Hot on the heels of the Oct. 14 release of its 10th studio album, Lightning Bolt, Pearl Jam is back on the road for a North American tour that finally stops in Charlotte. It's been 10 years since the band performed in the Queen City, so fans are more than welcoming the return. They could have been riding the nostalgia train like other '90s bands, but Bolt might be one of the band's best albums in years. Upbeat rock 'n' roll with a hint of grunge soaking behind Eddie Vedder's signature love-em-or-hate-em vocals. For the most part, Bolt forgoes any riffs in favor of hard-charging chords or acoustic-driven ballads. It's refreshing to hear a band age with dignity, enfusing elements of its youth with ease while still maturing gracefully. $81.90. Oct. 30, 7:30 p.m. Time Warner Cable Arena, 333 E. Trade St. 704-688-9000.
Lessee... The band members' origins are a mystery, they keep their faces and identities hidden and play surf-fused, throwback rock 'n' roll... Ladies and gents, Los Straitjackets! No, wait, this is a "Japanese" act (Birmingham, Ala., is in Japan, right?) billing themselves as "premium action heroes" delivering "most high rocket music," and using "special reverb skill" to create a "loud sonic boom for earful pleasure!" OK, so they're basically lifting the Straitjackets' act, tarting it up some with Kabuki makeup and Mothra imagery, and delivering the joys of surf music to another generation of kids. Well, it's certainly not the first time thievery and inspiration have crossed paths, and to their credit, Daikaiju can bring it live, their shows a wrecking ball of crowd participation and guitar feedback freak-outs. Interesting factoid: There's a long tradition of surf music's popularity in Japan - Google some of that vintage black & white Ventures footage from their '65 tour (or the dozens afterward) of Japan - most awesome! With Single Shot Sinners, Robert Childers and the Luciferian Agenda, The Monterreys. $6. Oct. 27, 9 p.m. The Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Road.
Years ago, my initial reaction to Bublé was, "Yeah, another pretty boy, Sinatra-wannabe, prepackaged to head straight to Vegas variety shows." Repeated listens and several recordings have redeemed the Canadian crooner to these ears. He is damn fun, tapping the classic jazz and big orchestra vibes with boyish charm. The swing and the pop standards, the jazz and American songbook, they are all properly channeled and brought into a contemporary fold. Bublé's voice delivers fresh hooks to the paths treaded by Sinatra, Tony Bennett and the like. Of course, he benefits from singing songs that are already beloved standards and classics, but his originals are also laden with a knack for wrapping his voice around a melody. Over the past decade, Bublé has expanded his oeuvre further, covering tunes from pop, rock and country, but always through the lens of orchestral arrangements, never stepping too far off the farm. His output includes the requisite holiday album and the latest release, To Be Loved, a varied undertaking with fine numbers intermingled with some inevitable mush. $56.50 - $101.50. Oct. 26, 8 p.m. Time Warner Cable Arena, 333 E. Trade St. 704-688-9000.
Mexican dreamboat balladeer Cristian Castro is blessed with smoky-eyed good looks, a sensitive voice and a celebrity family. After following his actress mother into telenovela exposure, Castro transitioned to singing teen idol, avoiding all Bieber-esque pitfalls to kick start a grown-up career in the '90s. Lending his glossy croon to bland-but-burnished ballads and occasional up-tempo pop, Castro scored a string of hits. Yet his charmed life jumped the rails in the early 2000s, when two failed marriages and toxic family relations turned Castro into perennial tabloid fodder. Getting more notice for sulky bad boy antics than his syrupy, over-produced oeuvre, he sharpened his craft by paying tribute to artists who inspired him. He tackled the mariachi tradition of ranchera icon Vicente Fernández on 2007 LP El Indomable, yielding surprisingly solid results. More recently, he brought craftsmanship and luster to a pair of LPs covering traditional crooner José José. Yet even on these homages, Castro plays it as safe as his formulaic ballads. Instead of inspired interpreter, he's a polished copyist, lacking the gravitas and sincerity of his idols. $47. Oct. 26, 8 p.m. The Fillmore, 1000 N.C. Music Factory Blvd. 704-916-8970.
There's a scene near the end of Mike Judge's fantastically funny (and oddly prophetic) film Idiocracy featuring a "guitarmy" - literally, hundreds of dudes playing power chords. Diarrhea Planet runs with the same gag, with four of its six members packing the instrument; gimmick or not, it works. The Nashville pop-rockers' shout-along-and-grin anthems are reminiscent of Weezer's Green Album as reimagined by the Four Loko crowd - or maybe this is what '90s college radio would sound like through an Adult Swim Dadaist filter. It would seem, then, it's no insult to compare Diarrhea Planet and Idiocracy's guitarmy: After all, both draw on the undeniable - and utterly absurd - joy and physicality of a cranked electric guitar... or four. Performing at Terrence & Phillip's 5th Annual Birthday Show with Junior Astronomers, Little Bull Lee and Old Soles. Free. Oct. 25, 9 p.m. Tremont Music Hall, 400 W. Tremont Ave. 704-343-9494.
A native of Baltimore, the city depicted as an urban Thunderdome on The Wire, King Los boasts plenty of street cred and metaphoric rap battle scars. A veteran of the grind since 1999, Los was recently re-signed to Sean "Diddy" Comb's Bad Boy Records after being dumped by the label back in 2008. Yet getting dropped by Diddy was the best thing that could have happened to Los. Once independent, he cranked out the mixtapes and freestyles that built his fan-base. This year's Becoming King mixtape is Los' latest gambit in rap's game of thrones, a full-on assault on the mainstream. With his grainy, raspy voice, Los is a fire-spitting rhymer, dynamically shifting from a blindingly rapid flow to Wale-esque poetry and the smooth baby-maker cadences of J. Cole. Yet Los' focus on a commercial breakthrough exacts a price. He slavishly mimics the styles of mainstream rappers like Drake, bleaching out his own personality. The word is that forthcoming mix Zero Gravity II brings Los back to his roots with heavy freestyle dropping. If so, it would be a welcome return. Los is at his best when he concentrates less on becoming king and more on being himself. With Mark Battles. $20-$25. Oct. 25, 10:30 p.m. Chop Shop, 399 E. 35th St. 704-765-2467.
Formed in Detroit in 1981, Negative Approach became one of the most influential hardcore bands in its short initial life. Frontman John Brannon is a maniacal howler leading the band into bursts of bombast, with most songs clocking in at less than two minutes. The group's hardcore masterwork, if there is such a thing, is the 1983 record Tied Down, an essential mile marker of American Midwest amped-rock. After Negative Approach disbanded in the mid-'80s, Brannon formed and fronted the ferocious noise-blues of Laughing Hyenas, an underappreciated outfit that lasted a decade. Brannon reignited Negative Approach a few years back to help celebrate the legendary indie label Touch & Go's 25th anniversary. There's been no drop in the volume of Brannon's guttural crooning over the 30 years of chewing up mics. He hasn't received the type of post-hardcore adoration clocked by contemporaries like Henry Rollins, but Brannon marches on sparring along with guitars, making angst-fueled rock in its rawest form. Also on the bill: The Casualties, Havok, Meat Group and Biggy Stardust & His Wretched Hive. $15. Oct. 20, 8:30 p.m. Tremont Music Hall, 400 W. Tremont Ave. 704-343-9494.
The former North Carolinian makes his home elsewhere now, but his new LP, Avery County, I'm Bound to You, makes it abundantly clear his heart and soul have never left the mountains where he came of age. Tapping into regional styles with fiddle waltzes, banjo folk, acoustic reels and rural rock, Carroll's rich narratives are peopled with unforgettable characters - mountebanks, drunkards, accursed bible zealots and lots and lots of ex-girlfriends, some who left Carroll behind (like the cineaste in "It Had to Be a Train") and some he left behind (like the pole-dancer in the brilliant "Every Little Bit Hurts"). Carroll's played in the bands of other fine songwriters, such as Eric Bachmann's Crooked Fingers and Al James' Dolorean, but takes a backseat to neither. Carroll's pulled off the neat trick on Avery County of injecting fresh perspective and life into these traditional styles, all while turning out a classic take of his own. $5. Oct. 19, 10 p.m. Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St.
The Charlotte sextet's superb sophomore full-length, Rock & Roll Dreams, is a meditation on temporality, aging with dignity and the legacies we leave behind. It'll also rock your face off. Recorded with studio-whiz Mitch Easter (R.E.M., Pavement, etc.) at Fidelitorium, the album's 11 tracks represent the proverbial great leap forward, as the band adds Chamberlin strings, harpsichord balladry and Phil Spector-textures without surrendering its musical personality. At the heart of these sonic upgrades, the songs remain the same: a potent blend of early-Springsteen urgency, Heartbreakers' melody and Byrds' jangle, all suffused with songwriter Bruce Hazel's refusal to bow down to time's insistence that rock 'n' roll is a young person's game with an expiration date. Some may kvetch about the LP's throwback sound, but the record offers extensive proof that well-written songs don't belong to any era because they are, in fact, timeless. Plus, on stage, this group of seasoned vets practically lives in the pocket, instead of just occasionally visiting. With The Sammies and Pullman Strike. Free. Oct. 18, 10 p.m. Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St.
Flux Pavilion - the 24-year-old producer, melody maker and mix-master magus (aka Josh Steele) - is the shiny new face of dubstep. Club purists decry his dance-hall heresy, deftly weaving pop hooks amid heavy metal beats and juddering bass. Yet Flux Pavilion has not merely adjusted to changes in the genre; his fusion of classic song-craft, captivating ska two-step and grimy Morse-code synths on "Blow the Roof" are the very changes that helped drag dubstep into the limelight. So poppy is Flux's tune "I Can't Stop" that Jay Z and Kanye West boosted it for their hip-hop hit "Who Gone Stop Me," the finest cut on their 2011 ode to aspiration and douchebaggery, Watch the Throne. A fan of David Bowie's conceptual finesse and Frank Zappa's compositional skills, Flux says he doesn't care if he's deemed a sell-out by the dance floor cognoscenti. On recent freebie "Standing on a Hill," Flux's unorthodoxy extends to incorporating rock band instruments into an electroclash throwback to Ladytron's buzzy melodies, plus the anthemic pop of '70s blue-eyed soulster Paul Carrack - all in pursuit of what Flux calls "a melodic tune that everyone can enjoy." $25. Oct. 18, 9 p.m. The Fillmore, 1000 N.C. Music Factory Blvd. 704-916-8970. www.livenation.com.
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