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Las Vegas Philharmonic
Courtesy Las Vegas Philharmonic

The opening night of the Las Vegas Philharmonic’s 2019-2020 season starts with a bang, featuring two seminal Russian orchestral works.

2019 Culture Guide: Music

Desert Companion

Family & Festivals | Music | Theater &  Dance | Literature and Ideas | Visual Arts

September 6

A Choir Fit for Royalty

The Kingdom Choir performed at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Can you ask for better credentials than that? But in case you’re still inexplicably on the fence, here’s a compellingly definitive blurb: This rare visit by a powerhouse UK gospel institution promises a historic blowout show of both secular and sacred classics. Sammy Davis Jr. Festival Plaza in Lorenzi Park, 720 Twin Lakes Drive, 7p, $25, 702-229-2787

 

September 7

The LV Phil’s Big Night

The opening night of the Las Vegas Philharmonic’s 2019-2020 season starts with a bang, featuring two seminal Russian orchestral works, Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition and Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major, as well as Anna Clyne’s Masquerade. Special guest, acclaimed violinist Francesca Dego, brings additional gravitas. This ambitious season opener reflects a reinvigorated philharmonic that is truly hitting its stride. Reynolds Hall in The Smith Center, 7:30p, $30-$110, thesmithcenter.com

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(Other shows in the 2019-2020 season: Very Vegas Showcase, Oct. 12; The Music of Danny Elfman, Nov. 2; Handel’s Messiah, Dec. 6; A Classic Holiday, Dec. 7; Dvorak, Brahms, and Smetana, Jan. 18; Beethoven, Mozart, and Britten, Feb. 15; Vivaldi Four Seasons: March into the Stratosphere, March 7; Kurt Weill’s America, April 4; Season Finale: Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4, May 9)

 

September 11

Titanic Talent

The genre-bounding classical crossover institution known as Kronos Quartet is in a retrospective mood: In this special (and, whoa, cheap!) multimedia performance, the group tells its own grand story through live music, narration, archival footage, and filmed interviews with the countless luminaries who’ve collaborated with Kronos Quartet — Philip Glass, Wu Man, and Terry Riley, to name a few. It’s not just a celebration of the band, but a tribute to the spirit of restless innovation that has always been Kronos Quartet’s hallmark. UNLV’s Artemus Ham Hall, 7:30p, $10, unlv.edu/pac

 

September 18

Get Your Goats

Mountain Goats

Mountain Goats courtesy of Mountain Goats

To be honest, if you stripped away the musical layer of swaying, shoegazy Americana from the sharply felt and humorously grim songs of The Mountain Goats, you’d have a perfectly awesome trove of poetry left over from singer and lyricist John Darnielle — who also happens to be a widely praised novelist (Wolf in White Van, Universal Harvester). The Mountain Goats’ latest album, In League with Dragons, is a concept album partially inspired by Darnielle’s love of tabletop role-playing games like D&D, an opus on which he considers mythic heroes domestic and fantastic, from pro athletes to level 79 battlemages. With Lydia Loveless. Brooklyn Bowl, 8p, $26, brooklynbowl.com

 

September 20

Cultural Treasure, in Sound

In this concert, the Nevada Chamber Orchestra pays tribute to a rich musical legacy: the Jewish composers of classical music. The Nevada Chamber Orchestra will perform acclaimed works by composers both classic and contemporary. Summerlin Library Theater, 1771 Inner Circle Drive, 7:30p, free, lvccld.org

 

September 21-22

Eclectic, Ecstatic, and Electric

The ingredients list for the supple, sunny, lilting music of Seffarine is a globetrotting jaunt in itself: Moroccan vocalist Lamiae Naki sings in Arabic, French, Spanish, Persian, and Portuguese; flamenco guitarist Nat Hulskamp, bassist Damian Erskine, and multi-instrumentalist Bobak Salehi meld Spanish flamenco, Persian classical, and Arabic and Andalusian sounds, with a touch of jazz. The result? Something exotic, ecstatic, electric, and eclectic. Sept. 21, West Charleston Library, 7:30p; Sept. 22, Clark County Library Jewel Box Theater, 2p, both free, lvccld.org

 

September 22

Escucha, Mi Amor!

Love has an image problem. By the conventions of reality TV, it’s all complicated and stormy and push and pull and hook-uppy; it’s angry, entitled, needy, lopsided, perverse. Whatevz! Bolero music — sweet, lithe, bucolic — reminds us of the forgotten pleasures of warm, abiding, serenely domestic, no-contrived-BS-drama-for-ratings-on-the-season-finale-of-The Bachelorette-type love. The Cuban musical genre gets the supergroup treatment as the legendary Mexican trio Los Dandys join up with Vegas’ very own singer Napoleon Buenrostro to spread the feels. Windmill Library, 2p, free, 702-507-3532

 

September 28

A Soundtrack for Life

Keiko Matsui

Courtesy UNLV Fine Arts

The word “fusion” doesn’t do justice to the music of pianist and composer Keiko Matsui. Try this instead: Her artful mélange of jazz/classical/new age is like the soundtrack to the kind of epically poignant independent film that thoroughly wrings out your soul with joy, melancholy, laughter, sadness, gratitude, and delight. The Smith Center, 5p and 8p, $45-$65, thesmithcenter.com

 

October 10-11

Anything But Fool’s Gold

London-based Acoustic Alchemy’s contemporary guitar jazz is easygoing, sure, but don’t confuse that with easy. Intricate, vigorous, complex, and rich better describe the chain reaction they make onstage. Myron’s Cabaret Jazz in The Smith Center, 7p, $39-$59, thesmithcenter.com

 

October 11

You Want This Drama

Drama offers a chill slice of summer in October, with the Chicago-based duo serving up their soulful R&B dancewave tunes; singer Via Rosa’s trademark voice — at once earthy and ethereal — is an intoxicating cocktail in itself. Bunkhouse Saloon, 9p, $15, bunkhousedowntown.com

 

October 12

The Showcasiest Showcase Ever

Keith Thompson, mastermind behind The Composers Showcase — a late-night, martini-soaked, speakeasy-style typhoon of Strip pros belting out original numbers — has teamed up with the Las Vegas Philharmonic for the Very Vegas Showcase. The LV Phil will power up performances by Clint Holmes, Philip Fortenberry, Alexandria Le, Travis Cloer, and many more. Reynolds Hall in The Smith Center, 7:30p, $30-$110, thesmithcenter.com

 

October 19

Dare You to Try Not Dancing

Reggaeton — the happily hyperactive child of hip-hop, Latin music, and Caribbean sounds — is the definition of infectious, and J Balvin is its contemporary ambassador. The crossover Latin superstar is at the vanguard of second-generation reggaeton, known for its electronic influences, fruitful artist collaborations, and, of course, impossibly booty-shaking syncopation. The Pearl at the Palms, 8p, $55-$165, palms.com

 

October 20

The Sound and the Blurry

Yasmina Chavez is a photographer — well, actually, more like a lightographer. She uses light to directly “paint” photosensitive media, resulting in ghostly images that spark and entice the imagination. Jazz musician and UNLV professor Julian Tanaka is kicking off the reception for her exhibit, The Suchness of Light, with an art project of his own, performing songs to complement and converse with Chavez’s work. If the music is anything like Chavez’s fascinating images, expect an afternoon of bewitching sights and sounds. Summerlin Library, 3:30p (exhibit Oct. 17-Dec. 17), free, lvccld.org

 

October 25

Keeper of the Flamenco Flame

Paco de Lucía was a Flamenco guitar god whose musical legacy is nothing less than monolithic. His longtime collaborator, Javier Limón, is celebrating that legacy by assembling the original 10-piece band that performed with Lucía in the last decade of his career. But Flamenco Legends by Javier Limón: The Paco de Lucía Project” won’t be a mere greatest-hits retrospective; Limón himself is a Flamenco innovator often praised for infusing new energy into the revered musical form. UNLV’s Artemus Ham Concert Hall, 7:30p, $25-$35, unlv.edu/pac

 

October 26

Cerebral Surround Sound

Thom Yorke has a solo career that’s often overshadowed by his work with Radiohead, but it’s a serious canon in itself. In Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, Yorke will perform tracks from his extensive solo discography, with visual artist Tarik Barri creating gorgeous eyescapes to complement the music. Don’t expect a mere live music video; rather, an immersive, unified aesthetic experience that seamlessly blends sights and sounds into a complete vision. The Chelsea in The Cosmopolitan, 8p, $49, cosmopolitanlasvegas.com

 

October 30

Behold the Thudstaff!

Best known as the bassist for the Minutemen — the ’80s punk band that married spazzy, elastic rock with trenchantly woke geopolitical lyrics — Mike Watts hasn’t been content to rest on yesteryear’s laurels. Still pounding his “thudstaff,” he performs as Mike Watts + The Missingmen in a show that promises plenty of spazzing. The Bunkhouse Saloon, 9p, $20, bunkhousedowntown.com

 

November 1

From Australia, with Strings Attached

Dreamy and delicate, the music of the Grigoryan Brothers (Slava and Leonard) spans genres that belie the guitar-bros label: from classical to jazz to contemporary and more. The tagline “Australia’s finest guitar duo” — well, yeah, that. UNLV’s Lee and Thomas Beam Music Center, 7:30p, $45, 702-895-2787

 

November 2

Finally, A Use for Your Marge Simpson Costume

You don’t often see “Costumes are encouraged!” as a concert program note — then again, this is the Las Vegas Philharmonic performing the music of Danny Elfman, the composer who brought us the theme music to The Simpsons, Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and so many more. Expect a rollicking night of virtuoso movie music, and lots of Edward Scissorhandses. Reynolds Hall in The Smith Center, 7:30p, $30-$110, thesmithcenter.com

 

November 9

Gin and Juice in a Goblet

Born as a novelty, today the mashup is an established form that’s touched everything from literature to music to movies — think books like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, think musical artists like Girltalk. And yet the hip-hop/classical mashups unleashed by Ensemble Mik Nawooj go far beyond catchy novelties. This 10-piece outfit marries the epic sweep of classical music with hip-hop’s penchant for hyperbole and swagger, and the result makes perfect musical — and metaphysical — sense. Historic Fifth Street School, 7p, $25, artslasvegas.org

 

November 12

For Those About to Tauk

For jazzheads and jam junkies seeking their fix, this show is like an extended one-on-one with the candyman — or candymen, rather. Prog-jazz giants Tauk join with Jazz Is Phsh (a jazzed-out tribute to Phish, natch) for an evening of longplay psychedelic weerwangery. Brooklyn Bowl, 7p, $18-$328.13, brooklynbowl.com

 

November 13

Jazzing It Up, with Honors

Fall means another season of the richly pedigreed jazz (DownBeat Magazine Student Music Awards! Monterey Jazz Festival and Village Vanguard shows! Jazz Times raves!) coming out of the UNLV School of Music’s Honors Jazz ensembles. Whether they’re blazing through standards or interpreting modern compositions, the Honors Jazz Quartet promises a rich season of beautiful sounds. Clark County Library Main Theater, 7p; other shows: 7p Sept. 11; 7p Oct. 9; 2p Nov. 3; 7p Nov. 13; and 7p Dec. 11, lvccld.org

 

November 17

Chop to the Heart

Black Belt Eagle ScoutBlack Belt Eagle Scout — the nom de tunes of singer/songwriter Katherine Paul — has earned accolades from outlets ranging from Pitchfork to NPR, and it’s no surprise why: Her deceptively spare, simple songs quiver with a beguiling fragility — but beneath that is a beating heart that can rock with dramatic vigor. Bunkhouse Saloon, 8p, $10-$12, bunkhousedowntown.com

 

November 19

Smooooth

Bring your fedora and velvet loafers to this show. The Midnight Hour is a 10-piece supersmooth, lounge-optimized soul/jazz ensemble whose sultry tunes are like consensual sexymagic touching in a bottle — and, as you can see, those tunes suavely resist attempts at clever blurbification and turn them into ham-handed metaphor. Pro tip: Check out their amazing Tiny Desk concert at npr.org. Bunkhouse Saloon, 8p, $13, bunkhousedowntown.com

 

December 6

Going for Baroque

Fun fact: The grandiose Messiah as we know it was originally a much more modest work, and it was only after Handel’s death that it was supersized at the hands of other composers, including Mozart. But, hey, we’re talking about big ol’ goddy themes and magniloquent biblical sweep — so, yeah, why not go big? Part 1 of Handel’s Messiah is the marquee piece in the Las Vegas Philharmonic’s A Baroque Holiday, but the opening concertos by Manfredini and Corelli will serve as appetizers before the main course that is this joyous, soaring choral work. Reynolds Hall in The Smith Center, 7:30p, $30-$110, thesmithcenter.com

 

December 7

He’s Basically the Santa of Singing

Andrea Bocelli has become synonymous with the holidays, and rightfully so. And not just the capital-letter holidays, either. He’s like the go-to guy for Big Life Events — weddings, anniversaries, benchmark birthdays, private audiences with the Pope. The crossover opera sensation performs another holiday concert that has become a welcome Vegas tradition. MGM Grand Garden Arena, 8p, $133-$418.25, mgmresorts.com

 

December 17

You’re Hearing Voices

Voctave, an 11-member a cappella group from Orlando, gives seasonal songs the polyphonic choral treatment with family-favorite holiday tunes and Disney mainstays. If the last-minute shopping-mall gift hunt is driving you crazy, this will soothe your soul better than that lukewarm emotional support Panda Express orange chicken from the food court. UNLV’s Artemus Ham Concert Hall, 7:30p, $20-$50, 702-895-2787

 

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