While in town this week Wiik will also play duets with trombonist Jeb Bishop (Sunday at the Hungry Brain) and Vandermark (Thursday at Elastic) and in a quartet with Bishop, bassist Josh Abrams, and drummer Nori Tanaka Wednesday at the Hideout. 12:15 PM, Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630. Free. All ages. --Peter Margasak

Thursday 31

ALEKS & THE DRUMMER This local duo is one of an apparently dwindling number of bands gutsy and straightforward enough not to hide behind outfits or effect pedals or laptops. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but it's always worth watching. Aleksandra Tomaszewska sings deadpan and wobbly, often in her native Polish, and it's like she just has to or her chest will burst; she scribbles her fingers over a Farfisa and occasionally barks orders at the Drummer (aka Deric Criss), mostly to tell him to slow down. Their Gypsy emo is in the spirit of Victorian high drama--you want to have the smelling salts handy in case someone gets so hysterical she passes out. DJs LeDeuce, Logan Bay, and Al Burian spin. 9 PM, Sonotheque, 1444 W. Chicago, 312-226-7600, $5. --Liz Armstrong

JUDAH JOHNSON Some of the one-sheet language for Detroit combo Judah Johnson is pretty overblown, even by PR standards: Be Where I Be (Flameshovel), the band's second album, is hailed as "an imaginary place where the roots of Jamaican dub and the ruined futurism of 70s Berlin meet." While this stuff hardly resembles PiL or Scorn, I can understand the enthusiasm over the album's creative alchemy. After some postdebut fractiousness, the band's remaining members--singer-guitarist-songwriter Daniel Johnson and bassist Rodrigo Palma--serendipitously hooked up with veteran Hit Factory engineer Andy Smith and his bag of electronic tricks. The resulting layered, sample-happy production imparts breadth to the material without feeling tacked on, making for exospheric pop that sounds a bit like an indie-rock-informed Talk Talk or Radiohead. Cameron McGill & What Army headline, Judah Johnson plays second, and Brighton, MA opens. 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $8 in advance, $10 at the door. --J. Niimi

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