Pop concerts upcoming: M.I.A., Slint, and Ray Wylie Hubbard
Back when multiculti rapper M.I.A. was ranting about the surveillance state on her 2011 album Maya - "The Google connected to the government," she proclaimed on "The Message" - the London-born provocateuse of Sri Lankan descent was painted in the media as a raving agitator who had gone off the deep end. In truth, Maya is her weakest album. But a flash-forward to the post-Edward Snowden we-are-all-being-watched America makes her seem more prescient than paranoid.
Her 2013 album Matangi was a return to form, and M.I.A. - who made news this month for performing bicoastal duets with Janelle Monáe via hologram - appears to have gotten her groove back. On Friday, she plays the Tower Theater, with Black Hippy rapper Ab-Soul opening, in the Upper Darby venue's latest general-admission configuration, in which 1,000 or so seats will be temporarily removed to make way for dancing and milling about. (Seats will be put back in place for more sedentary shows such as Nickel Creek on May 2.)
- Dan DeLuca
Ray Wylie Hubbard
"At least we ain't Lazarus and had to think twice about dying," Ray Wylie Hubbard reasons on his latest album, The Grifter's Hymnal. The wizened Texas troubadour may not have been raised from the dead, but the music he's making late in life is the best of his career and puts him in the company of such Lone Star contemporaries as Guy Clark, Billy Joe Shaver, and Delbert McClinton. Hubbard's style is perhaps best described by the title of an earlier album, Eternal and Lowdown, as his grappling with big questions is set to deliciously greasy, blues-based grooves. The autobiographical and typically deadpan "Mother Blues" from The Grifter's Hymnal starts out as a cautionary tale - and a pretty funny one - before getting to a happy ending and the philosophy that keeps Hubbard well-grounded now: "The days that I keep my gratitude higher than my expectations, well, I have really good days." And if you don't like that, well, he's got another song: "Screw You, We're From Texas."
- Nick Cristiano
Ray Wylie Hubbard plays at 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Sellersville Theater, 24 W. Temple Ave., Sellersville. Tickets: $21.50. Information: 215-257-5808, www.st94.com.
With 1991's Spiderland, Slint created an influential touchstone for turn-of-the-century post-rock, but by the time the album, their second, came out, the band no longer existed. Coming out of the Louisville, Ky., punk scene, the quartet - guitarists David Pajo and Brian McMahan, bassist Todd Brashear and drummer Britt Walford - stretched and twisted song structures. They slowed tempos and switched up time signatures. They increased the contrast between long abstract, quiet passages and brief noisy, electric ones. They juxtaposed murmured, conspiratorial vocals with full-throated declamations. The album is complex and tense, unsettling and beautiful. Thursday's reunion show at Union Transfer coincides with a boxed-set reissue of Spiderland.
- Steve Klinge
Slint, with Spires That in the Sunset Rise, play at 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden St. Tickets: $25. Information: 215-232-2100, www.utphilly.com.