If you were not a Top 40 fan in the '80s and '90s, you're forgiven for not knowing who Bryan Adams is. With hits like "Heaven," "Let's Make a Night to Remember" and "Everything I Do (I Do It for You)," this Springsteen of adult contemporary was everywhere. Unbeknownst to anyone but Adams himself, he kept on keepin' on even after everyone else had long forgotten his "Summer of '69." Since then, he's mostly released anthologies and live recordings and been the bane of Ryan Adams' existence. His show is recommended only if you're a fan of watching dead horses being beaten. $39.50-$79.50. Jan. 21, 8 p.m. Knight Theater, 430 S. Tryon St. 704-372-1000.
Real Live Tigers
Tony Presley has been around since he formed Real Live Tigers in Austin in 2004 and later relocated to Fayetteville, Ark., and his music manages the neat trick of being sonically warm as he chills you with minor chords and late-night existential narratives. There's a new album on the way, but on RLT's last one, Spirit Animal, in 2011, the organ swaths and liquid guitar parts provide the bloom for shuffling tempos that suggest Sisyphus' eternal task is, somehow, worth the effort. Tindersticks or Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds would be two musical touchstones, with occasional bursts of more sludgy fare. But Presley lacks the vocal timbre of a Stuart Staples or Cave, and his flat drawl and sing/speak will likely test the "all my favorite singers couldn't sing" dictum left to us by Silver Jews' David Berman. But if you clear that hurdle, Real Live Tigers' songs unfurl with dark beauty and provide a suitably compelling bed for Presley's poetic ruminations. With like-minded locals The Adulterers and Jonah's Rifle. $5-$9. Jan. 20, 9 p.m. The Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Road. 704-398-0472.
Hot Water Music
Hot Water Music has been described as a punk Grand Funk Railroad. That might not hit the mark. Besides a populist, working-class bent and undeniable energy, the Gainesville, Fla., quartet has little in common with Michigan's '70s-era loud-mouthed sons of simplicity. Drawing from the gruff-voiced pop-punk of Jawbreaker and the angular dynamics of Fugazi, Hot Water Music's template was hardly new when it debuted in 1995, and it isn't the band's fault that it provided the blueprint for a legion of disposable emo bands. What HWM brought to the party of ringing guitars and sing-along choruses was lyrical maturity, showcasing the concerns of average Joes trying to get by in an increasingly hardscrabble America. Indeed, when HWM went on extended hiatus in 2005, gravel-toned co-frontman Chuck Ragan took a lengthy alt-folkie sabbatical. Reformed in 2008, HWM still fights the good fight, but Ragan's troubadour years have ravaged his already grizzled voice. Busy, angst-ridden pop-punk is an odd fit with mature alt-Americana, and though HWM can still fire on all cylinders, too often the music devolves into frantic aimlessness. It may be that with its grown-up concerns, HWM has outgrown the boundaries of its loud and fast genre. With LA Dispute and The Menzingers. $17-$20. Jan. 20, 7 p.m. Amos' Southend, 1423 S. Tryon St. 704-377-6874.
The Magic Flute
If we view opera as the popular entertainment of its time, then Mozart's The Magic Flute seems almost contemporary. Many of the parts were written specifically for the people who would sing them - not all that different from a modern filmmaker, say, writing a part with a certain actor in mind. There's a love story and more than a little occultism, which is fine, but what really cinches The Magic Flute is the Queen of the Night (Maria Aleida). The role requires absurd, admittedly jaw-dropping vocal somersaults, well worth witnessing in person - and the Queen is absolutely vicious, to boot. Presented by Opera Carolina. $15-$140. Jan. 19, 8 p.m.; Jan. 24, 7:30 p.m.; Jan. 27, 2 p.m. Belk Theater, 130 N. Tryon St. 704-372-1000.
For someone with an image as a dark-hued, whispery wallflower, Antje Duvekot sure has a high profile. Her provocative, keenly observed chamber folk has been championed by legendary rock crit Dave Marsh, and Duvekot's highly detailed, tongue-twisting, Ani DiFranco-meets-Tracy Chapman ballad "Merry-Go-Round" was tapped for a Bank of America ad campaign that kicked off on Super Bowl XLI. Most telling, when the Irish-American band Solas decided to expand beyond the folk and Celtic canon, it picked five tunes by Duvekot. Not bad for a German-born girl transplanted at adolescence into the cold new world of America with no English and a profound sense of alienation. Duvekot says at an early age she learned to live "in the space between home and school," listening to the music of folk master John Gorka. A sense of dislocation, along with the keen eye of the outsider, still permeates her music. Material on her latest CD New Siberia shades to lighter hues, looking back from a wiser vantage point to a troubled younger self. But by owning her darkness, Duvekot transforms the quietly disturbing confessional into something life-affirming. With Michael McDermott. $12. Jan. 18, 8 p.m. Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. 704-376-3737. .
Darlings of the Underground
A new band emerges. The Charlotte trio Darlings of the Underground - Jason Anderson (ex-Bridge, guitar, vox), Neel Jadeja (ex-Sunny Ledfurd, drums), and veteran bassist Ryan Joffe - debuts its moody alterna-rock this evening. The gents already have a couple of developed tracks recorded (with apropos videos out) and are working on their first full-length album for release by late spring. The sound? Grooving rock, stirred with hard guitars (a bit Smashing Pumpkinsish, channeling Jerry Cantrell) and a grunge backbeat. Catch em, they're up first in the multi-band lineup, so you can say you were at their first gig. Also on the bill are Luna's Lament, Blu Avenue, Falling through April and Culprit Strain. $7/$10. Jan. 15, 6 p.m.Chop Shop, 399 E. 35th St. 704-765-2466.
When the great post-punk revival hit radar screens in the early aughts, who would've thought that Bloc Party would prove more durable than telegenic peers The Strokes and Franz Ferdinand? But Bloc Party's longevity hasn't always been secure. The band's lengthy hiatus since its 2008 LP, Intimacy, has led to rumors of their demise. Said rumors weren't helped by the band members' rather permanent looking extracurricular activities, including front man Kele Okereke's acclaimed electro-dance album, The Boxer. Now touring in support of its new LP, Four, Bloc Party won't say whether the album's title stands for the four year duration of its hiatus. For the most part, Four is a return to the angular Gang-of-Four-inspired art-rock and heartfelt Boy-era-U2 big guitars which made Bloc Party's 2005 Silent Alarm LP so bracing. That signature sound is key to Bloc Party's staying power. True, they could be as addictively dancey as class of 2005 peers The Rapture or as fractured and wiry as Maximo Park, but Bloc Party have always been a straight ahead commercial rock band, as heart-on-sleeve as Simple Minds but minus the pomposity. As the jittery, gooey pop of current single "Octopus" proves, Bloc Party hasn't lost its touch. With IO Echo. $25. Jan. 15, 8 p.m. The Fillmore, 1000 N.C. Music Factory Blvd. 704-916-8970.
POOR OLD SHINE
Like Tarheel contemporaries the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Poor Old Shine revitalizes, rather than simply revives, the stomping, galloping country swing of an old-time string band. While the Chocolate Drops draw from Blue Ridge Mountain styles, much of it rooted in African-American string-band music, Connecticut's Poor Old Shine sticks closer to the strip-mined hollers of West Virginia. Differences in geography don't mean much for this music. Poor Old Shine still draws from the same ancestral well as the Drops, as a fiery but respectful cover of "Can the Circle be Unbroken" - a tune popularized by the Carter Family - attests. A young band, Poor Old Shine has the audacity to show just how weird "tradition" can be, particularly when it whips a singing saw into a pretty good imitation of a theremin. When the band goes off script, as when it uses the feedback of two cell phones to lay down a spectral drone on "Ghosts Next Door," the result fits right in with its more authentic arsenal of fiddle, banjo, washboard, pump organ and drum kit cobbled together from scrap metal. Poor Old Shine charts a course between imitation and innovation, and the tension between those two poles gives its invigorated mountain music a sense of urgency. $8-$10. Jan. 12, 8 p.m. Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. 704-376-3737.
The story of Kaplansky's life journey is so compelling, it would overshadow the work of a lesser performer. Just out of high school, the precocious daughter of a piano-playing mathematician ditched the future mapped out for her to instead join a revived Greenwich Village folk scene where she sang with Suzanne Vega and Shawn Colvin. A talented lead and in-demand harmony singer, Kaplansky was perched on the brink of stardom, but gave it up for a career in psychology. A decade on, another left turn took Dr. Kaplansky out of the clinical field and back into folk singing. Like her career arc, Kaplansky's music strikes a balance between practical and left-field. With a warm, conversational voice that recalls the raw and open emotion of Judy Collins, Kaplansky's biggest payday probably came when she shilled for Chevrolet's "Heartbeat of America" campaign. A traditionalist who's covered June Carter Cash and Gram Parsons with folk supergroups Red Horse and Cry Cry Cry, Kaplansky has also taken a stab at drum 'n bass and collaborated with her father on 1940s-style swing tunes about mathematics. It's clear that despite the unexpected turns in Kaplansky's career, she's always known exactly where she wants to be. $17-$19. Jan. 11, 8 p.m. Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. 704-376-3737.
THE OLD CEREMONY
We shorthand "classic songwriting" to imply music which sounds like it could've been penned in any era - so strong are the songs in the fundamentals of melody and lyrics-writing. Classic songwriters also seem to use whatever literary conceit is at hand to hit on the deeper truths in our lives. For Django Haskins, the polymath who fronts Durham's Old Ceremony, that's saying something, too. Haskins is writing two nonfiction books and has previously penned songs with subject matter ranging from plate tectonics to New York City development czar Robert Moses. Now, on a Yep Roc debut and fifth release, Fairytales and Other Forms of Suicide, we find Haskins and his band equally adept at capturing Big Star's long shadow as they are channelling the bittersweet love tales of their namesake, Leonard Cohen. In songs which deal with everything from modern-day plagues ("Beebe, Arkansas"), the poisonous political landscape ("Sink or Swim"), scientific progress ("Star by Star") and a slew of love-gone-sideways ditties, the Old Ceremony cuts to the crux of the theme that runs throughout the record: Learning to cope with the world as it is, not as we want it to be. With adult fare like that couched in elegant songs where patience rewards repeat listens, "classic songwriting" seems an entirely apt description. $12. Jan. 11, 10 p.m. Double Door Inn, 1218 Charlottetowne Road. 704-376-1446.
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