Are You Ready to Rock, Softly?

This weekend, expand your musical horizons beyond Donny Iris at these great concerts.

I tend to associate the dead of winter with trips to concerts. My most memorable concert experiences are either big outdoor summer festivals or packed-arena brushes with greatness, but memories from my teenage years are trapped in my mind as well. It seems like once every few weeks between the ages of 13 and 17, I was huddling for warmth in a long line on Smallman Street, waiting for the doors at Metropol—not Club Zoo, Metropol—to open up.

I’d hustle in out of the cold and scamper to the front of the crowd, eagerly awaiting for some punk or alternative band, usually The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, to emerge. When I was a kid, it was a big freakin’ deal. Now, it makes me yearn for a blast of loud music on cold winter nights.

Sooner or later, though, we must expand beyond the musical affinities of our youth. Seriously, guys, we must. Get around to it if you haven’t. And this weekend, like every weekend in Pittsburgh, there’s a plethora of fine sonic choices for your January escape. With that in mind, I thought I’d plumb the depths of this weekend’s sonic offerings, from the obscure to the overexposed.

A trip to the always-phenomenal MCG Jazz Concert Hall on Friday night will get you a slew of virtuoso performers working magic with the acoustic guitar. Six-string maven Brian Gore founded the touring International Guitar Night to expose audiences to the breadth of styles and sounds that can come out of his instrument; he’s joined by a skilled cast including Brazilian Marco Pereira, the custom instruments of Adrian Legg, and multi-styled folk guitarist Lulo Reinhardt—who probably picked up a thing or two from his uncle, Django. One thing’s for sure: you’ll never be able to feign enthusiasm for a dude strumming Tom Petty covers at an open mic again. Get tickets now – as of press time, there’s barely anything left.

(1815 Metropolitan Street, North Side. Friday, 7 & 9:30 p.m. $57.50. Info and tickets: 412/323-4000, mcgjazz.org)

The mainstage series over at Calliope Folk Music Society is active this weekend as well, with acclaimed songwriter Christine Lavin taking the stage. If you’ve never attended a show at Calliope’s home, the Carnegie Lecture Hall, now is the time to go. That space, tucked into the back of the Oakland megalith that houses the Carnegie Library, Music Hall, and Museums of Natural History and Art, is an intimate, attractive and acoustically rich home for music. It’s woefully underutilized, too. And the funny, touching folk of Lavin will provide an excellent introduction. She’ll be joined by songwriter Zoe Lewis.

(4400 Forbes Ave, Oakland. Saturday, 7:30 p.m. $35. Info and tickets: 412/394-3353, proartstickets.org)

I also want to mention the “Music in a Great Space” series at Shadyside Presbyterian Church. The title of the series pretty much sums things up; they host classical performances in their beautiful (sonically and visually) home. This Sunday, they’ll present a recital from local soprano Kelly Lynch.

(5121 Westminster Pl, Shadyside. Sunday, 4 p.m. $10; seniors, $5; students and children free. Info and tickets: shadysidepres.org)

Finally … look, I just can’t let this go. Let’s talk about Air Supply. The term “soft rock” does not even come close to describing the overwhelming softness of these 80’s balladeers. You know the Australian duo, whether you’re trying to or not, via any number of hit singles of yesteryear, all containing the word “love” in the title: “All Out of Love,” “Making Love Out of Nothing at All,” “Lost in Love,” “The One That You Love.” On the one hand, they’re a punchline more often than not, they sound like Meat Loaf on sedatives, and they’re so saccharine that you can taste it in the air…supply. On the other hand, they had eight top-ten singles, they’ve been together for over 35 years, and they’re absolutely huge in Southeast Asia. What does it add up to? I don’t know. The point is that you can see them at Rivers Casino Saturday, and maybe—just maybe—you should.

(777 Casino Drive, North Shore. Saturday, 7 & 10 p.m. $35. Info: theriverscasino.com. Tickets available at the Rivers Casino gift shop.)

Categories: After Dark